Smartyviews: Lilia Matsokha on what customer support really is
Have you ever wondered what happens in the backstage of your platform operation? Who are the people behind the solutions that let your business flourish, and what are the processes that enable efficient cooperation? Somehow, this part of the job always skips the spotlight, as not so many companies care to open the curtain into the “kitchen” of the technical magic that happens in there.
At SmartyAds, we follow a simple rule: whatever we do, we have to help our customers redefine the standards of excellence in their respective niches. So, we thought, why not share the stories of those who stand behind the change? We want you to know everything about our work and our splendid team. Therefore, we have something special for you. Today, we represent the first article that belongs to a series of interviews with our key executives, such as Lilia Matsokha, our Account Management Team Lead for White Label Solutions. Get ready to discover secrets, skills, stories, and tricks behind the work of our support department.
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Lily, welcome, and thank you for agreeing to let us into the sanctuary of SmartyAds customer support. Our first question will be about the specifics of customer support at SmartyAds. Having paved your way from a customer support agent to a team lead, tell us how folks usually approach customer service in our company?
Well, thanks for having me, you guys. In fact, I’m a bit nervous, as I’ve never been interviewed, but I’ll try to do my best.
To begin with, I think there is actually a huge difference between the classic product support and the SmartyAds product support. That difference boils down to the approach we take. To be honest, I was taken aback by it when I joined the company, as I thought we were going to ‘process the tickets’. Little did I know that here people practice something that actually brings value.
So, where was I? Ah, right! The difference! Here’s the deal. In most cases, companies stick with the ticket system, meaning that a client has to create a support request ticket and then wait until the problem gets resolved. It seems that the drawbacks of this approach are too obvious to dwell upon, so let’s skim them through:
- Protractedness. There are cases when a client can wait for weeks for a response;
- One communication channel. Most companies limit their clients’ communication channels to an email address or a support portal.
- No calls. Some issues require swift solutions (especially the technical ones), which are only possible when you can call an agent and let them deal with the problem.
I think that this trinity embodies everything that business should not encounter. In today’s reality, you cannot let your customer’s system be down for more than thirty minutes; you cannot abridge their communication to a channel that is only convenient for you, and you cannot deprive them of the possibility to call and deal with urgent matters whenever they need it.
Meanwhile, I can classify the SmartyAds approach as something of a merger between classic product support (only the best features out it) and business consulting. We make a special emphasis on client-centricity. In fact, let's forget about all that classic support stuff. This is more about customer-centric business consulting.
We’ve analyzed each one of our competitors, and the conclusion we made was the following: all other companies are trying to limit the scope of requests. Thus, we went in a completely opposite direction by extending the scope of requests that SmartyAds works with. We are not merely technical support for our clients. We know how to make their business better, and we are interested in maximizing their profit.
That sounds quite interesting, to be fair. But when you were talking about that opposite direction, what did you mean exactly? ‘Extending the scope of requests you work with’ - could you dwell a bit more on that?
Oh, are you sure you want this? Because you’d better not get me started on this one. Well, it’s too late to retreat! There are…. (let me count)... eight things that make SmartyAds stand out as a business consulting partner for anyone who looks for efficient advertising solutions.
- Our main advantage is comprehensive customer guidance. That is, we don’t just offer them full technical support, but we also take care of their business by consulting them on the platform performance. All our clients go through a detailed onboarding on how to work with the platform. They learn about the platform’s pivotal functions, how to integrate partners and how to analyze and boost their performance. However, we are all human beings, right? There are always some additional questions that people have, and we are more than happy to answer them. We tend to make sure our clients know every single detail about the system so that they can put it to its best use by analyzing and improving what’s already good. This is an unbreakable rule that we follow: we help our clients absolutely free of charge in any additional endeavors and requests they might have.
- Every SmartyAds customer gets a personal account manager. This manager is designated specifically to deal with whatever questions customer might have, and this person makes sure that the customer’s platform performs at the top of its capabilities.
- There is a convenient communication channel for every SmartyAds customer. As a matter of fact, customers are the ones who get to choose communication channels. From Slack to Skype, from Gmail to Outlook, just pick what suits you best and get an answer to any request within two hours. By saying within two hours, I mean the maximum standby time we have to process the request. But I cannot remember a single case where it took us more than twenty minutes to respond to a customer. If we’re responding longer than that, look out of the window, maybe the apocalypse has started. Seriously, something really dramatic must happen for us to make you wait up to two hours.
- We don’t provide run-of-the-mill account managers; we employ super experienced experts who know answers to any question a customer can have. Those are the programmatic superstars that we’re working with here. From technical inquiries to small talks - they can do it all if it helps the client.
- There is no unified service track for our clients to follow. We make sure that each customer is being provided with support that fits their needs and business model the most. Somebody needs help with technical problems, such as partner integration, others might be looking for additional analysis of their performance. There are also folks looking for support in custom feature development. We have it all.
- Another advantage is the client’s platform performance review. Look, we’re more than interested in the high-quality work of our products. We want our clients to make the most out of our product so that they could maximize their profit. That is why we embark upon a total rehaul and analysis of the clients’ platforms' performance. With a detailed report and analysis, we know exactly what to add and what to improve. We have a lot of cases when it really helped our clients.
- Every client that starts working with us gets detailed instructions on how to tune every single aspect of the platform. Yet, there are cases when our client's in-house team cannot deal with the configuration process. That is not a problem, as we’ve got it all covered: we lead from A to Z, remember? We assign a dedicated AdOps manager to the case. This policy stems from our own understanding that not every client has employees onboard to deal with massive guides and instructions. So, if our clients find it hard to fine-tune the platform, we will do it for them.
- Unlike other tech providers, we don’t limit our clients to a particular number of questions per day. Also, we don’t like that ‘premium-regular’ discrimination according to the type of account. Why would a client have to pay extra for the additional support time? You either support your client, or you don’t. Take it or leave it. At SmartyAds, we keep answering and processing the requests as long as our customer needs it. We make the difference; we work until the problem is wiped off the client’s table. For example, we have clients whom we call daily, as we develop a custom feature for them as an outsource team. Yes, we can outstaff our professionals when needed, making sure the sprints are there, demos are delivered on time, and additional testing is in place.
Now, this is what I call support, and I’m happy to realize that our customers are fully satisfied with our services. I know that some of them already think of us as a part of their own teams, which is quite flattering.
In Lilia Matsokha’s own words. What is high-quality client support?
Let me think… Client-centricity, flexibility in communication, and a pinch of empathy. When you treat your client’s problems as your own, you cannot stay idle, you’re always eager to do more. We are always on our client’s side because this is our side as well. We deliver more than it was stipulated in the contract; we deliver our attitude and passion. When you put that little bit of extra humanity into work and business, you get an incredible result that leaves everyone even more than satisfied.
SmartyAds account managers must be getting a lot of questions, both technical and business, right? Are there some ‘favorites’ to share?
Well, if we’re talking about the most popular requests, everyone keeps coming up with technical questions regarding configurations and partners' integration. Especially when those are the 3-rd party integrations that we’re talking about. There are also questions on bugs, but they don’t even make it into the top 10. So, the most popular technical requests are:
- Platform performance analysis. We always find these important. More so, we regularly embark on our clients’ platforms' performance reviews ourselves. Hence, we quite often end up with ready-made answers.
- Partners integration analysis. Our clients want to know whether they have integrated their partners in the right (read: profitable) way, and we help them to define it.
- Configuration efficiency. Quite often, we get requests like “what is going to happen if we change this?” and that is all right. Our support agents are always ready to take the clients through every configuration scenario.
- Additional services integration. Businesses want to spend their money wisely, and we assist them in doing so by consulting on the best additional services that would boost their commercial efficiency.
Quite often, we deal with custom feature development requests. Namely, customers request a feature that would let them integrate and work with their partners with ease. As you might have already guessed, we do analyze all this information. If we see that we frequently get the same request, we can even update the tech core of our product to make it more customer-oriented. The bottom line is that we deal with all the questions that can possibly improve our customers’ profitability, as this is a number one priority.
Let’s finish it off with a bit of a personal question. What was your favorite case that you worked on?
Oh, I don’t even have to think about it. So, we have this client whose name I shall keep to myself, as the client wants to stay undisclosed (the needs are our priority, remember?). We’ve been working for two years already, and they’ve tried literally every WLS product there is in the market, but none was good enough for them. Then they came to us, and we could not have failed but delivered to every single need they had. We’ve got them a dedicated out-staff account manager right at the very beginning of our cooperation. She performed so well during the first year that they wanted to extend our presence in their company, so we hired one more dedicated expert for them. If you really want to get a grasp of how satisfied they are: every year we get a decent bonus from them for the New Year, which they say is “a present to enjoy”. I guess that says it all.
Oh, by the way, we are currently working on a project that is no less fascinating. Basically, we develop a custom marketing feature for one of our clients. I can’t tell you what it is specifically, and I hope you understand why, but I really like the way we’re working with this client. Our account manager has daily calls with this client to discuss all the newly introduced changes. Furthermore, she helps the client’s in-house team test those changes, sharing insights regarding features and operations.
This is probably the most vivid example of the result- and customer-centricity that I was telling you about. We don’t get in touch with our clients just to label our services as support. We take a wider connotation of the term ‘support’. If our clients need us, we will be there as a support team, as a consulting partner, or as an outsource product development team. We care for the client’s result and not for the way our service is positioned.
Well, Lily, it was quite a good start to the many interviews we have planned ahead. Thank you for your time, for your professionalism, and for your devotion to our clients.
Thank you as well, and there is actually one more thing that I would like to say. I know it all might sound a bit promotional, but I can’t help saying this. We, the folks at SmartyAds customer support, feel more than proud to be doing what we do. I think that we feel that way because we are one hundred percent sure that we bring value to our customers and that our assistance helps their businesses achieve peak potential.
Lilia Matsokha, Account Management Team Lead WLS of SmartyAds