We recently reviewed the 24/7/365 customer support that we offer to all our clients. Amongst many improvements has been the introduction of the Academy – a new way to upskill our Support Team.
As we nearly doubled the size of our Support Team in the past 12 months, we needed a repeatable, robust program to train new recruits (and sharpen the skills and knowledge of our existing team members). Academy courses give our people a deep understanding of the Cloudways Platform, its technical environment, and customer service skills. As new members of the Support Team pass Academy courses, they qualify to answer a wider range of your support queries.
The Academy opened in April 2018, offering multimedia courses in a similar way to Udemy or Coursera. There are six courses available to Support Team staff today, and constant work going into new courses.
New courses begin with us working out what would be most useful to you. Every query we receive from customers (via Live Chat, for example) is categorized, then we graph the trends. This shows us what customers like you are asking, and where to focus our next round of Support Team training. New topics are built around real-life support queries.
Academy courses can run as long as four to five hours in total, depending on the complexity of the topic. Courses can directly relate to a Cloudways Platform feature or cover multiple features or functions. Each course is divided into several lessons, with quizzes and at least one final assignment.
Going Beyond “How to”
There are two main types of Academy courses – professional and technical. Professional courses teach skills that improve the way people handle queries, explain issues, and deliver customer support. Technical courses turn people into Cloudways Platform experts.
Technical courses go beyond the Platform too, usually by covering a topic from four angles:
- Underlying concepts and technical aspects
- A customer-eye-view of the topic, in particular on the Cloudways Platform
- How the relevant technology is implemented on our infrastructure and at the server level
- In-depth knowledge of hosted applications like WordPress and Magento
As an example, let’s look at the course on SSL basics. This starts with a detailed conceptual overview of SSL and TLS (the acronyms stand for ‘secure sockets layer’ and ‘transport security layer’); how both came about; and how they work. It even includes the origins of relevant global standards with a peek at the relevant Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) process.
We look at different SSL and TLS protocols and versions, the various authorities which provide SSL certificates, and more.
With that conceptual and technical base in place, we move on to how SSL and TLS are used on the Cloudways Platform. This is what our customers see with respect to SSL and TLS.
Finally, we go one level deeper and look at the underlying server architecture. This teaches team members how SSL and TLS actions performed on the Platform affect things inside a server.
By the end of the course, our Support Team members can do much more than help you manage SSL certificates on the Cloudways Platform. They understand what’s happening on your servers, and where to fix unexpected problems. There is no guesswork or clicking around because they just know, right away.
Our internal Learning Management System enrolls Support Team members into Academy courses as they are added to the system. In each case, there’s a set period in which they have to complete the course.
With so much material to cover, Academy courses need to track progress as team members learn. Every course has at least one quiz that appears between lessons to reinforce the material. Most have several. Team members need to complete each quiz before they can continue the course.
Each quiz has a very strict time limit, with the order of questions and multi-choice answers randomized. The only way to pass is to really study: for lesson-based quizzes, the pass mark is 95%, and retries are limited.
At the end of the course, the final quiz requires a grade of 100%.
Support From Qualified Experts, Every Time
The end result of all this is that when you chat with our Support Team, you’re in touch with someone who is fully equipped to help.
Team members do not just land on the production floor unprepared. They carefully transition into their support role, one topic or category at a time. As the chat system categorizes queries, chats are routed only to people who are qualified to help. New team members start by handling a single topic, which gives them a feel for how our support operation runs. They gain experience in helping customers, too, rather than feeling out of their depth.
Over time team members pass courses in more topics, expanding their range of chat queries.
Growing the Academy, Growing Our Team
While the Academy has focused on topics for which we get the most customer queries, there is more to it. Another far-reaching goal is to expand product knowledge across the Support Team before customer queries even begin. Every time a feature is added or updated on the Cloudways Platform, a short Academy course is part of the release. This gives the team a great way to understand Platform changes and answer questions that might have caught us by surprise.
All the while, our growing set of professional (non-technical) courses cover the human side of customer service, too. They teach customer service delivery, communication, customer empathy, asking the right questions, and politely navigating through issues.
Our Support Team has never been better-placed to solve customers’ issues. The Academy has played a crucial role in a large expansion of our capabilities. Over time, it will continue to help us help you.
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Ayaz Ahmed Khan
Ayaz Ahmed Khan works as Senior Research and Development Engineer at Cloudways.