I’ve been asked before, why Customer Service? Why not work in another field?
I’ve been working solely in Customer Service the since 2009, with another 3 years of what I would consider secondary contact with customers, before that. That’s over a third of my life, committed to a career that I had never even considered after finishing school. So where did I go so wrong?? 🙂
When I was growing up, I never had thought of working in Customer Service or that it would be a viable and successful career option. Believe it or not, I always wanted to be a Police Officer. Throughout school, it was always something that appealed to me. I love the human element of it. I love helping and interacting with people. I loved helping others to solve their problems when they are in a time of need. Sometimes those situations were life-threatening, sometimes it would be for a lost cat. In any case, it all appealed to me. The “Hollywood Action Cop” side of things was never the reason the career interested me. In hindsight, it’s not really a surprise that customer service was where I landed.
In my early 20’s a major health scare within my family made me re-evaluate what I was doing in my life. My job was pretty good. I worked for an internet media company, with great people that I liked. I had a good salary… But I wasn’t happy. I knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and that got me to thinking.
I always wanted to become a Police Officer, so why didn’t I?
No matter how many times I asked myself, I didn’t have a good reason.
After high school, I had an opportunity to work in what most would consider a nice career job at Bank of Montreal. Because of this, I had unintentionally put becoming a Police Officer on the back burner. I found myself moving further and further away from this idea without even realizing it. By the time I had stopped to think about this I was several years into my adult working life. So I decided to make a change! I quit my job and decided to go back to school for a Police Foundations course. I still needed an income though, so I got myself a part-time job at a Canadian athletic clothing company – lululemon athletica.
I started at lululemon athletica first as an educator, then Key Leader, then Assistant Store Manager. When I left, I was the acting store manager. This is where it all started for me, it’s where I fell in love with interacting with customers. It may sound silly, but I was able to check off all the boxes of what appealed to me about Policing. I was able to constantly interact with and meet new people. I was able to answer their questions and help them out. Sure, I wasn’t saving lives, or even cats… and the questions were sometimes “does this make me look fat?”… But the feeling and the satisfaction I got were the same. While I have grown and improved in many ways since lululemon, it still serves as the foundation that I use in Customer Service to this day.
After lululemon, I worked at FreshBooks with their award-winning customer service team. When I started at FreshBooks, the company was around 70 people, and the support team consisted of roughly 10 people (including myself). By the time I left the company, the support team alone had grown to over 65 people. FreshBooks was the place where I really got to perfect my craft and deciding to leave was the hardest decision of my career.
FreshBooks was the place where I really got to perfect my craft
At FreshBooks, I was able to connect with other like-minded individuals in Customer Service. That’s when I realized what a Customer Service career could look like. There was an entire generation of new companies that understood the value and need for top quality customer service staff. These companies didn’t see customer service as something you outsourced or pay minimum wage for. They saw it as an integral part of their companies product and they were willing to pay for that.
I met people who thought and felt like I did about customers. They echoed my mentality and approach to customer service. The love, the passion I had for these customers… I wasn’t the only one who felt this way! There were others at various companies around the world that had created successful careers for themselves doing what I loved. I spent as much time as I could connecting with and learning from these people. We swapped stories, compared notes, talked about things that challenged us. All of the stuff that people did in other jobs. This assured me that I was on the right path, I had made the right choice and I should keep pushing. So I did.
My role at Automattic now marks my third consecutive customer service specific job.
Throughout the years I’ve had some amazing interactions with customers. While most of these moments aren’t public, with their details and stories lost to an archived email somewhere, I remember them all. I remember the users who shed tears of happiness when I helped save their butts. I remember the customers that laughed and joked with me. I even make sure to remember the angry and upset customers. They are all equally important in their own ways.
Here are a couple of the memories that are public..
— Heather Stryk 💕🦄 (@hstryk) September 1, 2017
Here are some valuable Custom Service hubs that I enjoy:
Support Ops – https://supportops.co
Started by Chase Clemmons, it’s a semi-regular podcast about all things Customer Service/Customer Support related. Several other regulars join Chase on the show, including Carolyn Kopprasch of Buffer, Jeff Vincent of Wistia, and Chase Livingston of Automattic. I was even lucky enough to guest on an episode.
Support Driven – https://supportdriven.com
An online community of customer support individuals. Started by Scott Tran, it has expanded from a Slack community to holding multiple events and conferences.