Customer Support Team Planning: How We Handled 1,800 Tickets in 4 Days
We all know that Black Friday is the Super Bowl of AppSumo. But the volume we faced in 2020 wasn’t just Super Bowl big—it was [insert the equivalent of ten Super Bowls and one Puppy Bowl] big.
In just four days, we solved over 1,800 support requests from customers both new and loyal. Woof.
With a Support team of seven, we could have ended up glued to our computers for this 4-day promo! But with proper planning, we were able to help over 1,400 customers take the next step in growing their business with AppSumo.
In this post, we’re going to show you how we planned for our biggest event ever.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
Hey, y’all! I’m Candice, and I lead the Customer Support team at AppSumo. I’m grateful to have joined AppSumo’s Support team in 2019, entering the tech space after years of working in human services.
Having focused on person-centered care for so long, I watched this mindset organically enter AppSumo Support initiatives and significantly improve our relationships with both customers and team members.
Planning is an integral part of person-centered care. If you’re not planning, you’re not thinking about your company’s goals, how to effectively reach them, or how you’re impacting other people. Ultimately, the lack of a plan leaves too much to interpretation—which is great when I make a new recipe and my spouse tells me he “doesn’t hate it.” But it’s not going to lead your team to success.
5 foolproof ways to plan your team to greatness
When we sat back to review the past year and plan (*nudge nudge*) the upcoming year for AppSumo, we found that one of our biggest accomplishments in 2020 was the success of our Black Friday sale.
This promotion was a perfect example of how planning ahead guarantees success for your company, your team, and your customers. The person-centered measures our Support team took last year undoubtedly set us up for our smoothest Black Friday yet!
1. Start earlier than you’d think (every time)
Black Friday is our biggest event at AppSumo. Because it’s so valued by both our customers and team, we’re always excited to plan our Black Friday sale earlier each year.
We start from what we want Black Friday to look like and work from there. And that’s true across departments, including Support.
We always make sure to think about:
- Where the company will be
- Who the team will be
- What the customers want
These are great questions to ask for any industry, and you can use them to start making your own plan right now (or after you finish reading this). You’ll be well on your way to planning out your own big event in no time.
2. Make projections for your bandwidth by the time of the promotion
Now it’s time to consider your current resources and whether they’ll stack up to your needs. This is the step that really sets you up for success at all levels of your business and shows your team (and customers) that you have their backs.
When we started planning for Black Friday, we had a modest Support team of three. While they’re seemingly superhuman at times, extra help was vital to our success during this promotion. To focus on our people, we not only needed to hire by the time Black Friday came around, but also have those new team members onboarded and trained.
We had to push our hiring timeline three months out to account for the onboarding and training period. That meant opening the Support Specialist position(s) a few months before that to allow for time to collect applications, conduct interviews, and have the applicants meet the team in order to determine if we were a good fit for them, too! (Still with me?)
Then there was the question of “How many?” By the time we reached Black Friday, our team lead (me) would have additional responsibilities that strayed from working in our inboxes, and our two Support Specialists would definitely need the additional hands during a time where our workload increases 6x (really!).
To answer this mystery equation, we turned to our team metrics:
- How many Support requests do we receive on a weekly basis?
- Considering the level of difficulty, what’s a feasible number of requests that can be attended to in that week?
With this, we’d also need to factor in a metric that isn’t internal to the Support team: the (goal) number of active customers during our Black Friday sale. We knew that we’d need to manage our current workload, but we had to think one step further to determine how many customers we could be interacting with by that point.
Spike in workload during BF (incoming conversations)
In this case, we learned from our Marketing team that our active customer goal would increase standard site traffic by 27% during our Black Friday sale. We’d need to account for additional hands in the Support inboxes, but also help with preparing new resources for the influx of new customers we’d expect.
After dusting off the company abacus and crunching the numbers, we found that we needed two additional team members. So we planned ahead even further and hired three. (Boy, are we glad we did!)
We couldn’t have hired the incredible team members we have today without planning months ahead to know we’d need them! Once we had our plan for the team itself, we could breathe easy and get to the logistics of hosting our most-successful promotion yet.
3. Work back from your goals to know where to start now
With your team on board and your big event on the brain, the next step is planning according to your company goals. During your biggest event of the year, you want your customers feeling excited, empowered, and hopeful—avoiding any possibilities of frustration.
We found the best way to do this was to ensure customers had quick access to our Support team through live chat if needed. This meant prepping the team to use a different platform than the email inbox they’re used to. Because if a team member isn’t comfortable navigating a new platform, the customer they’re working with won’t get the top-notch service level they expect.
Once we tackled our goal of quick support access, we considered having full-coverage support help outside of our standard business hours. Being resourceful here meant turning to international team members in different timezones to help during our off-hours. This allowed our Support team to be online close to 24 hours per day (without hiring more staff or inducing insomnia)!
Drastically reduced resolution time thanks to increased coverage
Your goal is to be available to your customers whenever they need you, and an international community like ours can be difficult to juggle with a growing team. This is where harnessing person-centered care for the benefit of your team members directly impacts the care you provide your community: learn about each of your team member’s optimal operating hours and model the team’s function within them.
For example, our Support team is comprised of
- two early birds
- three folks that thrive midday
- two night owls
- and someone halfway across the world who’s online while we’re asleep
While this could seem chaotic to some, we’ve leveraged these individual differences to increase our hours of availability and improve each team member’s schedule!
Your plan to work back from your goals to today doesn’t end here, but the heavy lifting is almost done. Your team is prepped, your goals are set, and you have a general idea of how to get there and when.
4. Approach your promotion from the eyes of a new user
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s more important than you might think. Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture that our customers will see when we’ve finally made it to launch day.
To make sure you keep your customers’ view top of mind, I encourage you to regularly approach your promotion from the eyes of a new user.
As we planned for Black Friday, I stepped back from my more granular tasks to try and adopt the perspective of a brand new Sumo-ling:
- Is this event or promotion intriguing and valuable for someone that doesn’t know you or your product?
- Does this event or promotion make sense to someone seeing it for the first time?
If your answer to either of these questions is anything but “Absolutely!”, then I suggest going back to the drawing board.
When you’re launching a major event, you’re often looking to expand and capture a new audience that might not be as forgiving as your established user base.
As a customer, the first thing I should see when directed to your event is how it can benefit me (example: AppSumo’s site banners notifying you of our Black Friday promotion!). If I don’t immediately see that a product or service has value for me, I’m more likely to abandon my search and miss out on your incredible offer.
When our Support team prepares for an event like Black Friday, we practice navigating the site like we’ve never seen it before (trust me, we can do this with our eyes closed by now). While going through each page, we determine if new customers would benefit from additional educational content, like learning about what a code is or how to stack codes to increase deal features. Additionally, we review our own Support content:
- Do our standard responses make sense to someone unfamiliar with AppSumo?
- Are we accommodating for users of all levels of entrepreneurship (from agency owners to wantrepreneurs)?
These questions help us evaluate how successful our materials are and what resources customers may need to guide them through their AppSumo experience.
5. Create internal resources so your team is locked & loaded!
Earlier I disclosed that I’m a natural-born planner (shhh!), which means organization and documentation are necessities in my daily functioning!
The final step of planning your way to success is ensuring that your (Support) team has every detail of your event easily accessible. These are your key players during this high-traffic period, so set them up for success and you’re bound to exceed every goal you’ve set!
When it comes to Support at AppSumo, we start by taking a look at our Black Friday project post-mortem from the year prior. Your project post-mortems should contain all of your top wins and “losses” from each run to use as a guideline for years to come (and to keep a record of your growth)!
Similarly, reviewing departmental resources from previous years, especially common Support requests and responses, will allow your team to create a predictive list for this year’s event and plan accordingly.
After you’ve covered your potential losses from past years, return your focus to the available wins for this year! There isn’t always time to clarify last-minute changes to event details before responding to customers, so prepping a “cheat sheet” with all need-to-know promotion information will provide Support with a single source of truth (and reduce your response time with customers in the process)!
The final step in preparing a Support team for success (and what helped set this Black Friday apart for our Support team) is prepping responses for every step of the promotion. You want to provide each customer with personalized care to address their request, but don’t drag out your Support team’s metrics in the process!
Creating universal blurbs to highlight each step of your promotion—building hype, maintaining the excitement during the peak of the promotion, and even breaking the bad news to any customers who may have missed the event—is the last detail to setting your team up for success. That way, your team can continue to provide personalized support while minding the team’s efficiency during your highest-traffic periods.
Well, folks, you’ve read the article, (hopefully) digested the main points, and (definitely) thought about how these tips can be applied to your own company’s processes. What’s left? Doing the work!
Set your goals, make detailed plans to exceed them, and enjoy the process of working with your team on your next big launch! Half of the fun is in the teamwork—plan together so you can grow together and your successes will inevitably follow.