Support Star: Giri Iyer of Rubrik

Giri is a startup support wizard, having spent the last 20 years in various leadership roles at five startups, all successful! Since September 2016 he has worked at Rubrik, a cloud data management company — where he has launched six support centers of excellence across North America, EMEA and Asia and grown the support team tenfold to 80 spanning technical support, customer experience, support operations and training. The man never sleeps! But somehow he found the time to be my guest for a Support Star interview.

FT: You have grown the Rubrik support team very, very fast. How did you make it happen, and make it work well?

GI: Very early, we decided as a company that we needed to attract top notch talent.  Instead of trying to staff the support team at our California headquarters or in locations with an existing Rubrik company presence, we decided to go wherever experienced talent was available and build the team there. The Raleigh, NC and Cork, Ireland locations are now staffed exclusively by the support and customer success organization. We also worked hard to attract the most talented and driven leaders. Excellent engineers follow excellent leaders and Rubrik is blessed to have such a phenomenal group of leaders and engineers.

FT: Apart from architecting high growth, what other innovative decision would you like to share with us? How is it working out for you?

GI: We’ve had to work without a centralized IT team to put in place all the tools we needed. We used our internal expertise and complemented it with the best-of-breed consulting resources. As a result, we were able to launch a highly integrated CRM, telephony system, on-line community, knowledge base and Ideas portals in Rubrik time [FT: he means very, very fast!].

FT: How do you measure success for support organizations?

GI: A few that resonate most with us are (1) rebuys from existing customers (2) overall customer relationship feedback measuring support and product satisfaction (3) active engagement by customers with our support, product, sales and engineering teams and (4) employee engagement.

Rubrik support has been recognized with several awards including “The Northface Scoreboard Award for Excellence in Customer experience” ( 2016 and 2017), “Top 10 Support Websites of the Year Award (2017 from the Association of Support Professionals), and the CEMPRO Award for certifying all support staff on customer experience management (2017). And we are getting a 98.6% CSAT ratings based on customer feedback.

FT: Without stressing you out, what keeps you up at night? What do you worry about?

GI: As a company we are always innovating and this innovation permeates across all functions and organizations within the company. Within support, we are always looking for creative ways to understand our customers experience with our products and this is an area we will continue to research and learn and create programs and tools using machine learning and AI to constantly improve our customer experience

FT: Is there something you learned or saw done earlier in your career that you now completely reject? What was it and what made you change your mind?

GI: Having been associated with support since the 90’s, one of the things we completely dismiss at Rubrik is assigning targets for case closure.  A customer case is not a transaction, but an opportunity to build a long lasting partnership. Spending that extra effort to check with the customer if there are any other questions that need addressing goes a long way in building a partnership based on trust.

FT: When you look at the support and customer success field today, what do you wish more organizations would do or try?

GI: Talk to your customers. Knowing your customers and how they interact with your product will drive improvements that will have widespread adoption.  Our customer experience team is always looking for opportunities to engage with customers and share those conversations with the rest of the company.

FT: Thank you very much, Giri!

(You can find earlier Support Star interviews here.)

Questions or feedback about this interview? Please post a comment.

Culture Eats Strategy — So Analyze and Align

Peter Drucker famously said that culture eats strategy for breakfast — and culture is never more important than when the job market is tight and your team members have many opportunities to go find a culture that’s more conducive to their happiness and development.

The January-February issue of the Harvard Business Review discusses, at length, work by the Spencer Stuart company on corporate culture. The framework establishes two dimensions of culture:

  • stability (consistency, predictability) vs flexibility (adaptability and receptiveness to change)
  • independence (autonomy, competition) vs. interdependence (integration, coordinating group effort)

from which derive eight cultural styles, as pictured below

Try thinking of various organizations and identify their corporate culture: Tesla may be about learning, while the SEC is about order and Huawei about authority. Where’s your organization? (Hint: disregard all official messages ad communication when doing your assessment; instead, consider what behaviors get rewarded, and what behaviors get punished.) And is the style of your team different from the corporate style? That may well create some alignment issues. Imagine being a purpose-led team in a result-oriented culture!

Finally, is your strategy aligned with the culture? If not, culture will eat strategy and dictate your future. Select your leaders and your organizational structure so they support and foster your strategy. And talk about culture, often and with everyone.

Would love to hear your analysis of your culture. Share in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

where’s your company

What Training Cannot Do

Soft skills training for support and customer success professionals is one of our speciality at FT Works and we just love to see the changes in customer satisfaction after one of our programs — but training by itself cannot solve all problems! In particular, no amount of training can compensate for:

  • Hiring the wrong candidates. If you systematically hire individuals who love (1) fixing problems and (2) helping people, you will naturally amass a team that gets rewarded every day just for doing the job. On the other hand, if you hire people just because they have great technical skills, or just because they like to schmooze, it won’t work so well. And you need to follow the same principles when you promote someone.
  • Maintaining a poor working environment. Give your team members comfortable chairs, big screens, good coffee, and access to natural light. And remember that creature comforts are relative. If their friends in engineering get better chairs or larger screens, the current chairs and screens will start causing backaches and headaches.
  • Managing ineptly. Chronic issues sap morale and performance. If the tracking tool is cluttered and slow, make it your mission to unclutter it and speed it up. If metrics reward short-term thinking and individual effort rather than long-term benefits and teamwork, change them. If engineering issues linger so long as to have birthdays, work with your counterpart in engineering to fix the problem.

I’ve found that a lot of support and success team members love what they do and want to take care of all their customers. So sure, go ahead and train them — but take care of them in their daily job as well.

What are you doing to retain and develop your team members?