Starting up a new business always involves a lot of innovation, creativity and let’s be honest…mental strength! Our Customer Support department at Urban Campus was no exception to this rule, especially when the company began. This start-up story is an interesting one to share with plenty of learnings.
How Urban Campus Started
When we first began the business, we had a single employee for each of our coliving buildings handling everything from Sales and Community Management to Customer Support and Property Management. This person was known as the “Community Developer,’ but we soon realized that this title did not fully align with the demands of the role. When you are starting a business, this idea can make sense, the company is new, still gaining traction and you cannot hire a big team all at once. However, as we grew, it became clear that this framework was not scalable and we all know, if you are in a startup and you cannot scale, you will fail.
Restructuring the Team
We recently reorganized our team and realigned job responsibilities based on each person’s area of expertise. This new structure allowed team members to become more focused and dedicated to their respective roles, while maintaining close collaboration with other departments.
I became the first Customer Support Manager. I started from scratch to build the strategy and the processes to get to a clear goal: answer all questions and solve customer problems fast and for good with a human touch, in a scalable way.
I understood quickly that Customer Support is a transversal subject meaning it would have an impact on every member of the team. By being in direct contact with our tenants, we knew more than anyone else on how to improve the product. This created the opportunity to improve every part of the product.
Like all great start-ups, there are challenges and opportunities, which you learn only by doing and by being in the heart of it. The first challenge was very prominent, at the time there was no clear channel for our colivers to contact Support. Some tenants would reach out via WhatsApp, while others would call, email anyone from the team, or wait to speak to one of us in person. This made it difficult to keep track of all customer inquiries and ensure that everything was being addressed in a timely manner.
We took a step back and decided to centralize all customer support questions, concerns, and recommendations to one email address. This email had two clear objectives: to create a single channel for our colivers to communicate with us, and to improve our efficiency in responding to their inquiries.
After considering different customer support communication options, we found that email was the best choice. Unlike chat-based formats, email is asynchronous, which means that clients do not have the expectation of an immediate response like they normally would a chat. Additionally, we found that our tenants were willing to take the time to explain their problems in more detail via email, which allowed us to understand their issues better and in turn provide faster and more accurate solutions.
Obviously, when it comes to the case of emergency situations, we know that an email is not enough. We set up one phone number for emergencies, which during work hours goes directly to our maintenance team. When outside of working hours or on weekends, it goes to a company specialized in space management emergencies. It is clear and to the point – perfect for these kinds of situations.
Once we had established the foundation for the department, we began to incorporate technology to further improve our processes. Specifically, we decided to implement Hubspot as our Customer Support tool, after seeing its effectiveness with our Sales team as a CRM.
Integrating Hubspot brought about significant changes. One very notable is the availability of metrics. Previously, we lacked the ability to track request frequency per coliving building, resolution times, or customer satisfaction. With Hubspot, we finally had a clear picture of our performance and could use these insights to identify areas for improvement. This allowed us to enhance our product offering and apply these improvements to our future colivings without having to learn from mistakes first.
For us, using technology doesn’t mean reducing the human touch. We found the right balance, so our team is still close and available. For that, good communication is the key…
In addition to the changes we have made to our customer support department, we recognize that effective communication is crucial. We strive to be proactive in communicating with our tenants, providing transparency throughout the issue resolution process. This approach has been well-received by our colivers, who appreciate being kept informed.
We provide ample information to our colivers via email, including regular updates on repairs, cleaning, and maintenance checks. We also utilize signage in our spaces and offer the Urban Campus Guide to ensure our colivers have access to the information they need.
We actively seek out opportunities to improve communication, based on feedback from our colivers. For example, when several people in Mellado Coliving asked how to use the BBQ on the terrace, we created an article on the Urban Campus Guide and placed stickers with a QR code on the BBQ for easy access. Another example is that on the third day of a tenant’s stay, we send an automatic email explaining how to recycle in the city they live in.
The Importance of Feedback
Feedback is essential to our company, as it helps us to improve our product and anticipate problems. We actively collect feedback from our colivers at various points throughout their stay, including just after booking, 25 days after move-in, 5 months after move-in, and after move-out. We also conduct random phone surveys to gauge satisfaction and identify areas for improvement.
When we receive feedback, we raise it with the relevant teams within the company, ensuring that we act on the input of our colivers. By doing so, we show our colivers that we are listening to their needs and are committed to providing the best possible experience.
There is always a possibility to establish new processes and better the ways in which we are doing things and the truth is, we are already working on it. For example, in September 2022 the Urban Campus app was launched, designed to connect colivers to more community events, clubs and have a place for themselves. Our team has been working on also integrating a direct link for support, making the app a one-stop shop for our tenants.
As you can see, these last years we have improved a lot and many changes have been made. Our customers are happy and that’s the best part of it! Another rewarding part is, we already see the good application of these processes, and as we grow in other cities and countries throughout the world, we are able to apply them correctly, no matter how many team members join us or how many colivings we open at once. We are ready to scale!