TeamSnap’s April Eastburn on the Power of Empathy in Customer Experience

By Emily Cowan posted 11-15-2019 07:59 AM

Being a consumer yourself doesn’t necessarily make you an expert in customer experience, because great CX starts by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. @April Eastburn, Customer Experience Manager at sports team management app TeamSnap, learned this lesson early thanks to an unexpected start in the collections business. In this interview, April tells Execs In the Know about her sneakers-on-the-ground approach to CX, the perils and perks of managing a remote team, and the time she got to thank her bank for the “we’re sorry” cookies.

Execs In The Know: How did you get started in CX?

April Eastburn: I started in college working for Capital One, doing customer support and collections. Actually it’s kind of a funny story: They told us we’d be doing customer support and then half way through our six-week training we walked in to find “Collections” written on the board. I said, “Ok, then - I guess we’re doing collections!”

For nearly ten years I worked my way up in collections at Wells Fargo before eventually landing as a customer service manager at Balsam Brands, which was a startup at the time. For the first year or so I was the only employee in Idaho. I managed their customer support teams here in Idaho and eventually in California and the Philippines, and I worked with a third party to open a customer support center in Ireland to handle their international business.

The Q4 situation at a holiday-decor e-commerce site wasn’t working for my family, though. I was using the TeamSnap app for my kids’ sport leagues, and one day I saw a post that they were hiring. I soon took over managing support in their sports organization department, which was rapidly expanding at the time. I’ve been here for almost three years now.


EITK: Has your experience working in collections informed your overall approach toward customer support?

April: It really has, because the collections environment in general went through a major transition while I was in it. Pre-recession it was mostly people that had the money but just weren’t paying for some reason. Post-recession it really shifted to working with really great people who had been paying their debts and running businesses their entire lives and suddenly finding themselves in a situation they’d never been in before. It was an adjustment to looking at the person and their situation and delivering that level of service - “How would you want to be treated?” It was about really coming together to work with the customer.

I’ve taken that into every customer service role I’ve ever had. One minute you think your business is stable and then the economy changes unexpectedly. One minute you think you understand the app you’re using but the functionality changes unexpectedly. One minute everything is going great with your product and the next thing you know it’s not working properly anymore. It’s all about the point in time where the customer is and putting yourself in their shoes.


EITK: I imagine it’s a bit like that for you in terms of working remotely as well, having yourself worked as a remote employee and now managing a largely work-from-home team at Teamsnap.

April: At first it was a bit difficult, to be honest. At Balsam I was the only one not based in the Bay Area. I would visit the office a few times a year but there were definitely moments when it felt a little lonely.

We tried out several tools to keep the communication flowing. One of the applications I used with my work-from-home team in the Philippines was called Sococo, which displays like a virtual office with colored dots representing each employee. I’d move my little dot to a different location each morning - the “conference room,” the “fountain” - and my team members would have to “find” me when they started work for the day. Obviously Slack is huge, too. We use Slack for everything.

TeamSnap is based in Boulder, Colorado, but is 85% remote, and having that foundation and knowing how to almost over-communicate with people has been really useful. That’s something I look for when we’re adding to our team. How are their communications skills and how will they fit into this type of environment?

I’ve never been a micromanager and I think that’s also been helpful. It’s not like I can stand over people’s desks with an egg timer!


EITK: So tell us a bit more about TeamSnap and your transition from banking to retail to a mobile app company.

April: TeamSnap is an app that helps people organize any kind of team event. I work with our sports-organization department, which is geared toward specifically amateur and youth sports leagues. On any given day I’m meeting with my team to discuss any issues with the product, but I’m also working closely with our development team as the voice of the customer - adding new features to the workflow based on what our customers say that they want. It’s a customer support role but it’s also a customer success role.


EITK: That sounds pretty intense, actually. Youth sports especially require a lot of coordination between parents, kids, and coaches who are often  volunteering their time. Can you give an example of a disaster you helped narrowly avert?

April: We had a customer running a tournament whose schedule had completely changed due to severe weather. We had to help the organizer get communication out to all the participating coaches and teams about which games had been canceled, rescheduled, or moved to a different location. We successfully got them through that weekend, and it felt great.


EITK: What do you enjoy most about working with customers?

April: I think the biggest payoff for me is teaching customers something that will be useful to them later. That’s what I love about working for TeamSnap - we’re focusing on those coaches, those volunteers running an organization. They do this because they want to give back to the community, but it isn’t always their only job. This is what we can do to save them time so they can get back to playing sports. We’re “taking the work out of play.”

Over the past 18 months we’ve been focusing on building out our help center and enabling our customers to self-service. We’ve cut down on customers’ need to interact with a support agent, but they still know that that agent is there to take care of them if their situation requires it.


EITK: Can you share a customer experience that you’ve had that really inspires you?

April: As a matter of fact, this is one of my favorite stories. I had sent a letter to Chase Bank - it was something about my homeowners insurance, I think - and I got a call confirming that my fax had been received. And then my phone rang, and it was a call confirming that my fax had been received. And then my phone rang...and rang. Finally I just had to turn my phone off until the calls stopped coming.

About a week later I got a letter in the mail from Chase Bank apologizing for the glitch. About two hours after that there was a knock on my door with a delivery of cookies and other treats, along with another nice note from Chase.

Then two months later, at Customer Response Summit Phoenix, I met with a CX executive at Chase Bank and told him how much I appreciated how the company owned up to the error and not only apologized but went above and beyond to make up for what was, really, an inconvenience at worst.

I tell that story to my teams all the time. Look for those moments when we can go above and beyond. Your customers will remember that you were thinking about them.

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