We joined a couple hundred CX leaders in Portland, OR for the Support Driven Leadership Summit for a couple of days of learning and connection. Here's what went down.
After a two year hiatus, it was welcoming news to hear Support Driven would be holding their leadership conference in Portland, Oregon. Unlike so many other conferences where you feel inundated by sales pitches and futuristic, intangible visions, Support Driven delivered a conference that brought its wonderful community together to discuss ideas, commiserate over common struggles, and ultimately help each other succeed. The two-day leadership conference offered a variety of styles of talks, workshops, and panels, mixed in with plenty of social time. You would have had to actively try to leave without learning something useful to make meaningful improvements to your business.
The conference kicked off on night one with a social event that was a great way to meet some old friends, connect with some of the innovative sponsors, and meet new people. It set a positive vibe for the next two days. From randomly starting a conversation with the founder of a very cool startup to sitting next to a leader that you admire and have followed on social media for years, the night was full of serendipitous connections. Everyone was there to have a good time and chat about how to best help customers.
That was Sunday night, and on Monday morning the conference opened with the always insightful words of Mo McKibben and Hilary Dudek. Each of their conversations highlighted two very important aspects of support: customer centricity and scaling support effectively. These two themes set the tone that the conference would have for the next two days. It was very clear that using data effectively and building a diverse customer-centric culture are the trends leaders are thinking about right now.
TheLoops and Idiomatic, two fellow conference sponsors, each provide solutions that help support teams use data to understand and react to their customers needs while maintaining a highly effective support organization. This theme was present throughout the two-day conference. Data from your support team is wasted if it just sits in your ticket management tool. It can be used to make intelligent decisions about your business!
PartnerHero’s own Craig Stoss moderated a lunchtime panel sponsored by TheLoops in which four seasoned support experts discussed the future of support operations and how contextualizing data will drive personalized experiences for your customers, improve support backlog management, and review metrics spanning across all of your tools.
Nicole Swift and Jasmyn Haas strengthened these points in their talks on the power of data analytics and how to rally your company around support data. With all of these leaders talking about it, it is clear that combining data signals from across the organization will give you more insight into how you can improve your customer experience over the entire customer journey.
On another panel, moderated by Head of NA and EMEA Operations at PartnerHero, Keoni Lima, three experts discussed how data can be used to optimize your workforce management practices, plan for unexpected demand, and scale effectively. The discussion included valuable insights into different models for staffing support channels and using outsourcing services to achieve your coverage and SLA commitments.
Randy Pospisil and Valentina Thörner opened up the second day discussing two often overlooked needs for a well-functioning support team: hiring and empathy.
Randy focused on diverse hiring practices and how to ensure your process is set up to attract people with varied skill sets and lived experiences that can make your team operate at the highest level possible. We were struck by how simple it is to improve hiring practices. Something as simple as removing a single bullet point from a job description, such as higher-education requirements, can change your candidate pool and mean the difference between finding someone with a new set of skills to benefit your team or not.
Randy shared examples of people who might not traditionally have applied to a technology company, but who felt welcomed by knowing that their skills of being curious, customer-focused, and determined outweighed the need for having a specific degree or work at other tech companies on their resumes. Bringing diversely talented people together is better than trying to hire clones of your existing superstars.
Valentina spoke about creating a culture of empathy and understanding within your support team. Her emoticon-filled slides walked through an example with which all support leaders are familiar: a support chat devoid of empathy that caused her to go from smiley-face to frowny-face to red-with-anger-face as the conversation continued. Valentina stressed that empathy is about understanding the customer’s pain, not just acknowledging it. Teach your team how to put themselves in the customer’s situation and listen to their perspective. Why are they talking to you? What is the impact of the current concern to them? Then teach your team how to convey to the customer you understand using words and actions that are meaningful.
Amber Parkin further strengthened the culture conversation by focusing on how to build a high-trust team with a focus on how that differs in remote versus face-to-face settings. Vanessa Marshall foresees a culture where support is seen as a career, not a stepping stone. Both of these talks exemplified what support leaders already know. Nurturing talent through a trusting culture will lead to lengthy, fulfilling careers within a support team. We as leaders must focus on creating teams which are diverse with experience, empathetic to our customers’ needs, and feel trusted to make the right decisions.
Whether you were there for the casual banter over a cold Portland beer, an engaging conversation while eating a Voodoo Donut, or hunkering down and taking detailed notes while listening to one of the great sessions, it seemed like everyone at the Support Driven Leadership Summit came away with something. From meeting new friends to reconnecting with old acquaintances, Revolution Hall served as a fantastic location for great minds to gather and collaborate on opportunities to improve our customers’ experiences.
We’re looking forward to seeing you all in Las Vegas for the next Support Driven conference in October!