Should the CEO provide support?

I was talking to Mike McDerment, the CEO of FreshBooks today and we had a discussion about founders / CEOs providing support to customers. The company, which has about 20 employees currently, doesn’t have formal support staff members. Instead, they have every employee (including CEO Mike) pitch in and provide support to customers who happen to have questions or concerns.

Mike thinks that having the founder and/or the CEO provide support to customers (on a part time basis, not necessarily as a full time job like Craig Newmark from Craigslist) allows that executive to have a chance to interact with customers first hand and get a firsthand feeling of what customers and the company is going through. Reading reports and surveys only does so much; responding to and talking to customers lets executives really get in touch with customers.

As companies get bigger, CEOs and executives often find themselves getting more and more disconnected with customers and the frontlines. More and more distractions start coming up, more meetings start happening, and everyone finds themselves getting busier and more specialized. As CEOs and executives get more specialized, they tend to specialize towards roles that don’t involve frequent customer contact. Doing support can supplement that lost customer contact.

I’ve written about the importance of getting on the frontlines before and I think it’s a good idea. There are some situations where it might not be appropriate (if the company is going through a major change, the CEO will hopefully have other things to do) and some customers that might not like it (traditional corporate customers might wonder why the CEO is not doing something else), but for most customers and most companies, I think exposing the CEO to the helpdesk on a regular basis can be very beneficial.

Mike wrote a post about the importance of founders doing support on the FreshBooks Blog. He has strong opinions on the subject. I think it’s a good idea in most cases. What do you think?

2 Responses to “Should the CEO provide support?”

  1. ahmet kaya said:

    Jun 13, 08 at 11:54 am

    Good idea , so with flexibility system its useful. Thx

  2. Ben said:

    May 21, 10 at 3:09 am

    I think it’s absolutely essential that the entire company interacts with customers. It is very easy to lose touch. At Olark, we rotate customer development shifts, so everyone on our team uses our tool to interact with customers on a weekly basis (we are a small team). It helps us directly understand what our customers are going through, improve our product, and build relationships with the people on our website :-). I definitely need to write a blog post on the subject 🙂