CX Power Hour

How to Manage Fluctuating Ticket Volumes

Forecasting customer support demand is never easy. With so many unexpected variables that really can’t be predicted, how do CS leaders smartly handle unforeseen influxes in ticket volumes? In this session of CX Power Hour, Customer Service leaders explain their strategies for handling surprise spikes and offer tangible advice on ways to make improvements to the flexibility within your organization to be able to react quickly and efficiently when the unexpected strikes.

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Webinar Transcript

Amanda Malach:
All right. Let's get this kicked off. Hi, I'm Amanda Malach, the SVP of finance and marketing for ArenaCX. And I'm very excited to moderate this panel discussion. Today we're talking about something super important, given the volatile times over the last year, the importance of being prepared for the unknowns within customer support organization.

Amanda Malach:
As most support leaders know, the pitfalls of getting your forecast wrong can mean that your big implications on your staffing decisions, it can mean that you understaffed and you're delivering your customers a poor experience or it could mean you're overstaffed and you have agents sitting around idly and your business is bearing the brunt of costs that it shouldn't be.

Amanda Malach:
And so what we're here to discuss today is how can support leaders be proactive, make proactive decisions to put their businesses in a better position to whether that volatility. And so with me, we have leaders from Zendesk and I will let everyone introduce themselves, Forethought and ArenaCX. And so I'm going to turn it over to Ben. Can you just give everyone a little bit of an introduction about yourself, your company and what you do within Zendesk?

Ben Collet:
Yeah, so Ben Collet, senior director of enterprise support here at Zendesk. Zendesk is a help desk software platform that allows you to message with your customers and easy conversations, but has also had some scale challenges. I started 10 years ago when we had 10,000 customers and today we have 150,000 paying customers. So I'm excited for this conversation about how to weather the storm.

Amanda Malach:
Awesome. Michael.

Michael Veramo:
Yeah, Michael Veramo. I too work with Zendesk and I teach folks how to do customer experience, employee experience, all of that. So it's a very pertinent conversation given where we are and what we're doing.

Amanda Malach:
Great. Glad to have you guys here. Rose.

Rose Wang:
Hello, everyone. I'm Rose, I'm head of customer experience at Forethought. And we are an AI for customer support tool. So AI and technology has a huge part in capacity planning and as things change, how it can come into place is something that we've seen across lots of different industries. So really happy to talk about what that looks like.

Amanda Malach:
Awesome. And Doc, can you introduce yourself?

Doc Shufelt:
Sure. I'm Doc Shufelt, I'm a co-founder and the CEO of ArenaCX, and we're a marketplace that makes it easy to find, source, collaborate, and manage your BPO resources. And one of the things that we built this business for was pertinent to this discussion of this idea of it's really difficult to match supply with demand when it comes to customer service. There's this old joke, all models are wrong but some are useful. And I think that's interesting with respect to demand forecasting. You think you know what you're going to get but you never really know. And so we help put clients together with a portfolio of BPOs that allow us to help them manage that scalability and the resiliency as best as we can.

Amanda Malach:
Awesome. Well, glad to have you all here. I'm excited for this conversation. I think as we all talked about, it's very timely. And I'm hoping that our viewers get a lot out of what we're going to discuss today. So obviously it seems like technology is probably a good place to kick this off. Michael, was just wondering from your viewpoint, can you kind of talk through maybe a maturity curve that most businesses have when it comes to adopting technology, maybe starting at, technology as it relates to helping to better react to the changes in demand. So kind of starting with a CRM, what's the next step that you typically see in that evolution?

Michael Veramo:
Yeah, I think a lot of it does hinge on the CRM and understanding what a individual or an organization has in terms of their own entitlements or in terms of the service that you're going to provide them. In my mind, technology adoption is largely driven by risk. And what sort of risks do you have to business continuity, to market share, to the actual health and sustenance of the business and what can you whether, can you afford to have service risks or risks to your brand or any sort of risk that's going to perhaps result in customer churn or employee productivity churn?

Michael Veramo:
And so as I look at a maturity model, you begin to investigate what is an acceptable threshold for risk, what that means across an annual timeframe, because risks fluctuate, given any sort of time, if you're an e-commerce, the holidays pose more risk. If you're in a subscription model business, you may have a time when you're trying to renew subscriptions. So evaluating that model of technology adoption first begins with risk. And then of course, the converse of risk is reward.

Michael Veramo:
And what do we hope to achieve by virtue of adopting a new technology? And what's that going to cost us? It's always a balancing act, but in my mind, technology needs to address those two areas as cornerstones. And then from there you formulate your plan. What are we going to adopt based on that risk and reward and what we're going to get. I could obviously talk on that topic for the whole hour. So I'm going to pause and let you maybe get more specific with other folks.

Amanda Malach:
Sure. Ben, in your experience leading a support organization, what would you say are kind of the tactical next steps that a team would take on going from, to better prepare themselves? So you have your team, you have your CRM kind of what's next?

Ben Collet:
Yeah, great question. I think I remember the time when we were a scrappy, one size fits all team. Everybody did everything and even with the best recruiting and talent at the table, that only gets you so far. So I think right away we need to take a look at things like self-service and making sure that not every conversation has to be a human driven conversation, password resets, low value transactional conversations. That's the stuff that technology was built to automate. So by adopting a customer facing knowledge base, I think these are entry level things you start to talk about, but where it really gets interesting right now, Amanda is that we're seeing a convergence technology. So how do I skills-based route the right ticket to the right advocate?

Ben Collet:
How do I surface knowledge base articles right within the message or conversation I'm having with the customer without them having to click away, and how do I maybe even offer up those answers? So a customer can self serve and consume an answer with the least friction possible and the least waiting time possible. These are some of the things that we would look at to start to take us from that one size fits all approach into something a little bit more sophisticated.

Ben Collet:
And that's where I would look towards Rose because there's some really fun things that bots are doing. They're not just reactive. They're not just in a channel experience, they're driving self-service, they're converging on these customer experiences in ways that can help us scale to some degree and get started with making the most of our conversations.

Amanda Malach:
Awesome, thanks. Yeah, I'll turn that over to Rose. Rose, anything you want to add there?

Rose Wang:
Yeah, thanks for the layup, Ben. That was perfect. I couldn't love this discussion more because it's really about, technology is not a one size fits all or a solution that will fix all of your problems. That is not the point. It's exactly of what are the problems that humans are facing today that technology can go and help make better? And that's really how we think about developing AI as well as this technology. So when we're thinking about self-service, for example, we're thinking about your human agents, is it fun for them to be answering questions like password reset over and over again?

Rose Wang:
There's a reason why there's huge agent turn. Part of it is because their job isn't the most pleasant. How can we take away the more manual tedious pieces so they can be focused on what they're best at helping other humans? The other thing that we think about oftentimes is also when we talk about risk, looking at the risk of the technology, not all technologies have the same risk.

Rose Wang:
And so really understanding, yes, it's a chat bot, but how does that chat bot work behind the scenes? And then what happens after. So one with chat bots it's really understanding, okay, are we keyword based? Are we actually understanding the language? That's a great question to ask. Once we can self-service the things that can be self-serviced and there's an actual, you can ask for demos and POCs to help mitigate that risk.

Rose Wang:
So you're actually trying with your own data, then the question is, okay, how do we get it to the right team? How does that process currently work? Oftentimes, it's agents who are manually inputting, oh, it's this problem area. It's a password reset not an order cancellation, but I know as a human being, what I put before lunch as ordered cancellation, after lunch I might put as damages just because I'm inconsistent.

Rose Wang:
And so that's what's great about technology is you can take one view and consistently apply rules and you just want to really understand, okay, this is where technology is helpful, but when it actually comes to helping customers, I still want the agent to do that. So how do we go about creating a tool that helps that agent in that moment? And so I think the thoughtfulness digging deeply into the technology you're looking at and the vendor you're looking at and asking these questions are very important.

Amanda Malach:
Great points, excuse me, great points. Doc, do you have anything that you would want to add in terms of how you think technology can play in the way to prevent volatility and deliver a better experience?

Doc Shufelt:
Well, first I would listen to the full hour of Michael talking about this, for sure. So if that happens, sign me up. I think all of that is kind of knitting together some thoughts that the rest of the folks have already said, which is, my belief is that technology, the human technology partnership is what ultimately matters. An example of that would be chatbots. If you want to have self serve chatbots, you have to have content for those chatbots, not only to search, but also to give to the customer based on what they're looking for.

Doc Shufelt:
And often we've seen clients that will believe that chatbots just in and of themselves will magically find these answers. And unfortunately, that isn't really how it works. And so also having to go in and say, "Hey, human beings that have judgment that have experience and that have the nuance of what's going on." That isn't just textual. Going out and writing articles for a knowledge base or whatever it happens to be for that technology to pick up. And I think it is really critical.

Doc Shufelt:
And then back to something Michael said about risk is, risk changes, not just on seasonality, but even just within business conditions. And so when I was GM of Republic Wireless, some quarters, my CEO would come and say, "I need you to cut costs by 10%." Sometimes he would come say, "We've got a product launch coming out next quarter. I really don't want to see any bad reviews out there." And so how you assess risk and how that, and only a human can really do that how that then translates into your technical implementation, I think is really key. And that's something that I think Michael, Ben, and Rose, we're all leading towards as well.

Amanda Malach:
Awesome.

Ben Collet:
I love that. And you don't have to have perfect information either. I mean, can you do 2X your volume this year? Can you do 10X your volume next year? Is that in the cards? Are there major events releases or global circumstances that are contributing to that number being bigger than you might expect? The plan that you have to have is just how you succeed this quarter in this year with linear growth, but really looking at 2X and 10X, what are the things that will get you to that stage? And I love that you can kind of just cut the risk pie down a little bit into little slices and to say, "How are we prepared to take a bite?"

Michael Veramo:
Yeah, but to Doc's point as well, sorry for interrupting you there?

Amanda Malach:
No, go ahead.

Michael Veramo:
The thought too is you can't just implement a technology and forget it. You can't just remove that human element. A lot of organizations have tried that through just exclusive self-service and community-based support. And honestly, I won't give those folks my business. I mean, there's just no way to get any help when you need it. And so you can't remove the human element. I mean, in any sort of sterile interaction is just not going to be pleasant. So you can't just implement and forget, you got to continue to review so that you can scale when in fact circumstances dictate an increase in volume.

Amanda Malach:
So a lot of what the kind of themes that we're hearing are using technology to make agents more efficient and using technology to make... I lost my train of thought right now. Well, let's just start on that one. What are some of the key ways, or are there any other ways that we want to talk about, ways that agents can become more efficient? One agent can do more work via channel change ups, means of communication. Ben you're nodding, do you want to go into anything there?

Ben Collet:
Yeah. I mean, this is the song we sing. How can we make our people as effective and as efficient as possible? And some of these things are right there in their daily tasks. I thought Doc brought up a great point about content. We use knowledge centered support. So we use that methodology and essentially having an advocate link a ticket to an article and say, "This was relevant, but it wasn't enough." Just that motion in flight and getting back to the conversation with the customer is a great way to add value. And then you can stack rank your content opportunities by the things that have the most votes or the most links to conversations.

Ben Collet:
And there's a lot of technology that also looks in your blind spot and can make sure that, "Hey, here's all the tickets over here. Here's all the content over here, here's what's missing." So I think there's a lot to be said that actually enables them to be more effective and more efficient in their conversations. Again, I go back to a time when we were that one size fits all team. And I think one of the first things that we did was we looked at process improvements and I'm talking about real low-hanging fruit, Amanda.

Ben Collet:
This is simple. I mean, if you look at your business, if you look at all of your conversations over a quarter or over a year, and you that 50% of them are a single touch resolution, you got to ask yourself, is that a good thing or a bad thing for some companies that's amazing, that's awesome. For us at Zendesk where a lot of our conversations can be complex and consultative and where we see real value in customer loyalty by engaging in those conversations, we saw it as a target to bring down.

Ben Collet:
And so how do we do that? And one of the easiest ways that we did was we just teared out our organization, look at the median number of your handle time and say anything before that median is tier one, anything after that median is tier two or if you have a product area breakdown of your conversations, if 50% of your conversations are all about easy 15 minute, quick getting started, turn the lights on, know where the pool is in the hotel.

Ben Collet:
Great, you can build your customer care experience around that in a highly responsive way and reserve the rest of your technical support teams for those deeper conversations. And in so doing, you can make a highly available, highly responsive team, and you can also still get after those deeper technical engagements that are so meaningful and so valuable. So there are process wins that you can get along the way, but any one of these things in isolation is never going to be enough.

Ben Collet:
You really have to have the lens of, in my view, people process and technology together working in concert, how can I self serve this stuff? How can I put content in place? How can I put bots in place in the chat and in email and in all of these areas that allow for that interactive self-service experience to even if it absorbs just 10% of the stuff that doesn't lead to value or growth of your customers, that's a great way to then say, "Hey, I still have all this low complexity volume. Is this where I want my internal teams? Or can we use an outsourcer? Can we use a partner?"

Ben Collet:
So there are people in relationship aspects here, there are technology aspects. And then there's the process improvements that help really cater to their success on a per conversation level, but still enabling the whole operation to have reach to your customer base who's typically outpacing your supply chain.

Amanda Malach:
Great.

Rose Wang:
I'd love to add to that point because what is so interesting is yes, so not all types of tickets are created equal. There's some that are easier and harder, but same with agents is exactly what Ben is saying. There's different types of agents that deal with T1 tickets versus T2, and why that's such a great process is that one, different agents in their life cycle of their job have different needs. And that's something else to look at. So when you have a tiered structure, you can essentially move agents who are newer on the T1 tickets, and as they get more mature, they can move up in that way.

Rose Wang:
But also this is a great way to bring in technology where you look at, hey, one of the biggest costs for agents are the newer agents, because they constantly are tapping on the shoulder of your experienced agents of how do I solve this? How do I solve this? And so any sort of technology where you can help new agents onboard faster, and a quick plug here with our product assist, where we can actually show past tickets, macros, knowledge articles, the moment they answer a ticket that's relevant to the current ticket they're answering, hugely beneficial for new agents where we see productivity savings as well as C-SAT increases for newer agents that use tools that can help them.

Amanda Malach:
That makes a lot of sense. Doc, were you going to say something?

Doc Shufelt:
Yeah, the only thing I was gonna add I think we were kind of touching on it, but something that it's easy. I forget about sometimes is one of the amazing roles that technology plays that we almost take for granted at this point is the amount of measuring we're able to do so that we understand which agent is doing what, which tickets are high value or not. You could even go even farther with that and say certain ticket types are potentially even more correlated with churn or repeat purchases and things like that.

Doc Shufelt:
And so back to the analytics, I'm not sure how that was done back in the 50s, but I can imagine it wasn't nearly as robust as this today. And being able to get down to those details like Rose was saying, I mean, some agents could have the skill for working ticket type X, but then it might not be very good at it.

Doc Shufelt:
And so if we just send tickets to someone that has the skill and we're not paying attention to, well, okay, are they leveraging that scale? Back to Rose kind of made a point where it's efficacious, then we're inadvertently doubling down on the problem. But we have so much data and trying to understand, hey, which stuff is really important. The insights we have there just happens to be difficult to get them Albert's key role of technology that we think about a lot at ArenaCX to kind of address the two situations that Ben and Rose we're talking about.

Amanda Malach:
I'm curious Ben and how many agents approximately are below you, just so the audience has sense?

Ben Collet:
So I have 100 people directly on my team today in the enterprise support division. We have about 400 ticket varying agents worldwide in global customer care.

Amanda Malach:
Okay. So you're a small world. I'm joking. So have you found that the tiered nature of your agents... Does that level of specialization make handling volatility any more difficult? Like do you ever find that or is it a challenge to manage? Oh, tier two is getting really summed right now but tier one agents are standing by without anything to do. And if so, can you just talk a little bit about how you manage that?

Ben Collet:
Yeah, absolutely. You have to put governance in place anytime you think about tiering an organization. You want to make sure that your escalation percentage from tier one to tier two is a healthy number. You don't want every ticket touched by a tier two or else that sounds more like a tier one. So you want to put some governance in place on the quality of escalations. You want to have a regular relationship where you're sharing lessons from tier two to tier one and keep moving down that expertise, moving it forward to the front of the line as much as possible.

Ben Collet:
And I think what Doc said is key to that. I think the modern nature of observability and being able to see where our top volumes are, what ticket types are escalating the most and building training around that, it helps actually elevate your tier one. I've seen senior tier ones in our current organization that would crush what a tier two did three years ago.

Ben Collet:
And so there is this like ever evolving demand from customers that we'd be better and faster. And as you naturally react to that, your internal teams will get better and faster as well. That's the goal. And to stay as close to your customers as you can. So I think there's a lot to be said about how you break down that model and then also leverage them back in that organic space. I'm not gonna lie.

Ben Collet:
The reason why Zendesk is so easy to recruit for is because our secret sauce, our special superpower is that we work together. So we never have to go through the red tape of saying, "Well, you're tier two. So I know you can't help me on this." No, that never happens. So we absolutely... It's typically more in the frame of tier one might need help. So tier two will engage in live channels and hey, that's not a bad practice to have.

Ben Collet:
They can stay sharp, they can stay quick. They can even shift gears a little bit and answer a few quicker questions that give them a little bit more steam to go through the bigger, harder tickets later on in the day. I don't think it's something you want to do all the time. And if you are, that's a signal that the scale of your operation is not keeping pace. And again, is your technology profile correct? Or are your gaps just around like nights and weekends? Are your gaps around non-English expansion and coverage internationally?

Ben Collet:
In those scenarios, I think other factors start to come into play like, what's your recruiting timeline in those languages? What's your recruiting timeline for nights and weekends shifts if you've got a split shift organization or something like that. And so you have to start asking the question, is this where I want to invest my internal resources, my internal teams?

Ben Collet:
And usually again, it's a blended answer. There are things that you can do with your existing processes and products to get people successful in a tier one and a tier two focused zone and where you guys are collaborating. Is that something you want to sustain? And if it's not sustainable and it requires heroes in the moment, heroes are great, they're expensive.

Ben Collet:
So is there a better formula to sustainably cover those gaps? And that's again where you start to enter in, okay, here's a little different technology we can put into place here. Here's a little bit of training we can put in place. And then here's a partner that's either a boutique partner, something small but super high quality or here's a robust partner who will actually drive improvements to our processes as well. All of those things tend to be solutions that blend together as an answer into where you're at and where you're going.

Amanda Malach:
That's awesome. Michael, anything that you want to add based on kind of the level of the conversations that you're in with your clients?

Michael Veramo:
I'll give a little element of synthesis here. I mean, what Doc and Benjamin are talking about is having predictive analytics and then tools to solve for what's forthcoming in a plan, but how are you going to manage these contingencies? We don't have tools in place like box or like AI or like knowledge basis or self serve. How can you plan for a sudden disruption or a sudden spike in tickets? Or maybe everyone decides to quit, who knows? Everyone catches the flu one day and all your agents are gone. What the heck do you do then?

Michael Veramo:
Well, maybe you have a BPO or maybe you have more bot deployment, but part of your business is in fact running those predictive analytics and understanding where your deficits and knowledge are, your deficits and training. When you have your spikes, when it costs you to manage those tickets is a huge element. And then how do you budget for that in the future?

Michael Veramo:
So that of course is one train you're on. And the other is well, given a disruption that's outside my control or inside my control, what can I do? What are my options? Who can I call for support? What process needs to be ready? Can I take those tier two agents and say, "Okay, folks, we're going to move all over to tier one and help them out because of this demand." Is that going to be a cultural disruption or a change management nightmare? Might be if you don't have the right leadership in place or the right process in governance.

Michael Veramo:
So it just means we need to stretch the way we think, and I'm not confident that we all do that because life just kind of turns on, but more and more we see disruptions come and I think what's the next big disruption next year. There's supposed to be a massive set of solar flares, I think. New abrupt technology? Well, let's see how we adapt to that. You never know.

Amanda Malach:
Yeah. Wow, I hope that's not true. We have enough bad things to look. We still need to get out of this black swan event before we talk about the next one.

Ben Collet:
It will sneak up on you though. I've looked at my own experiences. We probably could have used a workforce management solution at least a year before we implemented it. And one of my regrets is that we didn't invest in some of those predictive technologies that would have told us, "Hey, you're climbing 1,000 tickets more a week. If this continues, you'll need X number of hours applied to solve for it. How are you going to do that?" And that was a big deal. And I think elevating our maturity from just reactive, how did we do to predictive? How are we going to do?

Amanda Malach:
That's great. That's a great point. And something that I think the audience will really grok on that tangible concepts. And Doc, I'm going to switch gears or on that topic rather, how do you recommend that businesses removing the human element of managing a team internally prepare for or structure their operations in a way to build that resiliency in?

Doc Shufelt:
Yeah, that's the trillion dollar question probably. What we've found successful and the model that we're proponents of is diversification. And so just like you don't just go buy, you don't put all your net worth into Apple stock, you probably have a little bit an Apple or you probably have a bunch in an index fund, got some in bonds and T-bills. The other thing that technology allows us to do today that we couldn't do before, it was more difficult and expensive is to be able to have lots of different teams that are essentially loosely coupled.

Doc Shufelt:
So you can have 10 people over here and 50 people over there and 100 people over here, and we can seamlessly divert tickets to wherever it is, that either has the capacity or if there is an event for example, with Republic Wireless, one of our main BPO partners got hit with a ransomware attack and we're shut down for three weeks, 100% offline, nothing.

Doc Shufelt:
And so because of the technology infrastructure we had in place and our general belief in the more diversified we can be, that the more resilient we can be, the more scalable we can be, we were able to just divert those tickets through our other partners and everything went on seamlessly. You can do that reasonably inexpensively today. In the old days if you were studying up call pass and you needed 12 different 1800 numbers to go to all these different places and figure out how to do that, it'd be cost prohibitive. And probably the experience would be bad.

Doc Shufelt:
But for the most part today with great tools that have incredible API's like Zendesk, you can do those things and you can then match all your different needs with smaller partners that can do different things. If you need a team that can scale really quickly, if you need a team that can do AB testing for you. So you want to try something different in your experience but you want it to be isolated, I guess you can't really get a sense for what's going on. We can do those things now.

Doc Shufelt:
And so if you're taking that, what technology gives us both from the analytical perspective that we've talked about, as well as in the control in real time of where things can go and who's getting what tickets, it allows you to build a network that is largely insulated from any specific shock, even if it's a shock as substantive as a ransomware attack or COVID.

Doc Shufelt:
And so for us, it's not, again, going back to the marriage of human beings where the technology and how to get the best out of everyone, that's how we have found and been successful with how we suggest folks think about it. And you don't have to be a 10,000 person company to do that anymore. We have clients that are small, smaller than you would think that have that kind of setup, because we can take advantage of these new opportunities.

Amanda Malach:
I just want to take a moment and say, if anyone has any questions, please feel free to put it in the Q and A section. The group here is happy to answer any questions that the audience may have here. And this is all very relevant because our next CX Power Hour is on the future of customer service, human plus machine. So we'll pick up a lot of these topics on August 30th. So little plug there.

Amanda Malach:
I want to shift a little bit, focus on the human element. Ben, how do your decisions around staffing, how are they affected by the need to be reactive? Zendesk has a new product launch that's happening. I imagine that's a period when you're like, "My forecast says it could be this, but I also know it could be 50% above that or 20% below that." What operationally do you do different during those periods?

Ben Collet:
Yeah, great question. So I think number one, there's the change management process. I think you have to have a vision for the transformation you're going to go through. You have to prepare your team and make sure that they are as ready as possible down to single task success, not just daily success, weekly success or annual success, but for that person, how will they go home and high-five their partner, "We did it, we did it. I helped a ton of people today." That's the feeling you want to get with them.

Ben Collet:
So that requires a lot of vision and positive management. I think you have to evaluate your processes. You have to try to streamline them and curate them. Everybody thinks a new process and a new efficiency is very shiny and helpful. And that's usually true until you find out that you've got 350 processes and maybe that's too much for anyone and to get to absorb.

Ben Collet:
So I really want to endorse this concept of pruning. Just like any other garden, you need to kind of clean house and bring things down as much as possible, make things as simple as much as possible, and kind of going on my last example about tiering, from tier one to tier two, that's still kind of a one size fits all tier. Like you're still answering every ticket title. So the thing that we've done recently is that we've evolved our understanding from just breaking down our operation based on time constraints into actual personas and experiences that cater to those personas.

Ben Collet:
And so instead of having a tier one generalist today, we actually are building experiences where all trial tickets, because we have a free trial program, all trial tickets go to trial advocates, all enterprise tickets go to enterprise skilled advocates. In so doing and by keeping these swim lanes smaller for them to focus, they can do things like clean up their backlog ahead of a big push.

Ben Collet:
They can do a little bit more with focus and with scale in mind, while we lean on other advantages, again, like maybe we need to invest in our knowledge-based content for six months ahead of this major transformation so that our bots can be that much more effective and we can shave off another 10% of our volume that doesn't necessarily need human beings to assist.

Ben Collet:
And what I think gets really interesting is when we use Agile as our integration partner for workforce management, we can calculate how many tickets we're expecting to be improved. Like what the handle time improvements will be. We can see how much our bots are meant to intercept, and then we can forecast how much volume we still have. Now, it's still, I would say that if it's within 5% of variants, you're at the gold standard of workforce management.

Ben Collet:
So if that 5% can make or break you in a quarter, then you need to look at other options. You need to look at potentially leveraging a partner or something like that. But I think that's the key thing for me, Amanda is you have to look at some of these scheduled and predictable events, and you also have to look back historically and ask how many unscheduled and unpredicted events have we had? And when you roll that up and you realize how well you were able to meet that demand that should tell you, "Hey, I have two or three events a year." Standard.

Ben Collet:
If I have two or three events a year, and I can count on that, then it might be time to talk about how you create a partnership that allows you to ramp up quickly and not just in a surge capacity way where maybe you can get people in the next week or two or in the next month. But I'm talking about burst capacity, which I think is one of the number one features I would look for from a BPO or a co-sourcing partner is to say, "If I sign up with you for 20 agents, what would happen if I needed 40 agents? How quickly could we get that kind of coverage?"

Ben Collet:
And that becomes very difficult if you're trying to manage BPO partnerships one at a time or if you're only trying to manage BPO's in a single swim lane versus others. So you really need to leverage technology where it exists. And I think ArenaCX makes a really compelling case because you don't have to go through the contract phase. You don't have to go through a whole new RFP process and things like that. And what we found is that when you work with partners that take away all of those business processes and red tape off of your plate and you can just focus on your customer experience, you do so much better. Your people do so much better. They stick around longer.

Ben Collet:
And so the net gains on this just continue to be stronger and stronger. And there was something I heard earlier. I just want to talk about just for a second. You cannot underestimate what Michael was talking about. The set and forget mindset, that Rotisserie infomercial we all know from the 90s, that does not work in the current age. It just doesn't, you always have to be developing your people, do your operation does.

Ben Collet:
And as strategic leaders we have to as well. And so how do you do that? Well, if you don't have a team that's innovating a new product adoption or trying out a new workflow, you're probably behind. Your customers are trying on new things and new ways all the time. So by leveraging a partner to do a lot of that innovation for you and do it in an insulated way, you can keep pace without sacrificing your best people who need to protect your most valuable business.

Ben Collet:
So those are just some of the comments I would say are involved with changing, not just from a tear or low-hanging fruit, breakdown of your team, but really trying to get strategic on an annual basis for your coverage needs that require bot investments, forecastable predictions on where your volume needs to go and when you might need a partner to really save the day.

Amanda Malach:
That was so excellent. Thank you, Ben for sharing. And I think your point is so spot on that people may realize that or not think that they're having those big events a couple of times a year, and they're all one off. This is one off, but really it's pretty regular. And you need to bake that into your steady state and plan for that and because otherwise you're going to just get destroyed every time you have anything above that.

Ben Collet:
And you don't need to be a giant company or a giant team either. I saw an eyeglass company start off with a bot with seven intents, seven. We're launching a whole new experience right now, 70 intents is what we're starting with. With seven intents they were able to actually intercept almost 70% of their traffic. So it's never been easier to sign up for technology that can help you even on a small team. And it's never been easier to work with a partner, even on small partnerships just to get started and protect you as you go.

Ben Collet:
I think a lot of us fall for this trap that I need to be 100 person organization or that I need to be a 500 person organization to even qualify for some of these strategies and maneuvers. And the truth is you can do this with a small team. You can do this right now and you can protect that team's growth as you scale. So really important to be thinking about this actively and not just set an artificial threshold in your mind, "When we're bigger we'll get some workforce management, when we're bigger we'll get a bot involved, when we're bigger we'll talk about a BPO." That's a myth.

Amanda Malach:
Yeah-

Rose Wang:
Yeah and-

Amanda Malach:
... I know that from... Go ahead, Rose. I was going to turn it to the two of you to just chime in and give your experiences at your own company. So go ahead.

Rose Wang:
... Yeah, what I love about that analogy is that it's very easy to think about a number of tickets. And when you're thinking about scaling up that capacity, let's just say you have 1,000 tickets and you have 10 agents, one per 100 tickets, when you're dealing with technology, we're operating on percentages rather than number of tickets, that's the true scale you're thinking about. We're saying, "Oh, we're deflecting 10% of your tickets and you go from 1,000 to 10,000." That means that 100 number is now 1,000 and you have to hire 10 more people versus a bot is actually in their, technologies in there to go and help scale with you.

Rose Wang:
And so I couldn't agree more, is it's almost technology is like skipping over computers going straight to mobile. And that's very much the age I think that we are in now, it startups is, we had a horrible era of chatbots in 2016. We've kind of figured out a lot of the technology elements there. And so you don't have to pre-qualify, think about as you're scaling your business, how to build it in with AI.

Rose Wang:
And then the other part I do want to say is so much important of not only who your people are in your team, but the vendors you work with, who those people are. Are they going to be with you every step of the way? Are they going to consult you not just, like we said before, give you a tool and say, "Good luck." Which then most oftentimes you're not going to get the return you want.

Amanda Malach:
Great point. And Doc, do you want to just chime in about the ability for small companies to access BPOs for ArenaCX? Because I think... Rose, I feel like I want you to touch on that too, just to hone in Ben's point that small businesses can leverage AI and access BPOs.

Doc Shufelt:
Yeah, with that question, I mean, Ben was spot on. I mean, our fastest growing segment right now is a small SMB, like capital S small. But what we're finding is that's exactly when you need it. I mean, typically, you're going to either take one. If you're in that position, I've been in this position before. You're either going to take one of your top people that could be working on product or they could be working on something else and you're going to have them go do customer service because you're a five person organ. We all know if you're in a startup, you're wearing lots of hats.

Doc Shufelt:
You don't have to do that. And Ben's point about as you're trying to develop new competencies. And one of the things that we did at Republic, a quick anecdote is, people had to put it as a wireless company. And so people had to put SIM cards into their phone if we sent them a new phone and we were just getting ticket after ticket after ticket after ticket on that. And we couldn't really figure out what exactly what the problem was.

Doc Shufelt:
And so we partnered with one of our smaller BPO partners and asked them, "Just create appointments and just sit with people while they're doing this and watch what they're doing." And we found that it would take 45 minutes for some people, either because of dexterity or because it's not entirely clear, like which little pole you're supposed to punch that thing into. We had people breaking their phones, we had people snapping their SIM cards.

Doc Shufelt:
And simply the act of watching what people were doing that you can do in a store. But as you go digital and we implement all these great technologies is you lose a little bit of that. And so we were able to do that. Republic was not a huge business, but we did focus on those types of things. I mean, there's tens of thousands of BPO's out there, all different shapes, sizes, skills, motivations, impact, sourcing, everything else.

Doc Shufelt:
One of the things we pride ourselves on is, if you're one of these small businesses, you don't necessarily know where to look. If I just search BPO and I get Sitel, Teleperformance, the usual suspects, but they're not going to take it two, three, four, agent K. We're able to match people up with the boutique firms or bigger firms that have purpose built divisions for that exact thing.

Doc Shufelt:
And you can find that if you know where to look. It's just really hard to figure out how to look. And so it's there, it's valuable. You can keep your focus on your core business and not the ins and outs of sort of the tactical customer support. You can think strategically about it. So it's definitely out there and we hope more small businesses start to think that way.

Amanda Malach:
Awesome. One thing I wa-

Ben Collet:
I love what Rose said there. You have to build with this architecture in mind and you don't have to wait to do that. It might seem simpler to just go after this quarter and smaller strategies, but you're really sacrificing future architectural beings by building for yesterday or today and not for tomorrow.

Amanda Malach:
... And on that point, I love your stratification or your soon to be stratification of your team around business segments, because that enables you to be, putting my finance hat on, that enables you to be really strategic about how much you're spending in each of those segments based on the value of them. So when you factor that in with chatbots or hey, these are our long tail clients, our trial only, those you might want to send money on, but these are the ones that are just doing the bare minimum with us.

Amanda Malach:
They only get tier one type service or they only get their chatbot first plus and only a cheaper agent, maybe they go overseas, BPO support versus an enterprise is you're making your org get to the point where you are customer success and not support. And I bet that's really exciting for your team to get to that level as well.

Ben Collet:
It is. Again, it's kind of like that person who comes home at the end of the day, solving eight password requests, they don't get excited by that. They don't high-five their partner and say, "I made the world a better place today. We're good. What are we having for dinner?" Like they don't do that. It's more fulfilling when you can actually have a conversation that could only be solved by either a combination of technology and human power or on your team spirit, your team talent engagement, that's more fulfilling.

Ben Collet:
And saying that you were able to help 30 customers in a day, which is totally possible is way more impactful than some of the things we find ourselves doing. And what's so natural here is that everyone's doing this already. You're already doing this. Everybody is stratifying. Your most senior people are answering your most complex tickets, which in all hopes are from your biggest customers, your most complex implementation.

Ben Collet:
So you're already doing this organic association of my lowest seniority people, my people that are here a year or less, put them on the front lines, they'll take the least complex work. My highest tenured folks, my three, four or five years plus people we're putting them on the most challenging stuff because they're the most skilled, the most equipped. So you're already doing this stratification anyway, by formalizing it, you can better invest in those people and do things like go after time to readiness.

Ben Collet:
So even though my trial experience is very, it's people just trying features on for the first time. It's not very deep. We like to call them experienced specialists and product generalists in that phase, because that's the right formula for what that customer is looking for. But here's the thing, it still takes me months to take an outside hire and get them up to speed to full productivity expectations.

Ben Collet:
And so by using a bot that might give them, hey, heads up when somebody is in a trial, and they're asking about these three things, that's a growth customer. That's a customer that almost always grows with us fast and big. So roll out the red carpet, give them some cues on how to make that success part of the formula. And you can do so at a much faster clip.

Ben Collet:
And again, if you're still not able to break through on those time to readiness challenges with a bot, with self-service and the swim lanes, maybe it's time to look at a partner that can augment your conversations, maybe take some of those lower value stuff away so that your team can train themselves, invest, and elevate and do the meaningful work that you want them to do.

Ben Collet:
So it's a constant evolution and I feel like people are doing this kind of informally or organically. And I think the call to action here is be formal about it. Look at it from a year from now is perspective. Look at it from a risk perspective and see, okay, this could be the ROI if we invest in it, not just for the 1X volume were at today, or the 2X volume that we could see later this year, but for those 5X moments that only lasts a week or two, but we'll put us behind by half a year.

Amanda Malach:
Great point. Well, I think we're almost out of time. Chad, do we have any questions or do we want to put up the page at the end here where everyone's contact information? Perfect, that's everyone. Yeah, the Zendesk crew. If you have any questions, you want to learn more about Zendesk, please reach out to Ty Yelich, his email is there. If you want to learn about Forethought or ArenaCX, please get in touch with Rose or Doc. We have their emails there as well. We'd love to hear from you.

Amanda Malach:
We're always looking for new panelists. Thank you so much to the Zendesk crew for being with us today. But if you're interested in being a panelist on this, please email marketing@arenacx. We would love to have you. Thank you all. This was an excellent discussion. Appreciate it. I think we've more than made the perfect segue for our next discussion as I said, August 30th, about the future of customer support is humans plus machines, please tune in. Everyone, have a great Thursday.

Ben Collet:
Love the energy. Thanks for having us.

Amanda Malach:
Well, absolutely.

Doc Shufelt:
Thanks, everyone.

Michael Veramo:
I liked it.

Amanda Malach:
Thanks, all.

Doc Shufelt:
[inaudible 00:52:34]

Ben Collet:
Bye.

Amanda Malach:
Bye.