Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with interns. I’ve met some supremely motivated and talented interns.
But a disturbing number of startups turn to their interns to fill an integral, bottom-line-affecting role: customer support. Here’s 5 reasons why that’s a bad idea:
1. There’s often a huge learning curve for support.
There are always going to be way more use cases, features, and little corners of your product than you can learn in a few months (or even a year sometimes). Your support intern will spend much of their time asking you questions instead of responding to customers. (And don’t tell me your product is simple – think about all the settings and extras in something as “simple” as an iPod.)
2. It makes your customers feel unappreciated.
When they find out their important requests are being answered by an intern, they will not be pleased. They want to see more significant investment in their happiness from you.
Which means your customers never get a chance to establish an emotional relationship with your support team. Emotional relationships are powerful and important for support.
4. Interns don’t have the same investment as full timers.
With few exceptions, most interns are there to learn (or get credit) and leave…they don’t invest emotionally in a company in the same way a full time employee does when they sign on. Support doesn’t require empathy – it requires a TON of empathy, for both the customers and the team. It’s going to be hard for even a well-intentioned intern to build that.
5. Developers aren’t going to listen to interns.
It’s imperative that your support team have a good relationship with your developers, and developers ain’t listening to no intern.
During Stage One and Two of our timeline we suggest that a full-time employee can do support in addition to their other responsibilities. But by the time your product is successfully launched and you’re seeing growth, you should be hiring someone who can really focus on these activities. Don’t get lured in by the price tag of an intern…it’ll only cost you in the end.