The warmth of analogueSeptember 5, 2015
The 2015 Bracken Bower PrizeSeptember 14, 2015
Today’s interview is with Ian Siegel who is co-founder and CEO at ZipRecruiter.com, a job platform for small and medium sized businesses which provides them with the fastest and easiest way to get a job listing in front of millions of candidates as well as some additional on-boarding features. Ian joins me today to talk about the growth of the company, being the company’s first customer service representative and how they continue to delight customers today through their approach.
This interview follows on from my recent interview – Customer experience failures are more likely to be remembered than successes – Interview with Paige O’Neill of SDL – and is number 154 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.
Highlights of my interview with Ian:
- The first 4 years of the company was bootstrapped but in the second half of last year they raised $63m (reputedly the largest Series A funding round in the Los Angeles area) and have now become the largest provider of HR solution to small businesses in the US.
- The business makes it easy for HR people to post their jobs to a large number of job boards simultaneously. Effectively, they are a convenience tool for recruiters.
- For the first year and a half, Ian was the company’s only customer service representative meaning that he handled every customer call and email enquiry.
- The reason for this was two-fold: 1. It was necessary as they were boot-strapping the company and they had very little marketing budget so every customer was precious to them, and 2. talking to customers was the best way to find out what they should be doing versus what they had already built. This helped them develop their product road-map.
- Customers are great at telling what you should do next not by giving you direct product suggestions but rather by telling you what they are frustrated with.
- This helped them develop the goal of reducing their customer service calls to zero. The idea being that if they built a business that was so good and has products that were so easy to use that customers didn’t need to call them then they would have built the perfect product and perfect business.
- They have grown from 4 co-founders to just under 300 FTEs, including 50 customer service representatives, who are handling tens of thousands of customers at any one time.
- Ian is no longer on the phones but now does two things:
- 1. Every time they bring a new class of customer service trainees, Ian sits down with them and tells them the story of how they built the business and how he wants their approach to the job to be; and
- 2. They also do a lot of quantitative analysis into the reasons behind why their customers are calling them and they use this to help inform them on what are the things they should be doing next to improve their product.
- The traditional approach to customer service in the HR arena is to make reps experts on the product. However, whilst ZipRecruiter do this too they also make sure that they train and educate their reps on 1. their tone and approach and 2. they also train their people to be experts on the industry as a whole so that they can have a more rounded conversation and provide better service to their customers on what is right for them.
- In addition, they have told both their customer service people as well as their sales people that they are consultants and not sales reps and their role is to get the possible outcome for the customer regardless of whether the business makes more money or not. That is a partnership approach.
- Most people want to be in the hands of an expert that is more of an expert than they are and that is what they try and provide.
- There is a lot of overlap between running a business the right way, particularly in the early stages, and trying to eliminate customer service calls.
- Ian found that there was around 5% of their customers that were very difficult to please and that these customers took an inordinate amount of his time and no matter how hard he worked they were never satisfied.
- The answer to this was not to try and satisfy these customers as that ended up being an impossible task. But, the answer was to fire these customers as they were taking up so much time.
- However, the way they did it was smart and they told them that they were taking up so much time and were clearly not happy but the business had a 100% money back guarantee so they just gave them their money back and wished them well.
- If you find that there is a feature or a piece of communication in your product or service that is driving a lot of confusion or questions then the best solution is not always to enhance it but often the best solution is to remove it.
- They now think twice about adding new features to their product as they want to keep it as simple as possible and concentrate on helping their customers do their job as quickly and easily as possible.
- Understanding what your business does, at its core, is one of the most important lessons that a young business (or any business for that mater) can learn.
- They are now extending their platform to continue to solve problems and make things easier for the whole small business HR function. Ultimately, their customers will be able to mange their whole HR function through ZipRecruiter.
Prior to ZipRecruiter, Ian played an executive role at multiple early-stage to mid-size startups in the Los Angeles area including CitySearch, Stamps.com, Rent.com, and Pictage. Since many of these companies were small enough that he had to manage his own team’s recruiting, Ian saw first hand that hiring – posting jobs, vetting resumes, setting up interviews, and all the rest – can be a time consuming and cumbersome process.
For several years, Ian was the only customer service representative at ZipRecruiter and personally handled every request, email and call from customers. This approach allowed ZipRecruiter to offer each customer with personalized, consultative services. Ian’s passion about customer service is evident in the business today. He personally meets with each new employee within his or her first hour at ZipRecruiter.
Ian lives with his wife, two kids and three chickens by the beach in Southern California.