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Fireside Chat With VP of Customer Service at Pipedrive

Customer service6 MIN READJun 18, 2021

Fireside Chat - Mara Vicente - VP of Customer Service at Pipedrive - Klaus - 2

Welcome to the Fireside Chats with Klaus. The host of today’s episode is Martin Kõiva, the CEO & co-founder of Klaus who gave our regular host Valentina an evening off so that for once she could also enjoy the show from the audience. 

Valentina and the rest of the crowd, you’re in for a treat, it’s a great episode!

Not only is this episode special because Martin tries his hand at being a podcast host – but it’s also a rare opportunity to get to know how customer service is done at Pipedrive, one of the latest European unicorns. 

What’s more, this episode’s guest Mara Vicente, VP of Customer Service at Pipedrive, took on the job when Martin left Pipedrive to found Klaus. Intriguing, right? 

Among other things, Mara and Martin discuss customer service in fast-growing startups. It’s a unique chance to learn how to scale global high-performing support teams from their experience.

Somebody once said that startups depend on good customer service more than any other business. That’s because their products are constantly in the state of development and scaling – so mistakes and bugs are inevitable. Great support, however, can undo the damage done to customer relations.

Let’s find out whether that’s true in the Fireside Chat with Klaus and Martin, featuring Mara Vicente, VP of Customer Service at Pipedrive:

Here are five key takeaways about building successful customer service in a startup

    1. Support is the ‘heart and lungs’ of a startup: while big corporations tweak their work for maximum efficiency and focus on replicating what’s already working for them, startup support teams need to make big things happen fast. Mara encourages support leads to not be afraid of making mistakes because you will always learn from them. And, it’s best if you can do it as fast as possible. But you also need to keep people motivated and excited about their work at all times.

      So, in the startup world, customer service is never just a nice-to-have feature. It is the heart and the lungs of the company – the part that keeps the business running and needs to be there all the time.

    2. Revamp support functions without losing people. Startups are in a constant state of change – and customer service is always on the same rollercoaster ride.

      Mara’s first real challenge was to take the team from a Monday to Friday working schedule to a 24/7 customer service. The trickiest part was to continuously hire for new rotating schedules while keeping the team stable. She made ‘not losing anyone in the process’ her main goal. It takes time to get the team to offering 24/7 support in a stable way like that but it’s well worth the effort in the end.

    3. Involve people in all ‘painful’ changes: invite people to be a part of the project and the change but also tell everyone what you’re doing: what is the plan, what is the goal, what will be the outcome. Without involving people in the entire process, your team members might get defensive, especially if you haven’t worked with them before. Be open about your plans to build trust in your decisions, and help the team understand the whys before you kick anything off.

      “Buy-in is critical for the team. The first changes that I implemented were so hard to implement just because of that. I was rushing to do things, but not really pushing for involvement. Then I learned from that. And the other changes that we implemented were like a breeze just because we got this right.“– Mara Vicente, VP of Customer Service at Pipedrive


    4. Switch from transactional to relational: when the pandemic hit, Mara realized that unless they change the mindset of their support reps, they are going to start losing users. Customers began to approach the support team to cancel or downgrade their accounts.

      That’s when Mara knew that they needed to switch from a ‘tell me what you want and I’ll help you do it’ approach to a whole new way to reaching out to customers to understand their situation, level of difficulty, and what could be the turning point for them.  Switching from transactional to relational customer service took a lot of soft skills training to learn to communicate and negotiate in this new situation. This seemingly small change, however, made a really big impact for the teams like Pipedrive – who eventually managed to retain a lot of customers last year just because of this new approach.

    5. Don’t work in silos: people lose themselves building their own departments and suddenly all teams are so closed within their own silo that everybody forgets how to pass on feedback and share insights with other departments. We lose track and suddenly it becomes painful to build those bridges after everything is said.

      Keep cross-department cross-functional projects going to make sure these bridges stand strong. For example, at Pipedrive, the teams have joined their forces in a common effort to map customer journeys and projects. At Pipedrive, they have a framework for cross-department activities: different tasks for everyone to do, charts to read, calls to listen to, processes to investigate, and experience as a customer. They systematically take all these insights and improve the experience for customers at all times.

      Mara explains the benefits of working with other departments on improving customer experience:
      “We need the six-year-old in the room that does the customer questions like ‘Why do I need to click a button two times? I don’t understand.'”

These five takeaways are just a selection of valuable lessons we got from this episode of the Fireside Chat with Klaus and Martin, featuring Mara Vicente, VP of Customer Service at Pipedrive. 

Listen to the full episode to find out the rest of the hundred and more golden nuggets shared in the fun and fruitful 46 minutes.

In the next episode, Valentina will return as the host of the Fireside Chat and take us to behind the scenes of Zendesk. Don’t want to miss the next episode? Subscribe to our Youtube channel and follow our podcast series via your favorite podcast service on Anchor.fm.

By the way, how did Martin do as the host of the show? Let us know in Quality Tribe – our community for CX folks!

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