Last week (during CTM Employee Appreciation Week, which serendipitously fell just before our team began social distancing) I had the opportunity to sit down with someone who’s not typically in the office: Matt Horstmann, Senior Customer Support Engineer. It’s been one year since Matt and his family moved to Colorado! As our resident work-from-home expert, I wanted to hear how—and why—Matt made the transition to remote life. When we did this interview, we had no idea that the whole CTM team would be working remotely the very next week.
As a Senior Customer Support Engineer, Matt knows all the ins and outs of our product. He helps our customers find ways to accomplish even the most complex use cases. And between all that, he still finds time to play fetch with the dog. So, read on and get to know one of our best problem solvers (who’s also a musician, escape room fanatic, dad, tattoo collector, and Ordained Minister)!
Name: Matt Horstmann
Title: Senior Customer Support Engineer
Favorite food: Tacos
Drink of choice: Coffee
Favorite show right now: Currently rewatching Scrubs for probably the 15th time
Favorite musical artist: Currently Wax and Logic, two very different artists who were originally out of Maryland
Quote: “Be the change”
What’s your sign? Crazy Gemini
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your name be? Scary Spice (until you start talking to me)
What would your DJ name be? Unfortunately they’re already taken, but Edgar Allen Flow or RunCMD
Welcome back to the 410! Thanks for meeting with me in your limited time here. Do you actually get any work done when you’re in town, or are you bombarded with catching up with people?
Matt: I definitely still get my work done, there are just some extra (welcomed) challenges that come with being back in the office: side conversations and long lunches, for example. It’s nice to get face time with the team again, and put faces to the names of any new teammates who have joined since my last visit. So, I welcome the change of pace once a quarter. At home, I just have music on in the background while I’m working, and the only distraction is when the dog plops a ball in my lap and says it’s playtime.
Outside of catching up with the team, what else do you like to do when you’re back in Maryland?
Matt: I’m spending time with family and friends, and really just eating a lot. I’m a foodie, so I have to get my taco fix (Vida Taco Bar), pit beef, and visit my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants. There’s a coffee shop that I visited every day when I lived here, and they still remember me and my order when I’m back in town. (Shout out to the Big Bean!) I also have an ongoing relationship with a local tattoo artist, who I work with whenever I’m in Maryland.
I hear you’re not a big seafood person. Does that mean you’re not into some of the Maryland stereotypes like picking crabs or buying bulk Old Bay when you’re in town?
Matt: I’ll buy up all the Old Bay, and I actually had crab guacamole with my tacos yesterday. But typically seafood doesn’t agree with me. It’s a little early in the year for steamed crabs and crab cakes anyway—I think the rule is “months without an ‘R’.”
You mentioned that you’re not from Maryland originally. Where are you from?
Matt: I’m from everywhere and nowhere. I grew up as a military brat, and Maryland was where we landed, but it was never where I thrived. I have great appreciation for my East Coast people, but moving out to the West has been wonderful for my whole family. Up until Denver, Washington state was my favorite place I’d lived.
What made you decide to move to Colorado, and do you see yourself staying there now?
Matt: My wife and I first visited CO for a weekend trip in the mountains with a few friends. We fell in love with it. So when we made the decision to leave Maryland and go West, Denver was where we pointed our sails. And so far, we’re liking the waters. My health has naturally improved, and coupling the Colorado climate with moving to a remote work environment, my quality of life has gone through the roof. My wife and I have been able to spend more time outdoors without having allergy issues, and there aren’t even mosquitos in Colorado!
I think I’ve even seen some of our clients’ offices around. It’s always fun when I recognize a local phone number or city in our call log.
Shifting gears a little bit, let’s talk more about your experience working from home on the CTM platform. Remote work is obviously getting some special attention right now, as we’re all taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Companies are taking their workforces remote, which comes with a new set of challenges. [Editor’s note: CTM is now fully working remote. We’re all in this together!]
Did you always have a hunch that remote would be a good fit for you?
Matt: Absolutely. Growing up in a military family means you’re used to change, and I was bitten by the travel bug early in my life. Working remotely means that I could keep working while traveling. It also helps with health issues, and I definitely don’t miss the hour drive to and from work. Plus, if anything, working from home has made me more open to social activities. I used to fill my ‘social quota’ in the office, and then have no energy left to socialize outside of work. Now, my wife and I both work from home most of the year, so we’re up for those trivia nights and other social outings during the week.
Alright, so you’re a big proponent for remote work life. What are some of the challenges that you’ve had to overcome?
Matt: I appreciate that the CallTrackingMetrics team has worked with me to get up and running, adding a video conference feature to our team meetings, for example. There were some bugs we worked through to get the audio working properly, and I still sometimes have to remind people that those of us tuning in remotely can’t hear comments and questions from the back of the room. So, there are some technical aspects.
The biggest challenge is probably just missing the daily office chatter. That just means that I have to be more proactive in checking in with team members online. Instead of passively hearing information around me, I have to actively go out and get it.
Do you think practicing this online communication with your team has helped you with digitally servicing customers?
Matt: Definitely, especially since we’ve added live chat and email. Of course we still have phones, and even screen sharing tools, but some folks just prefer to chat. You have to read the user on the other end as best you can, and not take anything personally.
What advice do you have for people exploring remote work?
Matt: Communication is the first thing that comes to mind. I always say there’s a difference between the message I sent, and what was received. You have to be careful about how you say things online to make sure your message is received the way you intend it. For example, I use more emojis to help lighten the mood 🙂
And, don’t forget that you can always pick up the phone to hash things out. Speaking on the phone, or sharing your screen through a video service, is often more efficient than a lengthy text chain. Sometimes I’ll let customers know that I’m happy to hop on a call when I’m sending lengthy emails with instructions that need to be followed to a T.
And of course, use our platform to continue answering calls and chats from anywhere!
There’s a difference between what you send, and what is received. You have to be careful about how you say things online to make sure your message is received the way you intend it.
What does your home office situation look like?
Matt: A good amount of preparation went into setting up our remote work environment. My wife and I knew we would both be working from home, so we needed to make sure our new apartment in CO was set up for a home office. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a spare room—I think the traditional family dining room is moving away, so maybe more folks will be able to consider using the dining room as a part time office. Instead of coworkers, it’s me, my wife, our son, and our 2 dogs.
How can CTM be used to ease the transition into working from home?
Matt: CTM is a fantastic tool for remote workforces who need to answer calls, chats, and more. It can be a very quick and easy deployment to get your team set up for working from home. And once you have CTM set up, there’s a lot of flexibility in how (and where) your agents can answer calls, chats, and texts. The flexible system can make a huge difference in helping agents be more agile.
What’s an underrated CTM feature?
I’m a big fan of the smart router—there’s a lot of flexibility and a lot of power there. [Editor’s note: Funny, Sheri had the same comment! I’m seeing a trend here, so if you’re not already using the smart router, get to it.]
What’s on the CTM roadmap that you’re excited about?
Matt: The new dial directory is going to be really cool, allowing you to dial folks by name. This just launched, so we’ll still be adding some nice features onto it and continuing to build out advanced routing options. Just another example of a great call center feature that we’re adding on!
My background is in the call center and IT environment. Before joining CTM I was a System Admin, so I was building out and maintaining phone systems. And even before that, I was on the phones in customer service. So, I’ve been the user and the engineer of call center systems, which means I bring a lot of ideas related to the contact center side of our business.
Speaking of product ideas, what’s the process like for elevating requests and ideas?
Matt: I’m a big fan of over communication. The product team’s job is to evaluate all of the ideas and requests that come through. So, even though there are a lot of requests, I voice any and all ideas to them because I want to make sure the information is out there.
You’ve been in the tech field for quite a while. What was your first job?
Matt: I wasn’t always in tech—my first job was at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. I started working there as early as I legally could, and learned a lot about people and about myself. It’s hard to tell now, but I was a shy kid. I had to learn how to socialize and gain people skills.
I’m a believer in the “trial by fire” learning method. Sink or swim. That’s literally how I learned how to swim—I jumped into a neighbor’s pool and taught myself.
So, why Batman?
Matt: He doesn’t have superpowers. He’s really smart, and wants to make the world better. Every one of the villains has a different symbolic meaning to me, which is why I’ve got a whole tattoo sleeve dedicated to Batman and the other characters. I’m also a big escape room fan and love a good mystery, so Batman and Sherlock Holmes appeal to me. These days, I’m more into Marvel than DC Comics, but the Batman universe is still my favorite.
About the CTM Customer Support Team
Every day, our customer support team answers hundreds of questions and solves problems for our customers, all while laughing and smiling throughout the day. They’re superheroes and heroines, and they make our product better by paying close attention to what our customers are saying. No matter what plan you’re on, you can always dial the phone and talk to one of our support agents or click to live chat—rather than being stuck waiting for an email response. In this series, we celebrate the employees who make our product great and act as champions for our customers!