January 6, 2023

How we build empathy with company-wide support rotations

Lexi De Veaux

When we say support is baked into Assembled’s DNA, we mean it.

The very idea for Assembled was seeded years ago when Assembled cofounders Ryan Wang, John Wang, and Brian Sze were working together at Stripe. Like many fast-growing companies, Stripe had to navigate the turbulent waters of hypergrowth while striving to maintain its high standard for customer experience. This led to Stripe cofounders Patrick and John Collison inviting employees across all functions to work on support tickets in their apartment. 

It was during these Stripe support rotations that Ryan, John, and Brian began to understand the many challenges — and opportunities — of scaling great customer support. And when they left Stripe to start Assembled, they brought support rotations with them.

Support rotations at Assembled

From day one of onboarding, all Assemblers are encouraged to participate in support rotations — not just by shadowing our support team, but by actually getting in Zendesk and answering tickets. We do this for a few different reasons:

👉 They help us stay directly connected to our underlying problem space and, indirectly, our user base.

Whether Assemblers are spending most of their days writing code, working on new features development, or having one-on-one conversations with a subset of our customers, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture regarding who we’re creating this product for and why they’re using it. 

No function has the same breadth of exposure to customers and their use cases as support. Support rotations offer a way to connect Assemblers across the organization directly to our user base so they can hear what kinds of use cases customers are using our product for — re-grounding us back into our why.

👉 They keep us up to speed on the challenges that users face at a broad level beyond our day-to-day focuses and priorities.

Unless you’re the one directly working on resolving issues, it’s nearly impossible to know the challenges Assembled users face while using our product. These challenges come in all shapes and sizes.

We log all product improvements in our public-facing feedback board so customers can upvote them directly, add context about their use case or business impact, and read about workarounds other customers are using. And for unexpected behaviors, our support team’s close relationship with our product team empowers us to flag these issues and prioritize a solution for them based on need and severity. 

Since any customer has the ability to reach out to support directly from the in-app widget or to support@assembledhq.com, support rotations provide the most effective way to see firsthand the issues our customers run into.

👉 They create space for ideation around how to improve our own support — which needs to be exceptional. After all, we’re in the business of helping other companies improve their support!

As the orange extension cord story goes, new perspective offers the ability to notice issues — sometimes staring right at you — that others may have overlooked. That’s why, during and after each rotation, we ask those who’ve participated to provide candid feedback about what worked well and what could use some improvement. 

In the past, feedback from these sessions has directly contributed to process improvements. For example, one Assembler who participated in a support rotation noticed there was no clear way to identify which users were reaching out without having to navigate to Salesforce and search for them. Since then, we’ve added a Salesforce integration directly in Zendesk so anyone providing support can see relevant customer information from within our contact platform.

👉 They foster empathy for support teams while keeping egos in check.

At the end of a support rotation, we often hear our cross-functional colleagues remark how challenging it was. Our product is geared toward support teams. So, by encouraging all Assemblers to step into the role of support, support rotations foster a strong sense of empathy for our customers. And since support rotations are for everyone, regardless of their title, they can serve as a humbling reminder that support is hard and customer queries are complex.

How we get the entire team involved

Support rotations have a warm and fuzzy feel-good quality to them in theory, but getting everyone to actually participate is easier said than done. In our experience, consistent participation depends on a scalable and repeatable process — one that makes signing up for support rotations as easy as possible.

At Assembled, we make support rotations clear from the get-go. Anyone who’s interested can sign up for 2-hour slots every Wednesday from 7 a.m.–6 p.m. PT. And everything they need to know about signing up — as well as what will be expected of them during their shift — is detailed in our Support Rotation Guide. This guide includes start-of-shift reminders and an end-of-shift checklist to make support rotation responsibilities as clear and concise as possible.

During a support rotation, volunteers are tasked with responding to customers within our 1-hour SLA, filing incoming issues with the product team, logging feature requests in our Canny board, creating internal documentation in Guru, and, of course, providing all around great customer support. 

At the end of each shift, we encourage folks to write their candid thoughts in our guestbook. Here are some notable quotes from past rotations:

Support rotation was my fav! 💛 Gave me a lot of insight into what’s happening across the product that I’d lost track of. There are some super easy tickets and some super hard tickets…support is hard.
– Ryan Wang, cofounder and CEO

Support Rotations are THE BEST way to embody our value of thinking and acting like a support professional. I was able to see firsthand what kind of technical questions customers are asking, how they are using our product, what they love, and what needs improvement. It’s also a great way to experience using Zendesk, which is critical to connecting with our customers who are also using ZD on a daily basis!
– Shelton Wirth, Customer Success

It's a great opportunity to hear what customers are saying, as well as learning how they interact with Assembled. I found myself figuring out so much more about our platform from just reading past tickets, answering questions, and working closely with the support team. It's definitely something I'd recommend to anyone, regardless of how long you've been at Assembled.
– Bryan Cresswell, Solutions

Support rotations: Assembly Week style

Once per quarter, remote Assemblers travel to San Francisco for Assembly Week so we can bond and collaborate in person. We took this as an opportunity to dial up support rotation involvement even more. Now, during Assembly Week, we gamify support rotations by encouraging folks to gather in teams of three and sign up for shifts throughout the week. At the end of the week, we total up the points (bonus points for anyone who signs up for the 6 a.m. shifts!) and award the winning team with prizes (and bragging rights).

At the end of our Q3 2022 Assembly Week, we had:

  • 20 shifts covered 
  • 154 customer responses
  • 18 issues filed with the product team 
  • 6 feature requests logged in our feedback portal 
  • 2 Guru cards created

Shaina Tenentes, Sam Dehart, and Shelton Wirth — aka “The Cal Gals” — were the big support rotation winners at our Q4 2022 Assembly Week.

Centering the why behind support rotations

At the end of the day, getting the entire team involved in support rotations is more than just logistics and prizes. To get Assemblers truly engaged in the benefits, they have to understand why they're doing it in the first place.

One of our cultural values at Assembled is to act like a support agent. If you take a moment to reflect on your own customer support experiences, you’ll notice that world-class support is rooted in empathy, curiosity, and determination. These qualities define how Assemblers of all walks of life are expected to treat customers and each other. This means we meet every challenge with rigor and care, and we trust that our teammates’ success will ultimately drive our individual success as well.

See us in action.

Want to know how Assembled can help your team rise to the occasion? Set up time with us to learn more!

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