In this article, Michael Smith, the Director of Support for Zype, explores what he learned coming into Zype as a SaaS Support Engineer, without specific video infrastructure expertise. He digs into the key concepts he learned that allowed him to scale the support team at Zype and achieve 50+ NPS and 98%+ CSAT for the last 4 quarters.
Beginning my professional career in 2014, I worked for a year as a call-center support specialist on a team of 30+ people, taking 40-50 phone calls a day while logging support tickets for each call. I then moved on to a different role at the company, starting a new team internally. The team was built to work with customers through BETA testing of new products, document successful strategies, then train the larger onboarding team on the onboarding processes we built. Having a couple of years of call-center style customer support and SaaS platform onboarding under my belt, I thought I knew it all.
I was hired at Zype in November of 2016, filling the need for someone who could work directly with customers to operate any function from support, onboarding, and even account management. When I got hired, I felt confident in my abilities to communicate effectively, document and log support tickets, and teach customers how to use a product. What I severely underestimated was the complexity of video technology, and the learning curve I was about to experience. In my 2+ years at Zype, I’ve learned a few key concepts about what it takes to learn an industry, a product, our customers, and what it takes to support video businesses.
Learn the industry lingo, and learn it fast
My previous support experience was at a booking SaaS platform, primarily geared towards salons and spas. I was able to talk to customers confidently about how to set up discounts for pedicures, set up appointment confirmation emails with your customer information auto-populated, and integrate your POS hardware. That should translate to video technology, right?
What I couldn’t do was talk about SVOD pricing plans, ad tag macro implementation, transcoding, or HLS manifests. I knew I needed to understand the technology I was going to be supporting, or I wouldn’t be successful. It’s crucial to be able to provide good support, and I was a video technology newbie.
I memorized the Zype glossary, in order to learn the language customers will be speaking to me. I spent time reading anything I could find on the internet about live streaming, monetization models, and the video industry as a whole. Zype’s customers are video experts, and I had to be also. I began learning the industry jargon, and it felt great to understand the language I’d be speaking every day.
Hang out with the engineers, become a product expert
Ask me to take a look at an MRSS feed today, and it’s like I’m looking at the back of my hand. If you asked me to look at an MRSS feed my third week at Zype, I wouldn’t have had a clue about where to start when the XML file populated a browser on my 13-inch MacBook screen. Well, guess what, I was asked to do just that. It’s my third week on the job, and I’m tasked with reviewing a new customer’s MRSS feed because they're having issues ingesting it to the platform. This may have been the first MRSS feed I’d seen in my life, and I was completely lost. I ask the VP of Engineering at the time for some help, he takes a glance and says “the word title is misspelled in the item blocks,” and walks away after looking at it for, let’s say 10 seconds, which is a high estimate.
This moment sticks with me to this day. I realized how much I had to learn and how knowledgeable the people around me were, and I knew I had to get there. I made it a point from this day forward to spend time in the Zype fishbowl, the office where our engineers used to have to play desk Tetris to fit them comfortably (don’t worry, it’s been since upgraded!). I would pair with engineers on bug investigations, demonstrating how to replicate them, while learning how that feature was built in our platform. While we were upgrading our transcoding systems I listened to the daily product and engineering conversations, “ What happens when a rendition fails? Do we want to consider auto-scaling to make the system more efficient? When should the video source become active?” In doing so, I gained a deep understanding of how the technology was going to work, our technology was going to work . I can’t stress enough how productive I became after learning the Zype APIs. I spent an enormous amount of time with our app developers, learning how the Zype app templates use the APIs, and learning what tools to use when using them. I made sure that I could troubleshoot and provide guidance on how to use the APIs on my own, without having to consult with a developer each time a simple question came in.
I found myself becoming extremely comfortable with the product, inside and out, and being able to talk about the Zype platform confidently (even MRSS feeds!). Absorb what the engineers know, be a sponge and use the information you learn from them to support customers.
Consumers need their content, and they need it now!
Supporting a video business is unlike supporting any other. Consumers need their content, and they need it now. Unlike other SaaS platforms, the urgency that comes with supporting a video infrastructure platform is unmatched.
A few examples...
The APIs are responding slowly? Now 300 consumers are very unhappy because they tried to watch their after-work cooking show and couldn’t load the website. The video player is constantly buffering? A group of subscribers just canceled because their first $9.99 paid experience was not what they expected. A platform misconfiguration is causing the Roku app to crash? 30 consumers just deleted the app, and may never download it again.
Understanding the urgency under which video businesses operate changed my mindset for the better. Every second matters to a video business, because every second that something doesn’t work perfectly is a poor experience for the consumer. Consumer experience drives video businesses, and you have to be ready to respond with urgency and get issues resolved as quickly as you can.
Being a support engineer for a video infrastructure is no easy task. Every day brings new challenges, and you have to be prepared to face any number of issues or questions that may come your way. If you are dedicated to becoming an industry and product expert, and you understand the impact you have on people’s everyday lives, you will be successful. It won’t happen overnight, and that’s okay! To this day, I still leave work every day and ask myself “What did you learn today?” In an ever-changing industry, there is an unlimited amount of information to be learned. I’m glad that I was able to learn what would make me successful, and I’m happy that I could pass this information along to you.