June 21, 2018

How Hull offers white-glove, multichannel global support in 24 hours or less

"On average, we get about 15 to 20 tickets per day," he said between deep breaths, running through his mental checklist of customers.

At first, it kind of sounded low - especially considering his company 10.5x’d the previous year.

Just fifteen? Doesn't seem too bad, I thought.

As if reading my mind, he answered what was unsaid."

Sounds low, but not when you're a data integration platform. Each ticket might take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to resolve where you really have to spend some time on it.

"We aim to respond immediately, but get it resolved within 24 hours."

Even a child with basic math skills could quickly calculate how unfeasible that seems.

It doesn't quite add up. With fifteen to 20 support requests a day and 3 - 5 hours each, you wouldn't be able to knock them all out within 24 hours.

And yet, this is the story of how Sven Maschek, Head of Operations and Global Support for Hull, does exactly that for customers from all over the world at break-neck pace.

But first, it’s important to know a little bit of the backstory about Hull to understand the level of complexity we're dealing with.

Data is power

In data integration and most developer-centric platforms, the value that customer support provides is vast, but also still deeply technical (which is why support professionals like Sven are crucial for success).

Hull is one of the most powerful data integration platforms in the space, capable of processing and managing huge amounts of data from a multitude of out-of-the-box integrations within minutes.

It's every data engineer's or operation manager's dream: connect your platforms, determine what events and data you'd like to sync or join, and push that data to any number of other connected platforms.

Hull tackles the data problems and integration needs sophisticated companies have — and based on how the market is expanding, will pay off.

According to Stratistics MRC, the Global Data Integration Market is expected to grow from $7.45 billion in 2017 to reach $24.95 billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 14.3%.

Factors such as rising use of computers and smartphones and increasing usage of cloud computing which creates a demand for effective data integration tools are propelling the market growth. However, lack of proficiency and disharmony between modern data integration requirements and legacy systems are hindering the market.

Which means as companies grow and begin tackling their internal data layers, Hull becomes a godsend.

Those internal data layers are where Hull’s support team really shines.

And through paid service-level agreements that customers can add to their contracts, customers can expect top-quality, fast turnaround times on solutions.

Deep technical support requests

Sven does a mix of technical support and customer success — and he does it for customers all over the world.

"The support requests we get are deep. They're technical. The platform is very open and you can write all kinds of javascript to make Hull do what you want.“The most common requests we get are setting traits into user profiles or very difficult pieces like how did the user get a specific attribute value.“But really, there's a multitude of use cases.“We're not just solving bugs or issues, but helping users execute their vision as well.“And because it’s technical and complex, the user might not always know how to articulate the issue or requirement they're seeing because they’re not as deep into the platform as the support team is."

And because of that, it takes about an hour of discovery into the actual challenge or problem the customer has, and then anywhere from 3 - 5 hours to provide a solution.Any time you’re dealing with data, you can expect the requests to be complex, and therefore take some time to really solve the request.

The secret weapon for global support

Sven also primarily serves as the first tier of support before escalating it to an engineer for some of the deeper issues or requests.But doesn't he sleep? I thought to myself.How can he support customers in different time zones?Does he have time for hobbies?But Sven actually has a few secret weapons: back-up support in Europe and prioritization.

"We have back-up support with one of our engineers in Poland, so he's able to cover Europe and Asia for Tier 1 and Tier 2 support in the morning.“Then, he moves back to Tier 2 later in the day by the time I'm able to hop online and catch up on the Americas.“We spend about an hour every day reviewing tickets and doing a quick knowledge share on any new tickets or conversations that happened while the US was asleep.“If you're going to offer 24/7 support for global customers, it definitely helps to have someone in a different time zone.“No matter what though, we find that it's still more strategic for us to tackle the western hemisphere customers before the eastern hemisphere — purely because of timing."

The extra help in Europe certainly makes round-the-clock support viable for Hull.

Leveraging personas for support

What's interesting about Sven's support strategy is that Hull is also a largely remote team — one office in Paris, a few employees in London and Poland, but headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.Not only do they have internal cultural differences, but they also have customers from different cultures.How on earth do you prepare for that from a support perspective?"You know, I find that it's never so much a literal cultural difference with customers as personalities," Sven says.So... almost like personas?

"Yes. Exactly. You have to figure out which customer persona you're working with.Some customers have a short fuse." (Sven laughs)"So sometimes you have to condense this all into their profile: what’s their current emotional state? What kind of pressure is the customer under?“Some of the customers always come in hot because the bug or issue is likely a blocker.“Some customers are quiet (but they might be too quiet). They’re always quiet and kind of chill and they might not come to you with a problem, so from a customer success perspective, I'm also periodically checking in.“And then there's personas where they really prefer a more white-glove experience and are perfectly fine with me handling the issue.“Or if they're much more technical, they might have a more hands-on approach and want to solve problem together."

But here's the thing — Hull also offers multichannel support. Customers of Hull can reach support through Slack, Intercom, and/or email depending on their service-level agreement.This can make it pretty tricky for a small, remote support team.Yet for almost all customers, they're able to offer quick turnaround times within 24 hours. One of the ways they’ve been able to scale their activities and their time is through a combination of great soft skills with customer, and a technology stack that supports their needs.

"It's so important that we're setting expectations correctly, but also not letting the customer just sit there when we receive the request. Figuring out what needs to be worked on right now is how we manage our time; what’s truly urgent and what’s important?

Prioritizing Multichannel Customer Communication

So imagine you're part of a team of two people with you being the primary support leader.You've got hundreds of customers from all over the world.You receive 15 - 20 support requests a day from Slack, email, and Intercom.Some of them are from the same person or account, just in different channels.You know every single one of the requests has some level complexity.It's important to you, your team, and your company's values to respond to customers ASAP while also prioritizing the actual support ticket into a reasonable workflow.But how do you actually prioritize and streamline your communication with customers? Where do you start? How do you prevent yourself from getting lost between all of the support channels?This is where a powerful support tech stack comes in handy.Sven uses a combination of JIRA, Intercom, Slack, and email to manage support, but Veamly is the platform that sees all communication and messages between all of the support channels.Through Veamly's out-of-the-box integrations and its powerful AI, Sven can see a prioritized list of all of the requests from customers — whether they happened overnight or were live.This ensures Sven doesn't spend 90% of his time on quick fixes, but the big requests that will require him to be more strategic with his time.

“I also use to prioritize the messages and requests I get from Slack, Intercom, and email.“I can see all of the messages and requests we got from all of the different channels overnight.“When I wake up in the morning, it makes it so easy to review everything and walk into my meeting with an idea of what's going on."

Key Takeaways

  • What works for Hull is replying to incoming support requests as soon as possible. Simply acknowledging that you’ve received the request does wonders for your relationship with the customer
  • Set expectations with customers about when they can expect a more detailed response from you or your team. Even just saying you’ll review the case and get back to them with a clear diagnosis and set of expected next steps would set the right expectations and still be very supportive and responsive.
  • Use your team to divide and conquer time zones with “dayparting”. If you’d like to offer some kind of global support and have support employees in different timezones, explore the option of diving hours
  • Leverage scrum to catch-up on all "overnight" accounts
  • If you’re offering multichannel support to your customers, include a tool to help you match and prioritize messaging across all support channels
  • Equip your support team with customer personas

Oh, yeah.And to answer the previous question about Sven getting enough sleep and having time for hobbies?The answer is definitely yes.Somehow through offering multichannel, white-glove, global support for his customers, Sven still manages to find time to participate in tons of obstacle course races — his favorite being the Spartan races.

"It's all about the right support philosophy and the right tools.Find the tools to support you in your strategy. The last thing you want to do is list everything in something that isn't manageable.Don’t change your support philosophy just because of a tool. Make the tool work for you."- Sven Maschek