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Old School Customer Service Is Back: Why UserConf Is A Must Attend Conference

Today, there seems to be a conference for everything in the Internet world, whether it be web performance (Velocity), web operations (Surge), music/film/interactive (SXSW), or more. (We attend all three, by the way.)

One audience, however, has long been left out of the conference mix, unable to network with their peers and learn how other organizations solved the problems they are currently facing. For those of us in customer service and technical support, there has been no conference dedicated to our profession…until UserConf came along!

Richard White, CEO of UserVoice, and Sarah Hatter, owner of cosupport (formerly 37signals support), started UserConf. They saw a huge opportunity to get together the best and brightest in customer service and technical support. Their expectations were high and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

The view from inside a UserConf speaking session.

The first UserConf was in the fall of 2012 in San Francisco. This was so successful that the second UserConf took place in NYC last month, which I had the privilege of attending for Dyn.

Conference rules of UserConf?

Thou shalt NOT…

  •     Have panels
  •     Have gurus or thought leaders as speakers
  •     Say shit everyone already knows
  •     Spam attendees or sell their email addresses
  •     Take sponsors for granted
  •     Have lame sponsors
  •     Have live Q&A
  •     Overcharge for tickets
  •     Take thyself too seriously
  •     Forget conversations

Imagine if every conference was like that?

This is not your typical conference, right down to the conference organizers monitoring Twitter and ensuring any attendee in dire need of caffeine or suffering from a cold was attended to. Talk about caring about your attendees!

What struck me most about UserConf was how young, energetic, and eager to learn everyone in attendance was. It seemed like a who’s who of amazing startups, fast rising web companies, and a few juggernauts in attendance. When it was mentioned that “No one goes to school for customer service”, you could see a couple hundred heads in the auditorium instantly nod and everyone smile. Even better was when Richard White said that, “Twitter is the small claims court of bad support. Twitter is not how you do support! Fix your $%&^#*@ mediums!”.

I realized this was my kind of crowd.

I expected to pick the brains of others who had already been through what we were experiencing.  I certainly was able to do that listening to the presentations given by Darnell Witt (Vimeo), Andrea Murphy (Meetup), and Bill Bounds (MailChimp), but it wasn’t to the extent I was expecting. Instead, much to my surprise, it turns out Dyn was one of the larger companies in attendance. I spent a lot of time explaining Dyn’s story and how our Client Services teams were built over the years to the many eager people I talked with. Watching the light bulbs go off in a few of their faces after I explained how we handle a certain situations was one of the best moments in my career so far.

It also sparked an idea for a potential future UserConf talk, talking about the lessons we’ve learned at Dyn over the years while trying to build both eCommerce and enterprise pre/post sales support teams. (Gotta get working on that proposal!)

In the end, I had so many takeaways from this conference. UserConf made me feel so optimistic for customer service as a whole. This new generation of customer service professionals is not satisfied with the status quo in our business and wants to make sure our customers are taken care of just like we would want to be taken care of.

This is our time to shine and bring back the old school customer service. Thanks to UserConf, I know this is a movement that is rapidly gaining traction.

Make sure you attend UserConf SFO in October and it will open your eyes as much as it opened mine!

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Whois: Chris Gonyea

Chris Gonyea is a solutions architect at Oracle Dyn, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.

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