Jenn Southan: Trust, time-tracking and task management

Jenn Southan on LinkedIn

When I interviewed Jenn, she was the Vice President of Customer Experience at MemberHub, a software that facilitates the communication for PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations – a vital part of how American schools are organized). Jenn was the first remote team member of the team who lived in another state.

Previously, Jenn had been the Director of Customer Experience at TeamSnap, where she worked with an 80% remote team. Our conversation focused on hiring and team management – and how to maintain productivity and cohesion in a remote team.

Can I trust you to do your best?

Trustworthiness is Jenn’s number one criteria for any new hire. Customer support skills are difficult to pinpoint just by looking at a resume or a cover letter, so Jenn relies on interview conversation. The way a person leans in and interacts in a conversation, whether it’s written or via video, says a lot about how that person will interact with customers later.

When hiring remotely, Jenn puts extra attention on the motivation of potential candidates. All things equal (expected qualifications are covered), the motivation is the key differentiator between a successful remote support person and a mediocre one. This does not necessarily correlate with previous work experience. Even college and high school students are well versed in time management, meeting expectations, working in teams and get things done efficiently.

If you feel you can trust the candidate, and the motivation is in tune with your expectations, you can start tracking for progress.

Jenn has successfully hired support agents straight from the user base of their product. Stay-at-home parents who want to get back into the workforce and already know the product inside out knowing exactly how to talk to other users like themselves. Don’t limit yourself to the traditional candidate pools only.

It’s all about tracking: tasks, time,

If trust is the baseline, expectations are the driving force. Jenn thrives on clear expectations, both for her own work as well as for the people she manages. Expectations require you, the manager, to be very clear with what you want your team members to achieve – and being transparent with the metrics you are going to use as a proxy for these results.

This does not only apply to traditional support metrics around time to resolution, number of interactions, etc. Expectation setting and tracking also apply to questions around coverage. If you want to offer coverage during specific hours, at some point you need to start scheduling people. Jenn started this when they hit the number of 10 support agents. Whether you use a google spreadsheet or a tool, expectations need to be set outside of technology. Whether you end up hiring specifically for evenings or weekends, or whether you decide for an equal distribution of the expectations: you need to make a conscious decision, and you need to communicate it accordingly.

Communication builds trust. And trust is the foundation of good support – internally and for customers.

To find more about Jenn, visit her profile on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennsouthan/

Jenn is currently looking for a new challenge. If you are in need of a seasoned remote support leader, connect with her via LinkedIn or email.

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