This week we sat down and talked with one of our Support Product Managers who specializes in Platform Automation & Productivity, Nina Olding. Here are the questions we asked, but if you have anything you’d like to ask her go ahead and post it below!
Devan: Hello Nina! Thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat with us today. Would you mind sharing with everyone a little bit about yourself?
Nina: Hi Devan, I’m a product manager here at Zendesk, which means I work in collaboration with our voice of the customer team, our design team, and our engineering team to figure out what we should build and how we should build it. Platform Automations and Productivity is a very verbose way to say how to make your tools more efficient in Zendesk. So a way to make your Zendesk platform that agents use every day more efficient and pleasant to use. That happens through triggers, automations, and so on.
Devan: So you work very intimately with Support and future improvements to the product within your area of development. Anything currently in progress you would like to share with our users?
Nina: Yeah! So my team has been working very hard on a feature that has been highly requested, multiple group views. The ability to share a single view with more than one group. We actually just launched a very small EAP, and we’re hoping to ship that GA in the very near future, so keep an eye out for it.
Devan: Oh wow! So that EAP, is that something users can still be a part of and join currently?
Nina: So it is closed and we aren’t taking in any more customers right now. But look out for it because it is coming very soon.
Devan: Very cool! Was that a request that you saw highly asked for within the community?
Nina: Yes! We had seen this request come up over and over again in the community, and we knew it was a productivity and efficiency improvement we were going to have to make at some point. The need was very evident.
Devan: Do you think you would have made this product update without the feedback from the Community? Or do you think this was on your roadmap regardless, and the Community voice more helped guide this product change?
Nina: Yeah, that's a really interesting question. I think it’s something common sense tells us we should allow for, but I know it wouldn’t have been as high on our radar as it would've been without the feedback.
Devan: So this is one of those product moments where the community and the development team had to meet in the middle, and because of that communication, we now have a better product.
Nina: Yes, absolutely! The feedback was definitely essential in helping us prioritizing this change.
Devan: That’s great to hear! So your role encompasses determining which features to add, cut, and improve. How do you determine what comes next when making these kinds of decisions within Support?
Nina: This is a really interesting question and something I think about every day. I would say we are always trying to make the product better for the customers, that is our number one priority for us. In product development and the engineering team, everyone is always trying to improve the customer experience.
To that end, the factors that I assess when I’m trying to figure out where to go with the product is how many people is this going to impact? Is it widespread? How deeply impactful is it? If its a bug is it something that is kind of annoying, or is it something that is blocking people's workflows and is really really critical to their business. It all comes down to the customer and making sure we have the best product for them.
Devan: How do you weigh changes that could be beneficial to some users but not for others during product design, and have you ever had to make those decisions?
Nina: Yeah, we definitely have had to make those decisions. That always makes the decision more challenging, but again you are just weighing the benefit vs. the detriment to users and are more customers going to be positively impacted than negative. For the ones who are going to be negatively impacted we assess what can we do to mitigate that and how can we work with their success teams to make sure we don’t harm their business.
Devan: So this touches on another good point. At times some user’s desires for Support can surpass the scope of what the base product is capable of. What would you recommend those users do when facing a product limitation that isn’t in the scope of the product?
Nina: So two things, the first one is to raise feedback for us and ask for your change. You never know if there is something we are working on or some strategic decision that we’re making, and your feedback could be very impactful to us. The second one is there usually is some type of way to use Zendesk through a workaround to fit your business case. That helps us to prioritize if we see a lot of people having to use our software in a way we didn’t intend, which helps us identify if we need to make changes to allow users to use the product more effectively.
Devan: You mentioned often there is a workaround for users to bridge the gap of their product needs and what the product is capable of. Does that sometimes entail custom development and coding their own unique experience, and is that something you would recommend our users pursue?
Nina: Knowing about Zendesk's customer base I think generally for some customers that will be a very good fit for them and some it won’t so they will need to find a solution natively or an app that already exists, but I think we can be flexible in our approach there.
Devan: Obviously, user requests play an important role in making improvements to our product. How do you, as a Product Manager, use user and navigate feedback data to make Support in your field better?
Nina: That's a really good question. There are a few different ways that we look at it, so one is the sheer volume if there are hundreds or thousands of our customers asking for the same thing that indicates to us that it's probably important to people who aren't asking too. Our Voice of the Customer team, that we work very closely with, are very good at distilling a lot of the feedback that we get and categorizing it into themes so we can help see the overall direction we are taking. I also think getting really clear use cases from the Community & user’s feedback is really helpful to understand what is being asked for and why. Then maybe we can implement what they are asking for, or maybe we try and get at the root of the problem in a different way.
Devan: So it isn’t just the quantity of the user giving feedback but the quality of that feedback so you can make informed decisions when improving the products.
Devan: You’ve implemented a lot of product updates on Support. Do you have any that you’ve released recently or have coming out soon that you’re really excited to talk about? You recently talked about the Views changes that are currently in EAP, anything else you could share with us?
Nina: So I’ve been working in the Views changes which I’m super excited about, we’re redoing the whole UI on the Views edit page which is a big undertaking that we’re very proud of. Something that I didn’t work on but is really cool is the new conditional ticket fields that my colleague implemented. That team worked really hard on that and is an example of something we saw customers needed, and we were able to provide.
Devan: Where do you or would you like to see Support go in terms of Platform Automation & Productivity in the future? Do you have any ideal states or features you’d like to implement down the road? If you could change anything in Support with a magic wand what would that be?
Nina: So I think this is a really interesting conversation, and this is a conversation we’ve been having a lot lately. So platform automation and productivity dovetails really well and sometimes is synonymous with workflow. "Workflow is something we are trying to figure out as a team, how does this work across Zendesk, what is the future of workflow, and we are currently working on a plan for that. We know that agents spend too much time swivel chairing, and we’re trying to make sure they can focus on the customer. So hopefully a little bit closer than pie in the sky, but we’re dreaming big.
Devan: So I have to ask, are you a dog or cat person, and do you have any pets?
Nina: I don’t have any pets, but I’m definitely a dog person waiting for a house with a yard where we can have a dog!
Devan: So, if you don’t have any pets, we can’t ask you for dog pictures, but you definitely chose correctly on dogs being the best.
Nina: Oh yeah! Definitely a dog person.
Devan: What kind of hobbies do you keep? You obviously don’t just think about making Support a better place all day.
Nina: I do spend a lot of time thinking about support actually (laugh). But outside of work, I do have a toddler, so that keeps me really busy, and last year I took up tennis, which has been really fun, so those are the two things. I try to read at least one or two books a month, sometimes I do sometimes I don’t.
Devan: What kind of books?
Nina: Everything! I love nonfiction, I love fiction. I read a couple of really interesting books last year, but right now I’m reading a book about toddlers.
Devan: So we have to ask a west coast native do you have any strong opinions on having pineapple on your pizza?
Nina: I did not grow up as a pineapple on pizza person, but now my husband and I order a Hawaiian pizza every month.
Devan: Oh, that opinion might cause some waves right there.
Nina: I love pineapple on pizza!
Devan: I want to give you an opportunity to share anything with our users regarding Zendesk or offtopic.
Nina: I would say on the product side we really care about our relationship with our customers and feedback from them is one of the most important things to us. So keep raising your feedback, keep talking to the voice of the customer team, keep talking to your success team because we get this feedback, and it really matters a lot to us.
Devan: Thanks again, Nina, for sitting down with us to chat, and we can’t wait to do it again soon.
Nina: I would be happy to!
Before our interview, we gathered some of your user feedback questions for Nina to reply to. Here are the results of that Q&A Feedback session on Support.
Is it on the roadmap for automations to be able to check the ticket subject?
Nina: Not currently. We’re always evaluating our conditions and this is not off the table, but we don’t have any plans to change this right now.
After 100 automation hits on a ticket, all automations are disabled forever for that ticket, with absolutely no warning, notice, or indication. Any plans on changing this?
Nina: No current plans to change this, but if this impacts you, please file some feedback for us with a detailed use case and we’re always open to evaluating and revisiting.
Now you cannot have 'nested' OR conditions. You have a lot of AND and a lot of OR conditions, but no relation/grouping between them. Is that something that we can (or cannot) expect to become available in the future?
Nina: I think condition nesting is a great idea but isn’t something we’re planning on tackling right now.
Currently, users can use certain attributes for conditions, but not actions meaning they can have a trigger fire if subject = X, but they can't set subject to X as an action. Are there any plans to change this in future updates?
Nina: This really depends on the exact attribute - there are no plans to change this in an overarching way, but if you think there’s something missing in the conditions or actions, please give us feedback to help us understand how critical this improvement would be for you.
Is it in the current roadmap to have the ability to make new triggers using the sender’s email address? For example, “IF sender email is firstname.lastname@example.org THEN do action.”
Nina: This isn’t something we’re planning right now, but please raise feedback for us.
When a customer emails in for the first time, it would be beneficial to have a Trigger set the "Requester: Organization." With multiple email addresses configured in ZD, this gives users the ability to automatically associate an end-user to an Organization based on where they sent their email to.
Nina: This also isn’t something we’re planning, but again, please submit feedback with details on how you want to use this and it’ll help us prioritize and evaluate whether to move forward.
Many people have hundreds of triggers, and reordering and grouping them can be a pain point. Will there be a native way to group triggers and reorder them more easily in the future?
Nina: We are thinking through some different ideas around this right now. I know this is a huge pain point for many Zendesk users and we’re trying to figure out which changes will be most impactful here. So this is something we’re working on, but we can’t commit to a specific solution - but I can say this is high on our list and we’re aware of it!
Can we ever expect IF... ELSE mechanism in triggers? Right now, if the value of a ticket field determines where the ticket should be routed, users have to create a separate trigger for each possible value.
Nina: This is another one we know is problematic. It’s on our radar, but no solution forthcoming just yet.
Are there plans to provide a way of grouping / collapsing large amounts of consecutive related triggers? Users with numerous triggers that fall into relatively few logical groupings, for example, a series of 120 triggers that are identical except for a few fields (if custom field = Xn, then email Yn).
Nina: See above related question.
Next month we will be interviewing Gaurav Parbat our Senior Product Manager for Support Data Platform & Ticketing! Follow the Zendesk Interview topic to be notified when we publish our next interview.