Hi everyone!

I began my Support Driven adventure two and a half years ago. I had recently co-produced an internal mini-conference for Automattic‘s annual company meetup, and Scott was looking to produce a conference for the Support Driven community. Andrew Spittle (lead of Automattic’s support team) introduced us.

Scott asked me a bunch of questions, and the next thing I knew, I was an organizer.

The conference we produced was SUPCONF: Support Driven’s debut event. It was a small, single track conference “by and for career customer support professionals of the Support Driven community,” as Pat East so perfectly put it in his recap. And as Pat also said, the journey didn’t stop there. SUPCONF began as a small, ~100-person event with 14 talks, and it focused primarily on leadership (rather than on-the-ground-support) topics.

Thanks to feedback from the community, the conference has developed through multiple iterations to include a broader event — an Expo (called SDX in 2017) — with space for more participants, opportunities for front-line agents to deepen support skills, and perhaps most importantly, a focus on actionable takeaways. Last year, the Expo was one day of talks and workshops. This year it is going to be so much more:

  • Two days instead of one
  • Nearly twice the number of workshops and talks as last year
  • Community meetups to connect with other support pros in person
  • A job fair for job-seekers (and career-curious) to meet with companies who are hiring
  • A trade show to explore support products in person without having to wait on back and forth sales calls or demos
  • Support bars to make appointments with professionals to coach us in our support work
  • A flexible pricing model to accommodate a variety of budgets

I am thrilled about the evolution of the event, and that I get to be a part of it as we move into what I think is the most exciting phase: the expansion of content and of opportunities to engage with others in support. Career development isn’t limited to moving into management or increasing our skillset: it also includes broadening our reach, relationships, and engagement with the wider Customer Support industry. This year’s Expo will provide options for all of those paths.

To match the expansion of the conference, we’re also expanding the name — from SDX to Support Driven Expo — to clarify what SDX stands for, and to help customer support folks who might not have yet found the awesome community that is Support Driven.

Registration is open, and I got my ticket yesterday 🎉. Have you gotten yours?

I can’t wait to see you in Portland June 21 and 22!

Andrea

Grab your ticket here: Tickets — Support Driven Expo 2018

Who’s going to be there?

One of my favorite parts of SUPCONF was meeting support folks from companies I recognized. I felt like I was running around the whole time, “OMG! I love your software! I use it every day!” This year at the Expo, you’ll get a chance to meet support pros from these awesome companies:

Help Scout
Olark
PartnerHero
Atlassian (Statuspage)

Intercom
Tuff
Illuminate Education
Freshworks

More talks and workshops plz!

I know, I know, this is the part you want 🙂 Here’s a selection of some of the great sessions you have to look forward to.

Denise Williams
Automattic

Advanced Tetris: Solving Your Remote Team’s Weekend Staffing Puzzle
Weekend support coverage is a high-impact tool that can reduce your churn and help you stand out among your competitors, but sometimes it feels like you need a PhD in queueing theory to get started.

Full-time salaried team members! Overlapping time zones! Multiple simultaneous forms of support services! How many employees does it all take?

Come hear about how we managed to crack our own weekend staffing code at WordPress.com, and learn which factors you need to take into account when outlining your own team’s weekend expansion.

Christopher Martinez
Idiomatic, Inc.

Finding the right data to make the product team take action.
Most customer support teams struggle to communicate actionable insights to product. Too often this means product dismisses the recommendations as anecdotal or biased, wasting the gold mine of customer feedback that support holds.

This interactive workshop will have participants walk through a slightly altered version of a real-life example of how a support leader was able to use their data to answer Product’s questions, overcome Product’s objections, and actually influence the roadmap to improve the customer experience around a company’s top customer pain point.

Participants will be tasked with uncovering the right mix of quantitative (how many customers) and qualitative (what’s the specific problem) support data to consistently convince product using the voice of customer.

Kathy Lee
Bonneville Power

Getting on stage
Want to improve your public speaking skills? Don’t know where to start? Come to this presentation and we will walk through everything from picking a topic, to writing a proposal, to writing and delivering a talk.

TJ Stein
MeUndies

What you should know before outsourcing
One of the most rewarding aspects of my role has been building our outsourced team. When I started at MeUndies in 2016, we had an in-house team of a dozen or so that was ill-prepared to meet the demands of our growing membership base and the upcoming holidays. Faced with a dilemma to scale quickly and service our customers at a high level, I chose to supplement the in-house team with an offshore group. In doing so, I learned how to evangelize the idea to management, pick the right vendor and grow the team without compromising the mission and vision of what we stood for.

Is it for every team or company? Certainly not. But for those that choose to go down this path, it’s important to consider the following:

1. Do it for the right reasons. If you’re just looking for a cheap alternative and don’t want to invest in great customer outcomes, you will end up with the exact opposite.

2. Find a partner that emphasizes people over cost control. Many BPOs simply want to find a way to maximize output for the cheapest possible costs. Look for teams that embody the same values as your organization and hold them accountable.

3. Understand the risks associated with a co-sourcing strategy (what happens if they experience network issues and go dark?, labor strike, lightning strike). When things go wrong – how will you respond?

Hilary Dudek
Handshake

Remote Culture: Turning on Engagement
Within the tech industry especially, and extending beyond that, the so-called sub culture of the remote employee is growing. These employees work remotely 5 days a week, from home, coffee shops, and other locations but what do they really do all day when we can’t see them on a video call? Who are these people, how much are they really working, and how difficult is it to collaborate together? How do we stay connected with those who are not physically in the office with us?

In this workshop, I will present attendees with a day in the life of a support, chat about some of the challenges remote employees face, and cover what YOU can do to create an inclusive, collaborative environment.

Things you can do to create an inclusive atmosphere for your remote employees, and keep them integrated with the team in the office:
1. Empower your remote support employees
a) Arm them with the knowledge they need to
succeed
b) Arm them with the tools they need to
succeed
c) Empowering them with the knowledge and
ability to have success and growth in the
company
2. Tips for including your remote support employees
a) Video call etiquette
b) Efficient methods of communication
c) Team building activities that are easy for remote people to participate in
3. We will close with an activity for practicing remote empowerment and inclusion

Mathew Patterson
Help Scout

Curiosity: Death to cats, life to support
We think of customer service as delivering quick, empathetic, helpful and accurate answers. But the best customer service is really about asking the right questions:

What are you trying to get done there? Why do you feel that way? How can I make that better?

Curiosity is an underrated skill that is linked to attitude, troubleshooting, relationship building and personal fulfilment. In this talk, learn why curiosity is vital to great service, how to hire for it and how to develop it in yourself.

Self Care Matters For Remote Teams: A Manager’s Guide For Why and How

Self care and remote work are currently at odds with each other, often leading to stress out teams. Managers have the MOST influence to cultivate self care into remote culture, but are the WORST offenders at making it a habitual practice. This talk will provide managers and culture influences guidelines to implement self care into their own cultures as well as tips of how to “sell” those in charge of its importance.

Are you getting excited yet? Go ahead and grab your Expo tickets, and we’ll see you in Portland in June!