10 Ways to Build a World-Class Customer Service Team

Online ticketing startup Eventbrite has seen meteoric growth. Here's a look at how a laser focus on killer customer support made all the difference.

San Francisco-based Eventbrite is an online ticketing website that recently surpassed $2 billion in ticket sales with $500 million processed between March and September this year alone. While the company had been vocal about steering toward an IPO, in April it instead raised $60 million in funding from T. Rowe Price and Tiger Global, shelving the plan to go public for the time being.

What's behind the growth? Eventbrite's model makes it super simple for event organizers to promote meetups, music festivals, conferences and the like, charging only 2.5 percent of the ticket price plus $0.99 per ticket sold and nothing for free events.

The company is also laser-focused on providing phenomenal customer support. Eventbrite, anomalously, makes its phone number easy to find and takes calls 24/7, typically answering calls by a live person--not an aggravating automated tree--within 30 seconds.

While simply answering the blasted phone might not seem like rocket science, in other ways Eventbrite's customer service approach is unique. For example, its 70-person customer service team calls itself "We Rock" and members cast themselves as rock stars of a sort. Here are 10 other unusual tactics Eventbrite VP of customer experience Dana Kilian says the company uses to foster a stellar customer service team.

Pay attention to some metrics, ignore others.

Eventbrite tracks its Net Promoter Score--typically in the 70s or 80s, which are best-in-class numbers, Kilian says--and shares it weekly with everyone in the 350-person company. It also garners data about customer satisfaction from transactional email surveys as well as data around how happy employees are.

"Some of the things we don't really care about or don't talk about with the team... are traditional call center metrics like average handle time [which is] how long someone is on the phone," Kilian says. "It doesn't speak to the quality of the experience, it doesn't speak to if the customer is satisfied. We track a lot of things behind the scenes, we look at it to improve our tools or our training but we don't talk about it with the team."

Be transparent.

Kilian holds a Q&A session every other week with her team in which she asks them to throw her tough questions. If no one does she makes sure to have planted a few probing queries with one of her seven managers who hold their own mini team meetings weekly or bi-monthly. The company also holds quarterly all-hands meetings.

Every day customer service team members get a summary about customer service levels and the team sends a full report including customer feedback and comments to the entire company each week.

Honor your employees' personalities.

Kilian says Eventbrite focuses first on hiring top-notch talent by asking unconventional questions during an interview such as "What is your spirit animal?" and "What was your favorite slow jam in high school?" Once hired, these folks don't use scripts with customers.

"I think a lot of customer service teams fall into that trap of scripting everything out and for the customer it can be like speaking to a robot," she says.

She says the company also holds talent shows that involve singing and dancing as well as monthly playlists created collaboratively by team members around various themes.

Invest in training.

Once a week Kilian's team holds some kind of "master's training" on subjects such as upcoming product launches, soft skills such as delivering feedback or hard skills such as understanding HTML code.

In addition, Killian says she just lured someone from Google, where she also previously worked, to head customer service training globally.

"One of the things [Durand Duin will] incorporate is a sense of mindfulness which sounds a little new-agey but we really think it's important because... when you're working with customers you've got to be at the top of your game and so we want to help the team build resiliency through mindfulness," she says.

Encourage a team mentality.

Ben Kramer, an Eventbrite customer service team member, regularly dresses up as a crab who shows up at birthday parties, on T-shirts and other branded team materials, as well as on a display that communicates hourly service levels.

"The team gets a picture of Kramer depending on how good our service levels are so if it hits above 95 percent Kramer tips his glass of champagne at you. If it's above 98 percent he throws his boa. If it's below a certain percentage he falls on the floor and dies," Kilian says.

Don't leave recognition up to leaders only.

Not only do team members bring to meetings positive tweets that mention co-workers, they vote to recognize peers with an MVP award, which gives a recipient time off for lunch with a friend plus a rock-and-roll-themed photo shoot with the resulting "glamour shot" hung on the wall back in the office.

"We also have this thing called the beige phone award for excellence in customer service or BPACS. It's an old beige phone I found in my garage from the 50s and we created a little plaque to go with it... and the team just kind of randomly gives it out either to each other or to someone else in the company when they've done something really awesome for a customer," she says.

Hire people who are passionate about solving problems.

Kilian says the company uses the same high bar for hiring customer service team members as it does for executives.

"We don't have really anybody on the team who's had a very traditional call center background," she says. "We have people from non-profits, we've had teachers, we've had people who've joined the Peace Corps. We've had people who've worked at Apple, we've had all different types of backgrounds but really it all comes back to this desire and passion for customers."

Grow your own leaders.

Kilian says every member of her management team either came from answering phones or from another part of the company.

"That's gone over really well with the team. I think they have a sense of trust and loyalty together and they understand that their leaders know the job and have that same passion for customers," she says.

Find people with a 'make it happen' spirit.

"In our staffing models we build in time for people to have some time off the phone to do things that are important to them and that they're passionate about and that ultimately contribute to the business and to our customers too," she says.

For example, one woman presented the idea for a "school of rock," which mandates that every employee in the company spends three hours a quarter listening to calls and interacting with the customer service team. Another woman worked on a marketing video about Eventbrite customer service.

Trust and empower your employees.

"That sounds so basic but I really think it's important to hire the very best people you can, invest in them with leadership and training and then trust that they're going to do a good job and empower them to do it," she says. "I always tell my team that there's nothing that I can do that they can't do for a customer."

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