December 30, 2020

Our top support reads from 2020

Ryan Wang

@wgyn_

2020 really flew by. With everything happening in the world, we found a bit of connection in engaging our customer support communities and in working closely with our partners. There were a lot of great conversations happening, so we thought we'd share a few of our favorites.

Adapting how we work

Let's just start with the elephant in the room—the pandemic upended the way we work and interact. In early March, Kaitlin Pettersen of Intercom published a prescient article on running customer support remotely. Our favorite piece of advice: "create a sense of normalcy and fun." Along those lines, John Ernsberger from Stella Connect, Jennifer Duguay from Sweetgreen, and Joe Gilgoff from Daily Harvest hosted an excellent panel discussion at the Kustomer Virtual Summit (check the agenda) with tips on how they kept their teams "smiling and sane."

A highly engaged and happy support team is at the root of great support experiences
- Kaitlin Pettersen | Intercom

Zappos, well known for its pioneering approach to customer service, offered a characteristically ambitious response in the form of their Customer Service for Anything hotline. People used it for everything from sourcing pulse oximeters to just having a real conversation with another human being. We mourned the tragic passing of Zappos founder Tony Hsieh—his visionary book on Delivering Happiness absolutely stands the test of time.

A renewed focus on support

If anything, the rest of the world is finally catching up to Tony's philosophy of exceptional customer service. We saw major investments in CX technology, including Facebook's $1B acquisition of Kustomer and eye-popping fundraising announcements from the likes of Talkdesk ($143M), Aircall ($65M), and UJET ($55M). From the other end, we saw name-brand retailers like Lululemon and Best Buy shift store workers to call centers in order to handle the sudden transition to online shopping. To drive the point home, the term "support" appeared 199 times—compare 102 times for "sales"—in Airbnb's SEC filing ahead of their blockbuster IPO: "our community support function is critical to the success of our platform."

Strategies and tactics

With such high expectations on support teams, we've found it's best to focus on the fundamentals. Ben McCormack of FullStory writes a great newsletter melding strategy and tactics—this issue on how to effectively advocate for customers was particularly insightful for how our own Support and Product teams interact. We also loved this Q&A with Kristen Swanson from Slack on building the deeply human support experience your customers deserve. As she says, teams need to "strike the perfect balance between personal and scalable." It's certainly a difficult balance, but we're excited to carry that advice into 2021.

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