Remote work doesn’t make collaboration simple, and there’s no exception for customer support teams. Often, customer support is a careful balancing act; in every request you handle and every decision you make, you’re balancing being an advocate for both your company and the customer. Relying on your team every step of the way is critical.
We spoke with Head of Support Evert Velthuizen of remote-first company Doist to learn his advice for building a team that works well together while remote. Evert began as a support representative at Doist in 2017 before leading the team. With a multilingual team of 14 across 11 countries, he’s no stranger to remote work and the challenges it can bring for team collaboration. According to Evert, it’s about finding your team’s passion and keeping it alive. Evert shared with us his methodology for promoting healthy collaboration between his teammates.
Make sharing knowledge imperative
“If I learn something new, it’s my duty to share it with the team.” This is the mindset Evert’s team takes on at Doist. Whether it’s about the product, a customer, or an operating system, for instance—when you learn something new, you don’t have an option: you share it with the team. By emphasizing this as a duty for all teammates, it encourages a culture where learning is positive and humble. It removes the scenario where you’re embarrassed by what you didn’t know, and discourages being greedy with information in order to be the one to know the most.
Evert says they do this in two ways: the first is anecdotally through using their own collaboration product, Twist. If you learn something, you share it in a thread with the team to discuss. The second is in monthly team meetings. Evert says he structures these meetings to leave room for people to share openly at the end.
Identify passionate individuals while hiring
When you hire teammates, don’t look for people who want to tell you how great they were in their last position. Instead, Evert argues, if you want to find people with passion, look for people who want to talk about things other than themselves. He gave us two questions from his interview script, noting that although they seem simple, they work:
1. Can you describe a project you worked on where there was a low point and how you turned it around?
In the response to this one, Evert says to watch how they talk about the project and the teammates involved. Did they really care about turning it around? Did they believe in it? Did they have empathy for the teammates they worked with? Or was the answer more about themselves and what they did to solve it? Was there blame on others, or were they focused on the solution?
2. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Evert says the answer to this one can be very telling. Their answer can be about anything, and it doesn’t really matter what that thing is. But does it get them excited? Are they willing to be open with you and share something real? When it’s real, you’ll know, Evert says, and those individuals are ones with passion.
Give new teammates structured partnerships
Jumping in with a question on a 10-person Zoom call can be intimidating for anyone, let alone a new hire on your team. Evert says their solution to hiring new support teammates at Doist involves ensuring structured partnerships with other teammates. “We assign all new teammates a mentor,” Evert says.
The mentor is someone who’s been on the support team for a while, such as a year or more. This person looks over their support responses before they send, holds a weekly one-on-one meeting with the new hire, and is the go-to person for any questions outside their direct manager. This mentor comes as a part of their broader company program, which includes a monthly one-on-one with the head of the team, and with their HR teammate.
Promote respect to keep collaborative spirit high
“It’s easy for support teams to get in a negative mindset—but if this happens, you have to remind them, ‘how can we help our user and our company succeed?’” If you as a leader don’t radiate with excitement and belief in your team’s success, you can’t expect your team to feel that way too.
He argues that keeping a mindset of respect and positivity is critical for having a collaborative support team. When you’re amped about your team, you’ll communicate more readily without even thinking about it. “I truly believe I have such amazing teammates, and I deeply respect them,” Evert says. “I believe I am fortunate that I get to work with them and that I get to grow here, and you have to encourage that mindset for your team.”
Written by Emily Hackeling
Originally Published: 23 September 2020