On The Front Lines Of Love: A Q&A With Hala Sawalha, Head of Hinge User Support
Ever wonder who answers the emails you’ve written into Hinge? How about the person who reports bugs to the engineering team?
Enter Head of User Support Hala Sawalha. From keeping catfish off the app to communicating feature requests to the product team, Hala manages the team (yes, real people answer emails at Hinge) that interacts directly with our community.
We sat down with Hala to discuss her role at Hinge, observations on modern dating, and the best parts about being on the front lines of love.
When people think of jobs at a dating app, most people immediately go to one of the following areas: engineering, product, or marketing. You don’t work in any of these areas. How do you explain your job to people?
I’m the voice of the user to the rest of the company. While my formal title is user support specialist, it’s ultimately all about member experience. It’s my job to communicate to the engineers, product, and marketing teams how the Hinge community is feeling. For example, if anyone is experiencing a bug or glitch, it’s my responsibility to collect that data and communicate it to the engineers so we can get a fix out ASAP. Or, if members write in about a feature they’d like to see, I advocate to get it on the product roadmap. I’ve got my finger on the pulse of our member base, and let the rest of the Hinge team know what they’re loving, or what they could live without.
What does a typical day at Hinge look like for you?
First thing of course, is a cup of coffee (hot or cold brew, I don’t discriminate). I like to start my day off by touching base with each department.
I spend the first part of my day making sure our measures to keep scammers, catfish, and all around jerks off the app are working as they should. This is one reason our members have such a positive experience on Hinge. I can’t go into what our software does, but everyone should know there are advanced measures in place to guarantee the people you see in your Discover Feed are real, respectful people looking for a relationship.
At the end of the day, I put together a report to share with the rest of the team. This report includes what kind of issues were most written about, how we addressed them, and any next steps. Essentially, this is my time to reflect on the work accomplished and make a game plan for the best way to advocate for our users.
Let’s get into the actual content you deal with on a daily basis, email-wise.
Awesome emails come in like, “I just got engaged on my birthday in Iceland under the Northern Lights.” I also answer the emails giving advice on where to go on a date or how to edit your profile to get more likes, and best ways to start a conversation.
My job also shifts into a detective of sorts. I’ll have users write in who accidentally skipped this amazing woman who they think went to school in NYC, probably had brown hair, maybe had a photo up doing yoga and might be 5’6”. I can usually find her and put her in his Discover feed.
If there’s a bug report, I’ll work with our Product Manager to see what details they need from me in order to fix it.
I organize the emails by topic, which include Profile Optimization, Feature Requests, Success Stories, and Technical Support, and Bug Reports. Basically, if you ever write in about app functionality, it’ll come through my desk.
You’re on the front lines of dealing with members, which means you have an intimate view of the problems people face in modern dating. What would you say is the top problem you see?
One issue that might not be as visible to the everyday dater is what I call “defense mode.” This is when, after a first date, someone respectfully communicates they are not interested, and the person on the receiving end does not take this well. Instead of moving on, they try to “prove their worthiness.”
No one likes a bruised ego, and it’s definitely not fun to be in a situation where you like someone more than they like you. That being said, you should never have to prove your worthiness anyone. So, if you get the dreaded “let’s just be friends” text, or they thank you for a nice time but don’t really see it going further, it’s always best to just let it go.
What piece of advice would you give people looking to have the best possible experience using Hinge?
If you want a real, authentic relationship, it’s so important that you present yourself in the most authentic way. Of course, you should curate your profile in such a way that you look your best in all six photos and your personality is shining through your captions and prompts, but remember that filters don’t translate to real life.
We underwent a year of extensive user research, beta testing, and focus groups to get to the stage in development that we are now. The user interface of Hinge and the prompts we’ve prepared for you are uniquely designed to help facilitate meaningful conversation. Don’t rush through building your profile — and avoid more than one group photo when possible!
What do you think would surprise people about your job?
There is a real person reading your emails. A person who has family, friends, who goes on dates, likes dogs, and eats too many jalapeño poppers sometimes. A lot of people think that because we’re a company with many, many users, something like user support would be automated. It’s not at all. We read every single email that comes in, and love hearing from our members.
You have an interesting background, in that you came to Hinge from outside of the tech or customer service space. What skills from your past career working with students do you carry over to your current job?
Prior to working in tech, I spent five years working for educational nonprofits. I mentored and tutored a caseload of high school students, essentially ensuring they graduate. Really rewarding stuff.
The way I see my work Hinge is not dissimilar. Instead of advocating for my caseload to walk at graduation, I’m advocating for our member base to walk down the aisle (swoon).
Jokes aside, I’m still putting my energy and effort towards a team and mission I believe in. I provide a service to really incredible people that is genuine, meaningful, and authentic. I continue to take tons of pride in my work.
Do you have a funny story you can share? Or something that made you smile?
A few days ago I received a success story from a couple who met on Hinge. If you’re familiar with how Hinge works, you’re aware that connections are created through mutual friends. The mutual friend of the people who wrote in is officiating their wedding!
It is hands down the best part of my day getting those stories and testimonials, sharing them with the rest of the team, and seeing their photos on the Wall of Love in the office, a big, beautiful backdrop of Hinge couples.
Have a question or comment for Hala or the Hinge User Support team? Leave a comment below.