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Zsofi Goreczky leads the support operations for Prezi at their Budapest office. You can find out more about the Prezi Support Team and the work they do here

“Whirlwind”. This is the new term for what was once called the daily grind. Whichever description you prefer, this part of our working lives during which we deal with familiar, repetitive tasks is of particular significance to a support agent. Open computer, check emails, follow up on open tickets, answer new tickets, eat, rinse, repeat. And as an agent gets better at their job and things become easier, the malaise only gets worse. Combine this with a weekly dose of numbers in the form of satisfaction ratings, open tickets times, response rates, and there’s an unavoidable groundhog feeling that, left untreated, can lead to the nightmare every support manager fears: burnout.

There has to be more to support that sat scores and ticket numbers, right? Burnout shouldn’t be inevitable, should it? The positive answers to both those questions lie in your value to the company. More specifically it can be found in the three words always used when referring to support: “the front line”. No one is closer to the customers, no one else in the office goes through the same pain, relief, realizations, and triumphs that they do and on a daily basis. And this is what you can make use of.

The answer we found on how to avoid burnout is a simple one, mix it up, give your agents new tasks that give them a break from the routine and make them feel like they’re stretching themselves. But what tasks can they do? Well, those moments on the front line mean there’re plenty of places you can put your people to good use.

 

Activation, Renewal, and Retention

In the tech industry, chances are that you’ll hear those three words more often than your own name. There are companies that have teams or even entire departments dedicated to “Retention hacking”, and there’s barely an individual working in any startup who’s not hoping for a spike on an activation graph. But you know what? When your Head of Product sits down and asks: “What makes people activate?”, the set of people best qualified to answer that question is the support agents, because you’re the ones who interact with the people every day.

At Prezi, when the whole company decided to become laser focused on retention, we as a support team took the challenge on board and were able to have an impact. Every support team needs a stat freak. And ours was able to tell us straightaway that users who touched support were activating at a significantly higher rate than those that didn’t. We resolved to increase that gap. Our attitude was that if the product teams got 1% better at activating, we were going to get 1.5% better.

It’s important to note that we counted anyone who read a knowledge base article or watched a tutorial as having touched support. After all, we are the ones shaping, maintaining, and developing that content. There are two ways to positively influence your activation number, either you get a whole bunch of people to touch support that otherwise wouldn’t have (note that this is fine as long as they’re reading articles and watching videos, but problematic if they’re opening tickets), or you dramatically increase the conversion of those you do come into contact with. We were pleased enough with our conversion rates, but we noticed from a lot of the comments left on our content and from our ticket discussions that the people who use Prezi weren’t finding the content most relevant to them. So, we improved our search functionality, ran experiments with putting knowledge base search in the editor, and repositioned the way in which we displayed content on our website. We also created new content that brought together our most effective stuff into two videos, and paid more attention to our Prezi forum (we do all we can to make it into a second knowledge base). All of these were suggestions and implementations that came directly from our support team.

 

Whoops!

Early on, we found out that it’s not enough to just bring anyone into contact with support. We ran an email campaign designed to give readers the content that they needed to build better prezis. However, we didn’t deliver in a smart enough way, and ended up sending the wrong stuff to the right people (or vice versa) and that resulted in painful numbers. Email campaigns are elaborate, intricate things, which is why there are teams and departments devoted to them. We were naive to think that by sending our content to as many people as we could we would have a positive effect on the company’s goals.

But our other experiments have shown promising signs and over the last half of 2013 we succeeded in increasing the gap between us and the rest of the company.

 

Integration not separation

This wish to do better than our coworkers stops at moving the lines apart on the activation graph. A great number of our efforts are about giving the product, marketing, and technology arms of the company more data about the people who use Prezi. This means more and better tagging on tickets (we make tagging accuracy part of every agent’s weekly evaluation), more thorough reports, and an assortment of Gooddata pages that show how every experiment is progressing.

These are not the limits of our extra-curricular activities, we have sub-teams branching out into payments (working with development and design to make the process smoother for all our customers) and social media (you should never limit the ways in which you get basic information out into the world).

However you choose to do it, know that as a support team you have the insight needed to shape the company, so be brave, take the plunge into the unknown and reap the benefits!