Interview: David Bryce – Part 3 of 3

This is the last part of the interview with David Bryce of Rackspace. In this part, he talks about Rackspace’s unique team structure, what the company does to ensure customer satisfaction, their most common challenges, some tips, and more.

Question 8: Could you tell me more about the team structure and how that works?
Answer: Every new customer, when they come in, is assigned to a team. The team is around anywhere from 14 to 20 people, and they really are what we sometimes call a mini-Rackspace. 90+ percent of the issues that come up can resolved by a member of that team. The team of 20 people includes, like I said, account managers, system administrators, network security experts, storage experts, disaster recovery experts – it really is a cross-functional team.

They all sit together, and if you were to step onto the customer care floor, you’d see a lot of little pods of cubicles and sitting in those cubicles (which intentionally have low walls) that facilitate communication, are those 14 people sitting beside one another. If I’m the billing system on the phone with the customer who has a question about their invoice, and I’m also getting some error messages and think there might be an issue with the server, I can go “Hey, David is sitting right next to me. You remember David – he is one of the techs you work with on a daily basis – let me pass this call over to him, and we’ll get it take care of right away.”  The teams have ad hoc huddles when necessary to work through customer requests — and when a customer call must be transferred from one team member to another, it can literally be done by handing them the phone if necessary.  They all sit together, and a portion of their compensation is based on what happens with those customers – they all have common goals, therefore, they are very involved in the hiring process of new team members.  They want a new Racker who will work well with the team and provide the same level of Fanatical Support for their customers.

Question 9: What systems or methods does Rackspace utilize to ensure customer satisfaction?
Answer:  Our hiring process is a key method.  We make sure we’re getting service-oriented people through rigorous interview processes.  We even recently started a Technical Boot Camp that brings in interested job seekers and pays them to undergo 10 weeks of intensive technical training in systems administration, in-depth troubleshooting and networking training through our own, internal Rackspace University.  Candidates must have a basic knowledge of either Windows or Linux operating systems — whether that’s through an Associates Degree in Systems Administration, or through work experience like Best Buy’s Geek Squad.  Candidates gain a thorough understanding of the Rackspace culture as well as the technology, and upon successful completion of the program and a final interview, Boot Camp graduates will have the opportunity to join Rackspace as a full-time systems administrator.

Our team structure is another method we use to ensure Fanatical Support, and of course, the traditional systems. We have customer ticketing systems, databases, tools, etc. that has been developed internally by our sizeable group of developers. Our ticketing system allows for a customer to rank the level of support they received with every ticket interaction, so our employees are always working to deliver the best Fanatical Support, constantly asking themselves, “What else can I do to wow this customer?” Most companies don’t do that and don’t think about constantly improving their service approach. We hire people who do think about it. It’s really more about the people!

Question 10: What are the most common challenges that Rackspace encounters when providing support to customers?
Answer: As we grow, it’s more about taking Fanatical Support further, keeping it alive and nurturing it. One of the big challenges is just continuing to find the right people as we grow as rapidly as we have and continuing to stay close to our customers.  We’re working to maintain the customer intimacy through our Technical Boot Camp hiring method, our other stringent hiring processes and our team structures.

We also have to adapt to customers’ changing needs and changing technology, and we have to make it work. But, again, frequent communication with our customers and our fanatical Rackspace University training department help us stay on top of the changes.

Question 11: What parts of the customer service experience do you think Rackspace still has room to improve upon?
Answer: Everything, honestly, so that we never lose our edge. When I compare Rackspace to the Ritz Carlton, I realize the mountain ahead of us. The whole great hotel experience is a thing of beauty, and we will be working hard to get to that point where we are consistently delivering Fanatical Support for every single customer in every interaction.

We aren’t perfect on any of it yet. We’re working on customizing our billing system further – several customers have unique requests on payment dates, what information must be provided on the invoice, etc., so we want to develop a more efficient system to customize each invoice as needed.  We also want to build out our offering more – we have a lot more that we can do for our customers, and we have customers that want to send us more work. It’s just a matter of time to build it out and productize it.

Poor service is mind-boggling to me!  It basically says, “I don’t care about you all that much. I just want to collect your money.”  I think it’s an injustice to the customer.

Question 12: As a customer service-oriented organization, does Rackspace have anything that makes it a little bit special? For example, some companies require every employee to respond to each one customer question per day.
Answer: One thing that we are really pushing is the whole idea of transparency to the customer. When a customer calls in with a technical need, we create a trouble ticket in our ticketing system. We solve a customer problem every single minute every single day – we’ve processed over a million tickets!  Each ticket allows the customer to rank the level of Fanatical Support they receive on each query.  We get a lot of feedback through each brief survey, and then we publish our results on the customer portal.  We always tell the truth to the customer and will not tolerate the “covering up” of issues.  It’s refreshing to work at a company where we try to share as much information as possible and where the customer’s interests are the most important.

Question 13:
What is the difference between Managed and Intensive support?
Answer:  Managed(SM) was created for customers who desire the flexibility to customize a hosting environment that reflects their business’ specific needs while also retaining control over their Web applications.  Intensive(SM) elevates Fanatical Support to a consultative level, where both our technology and the account team assume greater responsibility and accountability.

Question 14: What tips do you have for companies wishing to improve their customer service and support?
Answer:  Be responsive to the customer, addressing the problem or request and taking action immediately.  Don’t make it impossible for them to reach you.

Take care of the people.  Employees have to volunteer to do good work, so taking care of them and ensuring they are happy and have the resources to do their work is critical.  We send out a “Happy Check” survey to our employees every six months to measure employee satisfaction as far as how our Rackers feel about their managers and their ability to do what they do best every day.

Track your results with internal metrics. Our internal metrics help us benchmark our progress towards becoming one of the world’s greatest service companies.

Thanks David for agreeing to be interviewed by Service Untitled.