Stay calm and keep managing


In my career, I’ve of course seen managers not be able to handle adversity or not be willing to take client escalations, but it was a couple recent events that really reinforced with me the importance of calm for customer service managers.

The first example happened when I was interviewing an internal candidate for my Client Services manager development program at Indeed, called Indeed Lead.  I asked this employee to talk about her current manager, and the focus of her description was calm.  This manager kept the team from getting overwhelmed when the workload was heavy, stepped in with a solutions-oriented approach when the Sales team was being tough, and generally brought a sense of calm to the group.  It was clear that this made a huge impact on the employee and was guiding her own approach to becoming a new manager.  She wanted to be calm under pressure too.

As a contrast, the second example was the opposite of a calm manager.  I was at one of my favorite restaurants picking up takeout, and was being helped by the manager.  Suddenly, two employees walked up and suggested that a customer had left without paying.  The manager was struggling with continuing to help me while also supporting his employees.  Ideally, he would have asked another employee to cover the takeout counter while he investigated, or asked the employees to wait while he finished my transaction.  Instead, he blurted out, “You guys are both idiots!” to his employees in clear earshot of customers.  What was even more stunning was that one of the employees responded, “You’re right, we are idiots,” making me think it wasn’t the manager’s first outburst.

When I historically have thought about important service manager competencies, I’ve leaned toward caring, teaching, leading by example and being a product expert.  While those together form a solid foundation, they all can fly out the window in periods of stress if the manager can’t also be a calming influence on the team.

Posted in Service management

Servicing small businesses


In late 2009, I started my Small Business service team at Indeed with a single employee. At the time, I had no idea what it would become, or how much it would eventually mean to me.

Along with that group’s management team, we scaled the SMB service function incredibly, learned how to automate and simplify processes, brought costs down, and generally turned the team into high-performing service organization.

Those are your HBR headlines and they are great. But my highlights live elsewhere.

1. Elevating the role
In building out the SMB function, we wanted a team that made sense in a business that had previously been mid-market to enterprise-focused. This wasn’t easy because we were hiring for roles we never had before, namely employees to handle the high volume of inbound tickets, phone calls and chats we would be receiving. We didn’t want the typical 40 percent turnover for call center jobs. So we worked to elevate every part of the role – higher base pay, regular bonuses, flexible work hours, work from home, perks, team events, free lunches and the like. We didn’t want a typical call center, nor the typical call center employees, so we elevated the job.

2. Servicing the under-serviced
When this team began, there was the belief that the client base could be successful without customer service altogether (self-service concept). While we always worked to make the product as self-serve as possible, I also knew that the SMB client segment is notoriously under-serviced and would be hungry for help with the product and with hiring best practices in general. That proved to be true, and our commitment to SMB service eventually became a brand differentiator for Indeed. When SMB clients made a hire, it was a celebration for both them and for us.

This combination of an amazing employee experience and a “wow” client experience eventually became my model for customer service no matter the client type. But it was this SMB build-out and evolution that really brought it together for me. That’s a big reason why I’m so excited to have joined Justworks, where SMB owners, entrepreneurs and their employees are our focus. I’m thrilled to be able to apply this model again.

Posted in Service team scaling

Little service moments matter

Whole Foods

The other day I was at Whole Foods and saw a customer with two young sons in the produce section. She had put some blueberries in her cart, and the boys immediately wanted to eat them. Outnumbered, she was looking for help.

She ingeniously walked over to the coffee counter (which is not where you buy food) and asked the barista if she would wash some of the blueberries so her sons could eat them.  I watched on from the bananas to see how this would go – it felt like a great opportunity to help this customer out when she was in a tough situation.

The employee immediately said yes with enthusiasm and washed the blueberries.  The customer was relieved and the boys were pumped.  In the big picture of that day at Whole Foods, it was a tiny moment, yet it was incredibly important.  Here’s why:

  1. If every Whole Foods employee who faces a similar request acts the same way, it creates a culture of service that extends far beyond that moment.
  2. If the above is true, in aggregate those moments can actually elevate the Whole Foods brand.  Customers will gravitate to the brands that treat them well, surprise them with kindness and create special moments.
  3. The employee was asked to do something that is not, on paper, her job, and avoided every service false step along the way.  I never heard, “No, I can’t,” or “That’s not my job” or “You can try asking someone else.”  She enthusiastically said yes, helped the customer and likely made the rest of her day much easier.

But, these small service moments can be harder to isolate:

  1. It’s unlikely that anyone at Whole Foods trained that employee on whether she could or should wash blueberries at the coffee counter for customers – she just had good service instincts.  (This reminds me why I sometimes am critical of training manuals – they will never comprehensively include everything we face in service.)
  2. If the employee would have said “No” or “I can’t,” it’s unlikely her boss or the shift manager would have ever known.  The customer probably would not have complained, so it would have just been a missed opportunity.
  3. As service professionals, we tend to search for big opportunities to satisfy or impress clients.  Doing so can blind us from the smaller opportunities in front of us every day.

Little service moments can add up, elevate a brand and arguably surpass “big” moments in terms of overall client impact.  How can you find some small opportunities like this in your day?

Posted in Service excellence, Whole Foods

Client Services at Indeed

About a week ago, I finished up as SVP of Client Services at Indeed after nine years, three months and one day. In that time, a few things happened:

  • We grew from one employee (me) to 600+ the week I left
  • We expanded our locations from one to 13 globally
  • We made huge gains in client satisfaction (NPS) and retention
  • We created specialized teams focused on important client segments (SMB, mature accounts), internal service excellence (training and development, product support) and new contact channels (chat, social)
  • We changed the conversation in recruiting to be more about metrics and ROI

All of the above are great, measurable things where we moved the needle, and I am proud of that progress and those accomplishments.  But when I spoke to my employees to give them the news that I was leaving, what choked me up the most was talking about the culture we created of always helping and supporting one another no matter what.

Every week when I met with our new hires, they would always comment on how nice their new teammates were.  This always made an impact on me.  When an employee would falter, his or her teammates would step up to help.  If a tough client call resulted in some tears, the employees around that person would quickly huddle and provide support.  And when a new employee took his or her first client call, the floor would always erupt in applause.

So yes, the metrics matter.  The client experience, NPS and retention matter.  And every day, we walked in the door promising to one another to deliver quality for our clients worldwide.  But at the end of the day, the culture of supporting one another and “being nice” is what mattered most to me.  I know it will continue.

Many have asked me why I left Indeed if the team is so wonderful.  It’s a great question and I think about it a lot.  I am very lucky to have built such an incredible group, and I believe deeply that they will expand on our legacy to get even better.  But I am ready to do it again, to bring that focus somewhere else, to find nice people all over again.

Thank you Indeed Client Services team.  Stay nice, and good luck.

Posted in Service excellence, Service team scaling

Keeping service simple

I had two internal meetings today that reinforced with me how important it is to keep customer service simple.

The first one was with a long-time employee, a brilliant product person and people manager.  We talked about a lot of things, but one thing she mentioned really struck me.  She said that our current employee performance evaluation has so many facets and details that it has gotten away from what really matters – client satisfaction, client retention and campaign optimizations that make an impact.  She suggested that we move to just those three competencies, and I loved the simplicity of her recommendation.

The second meeting was with an employee who recently moved into a new job.  He told me that the new role was refreshing because he was able to really focus on helping clients and solving their problems from start to finish, rather than worrying about completing a specific number of tickets each day.  While I loved his new perspective, it made me think that on his previous team, they were more worried about targets and productivity than actually helping clients.  They were caught up in the complexity of our productivity formula versus thinking about client problems.

If you are running a service team or function, it can be easy to get obsessed with the metrics, productivity, targets and quality of client communication.  It makes sense – that’s part of your job.  But it’s also great to be reminded that service is simple, and sometimes getting back to the basics of just helping a client is incredibly refreshing and reinvigorating.

Posted in Service excellence

Striving for service greatness

This is being reprinted in a few places, so I wanted to post it here too. Like I did in 2015, I started the year with a message to my team about continuing to improve our service levels.


In 2015, we talked a lot about service excellence and what it means for Indeed. We defined it as “making the most of every client interaction,” and shared stories of how we saw one another exhibit service excellence in our work and day-to-day lives.

In 2016, service excellence is our new baseline and expectation. To further differentiate Indeed from our competition and to deliver truly memorable client experiences, we need to keep getting better and finding new ways to wow our clients. We need service greatness.

When I think about service greatness, very clear things come to mind that I see you all doing regularly. To me, service greatness is:

  1. Personalizing the client experience
  2. Going above and beyond what the client expects
  3. Turning negative experiences into positive ones

It’s easy to reply to an e-mail or take a call from a client and not necessarily do these things. It’s harder – and thus great – to push ourselves to ask one more question, to take one more step or to investigate one more thing to make sure we are providing the best service possible.

In 2015, we took our service to another level, and I believe that we can do it again! Thanks for everything you do to deliver quality every single day, and please let me know if you ever hit a barrier when trying to deliver great service to a client – I’m here to help.

Thanks and happy 2016,


Posted in Service levels

Service is personal (aka Starbucks knows my order)

I started drinking coffee a couple of years ago. I’ve always loved and admired the Starbucks brand, so I started visiting a location near my office here and there, and then more regularly as my coffee addiction grew.

As I became a more regular customer, the Starbucks employees started recognizing me and began to know my drink order. Eventually, I didn’t have to order at all – the staff would see me walk in and start making my drink before I even reached the register.

One day, a barista made my drink incorrectly. When I mentioned it, another employee who I know well said, “That’s Jason, you know!? People are acting crazy around here today!” She then remade my drink herself.

While this one incident wasn’t a dramatic event – more of a little service victory – it reinforced for me that customer service is at its best when it’s personal. That employee recognizing me and taking responsibility for another employee’s mistake made a big impact.

What I took away from this experience:

  1. The best service is personal. This clearly is harder in businesses with high client volume and transactional customers like retail, but it can be done. Knowing even little things about your clients will improve your service level.
  2. The best service professionals cover for their teammates. I see this every day in my own team – top performers help the client in front of them, even if it’s not their mistake, their assigned account or their responsibility.
  3. Little experiences can have a big impact. Sometimes we underestimate what a small positive experience, personalization or win can mean for a customer. These do add up – service is branding.
Posted in Service levels, Starbucks

Verizon gets social service – my experience

I recently was locked out of my Verizon FIOS account. Any time I tried to log in, I ended up in my Verizon Wireless account instead (I am a client of both). I naturally took to Twitter to see if I could get help, and the results were impressive. Inspired by my colleague’s recent post on the connection between service and brand, I wanted to share how well Verizon handled my situation.

I started by following @VerizonSupport, and posted a tweet documenting my situation. I didn’t expect a quick response, but got one fast:

As Verizon recommended, I later started a conversation with a support rep via Twitter direct message. Again, I didn’t expect an immediate reply, but the exchange happened so quickly that it almost seemed like live chat. Every time I checked my direct messages, I had a response from a Verizon rep.

Verizon DM

Unfortunately, the problem couldn’t be solved via Twitter alone, but the Verizon rep had a solution – to kick off a secure live chat so I could share more sensitive information like my username and pin number. There, Reginald reset my password, confirmed I could log in successfully, then… tried an upsell!

Verizon Chat

Now, this was a bold move. You could question whether it was totally necessary. You could ask whether it was truly in the spirit of helping me. But I was receptive to it because the process had gone so well. The outstanding service not only solved my problem, but gave me such a positive brand perception that I was ready to buy. Also, knowing that Reginald likely is paid or bonused on these upsells, I really wanted to reward his great service.

What I liked about this experience:

  1. Service is speed. I like how quickly Verizon responded to all of my inquiries. There never was a note that I would get a response in 24-48 hours. I always got a response quickly. If anything, I was the one who was slow to respond to a tweet or chat message. Note that they had at least two reps staffing the @VerizonSupport Twitter account but the flow was seamless.
  2. Verizon respected my way of communicating. I kicked off the response on Twitter, and at no point did the reps ask me to call a 1-800 number. I love this and can’t say enough how important this is to me. It shows a real commitment to social service – the Twitter account is not just a fake front end for phone service. When they asked me to move to live chat, it was for security reasons (or so they convinced me), so I was receptive. It also was easy – I just clicked a link and went from tweeting with JXJ, MLM and CJH to chatting with Reginald.
  3. I felt better off than before. This is critical in any service reaction – do I feel like I came out ahead when I was done? This is heavy perception, because Verizon just upsold me (which they had been trying to do with direct mail, e-mail and TV pop-ups unsuccessfully), right? But for me, my problem was solved, I got faster FIOS for $5 per month and a free router. I felt better than when I started.

What I learned from this experience:

  1. Service can deliver revenue. I know this from my own teams, but experiencing it myself is always enlightening. When Reginald went for the upsell, I recognized it as such but I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I do the same when Enterprise provides great service at the airport. When this works, it’s a natural payoff of the service interaction. When it doesn’t, it can crash hard. A sales pitch works better when done inside a positive service experience.
  2. Verizon is staffed for true social service. They had multiple reps handling the Twitter account, knew how to seamlessly push me to live chat, and never asked me questions about my account that suggested ineptitude or lack of training. They also never tried to push me to the phone team.
  3. In-app resolution is so important. When I was chatting with Reginald, if he would have told me to check my e-mail for a password reset link, I likely would have bailed (and he would have never gotten to the upsell). Instead, he reset my password for me and waited while I confirmed it worked. The more you can help the client in the current interaction you have, the more likely you are to solve the problem and deliver a positive experience.
Posted in Social service, Verizon

On being nice

Fred Wilson recently posted a piece called Be Nice or Leave.  When I read it, I was getting ready to present to a room of Indeed’s biggest clients.  But I was so inspired that I quickly wrote a note to my team.  When I read it again today, I wanted to share it.


I have been away from you for a while, presenting to clients down here in Austin, and spending way too much time on planes. This morning (US time), I read this blog post and smiled:

We are nice in Client Services at Indeed. Nice to our salespeople who demand a lot, nice to our clients who need so much from us, and nice to one another. I see this again and again in your client and peer feedback. Every new hire class tells me how nice everyone is, and how welcomed they feel at Indeed. And it made me think that being nice is a big reason for our success.

It also made me think that anyone can provide service, but service + nice is a sweet spot where we excel. And it’s a big reason I prefer being with you all to being on a plane.

Thanks for being nice and have a great weekend,


Posted in Service levels

Starbucks brand promise

I recently saw (and captured) this Starbucks ad in Time magazine.  I really like how the “barista promise” – a consumer brand promise – is one of service.  It so easily extends to the Starbucks employer brand.  It says, not only will you get great service if you buy coffee at Starbucks, but we’re also a great place to work if you’re inspired by providing that kind of service.  You can either experience the apron or wear it – the ad works both ways.

Starbucks Apron

Posted in Employer branding, Starbucks


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