What it’s like on the front lines of support

What it’s like on the front lines of support

October 25, 2017
What it’s like on the front lines of support

Customer support looks different from company to company, and one configuration isn’t necessarily better than another. At Zendesk, we offer tiered support, a system that funnels customer queries into defined levels. Yet, with 73% of consumers saying they want the ability to solve issues on their own, we try to enable as much self-service as possible. As a result, many questions are resolved before they even make it to our first-line team. But once they do, our team is prepared to support our customer base, escalate urgent issues, and most important, help find the root of the problem.

Here’s what a few agents on the front lines of our Tier 1 support had to say about their agent experience:

Haley Varenkamp, Team Lead
In T1 support, we are responsible for helping customers over the phone, chat, Facebook, Twitter, our community forums, as well as email. Covering all of these channels also means we have the opportunity to solve the majority of our customers’ requests, which makes it a pretty exciting place to be!

Leah Guest, Customer Advocate
At Zendesk, we train for about 2 weeks before hopping in to answer tickets. After you start to know the product more, you get trained on phones and chat usually around the same time. Because there’s so much to know, leaning on your co-workers for knowledge and advice is imperative. We are a very collaborative bunch in T1. Everyone’s always helping each other to find not only the right answer to the customer questions but also workarounds for all the unique use cases we see everyday.

James Sanford, Customer Advocate
I get to help other companies make sure their workflows work correctly, to the benefit of their agents and customer base. After having lived as an agent for so long, the opportunity to help other companies empower their agents with the tools they need to go home happy every day is a unique reward. Freely sharing my knowledge and experience with co-workers, and learning from them in return so that everyone can help everyone, is the icing on the cake. I think a lot of companies could benefit from the Zendesk way and I’m glad I get to share that with them every day.

Three things support agents on the front lines see most:

At Zendesk, our T1 advocates filter through and solve a majority of tickets (roughly 80 percent), which means they see everything. While no two support configurations are exactly alike, beyond core troubleshooting and account questions, here are a few common things support agents can expect on the front lines, according to our very own agents:

1. Use cases
At Zendesk, the front lines see how our own products work—for both admins and agents. Not only do our T1 agents help customers with the product all day, but our agents work in the product as well. When helping customers, our agents usually work on Administrative tasks and permissions. However, when they use Zendesk themselves, agents like Leah constantly discover more about the Zendesk agent experience, seeing what works about the product and what doesn’t from both perspectives.

2. Feedback
Working on the front lines offers valuable information throughout the day, from direct product feedback to customers who describe their task flow as they’re doing it over the the phone. That’s a lot of useful feedback, and it’s important to utilize all of the feedback that comes in. We provide feedback to our own product team, which is relayed to our engineers so they can evolve our software.

3. Educational opportunities
When a customer reaches out to your company, it’s a chance to inform and educate them as well as to help them become experts on your brand and product(s). At Zendesk, our agents live and breathe the products, allowing our technician support team to educate customers on how to use their instances in the best way possible. Our very own advocate, James, said, “Guiding customers to the documentation and resources we provide also empowers them to find the answers they need for the future.”

How we gain a fresh support perspective:

Use cases, feedback, and educational opportunities are all things to look out for and remind yourself of when offering support, but it’s also important to maintain a fresh perspective on the type of support your business offers. We asked some of our team leads and agents how they keep things fresh on the front lines, and here’s what they had to say:

Haley Varenkamp
I’m a big reader so I often check out blogs, such as Relate, to learn from other support teams and what works for them. Hearing stories from customers on what really stuck out to them during their support experience is helpful as well. In many industries, customer service is the biggest differentiator between competing companies. If you aren’t providing the best support, you’ll likely be left behind. That competition really drives innovation in the support realm.

But, at the end of the day, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that all we’re hoping to do is make a meaningful connection with the person on the other end of that email, call, or chat. It’s easy to get sucked into only answering the question in front of you, but keeping that human connection top of mind has always been helpful for me.

Leah Guest
It’s easy to fall into a routine of the type of support you provide. However, every time I reach out as an end-user to a customer support team at another company, I feel like I gain a fresh perspective on support. Whenever I’m on the other side of things, I get a new view of things I like or don’t like about customer support and try to apply that to my workflow. I also think that teaching others about the way we do things in Support at Zendesk is a good way of gaining a fresh perspective.

We have an Intro to Advocacy program where we teach our co-workers in other departments about the way Advocacy works. There have been times when I’m explaining a workflow or process, and I think “Hey, that really could be better”. Breaking things down and speaking aloud like that helps you see pain points that can be improved upon.


First-line support can be a lively place to be and there’s plenty of useful information agents can gleam from every interaction. While it can be difficult to do, consistently reminding your support teams to think about utilizing feedback and use cases to educate customers can greatly improve the front lines of your company’s support. All it takes is a moment to step back from the front lines to gain perspective.

Take care of your support agents

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