Girish Mathrubootham is the CEO of Freshdesk, a SaaS based customer support software. 


Some may know me as the CEO of Freshdesk, but I like to introduce myself as a Support Guy who went on to become a CEO.

Thirteen years ago, I started my career as a pre-sales engineer offering support to complex tech projects. A few years later, I became a Product Manager and directly oversaw the customer support and pre-sales teams for several years before deciding to launch Freshdesk. 

Today, our company has over 18,000 customers. Because we offer free support, our agents deal with more than 500 queries a day across email, Facebook, Twitter, chat and phone. I often jump on our helpdesk to respond to questions, and I sometimes get on calls with our users to help them with issues. 

As the guy running the show at a customer support company, this shouldn’t surprise you at all. Our business is helping brands deliver great support, and we try to do a good job at it ourselves. In fact, being consistently involved in our own support process has helped us improve quality standards and identify opportunities that add value to our core business. 

1. No matter who you are, you’re in the business of customer support

It doesn’t matter whether you sell software, cell phones or blenders: to win and keep customers, you can’t get away with providing average support. And by actually sitting on the helpdesk, you can gain insight on your business. 

In my opinion, the most exciting time for a CEO to be on support is when he or she still runs a startup. At that point, a CEO has a handful of early adopters and they’re already dying to give feedback. If you talk to them, you’ll get an idea of what features wow them and what they really care about.

Along the way, they’ll open up to you about their biggest pain points and share what they’re willing to pay for. This information is pure gold when you are trying to find a product-market fit. 

Once you’ve crossed that chasm and decided what works for your business, talking to your users will help you figure out what’s stopping them from adopting your product.

It will also help you shape your roadmap in the short-term. The bugs that need your attention right away, the functionalities you need to be building, and the kinks you need to iron out to improve the user experience will all become abundantly clear. 

2. If you aren’t listening, you’ll never know what they need

Being the CEO usually means you have to focus on the big picture – raising capital, hiring top talent and building a great product. Hence, there is a real possibility that you will lose sight of what your customers truly care about.

Let’s say you are building your grand vision – perhaps an integration with Google Glass, or a leap forward with the Internet of Things. It is an innovation and may take your product to great places.

But stop to consider that this might not be what your customers want. There may be telltale signs in your support desk that they’re facing crucial problems with core functions (clumsy search, poor cell reception, or features that are broken), and if you’re not paying attention, you may end up building the wrong things.

Use the support desk to inform, challenge and fine tune your vision so that you actually build products and features that people want.

3. A support rep can only go so far

Your support team can be top notch, but there will be a marked difference between how you approach a customer query versus how your service rep does. As the CEO, you have the ability to understand process problems and fix them, but a support rep can only go so far.

Between keeping up with response times and scoring a happy satisfaction rating, agents often lack the visibility in an organization to step back and fix bigger process problems. 

When employees see their CEO on support, they recognize the importance of customer service and see why keeping your customers satisfied isn’t enough anymore. Employees begin seeing customer service as more than just a menial job. When you join them on the front line, they see that it’s absolutely essential for them to go above and beyond the call of duty to make each customer happy.

That’s why you should get on your support desk right away. If you run a startup, don’t lose sight of why you started your business, and don’t lose your connection with the customers who have helped make your vision a reality. Instead, learn firsthand from your customers how your entire organization—developers, marketers and service reps alike—can better serve them.   

If you’re a CEO, login to your help desk sometime next week, be it for a day or an hour, and listen to your customers. And while you’re at it, share your best insights on Twitter with the hashtag #CEOonSupport, or write about the experience on your blog.