Zendesk on Zendesk is a day-long discussion about a specific topic and how Zendesk Support uses Zendesk. Each session is hosted by a member of our Support team.
This session is about how other internal teams shadow our advocates to get a better understanding of our support workflow.
This session is hosted by Rodney Lewis, a Tier 1 Team Lead in our San Francisco office.
See all of the Zendesk on Zendesk series discussions.
- Overview of internal shadowing
- Why we shadow with Tier 1
- How it works
Overview of internal shadowing
Here at Zendesk, we have an internal shadowing program set up for other customer-facing roles to spend time with the support team. The shadowing program started on a kind of ad-hoc basis. About two years ago, when I first started at Zendesk, I was the only Tier 1 advocate working in our San Francisco office. As a result, I ended up directly receiving a handful of requests from other roles who wanted to sit in with advocates.
A couple of years later, I now get emails from two to three managers for every new hire class we have. I schedule people to come sit with me either one-on-one or in groups, depending on their specific team and role. There are many people in the company who are customer-facing but are not trained in support or soft skills. The shadowing gives us a chance to say, “Hey, here’s how I would handle that", an important perspective for all customer-facing roles to keep in mind at a support-centered company.
Why shadow with Tier 1
Our Support team is split into three tiers to address the varying level of technical expertise and time needed to solve incoming tickets.
- Tier 1 takes incoming phone calls, chats, and resolves email requests about our product and its features; these are typically questions that can be resolved in less than 15 minutes.
- Tier 2 spends more time digging into issues and the related logs and handles requests that typically can be resolved in less than an hour.
- Tier 3 addresses the most complex or time-consuming tickets before sending qualified issues to our Development team.
We like other teams to shadow Tier 1 specifically because Tier 1 touches everything. We’re generalists, handling 80 percent of all tickets that come in, so this is really where other teams will see the most breadth and benefit.
Sometimes people assume Tier 1 is lower-level and less important than other tiers, or that they Google and send articles all day. In reality Tier 1 covers more product knowledge areas than any other tier and have the most direct, unfiltered, interaction with customers. Other tiers have more specialized, specific areas of knowledge, making their day-to-day work less applicable to all customers.
How it works
Internal shadowing is most helpful for other customer-facing roles. Some examples of roles that we frequently work with in this program are customer success executives, inbound and outbound sales, and account managers. We've also worked with a variety of other teams such as Product, Web Design, Recruiting, Legal and onsite customers.
The level of depth of the shadowing varies depending on the specific role and team. For some roles a relatively brief shadowing session makes sense. For others, we do a deep dive that entails going through the standard advocate training curriculum as well as responding to customer requests with actual agent access for a day or even weeks.
First, we go through our general advocate training curriculum slides. This overview gives the shadowers background on the Support team and basic tasks we do every day. An example is the following illustration of different channels:
This overview also goes over the following topics:
- Our three support tiers
- Tools we use on the support team including apps and integrations installed in Zendesk
- The triage process (to learn more about triage at Zendesk, see my previous Zendesk on Zendesk on How we triage!)
- The various channels we receive requests through
- How we work alongside the Support Operations team to maintain triggers, automations, macros, and other elements of Zendesk
Working on support requests
After going through our basic training curriculum, those who are participating in a more in-depth shadowing start working on test tickets. For each shadowing session we have 40-50 test tickets prepared. These test tickets are submitted internally by advocates, giving the shadowers a chance to practice before working on tickets from actual customers.
The test tickets cover a variety of scenarios from Insights issues to triggers questions, so that the shadowers can practice responding to support requests in a variety of areas.
Next, shadowers can move onto listening in as advocates respond to actual phone calls and chats. This gives them a chance to observe how advocates think on their feet when addressing customer support requests in real time.
Finally, the shadowers are ready to respond to real support requests! We cherry pick a handful of tickets and incoming chats to assign them and are available to jump in and help out at anytime. We also make sure to create a view of the shadower's tickets to make sure everything is going smoothly as they work through the requests.
What has worked for me over the last 2 years while assisting with internal shadowing and cross-departmental training is being myself and letting my personality, passion, and Zendesk pride come out.
I get the chance to talk about my role and how we work as a unit to provide quality support at a high rate and sustain it consistently. It is something that I’m proud of. This experience has helped bridge gaps as we continue to grow as a company. It’s been very positive and rewarding in that regard!
How does your support team work with other roles? Do you have internal shadowing or a similar program in place? Let us know about your experience or questions in the comments below!