People of WePay: Tina Hsiao, VP Operations and Chief of Staff
I had been working at Intuit for over 11 years; the whole time in the small business division. When WePay came calling, I immediately felt a kinship to Bill and Rich values-wise. They were building a great culture and were focused on small businesses, which was my passion.
In the beginning, I honestly wasn’t sure that the business model of serving direct small business merchants was scalable. But I spoke to one of my personal mentors who was a venture capitalist and he asked, “Do you think Bill can put the right people (executives) around the table to make this a success? Don’t worry about the business model, but do you think he has that capability?” And I said, “well, he’s really compelling me to join.” He replied, “well that’s all that matters,” and that’s definitely held true.
You were previously the VP of Marketing, then VP of Customer Delight before becoming the VP of Operations & Chief of Staff here at WePay. What do you think is the connection between your personal growth and that of the company?
I’ve definitely been able to grow my career. Part of that has been being able to run different functions, but more importantly, with each step of the changes I’ve also learned how to scale myself. The way I operate and work with people has changed, and I’ve been able to grow as a leader. My journey has been a bit similar to WePay’s journey. At each stage we’ve had to scale and accordingly, I’ve had to scale my leadership skills. It’s in part why I think I’ve been able to be successful. It’s not just focusing on what you do today; it’s about how you lead a bigger team. It’s about how you lead a team that’s becoming more complex, and how you keep people inspired as things keep scaling and changing.
The overall takeaway for me has been that I have gone where WePay has needed me. That is definitely a leadership philosophy that I teach others. You will succeed if you go where you’re needed and where you have a natural passion. Don’t solve for the title or the promotion – solve for the learning and being a team player – that is how you’ll ultimately grow and get that promotion.
10 years ago, I would not have thought that I’d be where I am today. Sometimes the fallacy that folks early in their career believe is, “I need this and then this, and then that.” They have a linear path of thinking, but it’s a lot more of a winding path.
What are the top 3 metrics you focus on most for the teams you manage?
For the Customer Delight team, I really look at our service levels, particularly the first response time and the full resolution times. I also look at quality – quality of the responses and what merchants are saying to us about our responses. For every ticket that we handle, we send out a survey to the merchant and ask for feedback. Finally, we look at number of tickets per 1000 transactions – so as we grow we can see if we need to improve the product or the process.
For the risk side of business, we look at the loss rates by partner types and dig into that. We also measure review rate SLAs, since we want to make sure we are reviewing things very quickly so that payments aren’t sitting.
For the chargebacks/payments operations team, we look at the total number of chargebacks coming in, the merchant response rate, and the win rate on those.
How can lessons from the Operations team be applied to other departments in the company?
First and foremost, metrics are critical to the business – not just to make sure you are meeting your goals but also to continually improve – either to get more efficient or improve quality. That is what we are constantly looking at. How many tickets can a particular agent do? How many cases can an analyst do? What can we do to help them be more efficient? We use that info to then set up goals and constantly improve.
The other thing that is important when you have employees on the “front lines” is to truly listen to them, because they have the deepest customer intimacy and understanding of what’s actually going on in your business. So, we’ve operationalized and put a lot of focus on feedback. We make sure that we have 1-on-1’s, skip levels, group feedback sessions, team huddles, and mechanisms that catch issues or bugs quickly before they bubble up.
What aspect of your role really impacts how we are able to delight WePay’s customers?
For me, I think it’s about setting the right goals. We have a real vision in our operational team now of creating a great team of being experts who continue to innovate while balancing efficiency with customer intimacy. Depending on how I set the goals and what I emphasize, we can accomplish this or risk putting in incentives that go counter to that. As the leader, it is up to me to set the correct goals, in line with our values, and to hold people accountable to those. As I mentioned before, the other thing is to really listen to my employees and have them have a real ownership in guiding how we deliver and improve on our service.
Worst customer support experience for you personally?
Airlines. Several years ago we were taking a connecting flight from Dallas to Orlando. It was delayed a few times due to technical issues and a 7pm flight was bumped to 10pm. While the plane was now ready, the shift of the crew had expired; so the flight was altogether cancelled after we had waited. Even though there were hotel vouchers offered, it became a 2 hour ordeal with people fighting to get on the limited space of the shuttle to the hotel. Plus, the food voucher they gave us was for an eatery at the airport that didn’t even open in the morning. As we’re all standing in line to get this arranged, the crew offloads and doesn’t say “sorry” or acknowledge us in any way; it felt like a slap in the face. It took so long that most people didn’t even go to the hotel, they ended up just sleeping there in the terminal. It was the worst experience not just because of the delays but because the airline and the employees didn’t empathize with us. In our minds they said, “We’re going back to our pre-set hotels for a good night’s sleep, see ya losers!” It was a lost opportunity.
Best customer support experience for you personally?
I recently had one with Apple that was pretty good. What was great was that the support agent was super knowledgeable. She was able to look up the issue, tell me what was going on, reassure me it was going to be ok, and solve the issue confidently. At the end of the day, that’s what customers want. They want to feel confidence in the support agent they are working with and to have their issue solved as quickly as possible.
What advice can you offer startups and businesses working on achieving operational efficiency?
First and foremost, be nimble enough to grow and think about changes you need to make without just throwing bodies at the issue. Even when you’re in high growth mode, don’t immediately think, “I need more headcount”. When you become resource constricted, then there will be a forcing function to become more efficient and if you have not trained your org early on then it will be a rude awakening. Weed out those bad habits now, not just when you need to tighten up spending later on.