Support Talks: Enabling Better Products and Services with Intelligent Support Operations

Craig Stoss Craig Stoss · 5 min read

Intelligent support operations really benefit the entire organization with support being at the center of the data collection.

For years, revenue, development, and IT have had operations teams to help them be more successful. These Operations teams provide tooling, insights, and enablement to their respective teams by analysing data, enhancing tool sets, and designing effective processes. More recently, these concepts are being applied within Support.

Support Operations has become more popular because of the advancement of the tools in the market and an increased focus on customer-centricity. When implemented correctly, Support Ops will enhance your customer experience and help you deliver higher-quality support services. Matt Dunn, Senior Director of Technical Success at SauceLabs, has made investments in ‘Intelligent Support Operations’ for his team and the benefits have reverberated across departments.

What is Intelligent Support Operations?

Q: I would like to start off with defining ‘Intelligent Support Operations’ given how new it is to most audiences.

Matt: I see Intelligent Support Operations as cutting down on repetitive manual work and automating where possible. This enables your support engineers or agents to focus their time on what they do best – tracking down issues and talking to customers.

By this, I don’t mean things like ticket deflection. What I’m talking about is making it easy and quick to be able to get the data you need to answer various questions. This data can be used for either customers or internal stakeholders to intelligently bring context to an issue or flag details that require their attention or actions.

Q: Why is this a function worth investing in?

Matt: I’m sure like a lot of companies, at Sauce Labs we have data in various disconnected systems. Before we started on this journey, bringing that data together to answer questions or gain insights required laborious and manual work. We have support tickets, internal tickets (e.g. bug reports) and account data in separate systems. 

Native integrations allow those systems to work together, but only in a very functional fashion such as linking tickets to bugs. Let’s say we want to gather data on the customers who have reported a particular bug, or requested a particular feature, or who were impacted by a particular service incident. We’d need to know who those customers are, what is the total Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) associated with the bug/feature request/incident, etc. To come up with that data we had to export data from multiple systems and manually combine it.

With intelligent support operations we can find that data, report on it and provide that to other groups within the company such as Product and Customer Success instantly.

Similarly, we can combine various factors and pieces of data to help prioritize support tickets, predict (and get ahead of) ticket escalations, notify Customer Success Managers of accounts needing attention and more.

Why Implementing it is Crucial for Customer Experience Success

Q: What specific problem or challenges prompted your organization to go to market for a tool to solve these problems?

Matt: A couple of things really. First of all, like many customer support and customer success organisations, we were very reactive. We had data on the number of tickets being opened by each customer or each topic classification etc, but it was difficult to get a sense of a customer’s sentiment through their support tickets without having to go and do a lot of reading. As a result, tickets and issues get escalated, and no matter how good your escalation management process is, by that point the customer is already frustrated.

The other problem was that in order to keep track of support requests raised by their accounts, our Customer Success Managers were copied on every support ticket update, meaning they were inundated with emails. Working through all of that and finding what needed their attention was very difficult and time consuming.

We implemented a tool called TheLoops to solve this. Working with them, we’ve been able to predict and get ahead of ticket escalations with intelligent insights. We’ve been able to highlight accounts and tickets that need attention, rather than having a CSM have to wade through email.

Q: How does Intelligent Support Operations integrate with your existing tech stack?

Matt:  We use Zendesk for our support ticketing system and customer feedback, JIRA for internal bug reports, Productboard for feature requests and product roadmap tracking, Salesforce as our CRM and Slack for internal communications TheLoops has been able to easily integrate with all of these systems (and more), combining data and pushing notifications and insights to where they are needed. It sort of just “fits in the middle” to help aggregate and combine all of those other systems.

Key Aspects to Focus on 

Q: Are there any specific instances where it helped uncover insights that were previously unnoticed?

Matt: One main thing is that there are things we’re looking at right now around intelligently grouping and summarising tickets that look like a feature request, so we can easily feed that into our Product team. We’re also working on intelligently classifying support tickets way beyond a simple topic dropdown list.

Customer feedback is incredibly important to us. We review every negative survey, and usually follow up with customers to get further feedback, or to re-engage with the customer. Customer feedback is very helpful for uncovering coaching opportunities within the team, identifying process improvements, and gathering product feedback. All of this helps provide timely insights to our Product and other teams around emerging trends. 

Intelligent support operations really benefit the entire organization with support being at the center of the data collection.

In general, it all amounts to time savings and efficiency. All of these things were possible before, but with a lot of manual work. Now we can quickly and easily get data driven insights when it matters – often enabling us to deal with issues before they really blow up.

It’s helped us to focus our amazing support engineers on what they do best – helping our customers solve problems – whilst enabling our support management team to get ahead of escalations before they happen. 

Q: What challenges or limitations have you encountered while implementing or using the tool?

Matt: Not so much a challenge or a limitation, but remember that this is not magic. It pays to be clear about what it is you need and why, what data you want to use to combine to create insights and what it is you need as an actionable outcome. These tools can be incredibly powerful, but at the end of the day the outcome will only be as good as the question you ask.

How did you like this blog?


Craig Stoss Craig Stoss

Craig has spent time in more than 30 countries working with support, development, and professional services teams building insight into Customer Experience and engagement. He is driven by building strong, effective support and services teams and ensuring his customers are successful. In his spare time Craig leads a local Support Thought Leadership group. He can be found on Twitter @StossInSupport

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