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What's It Like to Work in Customer Service at a Startup?

Customer service associates are vital members of a startup’s team, and are in charge of making sure each customer has an amazing experience.

It’s a simple fact that things go wrong at startups all the time. Code breaks, directions get miscommunicated, projects get reprioritized. Sometimes users get the short end of the stick, and those mistakes trickle down. That’s why the customer service team is so vital to a startup’s success. Without folks making sure customers are 110% satisfied, the entire operation’s in danger of falling apart.

Here’s how it breaks down: If customers aren’t satisfied, then they stop using a product. Huge bummer! Not only does your company lose money, the unhappy customer can also post on Yelp, Twitter, or Facebook about how terrible their experience was. Instantly, thousands of people get the wrong impression.

Customer service team members are the gatekeepers of the brand; companies literally rise and fall with the quality of their customer service. That’s why hiring managers are obsessed with making sure they have the perfect team communicating with customers.

What Does the Customer Service Team Actually Do at a Startup?

Solve problems

Customer service team members are directly responsible for solving any problems the user may have with the product or service. This could range from technical issues (I can’t login!) to problems with the business’s operations (my package hasn’t arrived!) to anything and everything in between!

Educate users

Another responsibility of the customer service team is to answer questions regarding how the product or service works. Sometimes people will ask how your company operates on a broad level and other times they’ll want to know very specific details regarding the startup’s logistics. In order to be effective at answering their questions, it’s vital that a customer service associate knows the company backwards and forwards. Some customer service reps are even trained to upsell people who call in and ask questions so that they can turn them into paying users.

Make sure the customer is happy

Even if a customer doesn’t have a problem that needs to be solved or a question that needs to be answered, it’s vital to the success of a startup that all customers walk away smiling. Happy customers are return customers, and return customers bring their friends! Customer service team members often think of ways to improve the overall customer experience, not necessarily limited to times when things are going wrong. That could mean sending your users a handwritten card that says “Thanks for being a customer” or it could mean throwing in a freebie every once in awhile. Some startups even offer complimentary mimosas and mojitos to their customers if they stop by in person!

Serve as the voice of the customer

Perhaps the most important job of the customer service associate is to take the feedback they get from users and translate it to the product team. The customer service team interacts directly with users every day, so understandably customer service associates help serve as the bridge between the user and the product. The product team will then take the feedback they relay, and build it directly into the product.

What Are Some Qualities of Successful Customer Service Associates?

Customer service team members are resourceful problem solvers, patient listeners, and most of all empathetic human beings. Any person can talk to a customer on the phone, but the best customer service associates empathize with the person on the other line. When the user has a problem, they feel it too. When the user has a question, the customer service team genuinely wants to answer it. Additionally, as a significant part of the job involves responding to customer emails, people from a writing background tend to excel in this role too.

What's the Growth Potential of a Customer Service Associate?

Working in customer service at a startup you’ll learn to communicate with anyone, at any time, in any context — a valuable art to master in business as well as life. Learning how to handle people will come in handy as you deal with different kinds of stakeholders, whether that be an enterprise customer, a dissatisfied client, or a key investor in your future startup. You’ll also learn how to effectively problem solve, as you’ll be thrown a ton of different challenges all day every day. Learning how to juggle these issues efficiently, while coming up with sustainable solutions, is a skill you can leverage for all sorts of future career opportunities.

Joining a company on the customer service team is also one of the best entry points to learn a brand’s product inside and out. For this reason, many companies use customer service positions as pipelines into their other departments. Many early employees who start off doing customer service eventually transition into operations, marketing, or even copywriting. Joining a customer service team is a great career move as it’s the job that best allows you to understand both the product details and the user thought process, skills that can be useful to any team at a startup. After spending time interacting with customers and walking them through the product, you’re going to get pretty good at understanding a user’s mentality and communicating a brand’s mission.

If running a business is a battle, the customer service team is on the front-line. Every startup employee, including the co-founders, have learned how to interact with customers and make sure they’re having a positive experience. As you can see from the above, the customer service team does way more than their titles suggest. By fixing user issues, serving as library for all company-related questions, and translating the customer experience to the product team, they help provide the most valuable resource of all, brand value. In the same way that a funny video goes viral, an awesome customer experience can go viral too! Who else is going to make that happen but a rockstar customer service team?

Looking for a customer service job at a startup but don’t know where to start?

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