Paypal Let it Burn, Will You?

Full let it burn

Is your company like PayPal?

You know about the lore of PayPal. The blistering growth. The big buyout. The creation of the said “PayPal Mafia”. You must be thinking how does this relate to support? Something like how they focused on this metric, that tactic, and building their team one piece at a time. I could tell you all of this however, I would be lying. That’s right, PayPal’s true secret to customer support…… THEY. DID. NOTHING.

They did absolutely nothing

Yes, you read those all caps letter correctly. They did absolutely nothing. Reid Hoffman talks about how they handled support in his well known podcast Masters of Scale in episode 10 - “Let Fires Burn.” 

Now they were already on fire, acquiring thousands of customers daily. They soon found themselves in a backlog of over 10,000 emails.. Yes 10,000. Just thinking of that back log raises my stress levels. Eventually customers figured out they weren’t responding to emails so they found an office number and started calling them. Every extension was ringing. Hours of endless ringing…. So finally they figured out how to handle support… Wrong again! They turned off the ringers to the phones and used their cellphones to conduct business. 

Now clearly PayPal got something right here as they were eventually bought for $1.5 billion but, did it have to be that way? Hoffman explains that they needed to be able to serve future customers as well as current customers. By that comment I infer that the ability to serve future customers was more valuable than serving those customers that weren’t thrilled the service or who had some remedial support issue. 

PayPal made a hard choice. Serving those existing customers wasn’t the main goal they were pursuing. This has to do with the effort that it takes to serve that many customers. It requires large teams, trainings, and inevitably human and financial capital. 

That was true for PayPal back in the toddler phases of the internet (right now I believe we are in the internet’s teenage years) where support involved an extensive amount of effort to get up and running. Think of all the time, money, and effort to hire just a 10 person support operation. It would take several months, well over a million bucks in salaries and benefits, and they wouldn't even be great at supporting the customers starting out. 

Back then, PayPal needed an easy way to scale customer service quickly. A way to teach its employees quickly and have them retain 100% of the information. A way for customers to solve their own problems. A way to simply chat with someone, anyone to help them figure out what was going on with their issue. Afterall, most support issues are relatively small. Inquiring about a feature, resetting an account, troubleshooting that rarely goes beyond “did you try to turn it off and back on?” 

What PayPal really needed was Carin. A quick and seamless way to scale support in seconds. One line of code, dropped in on your site, product, or app and she is ready to go, armed with all of your product’s knowledge base. What is even better is she lets you know what she could not answer so she can be trained once weekly, handling more and more of your support issues as time goes on.

If you are ready to scale your support efforts, you will want to check out go Carin, the AI Support Platform powered by Helpy. We promise you guys will get along just fine. 

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This is the official blog of Helpy, the open source helpdesk platform.