I read an interview recently with Craig Newmark, founder of CraigsList, and he mentioned that on a day-to-day basis he still does customer service, in fact, I think it’s his primary responsibility now, despite all the success the site has had and the ability to hire people.
It seemed interesting to me, and maybe for a second I wondered why he remained in it instead of sitting on an exotic beach somewhere.
But a large part of me sympathized with the fact that the founder of a great company would still be doing customer service long after the business was profitable, sustainable and actually extremely, wildly, historically successful.
As a founder of a company, I know that customer service is the hardest thing to let go, or to release into someone else’s hands because when you do something yourself and you’re building, with your own sweat and time and energy, something that’s yours, and your “baby,” you tend to go the extra mile.
For the better part of our company’s existence, I’ve been the frontline person that answers customers questions. Only in the last couple of months have I turned the bulk of that responsibility over to one of our team members so I can work on our “process.” But I still try to man our Live Chat, answer emails and chime in at our forum as often as I can.
So however far away I get from those activities, I feel an internal pull BACK to them. It’s just a natural occurence for a founder I think …
Here are several reasons why I seem to always return back to doing customer service ….
- I love what I do, I love our business, and I love our customers who support us and want them to get the best, most friendly help possible.
- It helps me keep in touch with them, their questions and needs. And I always gleam some insight into how we can improve our products or sales process for them.
- I think every now and then people enjoy knowing the guy in charge is helping them personally – in fact, in our Live Chat, sometimes people ask who they are talking to and are often delighted to know it’s me. I kind of dig that personally but also for them and their experience with us. (I mean, imagine how cool is it for CraigsList people to talk directly to Craig?!)
- It’s one of the cheapest, most effective ways I’ve found to build a fan club, or raving fans, or, heck, job security! One of the few things I could lavish on customers in our first few months was SUPER fast response time (like 3 minutes or less) to their emails to us, which everyone valued and appreciated. (Something my buddy Brian Gardner taught me.)
And THAT’S why it’s so hard to let go of customer service as an entreprenuer and founder!
So once we were able to hire someone dedicated solely to customer service and support, we tasked him with one of the most important and vital responsibilities in our business: BUILDING OUR FAN CLUB.
And ultimately, to treat our customers as I treated them … which I’ll admit, was a bar I tried to set extremely high!
UPDATE: Moments have clicking Publish on this post, at 3:30 a.m. in the morning, I got an Instant Message from one of our early customer asking me a support question. Did I forget to mention … customer service never stops!