Favorite Podcasts: This Week in Startups (TWiSt)

My friends all know that I enjoy good PodCasts. My daily commute only is about 8 steps from my bed… maybe a bit more if I detour to the stove to start the tea kettle before starting work. But when I’m visiting clients and or attending events I’m usually going at least 40 minutes (Palo Alto) or an hour (SF or Silicon Valley). PodCasts are a fun, productive use for that time.

Today I’m writing about one of my favorites. This Week in Startups has only been around for 13 episodes as of this writing, but it’s proven to be one of the most interesting, entertaining, and useful PodCasts that I follow.

The host is Jason Calacanis, a serial entrepreneur with a no-nonsense approach and a New Yorker attitude. He attracts some great guests, all entrepreneurs themselves.

Episode 13 is a particularly good one. It features Matt Mickiewicz, founder of Sitepoint.com and 99designs. Matt’s been an entrepreneur since he was 15 years old. Amazing guy with some great insights.

One small complaint… There is a trailer for the movie “We Live in Public” that was just too long. If you agree, just hang in there, or skip over this section to get to the good stuff.

My favorite part of TWiSt is the “Ask Jason” segment, where people can call in to ask advice. Well, it has been so far. In Episode 13, they introduced “Jason’s Shark Tank”, where they allow two entrepreneurs two minutes each to pitch Jason and his guest. It was great and if it has legs it’ll be a great addition to the show.

Part of what I like about this podcast is that it’s not all hard-nosed business advice. Jason, the guests and the whole crew have a lot of fun during the taping. In this episode, Jason gives dating and marriage management advice that’s just classic, with some great stories illustrating how to put a little extra thought into the time you spend together.

I also appreciate all the companis that sponsor all these Podcasts that enjoy, and following Jason’s lead I’ll fulfill my “Giri” and give my thanks to these great companies that sponsor TWiSt:

webspy

So check out TWiSt, and let me know how you enjoy it. If folks like this review, I’ll do more.

ciao!

How to Hire for Tech Support

What should you look for when hiring Tech Support staff? My answer to this may be a little counter intuitive.

Great Tech Support people are:
– Problem solvers
– Friendly and they like helping people.
– Communicative
– Confident enough to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”

This last point is very important, and too often overlooked. It’s critical in Tech Support to have a team that will respond well when presented with something they don’t know. Every one of them should not only be comfortable with it, but should relish the opportunity to figure something out.

Tech Support folks should also be friendly and like helping people. They should be communicative both inside the organization and with customers. Don’t just expect your team to “be professional”. That admonition is at the core of the wooden, scripted responses that frustrate customers.

“Knowing the answer doesn’t scale. Hire Tech Support people who can figure things out.”

Why didn’t I include something about technical qualifications? While a foundation of technical expertise may be important in your business, a candidate who is a better problem solver and better with people will still be the best choice, even if they lack experience in some aspect of your product or market. The best Tech Support people learn very quickly, and learn best while solving real problems.

Knowing the answer doesn’t scale. Focusing on “knowing the answer” is part of the “Quick Resolution Paradox” – it puts you on that treadmill that brings ever growing costs and support staff burnout. If you know the answer, you should be working to make sure you never get that question again, first by putting the answer at the fingertips of your users, and then by fixing the product so that this problem goes away forever.

Knowing the answer is a side-effect of providing good support, not its goal.

To make a great Tech Support team, the right hiring is critical. The right folks, with the right skills, will build your reputation with your customers with every call.

Apple Leads in Tech Support

This recent research is shows the difference you can get when focusing on resolving problems:

The study found that customers from each company are generally satisfied with hold times, ease of reaching an agent and agent professionalism. In contrast, there was a significant difference in the percentage of customers who reported their problem was solved: 53% of Apple customers reported their problem had been resolved on the call, while 45% of Dell customers and only 39% of HP customers reported they were able to resolve their problem on the call.

[From Apple Leads in Customer Satisfaction in Vocalabs Tech Support Study | Vocal Laboratories Inc.]

The Search for Meaning… from the Square Peg Blog

Arianna Huffington was the morning Keynote Speaker at the Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp for Non-Profit, Saturday in Berkeley, CA. I was looking forward to her speech. I enjoy Arianna on KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center and usually agree with her editorials in The Huffington Post. I knew it would be a good speech – an inspiring and thought-provoking speech. it was a lot more.

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[More at Square Peg Blog]

Managing ROI for Community Managers | TheLetterTwo.com

My friend Ken wrote a nice piece a couple days ago about ROI and the role of the community manager. In particular, I liked this observation:

… The community is not a structured presence. You cannot simply pen in the community as they’re a wild herd of virtual voices. The skill of the community manager is their expert knowledge in finding these “voices” and listening to them.

[From Managing ROI for Community Managers | TheLetterTwo.com]

Darius says “Go read the whole thing…”

Stowe Boyd on Free Trade

Indeed:

Free trade is a game rigged so that global corporations can arbitrage over all sorts of cost factors, based on a patchwork quilt of labor and environmental laws, and nearly always choosing what makes the most money.

Shouldn’t our core principle be doing what causes the least harm?

[From /Ground: Protectionism and The Unions: Free, Fair, and Scalar Trade]

Read the rest of the post. Really. Well done, Stowe!

Performance and Failure

Some things that seem to be good are actually failure.

I’ll use an example tech support pros will all know: A customer calls, you know the answer, you give it to them and it works, and everyone is happy. Simple, straightforward, case closed. Right?

No. This is a failure. Simply put, if you knew the answer then why did the customer need to call you for it? Why wasn’t the answer quickly available to them? Why wasn’t it already fixed in the product?
The answer immediately at hand for tech support tells you that something else has failed to work, or isn’t completed. Measure it, for sure, but you must drive those known answers out of your system.

In your business, what is it that looks on the surface like a good thing, but is actually an indicator of a more fundamental failure?