How Freshworks prepared for a complete transition to remote support

Even with the world in a state of flux, businesses have to continue serving customers, and support teams have to adapt to their new environment. But making the transition from working together in the office to remote support can be a tricky affair. We understand completely because we at Freshworks are in the same boat.

To get a management level outlook on how a company like Freshworks – with nearly 200 agents, over 30,000 customers to support, and offices around the world – transitioned its entire customer service from in-office to remote support, we spoke to Chak Srinivasan, senior director of customer support at Freshworks.

Hi Chak, how are you doing? 

I’m doing well.

How did the customer service team at Freshworks transition to remote work? What was the thought process behind that?

As part of our business continuity planning, we have experimented with remote working in bits and pieces, especially during a low volume season. But this is the first time we are doing all this hundred percent remote. One of the greatest advantages that we had when we had to switch to remote was that all of the products and tools we are using are cloud-based. This gave us the flexibility to switch seamlessly to a remote working environment. 

So if any of you are wondering what products I am referring to, we obviously use our own support 360 suite of products, which is Freshdesk – a helpdesk solution, Freshchat – our chat solution, and Freshcaller – our online call center solution. So our primary goal was to stay on top of incoming volume and data with the same level of service as we switch to remote working. Hence, we did not make any changes to our support SLAs (Service Level Agreements). And we are still serving customers through all major channels like email, chat, and phone.

Could you explain the role of support operations on your team? How did they help make the transition to remote work a little easier for you guys? 

Our support ops team has been phenomenal. They’re helping us with the day to day activities like scheduling, resource planning, and, most importantly, reporting. We started having stand-ups twice a week where we discuss numbers to make sure we focus on the right areas, and to figure out if our team needs any assistance during this difficult time. It can be professional or even personal. They also own the daily, weekly and monthly reporting on volumes and key support KPIs. They are constantly looking for trends to identify areas where there is a spike, so we can act upon it immediately. So they’ve been a huge help.

What are some of the key challenges that we faced, and how did you and your team go about tackling them?

I think we are so used to in-person conversations that this is the first time we haven’t seen each other in person, with all our communication channels being virtual now. When you’re in the office, especially in a support team, you can quickly ask someone a question, and you get the answer. So there is less pressure there. But it’s challenging when you have to do this remotely. 

I feel one way to solve this would be to constantly over-communicate with the team and share as much information as possible on new updates, our products, critical issues, and so on. Another challenge we have is onboarding, and recently we had a couple of new team members who joined. We realized we need a much better system to bring people up to speed with our products. We are getting used to the new way of virtual onboarding and training, which we haven’t done before. We are also doing frequent virtual stand-ups with our team and encouraging all our support leaders to do the same so as to stay connected with the team as well. I feel it’s a challenge for a manager to coach the team and provide constructive feedback while being remote since we’re doing it for the first time. So, I believe we have to do more frequent catch-ups and one-on-ones to build trust when we’re doing this remote.

What is the infrastructure that you need to have in place to make the kind of switch that we did from office support to remote?

It’s important to have a helpdesk solution on the cloud to make the tool globally available. It’s also critical to invest in a good remote assistance software like Zoom for virtual meetings with customers, and also for the team to stay connected. Obviously good quality headsets, noise-canceling ones, if possible. Internet dongles so our support teams can have uninterrupted internet access, VPN connections to access logs and sensitive information, and communication channels like Freshconnect or Slack for the team to stay connected and discuss critical issues or breakages. 

Can you share how your team is planning for the short term and long term, given the current situation we are all facing?

So this has definitely been a trying time. And it has been inspiring to see how the team quickly adapted to the new way of working from home and is continuing to deliver uninterrupted service to our customers, which is key here. Our short term goal is to continue to do what we are doing, and I’m sure the team will come up with innovative ideas like virtual lunches and coffees to make work from home interesting. 

We haven’t really thought about it long term at this point. But we realized there is a need for solid documentation for all our processes within the support organization. We use Confluence – a collaboration software program, to document all our processes, new product updates, and trending issues, from a customer support standpoint. The ultimate goal is to reduce dependency and enable our agents to be completely independent, which really helps them when they are remote.

Key Takeaways

#1 Cloud solutions like a helpdesk, chat, or telephony makes it easier for teams to transition into remote support with minimal disruption while being able to maintain the same level of service.

#2 The support operations team plays a huge role in managing day to day activities, and more importantly, in reporting to help understand spikes and drops in support KPIs.

#3 Essentials for agents to effectively support customers from home — A video conferencing tool, high-quality noise-canceling headsets, internet dongles, and a VPN for secure access to sensitive information.

#4 The best way to address the challenge of collaboration when working remotely is to over-communicate and have stand-ups regularly throughout the day while also checking in on how your agents are doing, on both a professional and personal level.

#5 Situations like these emphasize the importance of documentation, which will enable agents to work more independently and rely less on senior team members for direction.