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Pipedrive’s VP on how to manage a multinational customer service team

Managing a multinational customer at Pipedrive

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The twenty-third episode of Support Heroes by Kaizo featured Mara Vicente – Vice President of Customer Support at Pipedrive.

In this episode, Mara shares insights from her wealth of experience working with a multinational customer service team. Touching on everything from international management and team culture to company strategy and the power of hard work. This is the perfect episode to continue developing your managerial skills as a modern customer support leader. 

Managing a multinational customer service team

  • Pipedrive has support staff in Florida, New York, Lisbon and Tallinn. Many would think the main challenge in managing a team such as this would be distance and geography. However, Mara argues its culture. 

“It’s about the details and differences in culture that you need to respect and incorporate. When you have an international team, you cannot think one model will fit all” 

  • Regardless of where the teams are based, what language they speak or what work they do, everyone must feel part of the team. Team Pipedrive support in this case. However, all must understand and respect the differences between the teams. 
  • Coming to the right conclusions regarding how to build such a culture, comes through talking to people, experimenting, and failing. Mara emphasised the need for managers to listen to their teams. However, even more than that, to dare to try and to expect to fail. 

“With now more than a hundred people in support, one thing I know is that I can’t please everyone. I’m not pizza”

  • Failures and mistakes are inevitable. Accepting them is part of being human and accepting them openly along with the team will only serve to humanise the department. Which Mara says, can only be a good thing. 

Every employee should experience support 

  • At Pipedrive, every employee spends some time shadowing a support professional and taking some tickets during their onboarding. This was implemented before Mara arrived at Pipedrive but she would have pitched for it, had it not been there already. 
  • Why would a product manager, engineer, marketer, etc. benefit from seeing customer support from within? They get to see the effect their department’s decisions have on customers as well as their colleagues in support. It also allows those people in other departments to build some useful relationships with the customer support staff.  

“They need to feel the pain [and joy] that they’re causing customers and the employees that deal with [those unhappy customers]”

  • For example, a product manager is planning a new feature and wonders how beneficial it would be to supplement a specific use case. Quickly asking a support professional about that use case is a very quick and easy way to move forward with that idea.  

Success is built by hard work not just technology

  • Throughout Mara’s experience in customer support, the norm was not to have an abundance of technology to make life easier. Instead, she learned to do the manual work so well that customers thought things were automated when they weren’t. 
  • Modern CRMs are so powerful. Many in the industry hold automation and information technology as the key to next-level service at lower costs. However, this abundance of technology can create a false sense of reliance and a tendency to avoid the necessity of good old-fashioned ‘hard work’. 
  • If anything shuts down, Mara and her department still know what to do. They shift and adapt. At the end of the day, technology is a tool. The people do the work. So don’t depend on technology as the only key to success. Building a strong, diligent team will prepare you for those times technology may let you down.

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