Ben Gardner, Director of Support at Drift
Scaling up to a 24/7 customer support model is a huge undertaking with many moving parts and a number of things to consider. Ben Gardner, Director of Support at Drift, knows this better than anyone. In fact, he’s led two support teams from 9-5 to to 24-hour coverage, using two different models.
In this episode of Beyond the Queue, Ben breaks the transition down into five clear steps:
Watch or listen to Ben’s full episode to learn more! And don’t forget to rate Beyond the Queue on Apple Podcasts. ⭐
Meredith Metsker: Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Queue. Today, I am very excited to welcome Ben Gardner. He is the Director of Support at Drift. Thanks for being here, Ben, I'm excited to have you.
Ben Gardner: Thanks, Meredith. Nice to be here.
Meredith Metsker: So today we have an exciting topic. We're going to talk about how to expand a support organization from the Monday through Friday 9-5 model to a 24/7 model. And we're going to break it down into five clear steps. So, Ben, I know that you have lots of experience with this, with expanding to 24/7, and you've been in the process of doing this at Drift, right?
Ben Gardner: Yeah. Currently, right now we are implementing a 24/7 support model here too.
Meredith Metsker: Nice. So this is very recent and relevant for you. So to get us started, can you just give me a quick overview of what your five step process is?
Ben Gardner: Yeah, so the first step and, to me, it's one of the most important ones is just defining what 24/7 support means for your organization and understanding why you are going to do it after you do that. You want to review what your current resources are that you have in your organization. You're going to end up, number three is choosing a model. So, figuring out exactly what type of 24/7 support you're going to have. The fourth step here is probably also one of the more important ones is just, I said, "Communicate, communicate, communicate," just make sure that you're sharing the information out to everybody. And then, the last step in the execution is just reviewing what you have so that you can make any necessary changes.
Meredith Metsker: All right, love that. So, let's dig into step one, and that's defining what 24/7 means for your organization and then why you're going to do it. So can you just tell me what all is involved in that step? Why is it important to start with that? And then how you go about executing that?
Ben Gardner: Yeah, so really when you're thinking about defining what 24/7 support is, you need to understand what the benefit of that is going to be for your customers and for your company. And you need to know who those stakeholders are. You have to think about, is this related to a sales motion because you have new service packages? Is this something inside of your contracts that you provide for your customers, so you need to make sure you're adhering to that? And then overall, just what is that customer experience? And then, also defining what type of support you're going to do 24/7. Obviously there is the idea of chat, phone, and email, and you have to figure out, "Am I going to do all of those 24/7? Just some of them?" And these are all key components in trying to figure out exactly what you're going to do.
The reason why all of that is important, first and foremost is just, it's going to change what your structure looks like once you understand what that model is. And it's going to drive the rest of the steps in this process, so that you need to make sure that you can answer those questions up front. Typically, speaking of what I did here at Drift, the first thing you're going to want to do is just have a rough outline of what you're wanting to do, kind of having a key mission statement, and then meeting with your internal stakeholders. I would advise, typically speaking, customer success, sales, your actual support team, and then your legal HR team for any implications that you're going to have for just the steps you're going to take, and then make sure that you are including the what and why in that definition. Before you kind of go onto any of the next steps, you just need to make sure that everyone understand what you're trying to do.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. So when you were doing that at Drift, I'm curious, what was your "what" and your "why?"
Ben Gardner: Big thing for us was the moving up into kind of an enterprise space. There's an expectation for providing support more around the clock and every day. So we need to look at how are we doing that for our customers. If you're selling into larger customers and organizations, then they're going to be on 24/7 themselves, so you need to have kind of a support structure that matches that.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. And then can you tell me a little bit more about those stakeholders you were meeting with, and then why you wanted to make sure those teams were involved?
Ben Gardner: Yeah. So thinking about it from... I'll start with customer success, as one of the stakeholders. The important part there is making sure they know what your support team is going to be able to provide to the customers. If you think about it, they work directly with the customers right now, they're feeling their pain or hearing their feedback, so you want to make sure that what you're going to do is actually going to address the needs of those customers. A lot of the times they're getting feedback that your support team doesn't get, or that anyone else doesn't get. And so you want to make sure that you're tapping into them as a resource. From a sales perspective, they're probably one of the more important ones, because if you have an SLA that you're tied to, in terms of contract, you need to make sure that you're able to meet that. And so, if they're selling a package, or you're planning on selling a package in the future that says, "We will respond within X hours," you have to have the team that matches that, so you need to make sure you're lined up with them, and that kind of ties into legal as well.
Meredith Metsker: Okay, cool. That all makes sense for step one. So let's move on to step two. So, that was reviewing your current resources. So can you just tell me what all that entails?
Ben Gardner: Yeah. So for me, when I think about that, you're going to break it down into two buckets. So you've got your systems and tools as bucket number one, and then your people as bucket number two. So thinking about that, you're going to need to know for your systems again, do you have a phone system? Do you have chat and email? Do you have a direct line that is US based or do you need an international number? Something along those lines. And when you look at your people really important, there is just understanding. Do you have enough to cover timezones? Are they in specific timezones right now? What is their location? And also probably more important than that is, do you have the leadership structure to be able to match those needs if the team grows or they expand to other regions? Are you prepared for that?
Meredith Metsker: Okay. So when you were doing this, or as you're doing this at Drift, did you have to hire more team leads or other managers to cover those new timezones as you were expanding to 24/7?
Ben Gardner: Yeah, so actually, that was one of the first things I did was identify just leadership gaps and where we had and just needed to be able to fill those. So I started with hiring a direct manager who was going to help expand us in terms of our international coverage. I got to the point breaking down the structure to have an EMEA manager, an APAC manager, and then just a standard North American hours manager, so that I could kind of cover all of our key components there. And looking at it, it was one of those things where I had the option to hire externally, and look at different people also for promoting internally, and we kind of did a combination of the two.
Meredith Metsker: I'm curious, as you were thinking about the people side of things, for the folks you promoted internally, how did you decide that, I guess, they were the right person to work on this newly expanded model?
Ben Gardner: Honestly, a lot of it had to do with just their experience running support team, just whether or not it was as a smaller as a team lead, or just running kind of smaller projects like tiger teams kind of tackling things. So looking at that, it was, did they have the ability to run through a process, create something that didn't exist? Did they have the ability already to push towards goals and metrics individually as well as others on that team? And so, when I was looking internally that, those components there kind of stood out in one particular individual who ended up becoming our EMEA manager.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. And kind of on the people note, I know you've mentioned to me before that, as you're expanding to 24/7, you needed to hire folks in other areas. So not just within the office there in Tampa, but in other areas of the world. So can you walk me through what you did there, and why?
Ben Gardner: Yeah, so we ended up hiring two resources in London, as well as two in Sydney, Australia. And the big reason that we did that in terms of hiring in countries to start with was we actually had a presence from a sales and customer success perspective in both areas. And the idea was being able to kind of grow those offices. We treated it kind of like a mini startup. If you think about it, as you're growing and expanding your business, if you've got a smaller number of people in any satellite office, you want to treat it like you need someone who can wear multiple hats. And so, hiring support in those regions, I knew was going to end up paying dividends, because those people could end up doing professional services, onboarding, potentially move into a customer success role. And honestly, a highlight here is actually, as we are having this conversation, or before it started, we promoted somebody from support in London to a professional services consultant role. So the exact idea that we had of building up the team structure there.
Meredith Metsker: Nice. That's awesome. Cool. Well, let's go ahead and move on to step number three. So that was, "Choose your model." So tell me more about what goes into that.
Ben Gardner: So this one's probably the most difficult to kind of picture and just understand what you're doing, but when I say, "Choose your model," it is going to be kind of a couple different options, but do you want everyone to work in your current location where you are? Do you want people to kind of do the "follow the sun" model? So they are going to work while the sun is up, essentially, where they're located. Or do you want to go to a third-party resource that can kind of help you supplement those? So you're going to have to kind of pick between those. The reasons it's important to think about in particular, if you do one location, I'll use Drift as an example of having everyone in Tampa, or on the East Coast, you start to run into the question of how are they going to cover overnights, and how are they going to cover weekends? You have to make that decision and go, is this the right model?
There are plenty of people that I've worked with at my previous company, as well as other companies who prefer overnight shifts. So, you might have a balance where that's actually a preference for your team, but then you also have to factor in if they don't, what do you do there as well as kind of figuring out, do I need to pay kind of an off shift differential if I do work the team internally in that location overnight or on a holiday?
Meredith Metsker: Okay. So, as you were deciding, I think you said you were doing the "follow the sun" model there at Drift, right?
Ben Gardner: Yes.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. So can you just walk me through how you decided to do that, how you went about communicating that to your team? Yeah, and just kind of how you made that decision to go with the "follow the sun" model, as opposed to having people work swing shifts, overnight shifts, and so on?
Ben Gardner: So for me, it came from experience, and I actually started out in my career in support being one of those people who worked a swing shift. And so, I had worked overnight from 5:00 PM until 4:00 AM, four days a week. And so, I had the direct experience of knowing what this is like on your personal life. And so, I kind of knew that there are some challenges that go along with it. And so, I brought that in while I was planning. But before I made a decision, just based on what my preference was, I actually polled the team. I started asking them questions because I don't want to just make that decision. I want them to be a part of kind of building that, and asking them, "Do you prefer an off shift? Does anyone prefer that? Does anyone prefer weekend shifts?" Because maybe it's an easier thing for their life.
And I got an overwhelming response that it wasn't something that they would prefer. They would do it. And even though I knew the team would do what was necessary, it wasn't going to lead to a positive cultural experience for them. And then, in my previous role, I did deal with the idea of just retention. You're going to have an issue with people wanting to leave if they have to go on an off shift, or if you don't have a large enough staff and you have to do a rotation, if they know that every eight, nine months, I'm going to go back on this shift, they start looking elsewhere, if they're not a fan of it.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah. That makes sense. And I know that retention is already kind of a challenge in the support realm, so I imagine you don't want to add any additional stressors there.
Ben Gardner: 100%. I think the idea for support is usually a gateway to other areas of the company, which is a great opportunity, but you want it to be one of those things where it's organic, because something came up, and they wanted to do it, and they were prepared. Not that they're looking to do this because they just can't stand working at 2:00 AM anymore.
Meredith Metsker: Right. Yep. That makes sense. So, you mentioned that there were a few different options that you could have taken. You could do hiring other countries, you could open a new office, you could use a third-party. So, what kinds of things are you thinking through as you decide which route to go?
Ben Gardner: So, for hiring another countries, if you're going to go that route, and a lot of companies want to expand their footprint and be around the entire globe. What you don't take into consideration, if you haven't run a team before, is the legal implications; you actually have to figure out, do you have a tax entity in that country? Are you able to hire? Because that doesn't just happen overnight, so you actually have to start thinking, "Do I have the capability to do this?" If we're not, this is something where I don't want to just make it a support function. Maybe I should bring in our sales and consulting team? Maybe I should bring in our product team and understand, does someone else want to move into this location too? So you want to think bigger picture in terms of just, where you're going to be going and not just think like, "Oh, I'm just going to hire someone, put an application out there and just figure that part out."
I would say the third-party thing is also another kind of question that you have to ask is, is it going to change the experience for your customers? Is it going to benefit them or is it going to be a detriment? And what I mean by that is, if you have an overly complex or technical product, hiring and training resources through a third-party means you're going to have to kind of, buckle up and figure out, like, how am I going to get them ramped up as fast as possible? Because you don't want your customers to suffer because you're going that route. But then also just, are there language barriers, or issues where you need to make sure that you're supporting in different languages? So you kind of have to ask a lot of these different questions about, what does your customer experience look like? Before you can even choose which model you go for.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. And so for you guys, the "follow the sun" model, hiring in additional countries and the regions you were supporting, that was the best option for you, correct?
Ben Gardner: Yes. Big reason for looking at "follow the sun" for us was that idea that we already had those offices in Sydney and London. And so, we wanted to help support them. So that was a big reason for following the sun and hiring in-country. The other part was, like I said, internally, just the idea of what would the cost be for having to pay for overnight shifts, off-shift differentials, but not just the cost in terms of financially, but the cost to your employee sentiment and that idea. So combining the two, it just made the most sense to "follow the sun."
Meredith Metsker: Okay. So earlier, you mentioned that as you were, again, thinking through which model to use, that you polled your team, you asked for their input. So maybe this is too in the weeds, but how exactly did you do that? Were you doing that in your one-on-ones? Did you ask them as a group? Was it a virtual poll? I'm just curious how you went about doing that.
Ben Gardner: It was a combination. So the first step was kind of getting that message out, which it's going to actually tie into what we're going to talk about for the step four, but the idea of letting them know what we were going to do and why we were doing it, and then providing different options on the table, letting them know like, "Hey, this is something we could do." And then, making sure it was part of just a mass message. We use Slack a lot internally, so I posted in Slack as well as sending an email. And then, the other piece of that was having individual managers just ask in their one-on-ones, what the pulse of their people are so that they can kind of understand, what is it and why? Because when you send out a poll, you're going to get part of this to, and I think when you have that one-on-one conversation, you might get a little bit more in the weeds and the details of exactly why they made a decision or didn't want to make a decision.
Like for instance, there was actually, I've had people on the team who preferred overnight shifts. One of my managers right now actually prefers to work overnight because it's just about quality of life. And then I have another manager who prefers to work earlier, because it's better for his quality of life with his kids. So, you can't make assumptions, which is what I said before. I worked an overnight shift and I wasn't the biggest fan, but I didn't want to just take that into consideration when I was making that decision.
Meredith Metsker: Right. Yep. Love that. I know when I was a newspaper reporter, I once worked a 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM shift. And while there were some benefits to that, it was not great on the social elements, so I can see how that's definitely different for everyone.
Ben Gardner: I did always like the fact that if you worked an off-shift, it made it easier to get to appointments, and you didn't have to take a day off to go to the dentist or anything like that.
Meredith Metsker: Yes. If you have to run to the bank, no one else is there during the day, so yep, there's pros and cons. So with that, let's move on to step four. So this is the one that is all about communication. So can you just tell me what all is involved in that, and again, why it's important, and how other support leaders can go about executing it?
Ben Gardner: So, when I thought about this step, I broke it out into kind of three categories of people that you're going to need to communicate with. And that is your team, your company, and your customers. So thinking about your team, specifically within support, they're going to need to know what's changing, how it impacts their life. If you're going to hire more resources, that's going to change what their day-to-day looks like, their shift could change, so you need to make sure that you're communicating internally as much as possible. And I think it was a book that I had read before, but the idea of, what is it? Who Moved My Cheese? Just the idea, someone's going to ask questions if things change. So you need to make sure to address them before it becomes a problem or issue later.
The other thing with your team specifically, like I said, is processes are going to be different. They need to know if you're supporting 24/7, what does that mean for them in terms of who do they need to go to? Does anything change? So don't just assume that, hey, you're going to change how you support your customers just means everything stays the same. So you need to make sure you're able to communicate what those differences are. The entire company, looking at that, your sales team needs to understand what support is able to do. I would say, depending on your market, that might be a differentiator. You might be able to say you provide true 24/7 support and other competitors don't. And so you need to make sure they understand what that is, so that they can talk about it.
Your customer success team needs to know when they're talking to their customer, because they're going to reference how to work with them, and what hours or how that works. So just making sure they understand that piece. The legal and HR component, and kind of security, they just need to know for compliance reasons, again, just like, are you hiring in different countries? What does this mean in terms of holiday pay, or anything along those lines? And just making sure that you kind of adhere to any policies that you might have. And the last one that you might not think about is your product team. If you have, for us software as a service, is if you're supporting 24/7, you might get emergency issues more frequently, overnight, and they may not be used to that. So you need to make sure that your teams are aware on product, but also that if you've got somebody on call, and they're working this shift, you need to introduce them to one another. So you're not just saying, "Everything stays status quo," it's like, this might be your overnight shift, and these people are going to be the ones who are paging issues all the time, so make sure that they understand who their counterparts are.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. And then how about the customer side of that?
Ben Gardner: Yeah, I was going to say, that was the last piece. So your customers, it's extremely important, and this change could look many different ways, but probably the easiest is updating your company website. If you've got support hours listed there, you're going to want to change those. I would also probably say, if this is something that changed for your customer, and they're getting a new experience, using email marketing so that they understand exactly what the differences are and why it's better and more beneficial to them. And then just making sure that they understand if there's different ways to communicate, depending on the time of day, and that they have all of those answers as well. Typically speaking, if you just think about your support terms and conditions on a website, that's the easiest way to go ahead and put that on there, so that if something does change in the future, you don't have to worry about it, you can just update that page.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. So when you made this change at Drift, did you use email marketing? Is that kind of how you went about it?
Ben Gardner: So for us, we had, I'd say a semblance of 24/7 support. And so, what we ended up doing for a lot of it was not necessarily email marketing, but we did update our support webpage to include what the different avenues were for contacting us. And it eventually got to the point where it was no longer just existing on my support page. We actually released the customer service plans, and customer test plans tied to kind of what offering they get. And so we ended up updating all of that for their terms and conditions, so that it was all part of one big story for the customer team.
Meredith Metsker: Okay, nice. So, why is it important to communicate to all these different groups and to really place this emphasis on communicating?
Ben Gardner: For this right here, I would say communication is key because people need to know what's happening in order to talk about it. The worst feeling in the world is when someone comes to you and says something, and you had no idea that it happened, or if they come to you and say, "I heard that you support 24/7," and you say, "No, we don't," but you find out that you do. Again, it's going to make you, if you're customer-facing look bad, and you don't want to do that to anyone on your team. So the importance there is just visibility, so everyone understands that. But specifically, I would say on the different teams where they're going to interact, the processes as they change because of the nature of your support, people want to know what to do, and how to do their job. From a support perspective, I can't overemphasize this, but people panic when something comes up and you don't know, because you feel a sense of pressure to be able to answer a question, or do something. And so making sure that everyone has all of the answers that are available to them before and not afterward, is critical.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah, for sure. I know I can definitely relate to that, even on the marketing side of things. And I've heard from other support leaders, if there's not communication between, for example, sales and marketing and support, like if marketing sends an email blast out and all of a sudden support gets all of these new tickets, and they're not sure why. Yeah, always better to over communicate, I would say.
Ben Gardner: I can't agree with you more.
Meredith Metsker: So, is there anything else that folks should know about how to execute this communication, how to really go about it in an efficient way?
Ben Gardner: The big piece, I would say for just your communication, is going to be, know how your company communicates. So for us at Drift, we use, like I said, Slack, but we also use email for just following back up on that, and then having an internal Wiki or process page. Just make sure that whatever you do, you kind of cover all your bases. And I'd say the documentation part of it, where everyone can find sources is probably one of the more important ones, because they may not remember exactly what you said when you said it, so they need to be able to find that as a reference point. And then, I'd say the last thing, utilize your resources for us. With Drift Video, I can record a video, and people can watch it at their own time. They don't have to be there if I need to have a meeting, I can actually just record it and share it.
But the thing for that with me is, you can actually walk through the resources if necessary. If there's an update to your company website, I could have it on the screen and talk through it instead of just having it as a bullet point. And I think just, if you think about it as a former educator, the idea of, people learn differently and respond differently. So just make sure you're covering maybe auditory, visual, and just their ability to read it as well.
Meredith Metsker: Yeah, I'm glad you brought up your teaching background, because a lot of your focus on making sure that everyone understands the assignment, and really focusing on processes made me think of your background as a math teacher, right?
Ben Gardner: Yeah, I taught math for three years, and I will say I bring that more into my day-to-day than most people would think when you're running a support team. Just the idea that you need to treat your employees, as well as your customers, the same way that you would like a student, in the fact that they're there to learn something, or understand something and how do people best learn. And so, not everyone's going to think like you, so you have to start, and go back to that idea of like, "I need to make sure that there's different ways to approach this," but also, I'd say, probably the idea of being a teacher where you check for understanding is often forgotten. And so, that part right there, I just stick with and go, "Can you tell me what I said?" Do you understand what we're trying to do? And if you can't, then I did something wrong in my communication, and I'll just go back to the drawing board.
Meredith Metsker: Nice. I love that. And it's funny, several of the people, the other support leaders that I've interviewed for this podcast have mentioned specifically that they love to hire teachers for this reason, because they are great at teaching anyone, anything. But yeah, I hadn't thought through the element that you just brought up; checking for actual understanding. That's huge.
Ben Gardner: Yeah. You would think that, once you've gotten the message out, and this is where I would say, working with it, it's like, you would assume that people would know it, but everyone knows what happens when you assume. So, just the idea of making sure that what you're trying to get across comes out. And there was actually going, even before teaching, there was an Apple retail term that they used where it was, "Inspect your expectations," and making sure that, whatever my end goal is when we're thinking about communication, do I want them to be able to understand how to do something, execute it or answer a question? If that's the case, then I need to build my training or communication to answer that set goal. So you have to actually think about what do I expect, and then you build everything from there.
Meredith Metsker: Nice. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That's a cool superpower that you get to bring to your role. Well, now that I took us off track there, to bring us back to the steps, let's go ahead and move on to the final step, step five. So, that is the reviewing process. So can you just tell me what all you're reviewing? And yeah, let's start with the "what."
Ben Gardner: So for me, I'm looking at what is the customer experience? How are they impacted from this? What is your actual support team experience like based on the changes that you made, and then overall, what is the company experience throughout the different areas of your company? And how are they being impacted by this change?
Meredith Metsker: Okay. So, how do you go about doing all of that?
Ben Gardner: For me, what I actually like to use a lot of the times, well, first you have to collect feedback. You have to actually ask for some feedback from everyone who was involved in this process. I use something called Four Helpful Lists, which is: What's right? What's wrong? What's missing? And what's confusing? I like that one in particular, because you're not just asking people, "Did you like this?" Or, "What could you do differently?" If you ask someone those four questions, then what you're going to end up getting is somebody who's looking at the entire scope of it, and not just one part of it. Because people are going to have issues where they might feel either upset, or they might enjoy something, and if that's all they're thinking about, that's all you're going to get. But if you say, "I need these four different questions answered," you're going to get a lot more feedback, and have people start thinking about things that they didn't actually take into consideration before.
And I think the one it's probably most often forgotten is, "What's confusing?" It's the idea of, what did you not understand based on either the message or what we're doing and you'd be surprised by what comes up there, and what you thought was crystal clear and then you find out, "Oh, well I guess I didn't do a good job of explaining it, or I can see how that was missing," or that was so you just kind of have to make some alterations there.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Yeah, I love that. I like the concept of using those four questions. So, why is it so important to review? Maybe that seems like a silly question, but I suspect there's a good answer here.
Ben Gardner: For me, it's the idea of, did you really think that you were going to get it perfect the first time? Probably not.
Meredith Metsker: Wouldn't that be nice?
Ben Gardner: Oh, I would love it if you just launched something, and it never had any problems whatsoever. That would be a dream scenario. But that's not the case, and there's other things that you want to think about, about the impact to it. And when I talked about your target audience, the thing that you really want to think about is your support team, if they're going to switch and pivot to a 24/7 support model, you don't want to make their lives any more difficult than it needs to be. So you really need to get their feedback on here, so that you can make changes. And it's something where you want to look at it and go, "What is their feedback? What could I change? What could I improve? What do I need to keep doing?" And then, make a plan for it so that they can see that in action. Because it's one of those things where if you do something that's great for your customers, but you're not thinking about your internal customer at that point, it's not going to have the same effectiveness if they are on board and fully supported.
Meredith Metsker: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay. And now moving on kind of to the execution side of this, in addition to using those four questions to get in depth, helpful answers, what are some of the other ways that you go about executing the review process? Collecting that feedback, doing something with it, analyzing it, and so on?
Ben Gardner: I would say, one of the things as well that I didn't touch on was just getting your customer feedback. Four helpful lists makes sense for internal feedback, but another way you can execute for external is getting feedback directly from your customers through either a survey or leveraging your customer facing teams, your customer success managers, if they've got any direct feedback. Glowing reviews, "I'm so glad your team is available after hours." That's a way to understand it. "I wish that you were able to do X, Y, or Z." And I think, that's a good way to collect it directly from, what is the phrase? Directly from the horse's mouth? But the survey mechanism I think, is not leveraged enough. And it's something where if you're very deliberate about it, you can get that feedback through support ticketing surveys, or through chat surveys.
And that one, I'll be honest, I took directly from the Disney book, Be Our Guest. And the idea that the way that they surveyed was very intentional, and they wanted to ask, not just, "How was your experience?" But they wanted to get specific bits of information, and it was through, if they made a change, "Did you prefer red or blue?" Whatever the color could be, and what was your reasoning behind that? They were very specific about what they wanted to collect feedback on, and I took that to heart from that book, to the point where, fun fact, they spaced out their trash cans specifically the distance where someone's willing to walk and hold onto a piece of trash before they throw it down.
Meredith Metsker: What?
Ben Gardner: And so, it's that meticulous, but you only get that if you ask the right questions.
Meredith Metsker: And that was from, you said, a book?
Ben Gardner: Yeah. The book-
Meredith Metsker: What was the title of that?
Ben Gardner: Be Our Guest.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. See, I might have to check that out. I'm actually going to Disneyland here in a few weeks.
Ben Gardner: Nice.
Meredith Metsker: So I'll pay attention to the space between the trash cans.
Ben Gardner: Start looking at that. I mean, if people see you're just pacing it out, they won't ask any questions.
Meredith Metsker: They'll be like, "Oh, okay. She knows." Just like I know they paint some things a certain shade of green, because it's the shade that you're least likely to notice. Like if they want to hide something. So there's another fun fact for you.
Ben Gardner: Oh, that makes sense.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. And then, I know you'd also mentioned at some point leveraging your CSMs for that feedback, in addition to the surveys. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Ben Gardner: Yeah. So in a lot of companies that I've worked for, or worked with, the CSMs have direct contact with the customer, whether or not it's a regular meeting or it's just an impromptu conversation. And so, making sure that you are asking your team, "If you hear about any of this, let me know," because it's one of those things too, where your customer success manager may not actually just consciously go, "Oh, they talked about support. Let me tell Ben about what they said." You're going to have to get that from them and say, "Hey, we just launched 24/7 support. If you hear anything specifically about it, please let me know." And so, getting that word out to them, asking regularly. I would say, when you first execute it, you're probably going to want to remind them on a pretty regular cadence, like weekly, biweekly, something just where you're saying, "Remember if you hear about this, let me know, because I want to know how it went."
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Yeah. That makes sense. It kind of ties back, I think, what was it, one of your previous steps about just pretty much getting every single one of those stakeholders in the room from the very beginning. Okay, so kind of segueing into the next section here. So now that we've gone through each of your five steps, can you tell me about a time that you have used this five-step process to expand to a 24/7 model?
Ben Gardner: Yeah, actually I've got kind of a couple different stories with it to kind of talk through would be a time where we executed it, but also a time where you kind of made a change based on some of the assumptions. So I kind of want to use both.
Meredith Metsker: All right.
Ben Gardner: But thinking about at Drift, coming into it, we were primarily an East Coast company, and you kind of looked at the idea of supporting our customers. We wanted to be able to support them where they're at, the idea of eliminating friction. But one of the first things that I actually looked at when I talk about asking your key stakeholders, we had an office in California, and so my support team wasn't necessarily online during hours to even support fully that office. And the idea was like, well, that doesn't make sense. So, thinking about that stakeholder concept, I asked just everyone involved, "What would it mean internally? And then also externally, like, what are we going with from a, I guess I would say service package model? What are our goals with that? And so, kind of lining those two up, it made perfect sense to go with, we need to expand our support.
And then as we were thinking about those decisions, like I said, the idea was, we realized we had an office already in London, so I had hired before internationally. I was like, "This makes sense to kind of give them the ability to have a resource in office." The one way we didn't quite have a footprint yet was Australia. But I also knew that we didn't have a lot of volume at that point during those hours, so it wasn't the most pressing thing. So when I thought about it, it was, "Well, I'll wait, and I'll put that one on the back burner." But it just so happened actually as a company that we started hiring for sales in that region. So I said, "Okay, well, let me get my first support resource there."
So looking at that, we ended up going through that model and interviewing and hiring there. This is where I would say, the legal side of it came into play where you're not thinking about it was, because sales was hiring there, I already had an in and I knew that we had that tax entity, so I didn't have to go there.
Meredith Metsker: Nice.
Ben Gardner: But I also know, here in the states, if you're going to go hiring remote, I also had to understand where did we have tax entities? So I had experience with not being able to hire candidates in certain places. So I already knew to check that off my list before I get there. But once we did that, actually, so going through everything, getting down to the communication phase, this is something that I absolutely love about working at Drift is we do something on Fridays called Show and Tell. And so, you have the ability to show your work, share it with everyone, and so the idea of, what are we doing from a support model? And being able to show like, "Hey, this is what we're doing. This is how support's going to work." And letting everybody see that, it was a good way to communicate that. But also, like I said, internally, we built wikis, we did all these different things so that everyone had the resources there.
And then kind of pivoting to that last step of reviewing. There was so much feedback when it first happened. And I will say, there were some missteps in the idea of, people who work these off hours, what do they do? Who do they contact? And I didn't map everything out fully for them to understand, "Who am I supposed to reach out to?" And it's like, "Okay, document this, check this, if this person's not available, ask this person." And then building out your systems and tools, it was, I would like my team in London to work for customers in that region, so I need to update my system so that it routes to them. Same thing for Australia. And you would think, "Okay, well, this should be a pretty easy thing." But depending on your system, you're going to have to make some changes. So we ended up adjusting the way our queues worked, and who they routed to so that it was easier on the person doing their job, instead of them having to comb through and go, "Oh, this one's not in Australia. Oh, this one is. Let me work that one."
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Yeah. That sounds like a lot.
Ben Gardner: The other story-
Meredith Metsker: Oh, go ahead.
Ben Gardner: Okay. Yeah, no, the other story that I want to talk about was, at my last company, we actually had the overnight shifts, like I said, because I had worked on one and we had that model where, in-house in Tampa, people were working overnight to cover our EMEA and APAC regions and weekends. And one of the things that I had adjusted at the end there was hiring in-country, having that true "follow the sun." And a lot of it had to do with that feedback of people that I got, like I said, who didn't want to stay on that shift. And so, I kind of had to look at that same five-step process, but I had the luxury of, we already technically have full coverage, so I'm not having to implement some of the processes in place that you're going to have to do when you start from scratch.
But I did have to adjust. Okay, well, how do you hire in bulk, in a region? And so, you had to look at, "Am I going to hire one resource?" Well, if one person's there, it's going to be harder to support, and so you have to start thinking, "How many should I hire so that I can get the adequate coverage? And how do I supplement it while I am actually getting these people ramped?" Because I can't take everyone off of this shift if these people aren't ready. So you had to build a nice transition plan, but eventually we got to the point where we had a full office of support team members in London and another full office of support team members in Australia.
Meredith Metsker: Okay. Wow. Yeah, I mean, I already knew that this was a complex process, but there are a lot of moving parts.
Ben Gardner: Once you get into it, there's a lot. When you first think about it, you're like, "Oh, 24/7. I just shift some times, and I'm easy and I'm ready to go."
Meredith Metsker: Yeah. Until you factor in the systems, and all the HR stuff, it makes a ton of sense now that you've said it, but I didn't even think about the HR and the legal side of things.
Ben Gardner: Your best friend in this whole process for me was World Time Buddy. If you don't know that resource, then you go online and look up, "World Time Buddy." It'll help you convert your timezones into the different regions that you're going to be in. Even with a math background, I had just never been good with time. So I relied on that heavily to just make sure I knew what were the differences in timezone coverage.
Meredith Metsker: Nice. I just wrote that down because Stonly is also an international team, so I like to know what time it is for my colleagues in Poland and France, too.
Ben Gardner: They have a mobile app too.
Meredith Metsker: Oh nice. So I guess, kind of on that note of, this is a really complex process, there's lots of moving parts and different factors to consider, what advice would you give to other support leaders who are either thinking about moving to a 24/7, model or maybe they're right in the thick of it?
Ben Gardner: The biggest bit of advice I would say is, just use your resources. When I say that, I mean people. Ask other companies that have done it before, reach out to support leaders on LinkedIn, or Slack, or anything along those lines, and just find people to talk to because they've probably gone through the challenges that you're going to run into, so that you don't have to. I think that's probably one of the things that people don't do enough in terms of your business and career, is just networking. Ask as many people questions as you can, just reach out to anyone who's willing to answer. Someone's going to answer to try to support you.
Meredith Metsker: All right, perfect. Well, it's probably a good place first to kind of start wrapping up. But before I ask you my last question, is there anything else on this topic, or about your five steps that we haven't covered yet that you'd like to add?
Ben Gardner: No, I think, I mean we pretty much covered it. I would say just the big thing with it is from my teaching background; just make sure you're organized, and document it, because you're not the only person involved in this process, so you're going to need other people, so just try to make sure you document it much as you can.
Meredith Metsker: Love that. Love bringing in that teacher background into it. Okay, so for the final question, this is kind of the big one I like to ask every support leader I talk to, but in general, what advice do you have for up-and-coming support leaders?
Ben Gardner: The biggest bit of advice that I would give to anyone is just understanding that your people are your greatest resource. It's not going to be any tool or system you have, it's not going to be your product, it's the actual people on your team. Because if you think about it, if they're not there, you're going to have to do that job, so you need them to be able to function. So treat them that way, treat them like they're the most important... The best thing someone ever told me is, "When someone comes to you to ask a question or get your advice, give them your full attention because you don't know if turning them away at that moment, you're going to lose them forever." So just make sure you drop what you're doing to support them.
I know it's different digitally, but in an in-person environment, it was always the idea of, turn away from your computer, have that conversation. If you're in a Zoom call, don't be typing and clearly not paying attention. Just the idea of, they came to you for a reason, and if you show them that respect, and treat it that way, people will go that extra mile for you because they understand that you're already doing that for them.
Meredith Metsker: Oh, I love that. It's a great point. People are the greatest resource. Cool. Well Ben, thank you so much again for the time to talk with me today. I think we got lots of really good information out of this episode that I'm really excited for people to experience your five steps. So thank you again.
Ben Gardner: It was definitely a pleasure, Meredith. Thank you.
Meredith Metsker: Awesome. Before I let you go. If anyone listening or watching would like to reach out to you, or learn more from you, doing that networking thing you mentioned, what's a good way for them to do that?
Ben Gardner: Feel free to message me on LinkedIn. I respond to a lot of those, and actually it doesn't matter what kind of questions you have, I'm more than willing to answer them. But also, just if you find me on there, you can shoot me an email, just however you want to do it. And I'll make sure to share with Meredith what my email is (email@example.com), so that anyone who wants to message me, I'll go and answer those questions.