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Farrah Kennedy is the Chief Operations Officer of MailChimp, an email marketing platform for small businesses. Founded in 2001 by Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius, it is one of the greatest bootstrap success stories of the last 20 years. Today, MailChimp has over 15 million users, over 500,000 paid subscribers, and generates over $500 million in revenue. Farrah joined the company in 2013 and has helped to take the business from a startup to a grownup, by scaling up customer support operations, and clearing a massive backlog of email and chat tickets.
In this episode of CXYZ, Farrah and I discuss the critical decisions Farrah made in her time at MailChimp, such as not offering phone support to users, and removing email and chat support after the first month for non-paid users. Farrah shares some of her insights about the world-class culture at MailChimp that has allowed it to offer outstanding customer support experiences via non-voice channels, as well as the internal company processes that form the foundation for MailChimp to be one of the best in terms of customer support. Tune in to find out more.
[:17] Bryce introduces his guest for this episode - Farrah Kennedy.
[3:04] Bryce shares a story from 2008 when he and Jaspar were starting TaskUs.
[3:37] What is MailChimp and what is its background? It is a marketing solution for small businesses that grew from just email to a more full-service marketing solution.
[7:01] Who is the typical MailChimp customer? There is no typical profile, but Farrah describes some salient characteristics.
[8:10] Email marketing has come to be perceived as passé. How does MailChimp still stay relevant and continue to grow with this product? At work, email still remains at the forefront and email marketing is just evolving, rather than being phased out.
[9:36] What is Farrah's favorite customer service story? She tells the experience of how her customer service team was able to help a customer leave feeling great, when he had initially come in feeling extremely panicked about something. It was such a success story that the customer even shared his experience on Reddit!
[12:59] MailChimp has a communication tone that is quite unique and quirky. How has MailChimp developed this brand persona? Having a team that cares about the customer and the brand has made all the difference.
[14:30] When Farrah joined MailChimp, all customers, even non-paying customers, were getting premium customer support. However, the decision to stop offering customer support to free customers was not merely a financial one, but one that took into consideration the fact that they could not continue to scale and offer such great customer support to all customers.
[16:03] Ben and Dan founded MailChimp. Farrah shares her insights from watching them grow the business to one of the biggest businesses in Atlanta. She also talks about their own personal histories that led to the founding of MailChimp.
[20:59] What channels does MailChimp support customers in today? How did they decide to choose those channels over others? MailChimp only provides chat and email support, as a result of trying to keep prices low and affordable for small businesses.
[22:46] How has support evolved since Farrah joined MailChimp? It has expanded dramatically to keep up with the growing number of customers it serves, while still maintaining the voice and personality of the brand.
[24:02] What does the career path at MailChimp look like? Almost everyone starts in support and subsequently moves to other departments, which makes a huge difference in terms of understanding and communicating about the product.
[28:16] What is the recruiting process at MailChimp? There is a technical test that candidates have to take and pass, before even getting through to the phone or in-person interview stage.
[29:30] How does MailChimp feed insights from the frontline of support back into the organization? Farrah shares about the newer structures and processes that have been put into place in order to funnel customer issues from the front line back to the engineers to improve the product.
[34:01] What are some books Farrah recommends for companies that are looking to go through the same process of scaling up?
[37:18] Which companies have a support experience that Farrah really admires?
[38:20] What are some benefits and investments MailChimp makes for their frontline staff that other companies should be doing, too? MailChimp tries to treat all employees equally and tries to take into consideration the challenges associated with being in support. Farrah shares some examples of the ways in which MailChimp has recognized support and tried to include them in the company as much as possible, as well as explaining to employees why it was not possible to do so in certain situations.
[43:31] What lies ahead for MailChimp? MailChimp is working on democratizing technology that enterprise companies have to bring it to small businesses, so it's always about keeping up with trends and making them accessible and affordable for small teams.
[44:09] In three years, MailChimp has grown from five million customers to 16 million customers. Is that growth sustainable? MailChimp is not necessarily focusing on getting more customers, but rather being the best choice for small businesses to address all of their marketing needs.