Finding my Tribe: Support Driven & SUPCONF NYC

It is awesome to hang out with people who just “get” customer support.

When I first took the leap off the corporate ladder and joined a startup, I quickly transitioned away from the peer and mentor group I was used to. I changed industries and jobs. I went from working in a building with tons of people around, to working remotely from my house.

While this was all awesome, but I still felt like something was missing. I had great coworkers, but I missed that core group of people from elsewhere — those who had walked this walk, or had past experience in the exact situation I was facing. Those who could give candid advice, even without knowing the whole story.

Enter — Support Driven

A while back a friend, Caitlin, recommended I join Support Driven — a community of like-minded, passionate support professionals, who want to make Customer Support a career. Within a few days of hanging out in the Slack group, I realized I’d found my missing piece.

Ever since, I have enjoyed hanging out in the community, getting and giving advice about support topics, team dynamics, and food. A lot of food talk. It is even a place to celebrate wins, and get (emoji) hugs on a bad day. They’re my people.

In November Support Driven put on it’s second conference — SUPCONF in New York City. I was a bit hesitant to pull the trigger on signing up at first. As an ultra-introvert, outgoing and networking things aren’t really my style. Reassured that it would be a great time, I signed up and hopped on a plane to NYC.

SUPCONF — Pre-people


This was a time for us like-minded folks to gather and listen to awesome speakers, network, socialize and GIF battle (that happened).

It was also a conference designed with introverts in mind. Even though I had not ever met anyone at the conference, nothing was terribly overwhelming. I felt secure talking to others, and even made new friends (whoa!).

My Key Takeaways

As an addictive note taker, I took 17 pages of hand-written notes during the conference. Since this is not something you want to sift through, I made some key takeaways that I brought back to share for my team after the conference. A streamlined version follows.

  • Determining our capacity — Justin spoke about burnout, knowing your team’s max capacity, and making sure that the volume of your tickets stays below this level. This allows you to still have room for side projects, and not feel like you’re drowning. This is something our team needs to work on, as we’re quickly approaching the “max.”
  • Handling Abusive Customers — Lance spoke about how to handle abusive customers. For us, abusive comes in the form of customers using the system in a fraudulent manner. While we have some loose policies around this, Lance highlighted how making this a written standard helps give clout to your team when they’re making decisions
  • Hiring Trial PeriodsKaren spoke about hiring at Automattic. The point that stuck with me the most was the use of trial periods during the hiring process. I look forward to exploring this more down the line. As a side note — it was fascinating to learn from folks who have such a large happiness team. I also enjoyed some great hangout time with the Automattic people — they were all so nice and welcoming!
  • We don’t fail if we don’t make customers happy — Carolyn made this point while speaking during the Support Ops live chat. Her statement was about how it’s easy to feel like a failure if we don’t make a customer happy. This, though, may not be the correct goal. Of course, we want to wow them with amazing service, but it isn’t our job to make them instantly happy. Sometimes, it is our job to acknowledge their frustration, anger or sadness. Acknowledging and giving a voice to this instead of erasing it with happiness helps us be more empathetic to their needs.

In short, I had an amazing time

When my team asked me how the conference was going at the end of the first day I said “it is so awesome to hang out with people who just get customer support.” The Support Driven group and SUPCONF conference is fully that — time with people who truly understand the day-in-day-out Customer Support life.

Would you like to join us?

We’d love to have other Customer Support folks in our group, and at SUPCONF! You can learn more about us here!

A huge thank you to my team for covering for me while I soaked in the SUPCONF goodness!

Want to join us at the next SUPCONF? We’d love to have you! Learn more here.