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Slack's Ali Rayl on Scaling Support for User Growth

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In this Heavybit Speaker Series Presentation, Ali Rayl talks about building Slack's Support Stack particularly after the company's exponential growth spikes. Ali Rayl is the Director of Quality and Support at Slack where she’s built the team to manage more than 5,000 corporate clients including Stripe, Rdio, Medium, Airbnb, Expedia and Buzzfeed. In the past she was the Director of QA at Songbird — an open-source cross platform music player built on Mozilla’s XULRunner and GStreamer.

Full Video available Here: http://www.heavybit.com/library/developer-operations/video/2014-09-16-ali-rayl

Published in: Technology
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Slack's Ali Rayl on Scaling Support for User Growth

  1. 1. I’m Ali Rayl. I work on the internet.
  2. 2. Support is probably not your end goal.
  3. 3. Startup #1, the successful one, circa 2000 (pre-acquisition): ! Developers are responsible for all product support.
  4. 4. Startup #1, the successful one, circa 2000 (pre-acquisition): ! Developers are responsible for all product support. me
  5. 5. Startup #1, the successful one, circa 2000 (pre-acquisition): ! Developers are responsible for all product support. on the phone me on the phone on the phone
  6. 6. Startup #1, the successful one, circa 2000 (pre-acquisition): ! Developers are responsible for all product support.
  7. 7. Startup #1, the successful one, circa 2000 (pre-acquisition): ! Developers are responsible for all product support. lololol
  8. 8. Startup #1: Our Support Toolset
  9. 9. Startup #1: Our Support Toolset
  10. 10. Startup #1: Our Support Toolset • Home-grown FileMaker Pro database — CMS and email support tool
  11. 11. Startup #1: Our Support Toolset • Home-grown FileMaker Pro database — CMS and email support tool • name-support@ email addresses — all support correspondence in the database
  12. 12. Startup #1: Our Support Toolset • Home-grown FileMaker Pro database — CMS and email support tool • name-support@ email addresses — all support correspondence in the database • A single phone number for support — every developer had an extension on their desk that would ring
  13. 13. Startups #2 through #6
  14. 14. Startups #2 through #6 ¯_(ツ)_/¯
  15. 15. Startup #7: Glitch
  16. 16. Startup #7:
  17. 17. Startup #7: Slack
  18. 18. Slack Support Tickets, first six months
  19. 19. 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 Slack Support Tickets, first six months
  20. 20. Lessons from the first major growth phase
  21. 21. Lessons from the first major growth phase • Structure your support queue through a triage process
  22. 22. Lessons from the first major growth phase • Structure your support queue through a triage process • Choose a tool that you can grow into as your customer base grows
  23. 23. Lessons from the first major growth phase • Structure your support queue through a triage process • Choose a tool that you can grow into as your customer base grows • Give yourself the ability to throttle growth if it has the potential to outstrip your ability to support it
  24. 24. Slack Support Triage • Problem • Question • Feedback • Feature Request About field
  25. 25. Choose a support tool that can handle growth • Hit our 20x growth moment and realized that we had no sustainable way to manage the support queue • Resulted in lots of hacks and workarounds and wasted time • The extra monthly cost of a better tool was more than offset by the cost of the time we lost dealing with the cheaper tool
  26. 26. Give yourself the ability to throttle during growth periods • Realized early on that new user onboarding was the most support-intensive time for a user • Users were invited to the platform when we were confident we could support them • Provided a line-skipping mechanism (referrals) for those who weren’t keen on waiting for an invite
  27. 27. 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 Slack Support Tickets, first year
  28. 28. Lessons from the second major growth phase
  29. 29. Lessons from the second major growth phase • Know your PR cycles
  30. 30. Lessons from the second major growth phase • Know your PR cycles • Unless you have some reason to believe that this time will be different, assume it’ll be roughly the same as last time
  31. 31. Lessons from the second major growth phase • Know your PR cycles • Unless you have some reason to believe that this time will be different, assume it’ll be roughly the same as last time • This does not get any easier
  32. 32. Lessons from the second major growth phase • Know your PR cycles • Unless you have some reason to believe that this time will be different, assume it’ll be roughly the same as last time • This does not get any easier • But it can be more manageable
  33. 33. Know your patterns • When are tickets created? • How important is it to answer them promptly? Do you have a service that is mission-critical? • What expectations have you set with your customer base for turnaround time?
  34. 34. Know your patterns • When are tickets created? • How important is it to answer them promptly? Do you have a service that is mission-critical? • What expectations have you set with your customer base for turnaround time?
  35. 35. Know your patterns (cont.)
  36. 36. Slack Support Toolset Zendesk! • Email support • Product built-in support Respondly! • Twitter support
  37. 37. Respondly for Twitter
  38. 38. Zendesk for everything else ! (No screenshot — you can see this on the internet if you’d like)
  39. 39. Generic Advice Time
  40. 40. Not every support request is a request for product support.
  41. 41. Business decisions do not belong in your support queue.
  42. 42. Product decisions do not belong in your support queue.
  43. 43. You can use support as a shield.
  44. 44. You are problem solvers.
  45. 45. You cannot solve every problem.
  46. 46. Stay focused.

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