Support Driven 2019 Day 1: Notes from Morning sessions

Support Driven is multi-track so this only covers a little bit of it. Talks are recorded and uploaded, but workshops are not and may have less notes because they were more hands-on.

Mythbusting: Establishing Common Knowledge & Language Across Teams

Jaclyn Herr (Speaker) Manager, Customer Success, Hatch

What are the stories we tell and should we keep them?

What are myths?

  • how we tell stories
  • around a specific event
  • usually started with a kernel of truth, but turn into something that has little truth
  • will usually turn into gossip
  • get passed on to others
  • these stories provide context about the work or customers
  • worst case may spread misinformation

Does the story spark joy?

Those to keep:

  • heroics by members
  • provide helpful context about a particular problem
  • history of company and mission

Myths to bust:

  • stories of a colleague that paint them negatively
  • discourage people from engaging
  • those from “dark” times

What to do

Understand your myths:

  • focus on team: are they true? motivating? telling the same stories as managers?
  • cast a wide net: connect with stakeholders from team to get aligned and probe to see where gaps are e.g. things telling customers but aren’t confident is true, how certain things work, information have doubts about
  • tackle a particular myth head-on: already know it’s something to be busted

Busting the myths:

  • understanding myth origins: what did it come from? what purpose does it serve?
  • replace myth with new information: need to be replaced, with new facts and information, give them better stories to tell
  • consider partnering with members of other teams
  • provide facts and be transparent
  • don’t let myths hold you back


  • myths and stories help to spread knowledge but they can hold us back
  • pay attention to what your team is saying, always ask if the narrative you’re hearing is true and having a positive or negative impact on the morale
  • identify partners for busting myths
  • share new myths and stories to replace the bad ones

Technical Onboarding for Great Success

Rucheli Berry, Technical Support Engineer, Plaid

Support Engineering at Plaid: TSEs manage issues from symptom to resolution: answering questions, investigate and possibly solve bugs, embedded

Intentional Onboarding


  • 0 intros and prep
  • 1 general company
  • 2 engineering onboarding, buddy week: supporting and tooling (1-2 hours per day)
  • 3-8 technical topics in queues
  • 9-12 independent queue ramp-up and shadow
  • 13+ embedded engineering (TSEs in engineering teams), OKR projects

Buddy program:

  • new hire: clear point of contact, 1:1 assistance, increased socialization, knowledge of “how things really get done”
  • buddy: improved leadership and mentorship skills, fresh perspective
  • company: increase motivation and retention, development, productivity

Buddy: sends email week before to say hi, available for questions, leading buddy week, weekly check-ins and shadowing weeks 3-8, intro key contacts on other teams

Training schedule:

  • split queue into common topics based on investigation workflow
  • sort topics by frequency and difficulty: start with easy/common topics towards difficult and infrequent topics
  • assign each topic to a different team member that knows it well
  • aim for 4-6 training topics with one per week after buddy week

Training week:

  • M: 90 min topic intro and ticket walkthrough,
  • T: assign for investigation and internal comments only,
  • W: investigate and draft response,
  • Th: assign for investigation, escalation, and public responses,
  • F: 60 topic wrap-up and peer ticket reviews

At the end:

  • need to be comfortable with topics
  • know which engineering teams and contact
  • know what qualifies an ideal escalation ticket: description of state, impact, severity, priority, examples and debugging logs
  • learn how to identify relevant lines of code, suggest possible fixes

Beyond onboarding:

  • develop skills even further by embedding support engineers into various engineering and product teams
  • give support engineers the opportunity to work out-of-queue on technical projects and build support tooling
  • lightning talks and peer training where different team members share expertise they’ve recently developed
  • encourage team members to make use of any company L&D stipends to further their technical abilities


  • buddy before and beyond hire week
  • teamwork makes dream work
  • more training, will feel less like a firehouse and retain beyond onboarding
  • support engineers are engineers too
  • come up with ways to continuously improve

Workshop: Stories about numbers; driving business-wide understanding about data through narrative

Matt Dale, VP Customer Support, Illuminate Education, Inc.

Business communication is tricky. We know our own business really well, but other team and leadership may not. Just numbers is not helpful.

How do we do better? The 5 Elements of Narrative

  • characters: the data
  • setting/context: background about data including date/time, place, people involved, anything else helpful
  • plot: clear/concise explanation of what’s going on
  • conflict/resolution: thesis or the question you want to answer with the data narrative
  • theme/takeaway: conclusion or what you want your audience to take away from your data narrative

People remember stories, they have impact.


  • understand your audience and speak in their language
  • good visualizations help

Take aways

  • focus on the data you need
  • know your audience
  • tell the story

Empower Support Teams for Maximum Productivity (And Customer Happiness)

  • Maia Olson (Moderator) Marketing/CX, TextExpander
  • Elli Wehner (Panelist) Support Lead, ; B2B ; 3 team members
  • Emily Chapman (Panelist) Customer Champion, Help Scout ; B2B ; 15 team members globally
  • Will Wilkinson (Panelist) Technical Trainer, DreamHost ; B2B ;

(Apologies, notes are sparse for this session.)

  • Everyone has to be a generalist, but specialize in specific areas that they like or have interest in.
  • Hiring: Simulating on the job experience is helpful, especially to test for empathy. Hardest to teach. Grading rubric is very important.
  • Guidelines seem to crop up once the company gets to 15 people.
  • Personality finder that evaluates context vs. content communicator.
  • Retreats to focus on becoming friends, not focus on work.
  • Product specialists analyze trends in the queue, also Tier 2/3 escalation points, embedded on product teams.
  • Drop in team morale: may move someone laterally into a different position. Look at how the team morale can go up. If ticket volumes are high, only show a chunk at a time.
  • For a really small team, had everyone in the company to do some support work, so team has time to do other things.
  • Spread out projects to do it when not in queue. Can have continuing education days.

Lunch time

Time to explore and see where to go for lunch!


Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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