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Printful taps Zendesk innovation to prep for global growth

By switching to Zendesk, Printful improved collaboration and visibility across its support, design services, graphics, sales, and fulfillment teams. Better data reporting and more reliable CX tools also helped the Printful team prepare for global growth.

“I’ve been a lot happier watching the call queue and chat queues with Zendesk. It’s just made managing so much better.”

Lora Kimball

customer support manager at Printful




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Printful, a print-on-demand fulfillment service that allows companies of all sizes, individual entrepreneurs, and hobbyists to easily create beautifully branded products and seamlessly deliver orders without worrying about inventory: if an online store is integrated with Printful and the selected product is synced, as soon as an order is placed, Printful prints the item and ships it as a white-label service.

Empowering smaller e-commerce players is the reason why Lora Kimball, Printful’s customer support manager, decided to bring her 30 years of customer experience to the company’s global, 24/7 support operation. “Not only are we providing products here, but we’re providing the ability to people out there to start their own business with little to no overhead,” she said. And for Kimball, being able to help stay-at-home parents or retired professionals easily start their own ventures “makes my heart full.”

Embracing the needful

Printful’s ability to power its customers’ success has led to its own enviable growth. The company has doubled its capacity year-over-year to meet the swell in demand. It now has five facilities: one in California, two in North Carolina in the United States, one in Latvia’s Riga, and another in Mexico.

Rising request volumes have also necessitated changes on the support front. In 2015, when the company was in its second year and the support team still fit in the same room, Printful adopted a helpdesk tool to process customer inquiries. Three years of hockey-stick growth later, the strain of being with a vendor that provided mercurial service and misleading reporting bore down on the company’s support operations.

“As we moved into the holiday season, we really started getting a lot of volume, and I saw issues with the stability of taking calls and chats. Then I started seeing issues with the inaccurate reporting,” Kimball said. “It could have been devastating to our business.”

The team continued expanding, going from 20 to 60 agents as Kimball looked for a more reliable vendor; it was important to her that the new solution would provide detailed, accurate, and real-time reporting so she could start forecasting future support needs. “When I said I needed to add ten more people and I didn’t have the data to back that up, it was very frustrating,” Kimball said. “If you don’t have firm data, it’s very hard to project your needs and budget.”

Kimball added that that before Zendesk, she received monthly reports; without current data, she didn’t have the numbers to adequately coach agents on their performance.

Clearing the roadblocks

Printful self-implemented Zendesk one channel at a time starting with email at the beginning of 2019. In addition to the support team, Printful’s design services, graphics, and some members of the sales and fulfillment teams also started using Zendesk to collaborate on and field tickets, bringing the total number of agents to just under 100. Kimball noted that the new cross-functional visibility into inquiries has led to more effective teamwork and quicker customer replies.

But for Kimball, by far the happiest change has been having access to valid numbers on channel flows. “We have seen a lot more of our true numbers, which was huge for us,” she said. Kimball uses these to hold agents accountable to their KPIs and stagger agent shifts so that there are always enough agents to cover incoming support volumes, even during winter holiday upswings. Printful has also been able to implement a formal quality assurance process to spot further growth opportunities.

As for the agent experience, Kimball said switching to Zendesk was akin to going from driving a suboptimal car to one that allows agents to get on the road and “actually go somewhere.”

Compared to more established vendors in the support space, Printful sees Zendesk as a kindred spirit that is committed to spurring growth through innovation. “Zendesk is still growing and we felt like we could grow with it, that there is always going to be something better coming along or some improvement,” Kimball said. “As we become more diverse and more global, we’re going to need that same response from our partners and vendors.”