Zendesk is one of the most well-known customer service software companies in the world.
Initially started by three friends back in 2007, today it has over 5,000 employees in locations across the globe.
We were curious about what Support QA looks like at Zendesk, a pioneer of the customer support industry. So, we spoke to Enrique Gascón Albamonte, Senior QA Specialist at Zendesk to learn more about the role of support QA at Zendesk and what his day-to-day life looked like.
Here are the 7 biggest takeaways from our conversation.
1. The role of a support agent is much harder than it looks
If you’re not working in support yourself, you may think that being a customer support agent is simple.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s so much more than just responding to tickets, which is how it may appear from the outside looking in. Behind everything a support agent does are complex processes that need to be followed. If your product has multiple features and is constantly evolving, this makes things even more complicated.
Perfecting every interaction requires in-depth product knowledge, empathy, adaptability, and other skills that can take years to build. So the work required for support agents to stay on top of every little thing usually comes with a fair bit of stress.
“One of the most important parts of our job as a QA Specialist is to let agents know that you understand the challenges of their job.”
2. Having experience as a support agent helps in becoming a good QA specialist
The role of a support QA specialist is to help agents become great at their jobs. They do this by performing two main activities:
- Empathizing with and reassuring agents that you understand the challenges they’re facing
- Providing them with actionable feedback to overcome these challenges
In order to do this effectively, it’s extremely helpful if you’ve faced these situations yourself. Plus, having experience as a support agent yourself allows you to intimately understand the difficulties faced by your team of agents. This not only helps you build a strong rapport with them but also allows you to share the tips and tricks you’ve personally used to get better at the job.
? Approximately 95% of the Support QA Specialists at Zendesk have spent time as customer advocates themselves.
3. Support QA needs to go hand in hand with training
Support QA is a great first step to manage your support quality. But if done in isolation, it’s almost useless.
Conversation reviews can help you identify issues within your support process. But this needs to be followed up with meaningful feedback and training to fix these issues.
Additionally, once you provide feedback you’ll need to regularly check in with agents to see if they’ve been implementing the feedback they’ve been given.
And that’s why at Zendesk (like many other companies) a Support QA specialist is also tasked with onboarding agents, having regular 1-1 meetings, and conducting other training sessions when necessary in addition to performing regular conversation reviews.
? At Zendesk, if the average of all evaluations conducted for an agent falls below 90%, they’re put through additional evaluations for the following month. On the other hand, if their IQS is above 90%, they’re graded on a more minimalistic rubric the following month.
4. Reviewing only tickets with a low CSAT is not a sound QA strategy
Up until 2017, Zendesk did not have a formal support QA program in place.
Agents were only evaluated sporadically, and the only criteria which led to such evaluations were negative customer satisfaction scores.
Since they’ve made the change, though, they’ve never looked back. Why?
- conflate product and support feedback
- not understand the complexities behind their request
- not know your internal quality standards (which may be higher than their expectations)
Equally importantly, they added conversation reviews because they needed to review all tickets, not just ‘bad’ ones, to get a clear and balanced picture of how their support team was performing.
A focus on your support quality criteria and improving these aspects will eventually result in you seeing the CSAT scores you want to.
? Enrique is one of two Senior QA Specialists for the EMEA division of Zendesk. They conduct weekly evaluations for about 50 support agents (a minimum of one review/agent each week).
5. Managing support QA without a dedicated tool is a tedious process
Zendesk first started out by doing support QA using spreadsheets.
But they quickly discovered that this wasn’t a feasible long-term process.
It required them to input large amounts of data onto the sheets. This was not only inconvenient but extremely time-consuming.
It was easy for things to get missed and the process of giving feedback was anything but straightforward.
Switching to a dedicated support quality management platform has now allowed them to easily:
- get a summary of how agents are performing at a glance
- pin-point areas of strengths and weaknesses to give useful feedback
- follow up to see if agents are putting the feedback they receive into practice
- create meaningful charts and reports to understand how their support is performing
So, it’s clear you need to pick a solution that’s easy to use and lets you spend time on doing what matters — giving feedback.
“If you’re spending more time figuring out your QA tool than actually giving feedback, then something is clearly broken”
(Have you heard of Klaus? It’s quite good.)
6. It takes time to build the perfect support QA program
Building, perfecting, and scaling a support QA program is not an overnight process. It involves a lot of trial and error. And it takes time to perfect your workflow.
But there are things you can do to hasten the process.
For starters, it’s extremely important to pick a support QA tool that matches your exact needs. It’s essential that it’s easy to figure out and fun to use since both agents and QA specialists will spend significant time on the product. If it isn’t fun, the reviews don’t get done.
It’s also equally important that you pick a provider with whom you can build a long-term relationship. You’ll want to meet with them regularly (weekly or bi-weekly) so that they can guide you to get the most out of the product and ultimately perfect your support QA workflow.
“Your QA tool needs to be easy to use for agents, reviewers, and everyone using the tool because they need to quickly find what they’re looking for. It’s also extremely important that you have a reliable QA partner to work with so that you can get the most out of the product.”
7. Peer reviews are a good option when you’re providing support in multiple languages
If you’re a global business providing support in multiple languages, the QA process can get tricky.
QA specialists will need to evaluate tickets that may not necessarily be in a language they speak. Online translators have come a long way and can give you a good jist of most conversations. But there will often be words, phrases, and expressions, etc. that just aren’t translated well.
If you’re facing such a situation, peer-to-peer reviews are a viable solution to overcome this challenge. This workaround ensures that the conversation reviews are performed by people who are fluent in the language.
Peer reviews have several other advantages. Knowledge sharing among peers can even result in improved trust levels. Discovering knowledge gaps and workarounds together can strengthen team chemistry. And onboarding of new agents can be accelerated with real-life examples.
Plus peer reviews are extremely scalable and distribute the review load among all agents.
? Luckily, Enrique is a polyglot who speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese. When he reviews support tickets of agents handling tickets in multiple languages, he goes through tickets in both languages for the sake of fairness and balance.
The future of support QA at Zendesk
Zendesk is continuing to grow and looking to further expand its support team.
With more agents also comes more data and support metrics to track. And they’re banking on the support QA processes they’ve built to help them identify trends and patterns that’ll allow them to further improve their excellent customer support QA.
A big shoutout to Enrique and the awesome team at Zendesk for being so gracious with their time and helping us compile this article!