Zendesk reports have been extremely effective
Today, over 30 million items will be posted to the Tumblr blog network. If that number is hard to wrap your head around, try this one: in the time it takes you to read this post about Tumblr, there will be 215,000 things posted to the Tumblr blogging platform.
Tumblr is one of the Internet’s most popular blogging platforms. The service, which launched four years ago, now hosts more than 19 million sites. People use Tumblr to share text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos on the web. As Marc LaFountain, Tumblr’s Vice President of Community Support, describes it, “We’re a place where creative people can share the things that they create and the things that they like.”
The Tumblr team prides itself on ease of use and on how quickly its users can share the content around the whole Tumblr network. This focus on community building has led to some staggering growth. Monthly traffic to sites across the Tumblr network has more than doubled over the past six months – from about three billion to nearly seven billion page views.
This growth has not come without its growing pains. More users means more questions, more lost passwords, more feature requests, more software bugs. There have even been moments where the whole network has gone down due to the traffic spikes – when this happened, LaFountain says, his support team received 30 emails a minute.
We spoke with LaFountain about how Tumblr uses Zendesk’s trouble ticketing system to keep up with their customer support as well as make sure it stays on track. Tumblr’s massive scale and spikes make for interesting support scenarios; add the fact that they keep up with this demand with a team of 12 makes them a great example of how to scale your customer support.
Support within Tumblr
Tumblr’s service prides itself on ease of use. “Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything,” they claim on their website. So when a user does have a question or is experiencing some trouble with the service, LaFountain wants to make sure their support experience is also quick and effortless. The Tumblr team had tried a couple different services before trying Zendesk, but found they needed something that could help them automate a lot of their support tasks. “We respond to almost all of the emails that we receive within 24 hours and we do that seven days a week, 365 days a year,” he says. And yet, they also need to do that as efficiently as possible. “We need to be good custodians of our investor dollar,” he told us. Rather than simply throw bodies at the support tickets, “we’re doing everything we can to automate as much as we can.”
How they pull it off
Automation can be a dirty word in support – think of those troubling computer voices that invariably misunderstand what you say. To Tumblr, automation isn’t a way to avoid talking to their customers, instead, it is a recognition that with 19 million blogs out there, there is bound to be a lot of repetition. If they can identify common issues and head them off at the pass – i.e. immediately when a customer writes in – they not only save themselves time to address other issues, they save their customers’ time.
“When you’re dealing with the kind of email volume we are, automating processes becomes a major deal,” LaFountain says. “We’re able to respond to over 10 percent of our support requests we receive with auto replies. That’s been huge for us from a staffing standpoint.” Users benefit, because “they, literally, get the answer they need immediately.”
To create auto replies, LaFountain and his team identify common phrases that are good indicators of a user’s question. When they feel they have identified a phrase or set of phrases, they create a trigger, or automated workflow based on predefined conditions, in Zendesk which searches all incoming mail for that phrase. If the phrase is found, an email tailor-made for that phrase is immediately sent back to the requester. (To learn more read our User’s Guide on Triggers). Nine times out of ten, this auto-reply resolves the customer question. However, if this is not the case and the customer replies back, then the ticket is once again opened and one of the support agents continues to handled it.
“We have over 70 triggers in Zendesk,” LaFountain explains; “which automatically route, tag, and respond to tickets.” All in the interest of efficiency and smart growth.
LaFountain ensures that Tumblr’s auto-replies remain effective by leveraging tags, another feature in Zendesk. Tags are simply words, or combinations of words, you can use to add more context to tickets and topics. (To learn more read our User’s Guide on Tags). Every time a ticket is answered via auto-reply, Zendesk tags it; and is then surfaced through a view that collects every ticket which has received an auto-reply. “Periodically I’ll crack open each ticket,” LaFountain explains, “and see, based on what the customer asked, if the auto-reply actually met the customer’s needs.”
Increasing agent efficiency
Automation isn’t the only way Tumblr handles the scale of their support. They also work hard to increase each support agent’s efficiency and use several aspects of Zendesk to do so.
“We deliberately do not have one agent be assigned to a ticket from beginning to end,” LaFountain told us. “The reason is because we are a small team working a seven day a week, 365-day schedule. I want to avoid having tickets not get responded just because a given person is on vacation or busy. Whoever is working and available should grab a ticket, regardless of who has worked on it in the past.”
If one were relying on an email client to run their help desk, this would be chaos, LaFountain acknowledges. But Tumblr heavily benefits from Zendesk’s Agent Collision alert to know whether another agent is currently working on a ticket. “We don’t bump heads that often,” LaFountain says.
To reduce a ticket’s resolution time, or time it takes to solve a request, Tumblr has created a number of custom widgets to provide Tumblr’s agents with information relevant to them. By adding in their own code to the Zendesk interface, Tumblr’s agents can look up the user who sent in a ticket, for instance, in their own administrative interface. “We have other links to our policies and procedures in Google Docs,” LaFountain explains. “If an agent wants to know how to handle a site abuse issue, our abuse policies are literally one click away.”
They’ve also created a custom widget with Zendesk partner HipChat. “HipChat is a really amazing chat client,” says LaFountain. Tumblr support staff can access the HipChat rooms straight from within Zendesk. “Everybody in Tumblr is on HipChat… and we have a HipChat chat room called “Breaking Issues”. When we see a really big global emerging issue, Breaking Issues is where the Tumblr staff chats about that issue.”
And the support team can do this all within Zendesk, allowing them to work much more efficiently. Instead of having to search around for answers, or login to another system to communicate with the rest of the company, they can do it all from within one tool.
The Tumblr support team uses Zendesk reports to ensure they are staying agile and efficient with their support processes, even when business is growing at a tremendous pace. They track ticket volume to see how and where there support requests are growing. And LaFountain keeps an eye on agent productivity – how many tickets each agents solves vs. how many come in. As he says, he wants to see who is answering less or more than average. “If somebody’s responding to a crazy number of tickets, that sounds good,” LaFountain explains, “but are they doing that with quality? Or are they burning themselves out?”
Taking reports one step further, the Tumblr team take advantage of the GoodData for Zendesk integration to actually report on the product itself. Using Zendesk tags, the support team is able to track instances of particular product issues, and generate a report on that issue for the engineering team.
With GoodData for Zendesk, Tumblr can then generate a set of reports on tags, showing activity on a daily or weekly basis. GoodData is then used to create an email report about the issue that goes out to Tumblr’s support agents and engineering team. “It’s been incredibly effective,” LaFountain says. “Now, support agents can approach the engineering team and show them which product issues are the most prominent ones, and should be fixed immediately.”
Tumblr’s growth shows no sign of slowing. As more and more users discover the joys of sharing the things they create and like, Tumblr’s support team will continue to use Zendesk to support these customers quickly and effectively.
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