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How We Built a Customer Support Team 563km Away from Headquarters

When asked about the greatest achievement in his career, Steve Jobs answered that it was the team he built. 

Now, this may not seem the answer you wanted to hear. Especially coming from someone who has transformed multiple industries and built a fair share of world-changing products during his time at Apple. Perhaps some of us would expect him to say the iPhone or the Mac – we certainly know, though, it’s not the Newton.

But if you think about it, this answer makes perfect sense. Apple wouldn’t be the company it is today, nor have created the products we love, if it wasn’t for the amazing group of people behind the brand. As another great Silicon Valley businessman famously said, “the team you build is the company you build.”

"The team you build is the company you build."
– Vinod Khosla

These lessons from Jobs and Khosla are what I had planted in my mind when we had the task of building a new Customer Support Team 563km away from our original CS headquarters in Jakarta. 

The city was Yogyakarta, and the objective was to make about 25 new hires for the company. The time? About 2 weeks. Oh, and we didn’t have an office ready yet at the time. It was three constraints rolled into one.

The good news is that I wasn’t alone. Along with our Regional Customer Support Manager and the Head of Customer Experience and Support (CXCS), we planned to complete the mission together (Hi Habib! Hi Eric!). 

Getting the right people on the bus

Firstly, we had to identify the kind of teammates we wanted to have on board with us. 

Fundamentally, they had to show the potential of embodying the core values of Janio – judgement, excellence, communication, and courage. We also took Warren Buffet’s advice on hiring individuals with high intelligence, energy, and most importantly, integrity. Because the daily activities of the CS (Customer Support) team revolves around handling customers and their queries, we were also looking out for highly empathetic individuals.

Of course, it’s not easy to know for certain that the candidates will possess our desired traits – this is why interviews are an important part of the recruitment process for us. But more on this later.

If you build it, will they come?

The second step was to create the job posting and source for candidates. In addition to posting on our careers page, we used the aid of job boards. In recruitment, theoretically, there’s always a risk of not obtaining a big enough candidate pool to interview. But fortunately for us, this did not become an issue – a constant wave of applicants came in within hours after we put up our Yogyakarta jobs. We had several hundred candidates applying over several days. Soon enough, we had to close the registration and focus on the next step.

Identifying the cream of the crop

After getting a ton of applicants, we did what any recruiter and hiring manager would do – to identify the cream of the crop. We did this by shortlisting the candidates that we believed had potential to grow and achieve in Janio. One thing we looked out for when sifting through resumes was the candidate’s achievements up to this point in their careers, as we were racing against the clock.

If they had extensive experience in logistics or eCommerce, and a background in customer support where they serviced English-speaking customers, they’d be at the front of the line to be considered. 

Next, we reviewed those who had minimal CS experience, but did many exciting projects on the side.

And for those who had no experience and weren’t proactive enough beyond work or school? We considered those on a case-by-case basis.

The interview

We shortlisted approximately 90 people to attend the interview, and organising the interview was a task of its own. Remember, this was all happening in the midst of COVID-19, so we had to engineer the scheduling such that each candidate arrived and left on their scheduled time slot, while making sure that we kept to the safe distancing measures strictly at all times. Thanks to the help of online scheduling tools and the cooperation of the candidates, we managed to pull this through.

What our team mostly did during the interview was to listen.

Naturally, you’d want someone who can walk you through their thought process and logically explain why they chose to do X or Y, how they approached a problem, and how they helped customers when issues arose. Then, of course, there were other cues like the way they interacted with other candidates in the waiting room, and how they treated the people when greeting them. This may seem mundane, but we believe that this is also an indicator of a person’s character. 

By listening and paying close attention, we believed it would increase the likelihood of identifying whether or not a person is a straight shooter.

Decision Time

Decisions are always the hardest part because you couldn’t bring everyone on board, even if they were qualified, as many were. As with most companies, we only wanted to bring in the best. The three of us (Habib, Eric, and myself) had a ranking system to evaluate each candidate who was interviewed. 

One important skill that was a must-have when screening our candidates is their ability to communicate well in English. This is really important because our customer base was not just within Indonesia, but across the region as well. It may seem like a standard request, but there were quite a number of profiles we weren’t able to move forward with due to the language requirements here.

In the end, it came down to the following:

  • If the candidate had some experience in CS
  • If they managed to explain how they’ve helped customers or clients in a previous role
  • If they displayed the right attitude and values
  • If they have a good command of English
  • And of course, if they were excited about the value Janio is bringing to the market...

...then they were in.

The finale

Our new Customer Support team hard at work

Today, there are 26 new people who have an official Janio email address in Yogyakarta. All of them were hired during a 2-week time span in early August 2020, and each of them are now trained, live, and serving Janio customers throughout the region. 

All in all, this was a valuable experience for the Habib, Eric, and myself. We had an objective that needed to be fulfilled, and we completed it. Granted, it wasn’t always smooth sailing, nor was the process perfect. But to take reference from the product management playbook – sometimes shipped is better than perfect. And as with all other great companies, we are taking  this as a learning experience to continually improve going forward.

On to the next one. Onwards and upwards.

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