March 23, 2021

Recap: 3 Reasons You Need Support Ops to Scale

We had a great time at SaaStr Build this year, learning how to grow revenue, scale up teams and close deals faster. In this panel from the event, Assembled's own Jen Ong Vaughan interviews Bob van Winden, Stripe's Head of Operations. They touch on the reasons an organization needs a Support Operations team and what it actually means to build it out. Bob draws on his experience at Stripe—where he started in 2015—to explore topics ranging from the necessary KPIs for Support Ops, the ideal early hiring profile and what he wishes he knew if he could do it all again.

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Video notes:

  • 0:15 - Housekeeping notes and introductions
  • 1:14 - How many of you have heard of Support Ops? What is Support Ops?
  • 3:03 - How does Stripe think about support?
  • "Customer support was always a priority. At early stages, this involved the founders going to people's houses to help with the integration."
  • "From both a cultural perspective as well as a pure business perspective, it's an area we're really willing to invest in."
  • 4:53 - What were the circumstances that led to the creation of Support Ops at Stripe?
  • "Everyone in the company was supporting customers irrespective of their function. It was a shared expectation within the company. That had its downsides. It was hard to plan for how many people we were going to need."
  • "We started to outgrow that model and hired dedicated support agents but what we realized was they were so busy that it was hard to combine that active day-to-day support with developing the strategy and programs of support."
  • "If everybody was doing support directly, no one was planning for what was needed in the future. That's where the need for Support Ops came from."
  • 7:05 - Stories from the early days of support at Stripe.
  • 7:45 - What was the moment like when you were asked to build out Support Ops?
  • "We were discussing the forecast and metrics when the COO pulled me aside and asked if I could help with planning for the months ahead beyond reactive responses. It was clear we needed to be more proactive."
  • 10:11 - How did you build out Support Ops? How did you think about what types of functions or roles were needed in Support Ops?
  • "There were a couple of immediate problems that were very clear, specifically about capacity and planning. The first thing we started to do was to focus on forecasting our support volume based on historical trends, seasonality, user growth."
  • "The other focus was success metrics. We delivered good support but weren't able to prove that we did. How are we actually doing today and what does success look like?"
  • 12:05 - Drawing the parallel with Sales Ops
  • 12:38 - "Another area of focus was tooling: we switched CRMs for more out-of-the-box functionality. Knowledge training and quality also felt underinvested."
  • 13:40 - As you think about the early hires you made, most of them were specialists. How do you think about the hiring profile in building out Support Operations?
  • "The big takeaway from my experience is that building out Support Ops should be its own intentional strategy. It's additional to building out your support team. They're obviously interrelated but the people who do well in either group might have a different skillset or different background."
  • "Empathetic, customer-facing skillsets are not always the skillset you need for things like capacity planning and metrics development. You can get quite far with the startup generalist profile. But the problem with that is that they might work on that for a few months and then want to move on to something else."
  • "Early on, we want to bring in experts who were eager to do this for longer periods of time and build the foundation for the next phase of growth."
  • 17:07 - The distinction between a project and a program
  • 17:21 - If you had to do this again, what are some learnings you had and what would you do differently?
  • 19:28 - Question form the audience: What are the top 3 KPIs for a support team?
  • 22:15 - Takeaways from the session
  • 22:57 - Bob's final thoughts

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