Dan de Gruchy: Customer Support Guru

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You have to enjoy puzzles and be curious. Why did something break and can we prevent it from happening again?–Dan de Gruchy, Head of Customer Support, Komprise

A common theme in our Gartner Peer Insights reviews is the responsiveness of the Komprise Customer Support organization. Here are a few recent remarks:

  • “Komprise overall is a great tool, with exceptional product support.”
  • “The support and guidance by the Komprise team has been better than expected.”

Recently a customer wrote to us about the troubleshooting abilities of our head of customer support saying, “I actually joke with him all of the time that if an alien spaceship crashed in my back yard, he would be the first person I would call.” With that kind of feedback, we caught up with Dan de Gruchy, Komprise head of customer support, to get his perspective on working with our enterprise customers.

How did you get into customer support?

Dan: I wanted to work in computers and video games. I started out in sales but that wasn’t very exciting for me so I became a sales engineer and the support side of the role blossomed for me. I always enjoyed puzzles. I don’t have a technical degree, so it has been 100% learning on the go. Over time I learned that there are core bits that are the same in most products.

What is the most rewarding thing about this career?

Dan: It’s really when you solve the difficult problem, the one that many people have been focused on and it’s like, OK, cool, we conquered Everest and customers are elated and over the moon with the help that you’ve provided. That’s a big deal plus making friends with some of the customers is also rewarding. Recently, with one of our pharmaceutical customers, we were having to bulk recall data to move from Azure to AWS. Their environment came from many mergers. Users had multiple SIDs (security identifiers) and it was very complex. Day after day, working with them for weeks on end and getting hundreds of terabytes of data back, it was a lot of fun and pretty rewarding. The customer wrote a book of a thank you.

What is a day in the life?

Dan: The beauty I guess is that every day is different. You don’t have time to get bored and you’re always learning something new. I have been here for six years and I am still learning new things about the product and the operating systems. One day it’s performance, the next day it’s domain issues. Things do come in waves. The only weird truth about support is that regardless of the company, you’ll sometimes see the same issue hit several customers at once and then you won’t see it again for months to years afterwards.

How have tools and tactics changed over the years?

Dan: The base toolbox is the same: you look at the logs and focus on the issue and research the errors. In terms of communicating with customers, I have noticed death of the phone. Remote meetings are predominant. I miss the phone in a way. But it’s also kind of peaceful. The nice thing is, with a remote session you have more control because it’s a scheduled interaction. Thankfully we don’t get too many angry people.

I have noticed death of the phone. Remote meetings are predominant. I miss the phone in a way. But it’s also kind of peaceful.

What is the most difficult part of the job?

Dan: The evolution of the product. With every company, the product must keep growing and that is particularly true with SaaS. But I would love to fix all the bugs before adding new features. Stability in any product is a challenge. You need to find ways around the bugs when you can. If it’s an integrated product, you don’t have a lot of control. Also, everyone’s environment is different so you have to learn their environment with all the subtle security bits and quirks and nuances. Another challenge is dark sites where you can’t see the logs– which is typical in government. That is a real struggle to support and you just have to trust that the customer is giving you the best information.

What are the main skills and characteristics that someone needs to enter this field?

Dan: You have to enjoy puzzles and be curious. Why did something break and can we prevent it from happening again? Is anything else broken? You need to be calm and be able to distract customers when they’re stressed. It’s important to listen to the venting but also course correct the venting. Let’s fix it. You have to extrapolate from what the customer says and what they don’t say. You need the ability to coordinate resources to solve the issue if you can’t.

What is interesting to you about unstructured data management?

Dan: Coming from the data storage sector (I worked at Data Domain, Nimble and Rubrik prior to joining Komprise in 2017), I love getting out of hardware. Working in software lifts half of the problems away. Also, because data is one of the major currencies in the world, it’s not going away: it’s only growing. Working with data is lifelong security. I used to say that Sarbanes Oxley was the best thing that happened to storage because you couldn’t get rid of the data. That’s still true with unstructured data management as you have to take the data and do something with it, put it somewhere or move it to low-cost storage and still be able to touch it. The unstructured data management space won’t ever go away, and it will morph especially with AI.

What do you do for fun?

Dan: I play and collect guitars, love retro video games, and lately have been doing a lot of hiking.

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