When you’re in the customer support business, it’s safe to say that your own customers will have certain expectations of you in that regard. When Freshdesk began in 2010, customer satisfaction was a key positive differentiator for us – as it usually is for many companies that are just starting out. 7 years later, through all the changes and the scaling, we’re proud to say that we’ve managed to retain that aspect – our customer satisfaction is north of 90%.
Let’s talk about those changes I mentioned earlier – what are the main differences between then and now?
- We’ve gone from about 100 customers to more than 100,000 – supporting all of them along the way.
- Today, we handle more than 10,000 tickets a month; compared to 1000/month in 2012.
- We now offer 24/7 support in four regions around the world.
- Our support team grew from 1 person in 2011 to 60 people today.
Our first support agent was Vijay, who was actually a Quality Analyst initially but he also took up the responsibility of support all by himself. That led to some funny moments later on, when the team had expanded – because Vijay was so used to handling everything himself, he’d send replies to every ticket that came in before the rest of us could so much as finish reading them. That was the level of dedication that we started with, and it’s something that we’ve tried to uphold ever since.
As we scaled upwards, we divided each regional team into multiple groups. Each group consists of:
- A mentor (4-6 years of experience)
- A buddy (2+ years of experience)
- 1-2 agents (1+ years of experience)
- 1-2 agents (<1 year of experience)
This results in a balance between experienced veterans and newcomers with fresh perspectives – a blend that has proved to be very successful for us.
How do we know that it’s been successful, though? Well, we ask our agents to focus on the following metrics or KPIs:
- Tickets handled (also measuring source split)
- First response time
- Average response time
- First call resolution
- Resolution SLA
- Customer satisfaction
- Number of interactions
Using these numbers over the years, we’ve analyzed our performance and identified areas that could use improvement.
Once we realized that chat was becoming one of our most significant channels, we took steps to filter out the noise, so to speak. We started filtering the chat requests we received by their source. If a request came from the website, we’d route it to the Sales team; and if it came from the pricing or features page, we’d send it to the Presales team as well. If the chat originated from a support page, such as a solution article, then it would be sent to the appropriate support agent. This cut down on customer wait time, and helped us resolve problems quicker. Introducing in-app chat support also helped customers raise requests quicker, right from the product itself.
All these features resulted in even more tickets, and we soon saw that almost 50% of them were L1 tickets – that is, tickets consisting of ‘how to’ questions. Our next step, which we’re currently working on, was to provide more content (in the form of FAQs and so on) and automation to deflect those L1 tickets to the FAQs that would help customers resolve issues themselves – reducing the load in our ticketing system while simultaneously lowering resolution times.
We’re fans of dogfooding (using our own product) here at Freshdesk, which helps us in a number of ways. First of all, we’re our own biggest critics – we’re involved in the development of any feature right from the alpha testing stage, which helps us zero in on any issues that might crop up. Once a bug is identified, we use Linked Tickets to follow up on them; as well as using Shared Ownership to get assistance from the developers. When it comes to knowledge transfer between our agents, we use internal solution articles, as well as forums, to keep the conversation going and ensure that everybody can be up to date.
Challenges we’ve faced
Any support team that has a phone channel is going to have to deal with prank calls and wrong numbers, and we’re no exception. Just to give you one example, we once got a call from a lady who wasn’t happy with a burger she’d ordered from McDonald’s.
On a more serious note, implementing night shifts also presented a series of challenges. Rotating agents through these shifts helped them adjust to the different timings without having it get to them. This way, agents also got to talk to customers from different countries and timezones, which broadened their personal experience. Finally, because you’re doing the opposite of your normal routine on a night shift, nutrition becomes extremely important – and we’ve placed great emphasis on ensuring that agents maintain a regular meal schedule, also making sure that healthy snacks are available at all times.
Now for the big one(s). The floods that hit Chennai in 2015 were devastating, and marooned more than a few people in office. Anyone who was able to pitch in and answer tickets did so (in the middle of organizing supplies and relief work), and we managed to get through those weeks without any serious dropoff.
When Cyclone Vardah hit a year later, we utilized everything that we’d learnt from the floods and so we were much more prepared. We mobilized our ‘SWAT team’ – 15-20 people, that had been on standby since the cyclone warnings started coming in. We moved them to hotels and service apartments near our office, with good connectivity and power backup, and they started handling support from there.
These two events, coming as they did just a year apart, severely tested our team’s ability to react to extreme circumstances and adapt accordingly; however, we made it through both of them unscathed thanks to the extraordinary effort put in by members of our team.
Challenges yet to come
We can’t seem to stop growing, so scaling is always on our minds! Planning training sessions and ensuring that the learning curve for new agents is as gentle as possible are the priorities – and our mentor/buddy system has been extremely helpful in this area.
We’re also working on methods to deal with the high volume of tickets that we’re currently handling, primarily through the use of online content and self-service through FAQs and so on.
Is it worth it?
Absolutely, no question. When 95% of dissatisfied customers tell others about their bad experiences*, and one happy customer can lead to as many as nine referrals**, the conclusion is obvious – customer support matters, now more than ever.
If you’d like to catch up on the webinar we hosted on the same topic, you can view it here.