Announcing our 2017 Partners!

We’re happy to announce that this year, Support Driven is partnering with Help Scout, FullStory, Olark, and Guru to help the support community grow and thrive.

Partners will provide sponsorship for events like SUPCONF and SDX. They’ll also work closely with us to do other things outside of events, including creating resources like the Help Scout salary survey, while sharing in our mission to continue raising the perception and impact of support professionals.

“Customer support is critical to building an incredible customer experience, and CX is at the heart of everything we do at FullStory. That’s why we’re excited to partner with Support Driven,” said Ben McCormack of FullStory. “Support professionals understand that when we make the web better for customers, everyone benefits.

The landscape of the support industry is changing. It seems that more companies are paying attention to support than ever before and are starting to see what we’ve known for a while – that support is absolutely crucial to business success and that support professionals should be respected for their unique skills. Nicereply even named customer service as a career as one of their “4 Big Customer Service Trends for 2017.” Our partners have been leading the way for this transformation.

“At Help Scout, we’re truly committed to supporting the people who support the customers, and that’s why we’re so excited to partner with Support Driven. As we will learn from and support each other, we will elevate customer service as a department, an attitude, and a career.” said Mat Patterson of Help Scout.

We’ve chosen to partner with these four companies in particular because they’ve demonstrated a strong commitment to championing for customer support. We’ve also chosen them because they’ve been active in the community, know their way around it, and are eager for the opportunity to contribute more.

“At Guru, we continually see that forward-thinking companies have begun to recognize the importance of a good customer experience, and have elevated customer support to first class citizens within their organizations as a result. In combination with Support Driven, we hope to amplify the importance of support and collectively empower support teams everywhere.” – Steve Mayernick, Guru

Our partners know, as we know, that in coming together as a community, sharing our knowledge, and helping one another, we can grow our expertise and influence, move the industry forward, and create better experiences for ourselves and for our customers.

“We believe in making business human, and the Support Driven community shares that belief,” said Rhoda Meek, Director of Customer Service, Olark Live Chat. “Through its events and its online group, Support Driven connects the humans who are the faces and voices of our organizations; enables them to share the highs, the lows, and the best practices of Customer Support; and empowers them to effect change in their own companies, and in their customer’s lives. In short…:Fist Bump: :Thumbs Up: :Party Parrot:”

At Support Driven, we couldn’t be more excited to have these companies on board, and we’re looking forward to joining forces with them to bring even more resources to the community.

 

Support Origin Stories – Meet Dave

The theme for SUPCONF 2017 is all about relationships.  An important relationship is the one between you and your fellow SUPCONF attendees.

To aid in these introductions, we’ve created Support Origin Stories – or stories about how fellow attendees ended up in Customer Support.  Take a moment to meet someone new, and learn about some ways to strike up a conversation with this person while at SUPCONF.

Dave works at MailChimp, and had an exciting venture to support – including a stint working at the DMV! Meet Dave below!


 

Looking forward to joining us?  Learn more about SUPCONF here.

The awkwardness of socializing at events and what we’re doing about it

A few weeks ago I was with my 2 year old nephew.  We had been hanging out with family most of the afternoon, when I found him sitting quietly by himself, playing with his toy car.  I went over and asked him what he was doing, and he said “Time to go home now, too much talking.”  This is when I realized my 2 year old nephew and I are totally alike.   

In new social situations I am often an observer first.  I like to watch others interacting, and get a feel for the topic or room before I dive in.  As I digest conversations and ideas, I often feel the need to take a step back, and spend some quiet time parsing through what was discussed.   

It is easy to feel a pressure to be “always on” – especially when you’re meeting new people, because you don’t want to miss an opportunity to connect. We’d like to do something about this  so we started some conversations with folks in Support Driven.

Enter Wristbands

IMG_2719

After considering several options, we landed on using wristbands as a way to signal that you’re open for a chat, as well as make it safe to say “I’m busy” or “I need a few moments to myself.” We ordered these wristbands in dual color from rapidwristbands.com.

We’d like to give you the control to turn “on” or “off” from conversations – as you see fit or feel ready.  This is sort of like muting the world away in Slack, and taking a few moments to be heads down. By giving you more control over social interactions, we hope you’ll be more comfortable connecting to other folks during the event.

These wristbands have two sides.  You can turn your wristband to yellow for “let’s chat!” When you need a break, you can turn it to black for “I need a few moments to myself, please.”  

You can pick up a wristband when you first arrive at the event.

Feel free to use these wristbands as a tool to help communicate your current status with fellow attendees, to see if they’re also up for a chat, as well as a way to have more control over your interactions during the event.  

Most importantly, make sure you take care of you throughout the event.  

Support Origin Stories – Meet Chase

The theme for SUPCONF 2017 is all about relationships.  An important relationship is the one between you and your fellow SUPCONF attendees.

To aid in these introductions, we’ve created Support Origin Stories – or stories about how fellow attendees ended up in Customer Support.  Take a moment to meet someone new, and learn about some ways to strike up a conversation with this person while at SUPCONF.

Chase works at Automattic and is on the Support Ops podcast team.  Chase has done support for most of his life.  Listen to learn more below!

Looking forward to joining us?  Learn more about SUPCONF here.

Support Origin Stories – Meet Giovanna

The theme for SUPCONF 2017 is all about relationships.  An important relationship is the one between you and your fellow SUPCONF attendees.

To aid in these introductions, we’ve created Support Origin Stories – or stories about how fellow attendees ended up in Customer Support.  Take a moment to meet someone new, and learn about some ways to strike up a conversation with this person while at SUPCONF.

Giovanna entered the support world through a career in teaching.  Listen to her unique journey below!

Looking forward to joining us?  Learn more about SUPCONF here.

Support Driven Expo: Call For Proposals

The time has come to find speakers and workshop leaders for the first ever Support Driven Exposition (SDX)!

For SDX, our focus is on actionable takeaways. The entire event is designed to provide our community the skills and knowledge to take their skills to the next level. Every session should have clear takeaways that can be applied right away.

We are anticipating hundreds of attendees, which means that every session will have the opportunity to have a real impact on dozens of companies.

To help our community level up, we’re organizing two flavors of sessions, your classic Talks:  one-to-many arrangements common to conferences and trade shows worldwide, and Workshops: a more interactive experience where attendees can really get their hands dirty.

Talks

  • Are 15-20 minutes long
  • Include action items that attendees can take back to their company
  • Tie into the theme of leveling up; you want your Talk to provide next steps, and get folks riled up to accomplish something new.

Workshops

  • Are 30-45 minutes long
  • Provide attendees the opportunity to get their hands dirty engaging in a new tool, process, or other activity that can help them level up.
  • Are primarily group or individual activity based; participation is the key ingredient to a workshop’s success.

What you’ll get as a session leader

  • A complimentary conference ticket.
  • An invitation to the speaker appreciation event.

Your commitments if you get invited to speak

  • You (or your employer) will cover your travel and accommodation costs.
  • You will follow our code of conduct.
  • We may use your name and photo to promote the conference.
  • We may record your talk and slides (audio, video, photography) for use in social media, marketing, sales and distribution.

Milestones

  • February 28 – Proposal Form Opens
  • May 4th – Proposal Form Closed
  • May 11th – You’ll hear from us about your proposal, either way
  • May 19th – Photos due
  • July 7th – Final slides and supplementary material due.
  • July 22nd – THE FIRST EVER SUPPORT DRIVEN EXPO

The proposal process is open to all – proposals will be anonymized and reviewed by our organizers. Feel free to submit more than one proposal if you have more than one idea for a talk. You can get a sense of what the community is interested in by taking a look at these survey results!

If you’re ready to help the Support Driven community grow professionally and improve personally, and you’re stoked to join us in Portland in July, submit your talk or workshop session using the form below!

Take Your Career And Job To The Next Level

Introducing Support Driven Exposition (SDX), the event for support professionals who want to learn the necessary skills to take their career and job to the next level.

SDX is:

  • Focused on learning and developing technical and nontechnical skills
  • Sessions are taught from a support perspective, so you can apply them right away
  • A 1 day event with workshops, talks, and more to suit different learning styles
  • Priced under $300 (we’re still working out the final details)
  • July 22nd in Portland, Oregon

We’re launching a Kickstarter for SDX on April 4th early access tickets will be available through the Kickstarter. If you’d like exclusive details on early access tickets and updates, sign up for the Support Driven community newsletter.

How it all began

It all started when we asked the Support Driven community to take part in a learning survey about which skills you wanted to learn this year. We heard from all levels in support – from folks on the frontlines to directors, managers to vice presidents, and more. From people that worked with teams of hundreds to people that worked on teams of one.

We learned that everyone has room to grow, whether they were the head of support at their company or elsewhere in the support organization. Everyone has a skill that could help them take the next step of getting better at their job or making progress in their career or both. For some, that skill could be technical like diving deep into JavaScript to better understand the product and write better bug reports. For others, it could be nontechnical like getting better at public speaking to share the story of the team and the customers within their company.

Here’s a few responses from the survey (Check out the full survey results if you’re curious)

How to better advocate for support (to get the voice of the user out) and for me (to be better seen and heard within the company-to be given the chance to do more than be in the queue)

Public Speaking. I have a slightly more visible role now, and with that comes sharing the story of our team and the impact it has on our customers. I hate public speaking though, primarily because it makes me incredibly nervous.

How to help my team grow—specifically how to help them become leaders, and take more ownership, determine how they want to grow professionally and then facilitate them growing in those areas, and how to step back and let them handle things more.

I would really like to invest in learning JavaScript deeply (at a junior dev level or higher). Right now, it would help me to have a better technical understanding of our product and write better bug reports. In the future, it would help me to advance my career.

Owning my career (without becoming a manager, which I’m not interested in)

Learn skills instead of following tracks

You talked about investing in technical skills that could help you now and in the future. You shared that you wanted to develop skills to help your team grow and develop as leaders. You want to own your career and decide what’s next for you.

We think that’s awesome and we’re putting together a mix of topics to cover a lot of the skills you want to learn this year. In order to accommodate the widest range of topics we can, sessions are offered independently rather than in tracks. This will also be an opportunity to be exposed to new ideas, including a few topics that you may not have expected.

Mix and match the topics that catch your interest.

Learn faster with a support perspective

There are dozens of ways to learn skills. You could learn on your own from reading a book or attending a class at university. You could take an online course or participate in an in person workshop. There are no shortages of learning options, just a shortage of time and money to do so.

The common thing missing in these options is they’re not focused on teaching people like you – people who live and breathe support. We think you can learn and apply these skills faster if sessions were designed for people in support.

Folks leading a session at SDX knows that everyone in the audience is in support and to tailor their stories and content accordingly. Instead of working with random examples that could appeal to anyone, the examples would be focused on challenges commonly found in support.

Tailoring the content of sessions to you will help you learn faster and apply it sooner.

With the community

Bringing SDX to life is a community effort.

The people organizing SDX are the same people that you’ll see in the Support Driven community. We bring ideas and experiences from doing support at wildly different organizations into the process.

We’re recruiting people to lead sessions from the Support Driven community. Chances are good there are folks in the community that have been where you are and with the experience that you’re looking to gain. We’re creating the space for you to learn from these folks with SDX.

We’re bringing the community together to create the best learning experience in the support industry.

Who is SDX for?

SDX is for people who live and breathe support.

For people who are building a career in support or want to build a career in support. People who know what it’s like turn around a customer’s day or to bear the brunt of a customer’s inexplicable anger. People who set the direction for how support builds relationships with customers and helps customers be successful across the entire organization.

We know it’s not always easy to step away from the queue or rearrange all of your meetings. That’s why we chose to design SDX as a 1 day event on Saturday, July 22nd with the hope that this date would minimize the disruption to your work.

We’re keeping the ticket price under $300 so it’ll be accessible to more people. And there will be a scholarship ticket program to encourage even more folks to be a part of it.

We want this event to work for you and we’re keeping things in mind that we can do to make that happen.

If this sounds like the event for you, sign up for the Support Driven community newsletter for updates and exclusive details on early access tickets. Since you’ve read this far, if you’d like to get an insider’s look on how SDX is being organized, join us in #workgroup-events in the Support Driven Slack.

Support Origin Stories – Meet Karl

The theme for SUPCONF 2017 is all about relationships.  An important relationship is the one between you and your fellow SUPCONF attendees.

To aid in these introductions, we’ve created Support Origin Stories – or stories about how fellow attendees ended up in Customer Support.  Take a moment to meet someone new, and learn about some ways to strike up a conversation with this person while at SUPCONF.

Karl – or – the Voice of Olark – is the Head of Communications at Olark.  Karl started his support career in high school, working in the pizza business.  Learn more about Karl’s story below!

Looking forward to joining us?  Learn more about SUPCONF here.

Meet Fellow Community Members

I have decided that meeting new people is perhaps the hardest thing about being an Adult. For me personally, making connections with new people isn’t a skill I seem to have carried over from childhood.  

I am more of this type of person:

New Person: Hi! I am Tom! What is your name?

Me: Uh… (brain totally freezes) I like french fries?

I can’t be the only one here.  

There are so many awesome people in the Support Driven community.  We’d like to help you make these connections easily – from the comfort of Slack.  

Enter: Donut Bot

Donut is a Slackbot which will take the hard work out of meeting fellow community members.  Donut allows you to opt-in to being paired up with another Support Driven member each month.  

This pairing allows you to get to know each other better, and make friends and connections with other Support Driven members.  

We’re excited to see how these connections grow and shape folks in the community!  

How it works

  • If you would like to participate, the only thing you have to do is join the Slack channel #meet-sd.  
  • You are free to join and leave this channel at any time.  If you leave the channel, you aren’t paired up until you join again.  This is handy if you’re going on vacation, or if you know you have a busy few weeks coming up.
  • Donut automatically pairs the folks who are in the channel on Monday, once every 4 weeks.
  • Once paired, it creates a private group chat between Donut, you and another community member.  
  • You all are paired for the month, and can chat in the private channel Donut created for you.   Note – Donut is built for those who work together, so it suggest you get coffee together – obviously this won’t be possible for folks here.
  • You can talk about Customer Support, your current work, your personal hobbies, or anything in between.  We’ll also add some suggested topics to the #meet-sd channel to help you along in your chat.

You can feel free to chat with the person you’re paired with once during the month, or a few times – whatever fits your schedules the best.  If you have an awesome connection, we’d love to hear about it in the #good-news channel!

Once you finish your chat that month, there isn’t anything else you need to do.  Donut will automatically pair everyone in the #meet-sd channel again in 4 weeks.  

A few suggestions to prepare your content for a Knowledge Base

PDCA-Plan
photo by @jurgenappelo on Flickr

 

A small amount of initial planning will bring your knowledge base together faster.

What is a knowledge base?

Knowledge bases are an excellent way to take the accumulated knowledge of your organization and map that experience to a series of articles and topics you share with your customers. Don’t let the name throw you if you store your content in a different way – many people call this function a Wiki, a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, or articles – the point is that all of these knowledge functions make it easier for you to serve customers.

Knowledge bases often ship as an included feature with customer service systems like Desk.com, Zendesk, and Help Scout. There are other stand-alone options including providers like HelpDocs, HelpJuice, and Mindtouch – these all serve different segments of the market and have the general goals of either presenting customer-facing content in a help center or doing both that and providing internal agent knowledge through your case support tool.

Why do you need a knowledge base?

The business case for a knowledge solution looks like this: do you prefer to answer the same questions over and over again, or would you prefer to share the relevant information quickly with a minimum of effort (and in some systems, automatically)? The answer is not often “I want to answer questions about login endlessly.”

A great knowledge base orients the visitor to what’s available by arranging articles into logical groupings of topics and articles. That knowledge base is easily searchable using the language visitors normally use when they are speaking. I haven’t seen a knowledge base yet that has a Siri or Cortana or Google integration, and it’s probably only a matter of months before vendors adopt that interface. Let’s put aside for the moment whether structured knowledge queries or natural language processing will deliver the best results, and talk about the specific benefits of knowledge bases.

  • You’ll Save Valuable Time By Not Doing The Same Thing Repeatedly – every day, you see the same 10 to 15 (for your business this might be 5 or 50) questions in your Tier 1 Support Queue. Future you will thank you for writing articles instead.
    1. You’ll Train Customers and Employees for Proficiency – as customers give you feedback and employees create and refine knowledge articles, they will self-identify as experts and you may even be able to offload some of your support volume outside of the four “virtual” walls.
  • You’ll create Shareable Content that Improves SEO – each knowledge article, when written in an engaging and readable way and titled effectively, increases the likelihood that people using your product may find you from other inbound destinations. This content linking improves your search domain authority, which also reinforces the chance that new people will find your company through long-tail content.
  • Most Knowledge Bases are Readable Without Login – since the purpose of a knowledge base is to make the information widely available, you get to read great examples and find structure and content to repurpose. Here are a few excellent examples.

How Do I Get Started?

Great! You’re ready to start – here are a few suggestions to streamline your process and spend more time writing great articles.

    1. Decide the Main Purpose of Your Help Center – is your primary goal ticket deflection, knowledge enhancement, customer training, or feedback on features or service?
    2. Make a Big List of Your Most Frequent Questions – go ahead and find a kitchen timer or use your browser or phone to make a 15 minute time limit. Write a list of the top 20-30 questions you get that require an Agent to do something.
    3. Start the Writing Process, Even If Your List is Not Done – create a short (50 word) and long (250-750 words) version of each one of the items on your list.
    4. Arrange Your Questions into Logical Groups – if the topics for your knowledge base are not obvious, ask yourself: do the questions fall into natural categories (based on activities people do with your product, area of product/service, etc) or do we need to identify or invent a scheme to arrange them?
    5. Write Like a Human, Not Like a Robot – this one’s easy – write the content you want to read. Some ideas are to name questions with human-like questions, e.g. “how do I…” or “why do I need to …” or statements “5 steps to set up your…” and to take out words when explanations are unclear. Or just take words out, full stop.
  • Involve Your Team in the Process – a Knowledge Base is a shared document. Ask your team (and maybe your customers) to read your content to confirm understanding.

How Do I Know When I Need a New Article?

SPOILER ALERT: add new articles whenever you get a question that customers or internal people ask more than twice.

A great article will answer the question, remove the need for the customer to ask again or will make it very clear how to answer the question. Conversely, a bad article will be loaded with jargon and will not be easy to digest.

How Do I Know When I am done?

SPOILER ALERT: you are never done. There are always new feature, new products, and new people reading about the product. Do not lose sleep over this fact.

You will get really close to done in most knowledge bases after you publish 20-30 informative, carefully written articles reviewed by multiple stakeholders.

Now What?

After that it’s easy to arrange the content, tag for similar topics, design from a template or lightly customize, etc. You will want to pick a KB that helps you understand if customers and trialers think the content is any good – there are many solutions that help with a simple :thumbsup: :thumbsdown: and others like Answerdash.com that are much more in depth with contextual info. Good luck, and I ‘d love to hear your thoughts about what makes an amazing knowledge base.

Greg Meyer loves talking to customers at Kustomer, where he takes on many roles in product marketing. Kustomer is a leading CRM for Support teams and is building a platform to deliver amazing customer service placing the customer at the center of each interaction.