Announcing SUPCONF Fall 2017 – Atlanta, Nov 6-7

The next SUPCONF will be in Atlanta on November 6-7 and we have a handful of early bird tickets available on the site.

As a member of the Support Driven Slack (join here if you’re not a member), you know how valuable and fun it is to hear how others have faced challenges similar to the ones you encounter.

Having those conversations in person adds a new dimension and depth – as you have the full attention of the people you’re talking to, without the distractions that tend to pop up often at work.

SUPCONF is a fantastic way to meet some of the folks you’ve been talking to online and an opportunity to meet new people in our industry! Don’t take my word for it, here’s a few quotes from community members that have been to SUPCONF:



And if you to want hear from more members of the community, Lisa Hunt (@lisahhhh) went to the last SUPCONF in Seattle and talked to a few people while she was there, you should check out the Support Breakfast SUPCONF Seattle Special. Note, I spoke with Lisa on the podcast and revealed that breakfast was my least favorite meal of the day to her shock and horror.

If you’ve never been to SUPCONF before, here’s a few things you should know about it.

Help with the social parts

Most of us self-identify as introverts according to every survey we’ve run that includes a question to identify as introvert or extrovert.

As a fellow introvert, I know about the awkwardness that comes with meeting people at events and we’ve designed opportunities to socialize that’s introvert friendly. Plus, it seems like things that are introvert friendly also work for extroverts.

Meeting online

It starts with a private channel for SUPCONF where you’ll have a chance to meet other attendees before the event. People have used it to find out the best places to eat and stay as well as coordinating eating and seeing sights together. If you have time, I highly recommend talking to fellow attendees before the event as you’ll have a chance to meet them in person at the event and it will be awesome.

Conversations at SUPCONF

It’s not that introverts don’t like talking to people. It’s just awkward to get started when you don’t know them. That’s why we’ve designed multiple opportunities to help you start open, meaningful conversations at SUPCONF.

And all of the opportunities are optional. You’re not required to socialize, we want to make it easier if you decide to.

We keep it small

We’ve designed SUPCONF to be small enough that you’ll feel comfortable talking to people and you won’t feel like you’re lost in a crowd. That means there’s a limited number of tickets and an even smaller number of early bird tickets.

If you think the Support Driven community is amazing, wait til you meet them in person! I hope to see you in Atlanta in November.

Tickets go on sale today, get your ticket now.

Propose A Talk For SUPCONF Fall 2017

SUPCONF Fall 2017 is coming to Atlanta on November 6-7 and we want to hear your ideas!

We’re looking for talks that fit within the 4 themes we have for SUPCONF Fall 2017 –

Improving Support
Support is what we do and there’s always room for better ways to deliver a great customer experience.

Example topics:

  • Preventing burnout
  • Hiring for support
  • Providing support across multiple channels

Changing The Conversation Around Support
The role of support is changing within companies and across departments and there’s a lot we can learn from what’s working and not working with these changes.

Example topics:

  • Working with other teams
  • Proactive support
  • Taking on non-support responsibilities

Working With Data
Data is everywhere and effectively working with it is a part of what’s expected of us.

Example topics:

  • Making sense of NPS and CSAT
  • Connecting revenue and support
  • Budgeting and forecasting

Building A Career In Support
Learn how your peers in the industry are navigating and advancing their careers and the skills they’re using to do so.

Example topics:

  • Negotiation
  • Effective communication styles
  • Developing career paths within support

About The Talk Development Program

Whether you have prior speaking experience or not, we’re dedicated to working with you to deliver an amazing speech that will help you win friends and influence people. You’ll be speaking in front of some of the best folks in support – who work at companies like Automattic, Basecamp, DigitalOcean, and more.

If you’re invited to participate in the talk development program, we think you have the potential to deliver an amazing talk. To help you realize that potential, we pair you with an editor who works with you to refine and revise your talk for our audience.

What you’ll get as a speaker

  • Editorial assistance in developing your ideas and story through our talk development program
  • A complimentary conference ticket
  • An invitation to a speaker dinner before the 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

  • July 18 – Proposal Form Opens
  • August 4 – Proposal Form Closed
  • August 18  – You’ll hear from us about your proposal
  • September  – Meet your editor
  • October 10 – Share an audio recording of an early draft of your talk
  • October 24 – Send in your final slides
  • November 6-7 – SUPCONF Fall 2017

 

The proposal process is open to all – proposals will be anonymized and reviewed by our talk editors. Feel free to submit more than one proposal if you have more than one idea for a talk.

Please note that if you work for a company that sells a product related to the topic you submit, your proposal will not be accepted.

Talk proposals will be closed on August 4th and you’ll hear from us by August 18th.

 

 

SUPCONF Spring 2017 – Blog Roundup

This Spring SUPCONF took a trip to Seattle, where we spent two days talking about how important relationships are to our jobs as Customer Support professionals.  

We also spent time forming our own relationships – from dinner meet-ups, lunch connections, and even using wristbands to help it feel safe to “turn off” for a bit.  

Below you can find write-ups about the conference experience, and some fun pictures.

Thinking about what’s next?  We’d love to have you join us at SDX!  Get your tickets through this Kickstarter now!

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You can find more pictures here!

 

@giovanna.allegretti wrote up a blog-version of her talk about boundaries and burnout.  She also wrote up notes to share about her SUPCONF experience.  

@peter shared a blog-version of his lightening talk about AI.  

@chelsea shared a post about being an organizer at SUPCONF.

@lisahhhhh recorded an extra special episode of Support Breakfast while at SUPCONF, and shared her slides from her talk.

@alyssa shared her SUPCONF highlights.

@sarahbetts shared what happens at SUPCONF.

 

Have more thoughts to share?  We’d love to read them!  Feel free to send along your blog posts in Slack and we’ll get them added.

Thinking about what’s next?  We’d love to have you join us at SDX!  Get your tickets through this Kickstarter now!

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

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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.  

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Meet fellow attendees over dinner – SUPCONF Dinner Meetups!

 

I attended my first SUPCONF having not yet met anyone at the conference in person.  As an introvert and someone who is anxious in new social situations, this was a bit intimidating.

As the social event on Monday night wrapped up I realized one thing: I had no idea where to eat in the city, or who to go with.  Not being the type to easily make connections and dinner invites, I planned to just head back to the hotel and call it an early night.  

On my way back, I met a few folks from Automattic who were also staying at my hotel.  We struck up a conversation, and I joined them for dinner.  Throughout the rest of the conference, these awesome Automatticians included me in their meal plans.  

Having folks to eat dinner with made my conference experience and my connections even deeper.  After the conference was over I wondered – what if I hadn’t run into the Automattic crew on the walk back that first night?  How would this have changed my SUPCONF experience?  

For me, food has always been about relationships.  I love eating, but the best part about food is enjoying it with others, and connecting with them through trying a new place or an old favorite menu item.  

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Ben enjoying dinner, as captured by Giovanna.

The idea for SUPCONF dinner meetups grew out of this love for food and a desire to make connections easier for everyone.  For this, we’ve designed a simple way for folks to be able to meet up and get to know each other over dinner.  

Enter: SUPCONF Dinner Meetups.  

The idea is similar to that of a taxi stand.  We’ll set a time and place to meet each evening.  Once there, a facilitator will match folks up into small groups (3 – 4 people), and send you along your way for dinner wherever you choose.  

We’ll be doing dinner meetups on Sunday, March 19th for the folks coming to the conference early, Monday, March 20th on the first night of the conference, and Tuesday, March 21 for the people that are staying after the conference is over.

This is an awesome opportunity to meet fellow attendees and get more out of your SUPCONF experience.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Apply Now For A Scholarship Ticket To SUPCONF Spring 2017

Thanks to our scholarship sponsors, we’re excited to offer a scholarship ticket program for SUPCONF Spring 2017!

Our scholarship sponsors (in alphabetical order):

Automattic – We are passionate about making the web a better place
FullStory – What do you want to know about your customer experience?
Guru – Be an expert, everywhere you work
Help Scout – Make every customer support interaction more human & more helpful
MailChimp – Send better email. Sell more stuff.
Olark – Your customers want to chat with you
Solvvy – Better answers for your customers. Dramatic gains for your business.

A bit about SUPCONF

SUPCONF is a conference for Support Professionals.  The two-day event is full of hand-picked talks, connection and community.  Learn more about the conference here.

Each SUPCONF talk is refined through our Talk Development program to be meaningful, and contain actionable takeaways that translate to your daily work.

This year we’re spending time diving in to relationships – relationships with our coworkers, our customers, the support community, and more.

We’ll facilitate conversations with other attendees and it’ll be a fantastic opportunity to hear how folks from other companies tackle problems similar to the ones you face, make connections with others in the community, and build your personal network.

We have more fun things planned, too.  Subscribe to our newsletter to stay looped in!

Excited to join us at SUPCONF?

Here’s what you get with a scholarship ticket to SUPCONF Spring 2017:

  • The full $600 ticket price
  • 2 full days of the SUPCONF experience

Note: You’re responsible for your own transportation and lodging

Apply for a ticket

Fill out the form – https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe3iSzwAGmDMlsVpqQ1EaDi6n0kFJEqejv11cHKSbTcBOmQ4g/viewform by February 7, 2017.

We’ll review applications shortly after and you’ll hear from us by February 9, 2017.

Tips – How do I ask my employer to pay for a conference?

In November I attended SUPCONF NYC.  Not only was this my first SUPCONF, it was the first time I had asked my employer to pay for a conference, or educational event, ever. Being someone who tends to shy away from potential conflict, I almost didn’t even ask them if I could go.  

I was excited and wanted to be a part of SUPCONF, but I didn’t know how to convey the value to my company of paying for me to fly to NYC and spend a few days away from tickets. Weighing on my mind the most, though, was the fear of them saying no.  

Last week the question came up from a member of our community about how to sell your employer on the idea of attending a conference.  After a great discussion, and pulling from my own fears and experience, below are some tips your own pitch.  

TL/DR

Below are the details, but here are the basics.  Having these key items ready will help you be prepared for the discussion!

  • A clear picture of what the conference is and why it is important to you
  • A list of goals for what you want to get out of the conference, and how you will share this knowledge when you return
  • The cost – How much is airfare, the conference fee, hotels and any other accommodations?  Who will cover your essential tasks while you’re gone?

Now, more details.

Be clear

Give a clear picture of what the conference is, and why it is important to you.  Show your passion for the people who will be there, the content, and the connections you will make. This may be hard if you’ve never experienced a particular event before, but something made you excited to attend.  Share this emotion and excitement with your boss and other decision makers.  

List your goals

Are you attending this conference to grow personally, or to grow your team?  Both are very important.

Let your boss know as much as you can about your expectations for the conference.  

Perhaps there is a speaker or topic you’re particularly interested in, or folks who will be there that you’re looking forward to meeting.  

List down the ways you plan to use this education and these connections once you are back home.    

Present the team building and community aspect

Is more than one member of your team going to be able to attend the conference?  That’s awesome!  Remember to speak to the team building opportunities the conference will afford – especially for folks who work remotely.

Beyond your teammates, having a strong community and feeling connection is essential to long-term job satisfaction.  Meeting like-minded folks at a conference can help you gain this sense of inclusion.  

Chances are there is someone at the conference who is where you are now, or who has been there before.  Speaking to this important human connection can help add a heart to your request.   

Plan a learning session for post-conference

Once you return, being able to teach your team or other coworkers what you learned at the conference is a great way to share the wealth.  

Plan a share session ahead of time to let the team know you’re serious about sharing this knowledge.  Make sure you give yourself a week or so to get your feet back on the ground, and your thoughts together before the session.  

Not the teaching type?  Blog posts or internal documents are a great way to share as well!

Go in with numbers and a plan, and don’t forget to ask the awkward questions

Know the cost of travel, accommodations, the conference fee and any other expenses up front, when you first ask.  

Also make a plan for who will be covering tickets (or your other duties) while you are gone.  Being away from your job means that others will have to step in and cover your tasks.  Can some things you do wait until you get back?  If not, who will cover this?  

Being prepared conveys you are serious, and keeps time from being lost in as you check on these details.    

Spending other people’s money is a bit tricky, so there are bound to be a few awkward questions.  

Do I book the travel on the company card, or my own card and then I’m reimbursed?  Is food covered during my travel, or just hotel and flight? Do I take vacation days for the time I am away, or am I paid as if I was working on these days?  

None of these questions are easy to ask (trust me – I know) but getting this clarity beforehand keeps there from being hard feelings or misunderstandings down the line.  

The worst they can say is “Not now”

It seems scary, but it isn’t the end of the world.  Perhaps now isn’t the best time financially, coverage wise, or for other reasons, or maybe they are excited to send you.  You will never know until you ask.  Go in with a solid plan, and if now isn’t the best time, the seed is planted for next time.   

In the end, I asked my employer to attend SUPCONF NYC.  They had a lot of questions about what we would gain from the conference and how much it would cost.   After listening to all of my points, they were excited to send me along and to hear my stories and learnings when I got back.

Have you asked for educational or conference money before?  What tips do you have?  

3 Reasons to Attend SUPCONF Spring 2017

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When I took a leap off of the corporate ladder there were a lot of things missing in my work life, but the biggest was feeling a connection and relationship to those around me.

Landing in Customer Support I quickly realized that these relationships weren’t instantly perfect, either. They took time, transparency, assertiveness, and a level of honesty I had not ever prepared myself for.

I started a Support Team, without truly knowing what a support team needed. I grew the team to 4 people across three time zones, without fully comprehending how this would change our relationships and how we interacted.

As the company grew, the Support team’s dependency on other groups grew too. We quickly learned that “faking it” wasn’t a strong enough relationship with our development team, and we had to get serious about how we connected across language, cultural and time zone barriers. At times, we clashed heads with the Sales team, learning how to communicate best between introverts and extroverts as we slowly handed over processes we were used to being fully in control of. We even found a voice in the leadership team — forming allies with our founders, to have a say when key decisions were being made.

This isn’t to say I have figured this all out. Most of this has been trial and error, early mornings, and a lot of to-do lists. The one constant through all of this has been that leading in Customer Support is completely about connections and relationships with others.

That is why we have decided to make relationships the theme for SUPCONF 2017. We’ll have amazing talks that touch on the relationships we have with our customers as well as the relationships we have within our companies. And that’s just the beginning – here are 3 more reasons for you to come to SUPCONF Spring 2017.

We’d love to have you join us! Don’t miss the early bird signup link below.

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1 – Deeper talks focused on key points you can take back to your company

With the SUPCONF Talk Development Program, we work for weeks in advance with speakers to edit talks to include key points you can take back to your company.  You’ll also have a chance to dive deeper and create connections after the talks through breakout sessions directly with the speakers.

2 – Get 1:1 time to talk about your biggest challenge

Chances are good there will be someone at SUPCONF who has been where you are, or who is dealing with the same situation you are up against right now. What if we could help you meet them during the conference? We think it’s an idea worth trying. Want to participate? Tell us when you register your ticket and we’ll provide the pairings, space and time for the conversation.

3 – Take care of you with work/recharge time.

Are you the type who recharges by spending time alone, or by spending time with others?  Do you think your team will need a little help while you’re away?  We have set aside time and space for you to take care of things.  Use that time to: spend a few quiet moments to gather your thoughts, connect with other attendees, or get to inbox zero.

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Get ready to take a deep dive into relationships

We’ve designed SUPCONF to be small enough that you’ll feel comfortable talking to people and you won’t feel like you’re lost in a crowd. That means there’s a limited number of tickets and an even smaller number of early bird tickets. They go on sale today, get your ticket by clicking on the link below.

YES! I want to be a part of SUPCONF Spring 2017 

Where will it be?

SUPCONF Spring 2017
March 20-21, 2017
Seattle, Washington 

Look for more details regarding venue and hotel recommendations early next year.

SUPCONF Fall 2016 – Blog Roundup

Support Driven descended on New York City this year for SUPCONF Fall 2016.  The event was filled to the brim with powerful talks, idea sharing, lots of laughs, and even a GIF battle! Most importantly feelings of friendship and community were felt all around.   

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Thank you to @scott and @benmacaskill for taking pictures! You can find more pictures, here!

Below we’ve shared some notes and stories from those who attended the event – enjoy!

My SupConf Experience Part 1 by @camilleacey

SUPCONF NYC by @briankerr

Finding my Tribe: Support Driven & SUPCONF NYC by @chelsea

A fool’s notes from Supconf by @fool

SUPCONF NYC 2016 Notes by @md

Special Report: Chris Hardie’s SUPCONF Talk About Partnership Relationships by @conor

Scaling Customer Service on a Growing Team – A summary of his talk at SUPCONF by @mrpatto

Rob’s recommend reading list by @robmbailey 

Have more thoughts to share?  We’d love to read them!  Feel free to send along your blog posts in Slack and we’ll get them added.  

Thinking about SUPCONF 2017?  The theme is relationships – and we’re so excited!  Sign up for our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss the early announcements!

SUPCONF 2017 – Relationships

The theme for SUPCONF 2017 is relationships. As support professionals, we are constantly working on relationships. Having empathy, social awareness and compassion are at the core of our daily toolbox – but how does this affect our relationships with those around us?

While relationships can sometimes be difficult – they’re also quite rewarding. A strong relationship between your customer facing team and the folks developing your product creates paths to smoother bug resolution. Having an ally on the executive team lends a voice for your team’s needs. An open conversation between you and your customers can help highlight solid feature requests for future consideration.

Nurturing the relationships between our teams and the those around us can increase our cohesiveness, morale and general excitement about work. This connection is the difference between just working the daily queue, and feeling a part of our company and world around us.

We are excited to share stories about how you can improve these interactions, as well as celebrate positive the relationships they foster. To help spread our excitement, we’ve come up with a few example talk ideas for common relationships at work.

Internal Relationships with:

  • Your Team
    • How do you spread knowledge across your teammates?
    • How do you celebrate wins with your team?
  • Your Executives
    • How can you leverage an ally on the executive team, to get your team’s needs heard?
    • What data can you give your executive team, so they understand your capacity?
  • Your Product
    • Every product has bugs – how do you work with the development team to make sure they’re resolved?
    • How do you handle working with other teams during stressful situations, such as a downtime?
  • Your Company
    • How do you work with your HR team to create meaningful goals for you and your coworkers?
    • How do you work with your Sales and Marketing teams to set realistic expectations and ensure a consistent message to your users?

External Relationships with:

  • Your Customers
    • How do you handle disrespectful or inappropriate customers?
    • To Swag or Not to Swag – how do you reward your customers?
  • Your Community
    • How can you connect with others who view support the way you do?
    • How can you find support leadership mentors?
  • Social Media
    • Does support on social media create better experiences for your customers?
    • Public facing problems – how can you turn around a bad support experience when it is all out there on social media?

We hope these example topics give you ideas of stories and experiences you’d like to share!

We’ll be announcing the dates and location for SUPCONF Spring 2017 soon. Thinking about speaking or looking forward to early announcements? Join our newsletter so you don’t miss the call for speakers!