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Key Takeaways:

  • How to save support reps time
  • How Gary manages two different support teams with different volumes 
  • A cool piece of tech Paddle built to give more customer context


Speaker 1: Welcome to Support Ops Simplified where we interview thought leaders in the great field of customer support operations to provide you with actionable insights from the brightest minds in the industry. And now, your host, Sid Bhambani, CEO of Summatti.

Sid Bhambani: Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Support Operations Simplified. And today, we have with us Gary McGrath from Paddle. How are you, Gary?

Gary McGrath: I'm very well. Thanks. How are you, sir?

Sid Bhambani: I am good. So Gary, you know, I've been looking through your profile here and one of the things that's most interesting to me is you've had your own business for a while where you were in IT. You've been in IT for more than 20 years now.

Can you give us a quick intro into how you came into the customer support, customer success kind of role, your current role at Paddle?

Gary McGrath: Yeah, absolutely. So obviously, when I had my own company and stuff, you're kind of, I guess, the head of [inaudible 00:01:07] department, so to speak, and it became quite clear. Like, even back then that how you interact with customers is obviously really important. Obviously, you like retaining them. And so, I spent a lot of time building the teams to actually make sure that we could do that. And at the time, we actually used some customer support software, and that support software was produced by another company. And what happened is that company contacted me and actually said, "We've seen how you're using the product. We'd really like you to come and join us." And so, in the end, I [inaudible 00:01:40] started my company, [unintelligible 00:01:42] and that started my whole shift into customer support, because that was actually a company called Kayako and they actually provide customer support software. And so that's when I started really learning a lot of in-depth stuff about customer support because I'll be planning events and those kinds of things.

Eventually, I've joined Paddle because of that kind of experience in helping them achieve their dreams and ambitions.

Sid Bhambani: That's awesome. So tell us a little bit about Paddle. What does Paddle do?

Gary McGrath: Yes. So Paddle is basically, I guess, an easy way to explain it, it's like an all-in-one SaaS Commerce platform. And so, the idea behind it is we want to come and let you focus on your business and we take care of all the nightmare and back offset office things like billing. So to give you, I guess, a brief idea, we kind of provide checkout so you can do payments, subscriptions, billing management, and things like manual invoicing so you can kind of sell your software internationally all around the world, and we take care of all the things like sales tax and financial compliance for you.

Sid Bhambani: Interesting. That is really cool. And with SaaS, on the pair that it has been, this is probably one of those areas that the tech founders of small SaaS companies or even scale ups, for that matter, it's not something that they really want to spend a lot of time on.

Gary McGrath: Yeah, exactly. I mean, you have two options, I guess, when you're trying to do that, is you can try and build it all yourself and then suddenly you get this really big, unwieldy kind of system that you're spending more development resources. You maintain your billing, you're actually trying to build your software.

Sid Bhambani: Interesting. Interesting. So this would make for a very interesting support experience then, right? Because not only are you-- I'm assuming this is a SaaS platform that you're selling into SaaS technology companies.

Gary McGrath: Yeah, absolutely.

Sid Bhambani: So the support experience would be you're supporting a SaaS platform for people who are building SaaS platforms. Did I get that right?

Gary McGrath: That's correct, yeah.

Sid Bhambani: Okay. That's interesting. So tell us a little bit about some of your challenges and trials and tribulations on a daily basis. What kind of stuff do you deal with?

Gary McGrath: Yeah, I mean, for us, it's quite interesting. A [unintelligible 00:03:57] position where we have two different buckets of users that we're supporting. And so, we have like what we call our sellers, and these are the customers that are selling their software, or they're kind of SaaS solution via our platform. And obviously, they have questions about integrations and actually trying to make sure they're getting the best experience for their customers.

But we also have the other side of that where we have all the buyers that are practicing that software and certain systems, and we also support those as well. And so, we have one system that we're trying to build relationships and re-deliver on meeting people's challenges and we have another side where we're trying to make it very transactional and we have very high volume. And so, to give you an example, I think it was last month. We did about 30,000 tickets on the buyer support side. So they're quite different systems, which means every day is very interesting.

Sid Bhambani: I see. Okay, so this is getting even more interesting. So the support for the buyers as they're using the platform is also routed to you guys.

Gary McGrath: Absolutely, yes.

Sid Bhambani: Oh, wow. Okay, yeah, that does make for a heavy volume support center. So give us a little bit of an idea of how big the team is, what kind of tools and tech stack are you using to manage these day-to-day operations?.

Gary McGrath: Yeah, sure. So our seller support team is relatively smaller compared to our buyer support team because the volumes are quite different. So we have about five or six people in support directly supporting our sellers, and have a team of about 20 that are actually supporting buyers and all their questions.

In terms of our tech stacks, it's quite interesting because we're currently using two different kind of like help desk platforms. So we're currently using one called Zendesk, which I'm sure you've heard of as the customer. And we do have plans to consolidate that. That's historically where we'd be in terms of our tech stack. We do make heavy use of other things, like we use Periscope for our data analytical platform and that's really helpful. Now you understand kind of what's happening in this kind of workflows coming in from these invitations but it's been really helpful to provide our sellers with meaningful dashboard so they can understand how their businesses are performing and actually help them to actually deliver a better performance. Because the way that we work as a company is the more transaction volume you put through us, obviously, the more money that we'll actually make. So it's in our interest to analyze your business and work out what it is you're doing wrong to actually enable better sales. So that's what we use Periscope for.

Sid Bhambani: Interesting. Interesting. And, obviously, you know, when we're talking about support operations, one of the things that I'm sure you've heard from the previous podcasts that we're very interested in is trying to figure out that customer experience piece, right? Because that's such a big part of interaction with the product.

The interesting part over there is as as you're structuring that whole discussion, there is two of everything. There is two customer experiences as well that you would need to manage over here, one on the buyer side and one on the seller side. How much of that do you control and how do you measure those? And are the measures different on both sides?

Gary McGrath: Yes. So, I mean, my team's in control of both those experiences and they are measured very differently because the sole aim of one team is to make those sellers obviously more loyal to us, and trust in us, and build those relationships. And so for those, it's more about measuring like deeper levels of satisfaction. So rather than like, how are we in this one interaction, how's your entire journey with us and your whole experience with us?

And so to achieve that one, the methodology that we focused on is something that we call the effortless experience. And so, we're trying to distill everything that our sellers us do down to the effort they're having to make to meet their goals and challenges and then our job is to basically remove as much of those hurdles so that it's more and more effortless as they go forward, and that's how we focus on those metrics.

And then it's obviously very different to our buyer support where typically we're only supporting that person for one time and then we never actually hear from them again. And so because of that, it's much more about being efficient in delivering like not a truly exceptional experience, but like a really good experience that meets that person's expectations in that one interaction.

Sid Bhambani: Interesting. So what happens-- Two questions. What happens if that same customer is using another SaaS provider, and that SaaS provider happens to use Paddle in the background, there is a possibility you might hear from them again, right?

Gary McGrath: You know, absolutely, for sure. And so, that's why we focus on the fact that we want to give a good experience regardless. It's just that one needs to be like, as you say, understood that is more transactional and that we're trying to deliver it immediately [inaudible 00:08:59] exactly.

Sid Bhambani: Yes. Okay. And on the buy-- on the seller side, what is effort? How do you classify and measure effort?

Gary McGrath: So effort can be-- you can get it into several different ways. So it can be, it's like simple things like how long do you take it to get back to the seller when they ask you a question, because obviously, the more they're waiting, the more they'll feel frustrated. But it can also be like are they finding your documentation helpful? So, for example, like tracking shows, they'd be on our Help Center, they do three or four articles before they contacted us. We're actually counting that as effort.

So we already know, before they've got to our team, they've already made a lot of effort in order to try and resolve these things themselves. And we're just trying to understand all of that. And that kind of dictates, how much we then try and help them as quickly as we can once they come through to us.

Sid Bhambani: Interesting. So you do have the context of that start of their journey which might have been through a knowledge-base article or somewhere else by the time they get to an agent to say, "This is how much time or effort they've spent into it and here's where they're going in their path to finding a resolution."

Gary: Yes, absolutely. I mean, for us, it's like knowing the context of the customer is just phenomenally important, especially on our platform where they might have integrated either their application using our SDKs or they could be doing a SaaS platform online, et cetera. And so, knowing immediately at your fingertips the way that they've implemented our solution to drive the way you answer that question is obviously really important.

Sid: Interesting. Let's flip that a little bit. We get the customer effort part of it. Let's talk about the the agent effort or the agent efficiency. You mentioned, and passing almost, the number of calls, I think it was 30,000 calls that you guys took in a month. What's the measure of productivity on your support site other than the volume, of course?

Gary: Yes. We do measure slightly different things based on if it's a seller or if it's a buyer. In general, we actually apply SLAs to both of those, which is how set about the experience that we want to deliver. We try and respond within certain time frame and also resolve it within the time frame, and we measure how often we actually meet that expectation. That's the first part of the metric. Then following that, we obviously we'll see some of our customers do so. We'll ask them a basic question about how do we actually do and we end that quite open-ended like a yes or no, but they can actually comment too.

The idea is both of those things, if we can see that we've delivered our own SLA expectations and we've had positive feedback, we're pretty confident, like a transactional level that that was a good interaction. Then for our sellers, we also expand that and we start doing things like using NPS, for example. We also do that every quarter to understand how we're doing in a more holistic approach.

We also have what we call our seller health score. This is some of our account managers use. It's just if we feed into it various factors about how many competitions have they created over time, how they regulate those conversations, how much of our platform are they actually making use of, et cetera. We feed all those bits into, in this case, Salesforce, and that actually generates a house for and then we use that to understand the relative health of our customer accounts.

Sid: I see. This last bit is almost like telemetry coming out of the platform that you're then putting into this health score. Is that right?

Gary: Exactly, yes.

Sid: Okay. On the previous part, when you send them the satisfaction, the CSAT surveys and the NPSs, some of the conversations we've been having are pretty much along the same lines. I'm curious what kind of response in terms of percentages do you get from your user base?

Gary: In terms of our CSAT, we don't ask it religiously after every interaction, so we do throttle it. For example, if a customer is contacted more than once a month, but we only actually ask them once because obviously, we are [unintelligible 00:13:24]. In general, on the ones that we asked, we get about a 50% response rate in terms of the CSAT.

Sid: That's pretty high.

Gary: It's pretty good for CSAT, for sure. Then our NPS is obviously a bit lower than that. I think our last one closed at about 25%, which we're still pretty happy with.

Sid: Okay, yes, those are still pretty high percentages in terms of responses. That's really good. Can you talk about-- It seems like you guys are measuring a whole bunch of things. The thing that amuses me here, as we're talking through this, is you're essentially running two support departments. [laughs]

Gary: Exactly, yes.

Sid: I hope they're paying you two salaries, too, but I'm afraid that's not the case. Coming back to the question I was always trying to ask, can you talk about some of the changes you've made in terms of customer experience or a good win you've had in customer experience, either on the buyer or the seller side? And what drove that?

Gary: Yes, one comes to mind for our buyer support because we actually did it a couple weeks ago. It's still quite fresh.

Sid: Sorry, I missed that line. It was for what exactly?

Gary: For our buyer support team, yes. Basically, for our buyer support team, in order to action things like, let's say, for example, someone says, "I want a refund," there's several things a team has to actually do in order to actually see we can do that. One of those things is to look up in one of our systems what the actual sellers' policy is. Does the seller like refunds? If they do, what are the rules around that? The team were spending about two minutes looking up those requests in this other system.

What we actually did is we actually created our own integration into Zendesk. We actually made that information piped directly into Zendesk on each ticket. As the agents actually open the ticket, that policy about refunds is there should they actually need to actually use it. It doesn't sound that much because it save like two minutes. But obviously, we're dealing with like 30,000 tickets. We actually saved about 500 hours in a month straight away. Obviously, with that time we've gained, we're now answering questions quicker, in general.

Sid: Of course, no, that is a really, really good example of how a very small change can extrapolate over the number of iterations that you have to go through and become something very, very sizable. I mean, 500 hours is a lot.

Gary: Absolutely, for sure.

Sid: Interesting. What other things are you guys working on in terms of improvements, as we head into the madness of the holiday season and into the new year? What's on the docket?

Gary: We do have a couple of things planned for different support functions. For us, it's quite interesting because our operations team is relatively small. We tend to focus on improving like buyer support. We'll focus right there and then we'll switch back to seller support, and go vice versa. The current one that we're working on is actually deploying artificial intelligence into our inbound buyer support function.

Right now, if you went to to use as a customer, it's basically like a static web form and it asks you to fill in things like some transaction details. Obviously, from there, it tries to try and help you. The problem that we found is that a lot of our customers don't actually speak English and the site hasn't got open to other languages. Also, we might go in the box, for example, like "What was the charge?" and the customer might actually type in that box, "I would like a refund, please." Obviously, our system just can't deal with that as a web form.

We're going to be deploying basically like a chatbot effectively onto that site and it's going to have conversational AI so you can have a proper conversation with people. The idea of that is it's hopefully going to filter down that experience. We kept the exact data that we need from the customers in order to help them much more efficiently. At the same time, we'll have that kind of AI able to action a lot of the more basic requests. Hopefully, customers will better self-serve more. Obviously, that's something that customers like to do.

Sid: Interesting. That's a trend we're seeing a lot of specifically in those heavy volume one-off interaction kind of environments, like you have on the buyer side. It'll be really interesting and we can probably do that as part of this podcast to get a perspective on how that goes in terms of the value you get out of it, the number of deflections you get out of it. Then most importantly, how you basically integrate that into your systems, because that would give you an additional layer of context when that issue or that question ends up coming to an agent if it gets to that point, right?

Gary: Yes, absolutely, more than happy to chat to you as we progress and roll that out for sure.

Sid: That's really cool. Gary, there's a lot of experience over here that you speak from or going back to your earlier comment about when you were running your own business, customer retention was a big part of running the day-to-day operations. Then moving into these roles where you're basically owning that operation for other businesses. Who has been some of the people that you've come across in your career who you've learned from and who have been mentors to you?

Gary: That's a great question. I don't think it, off the top of my head, I would pick out a single person. For me, what I would say is, I love my career. I've met a great bunch of people. Operations people, in general, always seem to be really, really helpful whenever I needed an advice or would like to learn from the expense of other people. For example, I would contact a company where I see they've got an operations person, and it's amazing, they're happy to have a coffee, chat to you about what they've done, what they've learned, et cetera. I think that's really helpful in our community by the fact that we're so open to helping each other.

Sid: That's a really good way of looking at it. And speaking of communities, I know there's at least one community that you and I are both a part of, it's support-driven. Are there any other resources or anything else that you refer to on a regular basis that you'd like to share or throw in a shout out for?

Gary: Support-driven, to me, is definitely absolutely huge. I mean, that one, obviously, when I used to work at Kayako, we actually had customer support software that we were maintaining. That was the invaluable resource and you learned a lot from that. What I would recommend for a lot of people to do is just keep your eye out for constant new events that you might see available. Some are support-based but some are also quite like SaaS-based. These SaaS software example are really, really good because you learn about what technologies other companies are using and the impact its had. It's one of the things that I've always found is that what might have worked three years ago, there's probably something today that's actually better that will improve that experience and so it's always vital to keep yourself in that knowledge-base [crosstalk].

Sid: Absolutely. Things change quick in technology, doesn't it?

Gary: Absolutely.

Sid: Cool. Hey, Gary, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you and learning more about Paddle, about the fact that you're in two support organizations within one. It's really interesting. It would be awesome to have you back to see how things progress in the new year. But in the meanwhile, best of luck with the holiday season madness and best wishes for the new year.

Gary: Thanks very much. The same to you, as well.

Sid: All right, perfect.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to Support Ops Simplified with Sid Bhambani of Summatti. Tune in next week for another interview with a customer support operations thought leader.

[00:21:29] [END OF AUDIO]


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