Culture · 7 min read

How we simulate the customer support queue to hire huggers in support

Kailee Urban
Posted July 11, 2019
How we simulate the customer support queue to hire huggers in support

If you want to hire the best in Customer Support, you need a novel approach to qualifying candidates—one that tests their mettle.

Knowing if you are hiring the right person is hard. If your new hire is expected to interact directly with your customers on a daily basis, you want to be confident that you are making the right decision for your company and for your customers.

When hiring for any customer-facing role at Fullstory, aside from checking all of the usual requirement boxes, we index on our watchwords in order to identify if someone is a good fit:

Yet when it came time to hire for our next Supporter, we knew we lacked a key ingredient to bake the perfect hiring cake.

You see, we do things a bit differently in Support here at Fullstory. We not only believe that it’s important to have time outside of the queue—"extra-queue-rricular" work, as we call it—we bake this time into our staffing projections. This isn’t something we just say we do on paper (or in a blog!), we really do have scheduled time outside of the queue every single week. What this means is everyone in Support balances time spent in the queue with time focused on the type of work that helps move the company forward.

This performance-minded approach to support is a key differentiator for Fullstory. It optimizes for quality and speed in the queue while also giving Support the extra resources—time!—needed to be vocal customer champions within Fullstory. If Support isn’t taking the time to help make the product better, we’re not doing our jobs.

High expectations raise the bar for hiring

Our support strategy can make things a bit more tricky for us when it comes to hiring new Supporters. We strive to find that Goldilocks and the Three Bears type of “just right.” An ideal candidate can get shit done (GSD) when out of the queue and be a true Queue Boss (™) when they’re in the queue. Hiring someone for a senior support position can make this even more complicated. This is because as you grow in your support career, you’re more likely to be managing a team and less likely to be in the queue regularly. And while it’s usually more obvious if someone can GSD during the interview process, how do you know if someone can manage a queue?

We kept thinking, “What would happen if we put a real queue in front of our support candidates?” Obviously we couldn’t just let them loose on our real customers, so how could we possibly see how someone would manage a growing queue? How do they keep their head above water when everything’s on fire? How do they prioritize tickets to know what to work on next?

An ability to create the experience of the queue was the key ingredient—the Madagascar vanilla beans, if you will—we knew we needed to bake the oh-so-perfect hiring cake.

So, what did we do?

Enter the support queue simulation


Yeah, that’s right. We built the dang thing ourselves. With little more than a spreadsheet and Google Apps Script, we generated real-looking, mock support tickets to port into a test Zendesk instance.

Here’s how it came together:

  • We based our mock support tickets on a digital product we knew everyone would have a basic understanding of—Google Docs.

  • The recipe for our mock tickets called for a scant cup of general questions, a tablespoonful of frustration, and a dash of “This sh!t is broken.” All of the tickets were based off of real Google Doc questions, we even included a mock status-page-worthy issue.

  • Then, having mixed all these ingredients together—until slightly lumpy—we set the timing at which the tickets would hit the inbox.

When it came time for each candidate to flex their muscles in a queue, we simply hit the big button in our Google spreadsheet and let the magic happen. And since we specified the timing of the tickets hitting the inbox, as the candidate started working through some responses, more came in, just like a real day in support.

Being a Queue Boss™ means being very aware of what’s in your queue at all times, so we were honing in on both prioritization and throughput through the entirety of the hour-long simulation.


So … did our simulation work?

You might be wondering, “How Did It All Go?” Well, if I could use an emoji to describe how it went: 🎉

While most candidates were able to demonstrate empathy and clarity in their responses, very few were able to do so bionically. Bionically owning the support queue implies strong court awareness of the entire queue, knowing exactly what to prioritize, and moving quickly through each ticket.

At the end of the simulation, each candidate had 5 minutes to write a quick outline of how they’d approach the rest of a “shift in the queue” and what they’d do if they were handing off the queue to someone else in the support practice. Having the candidate do the work and then talk about their work gave us the information we needed to understand how they approach work in the queue.

We gained so much more insight from the simulation than we ever thought we would. Not only did it give us the confidence that we needed to hire our next Supporter, it gave the candidates an idea of what a real day in the life for Fullstory support was like.


So that's a neat trick. What about IRL?

While the simulation, alone, didn’t give us everything we needed to know to decide whether or not we were hiring the right person, it was the key ingredient we were looking for—and our hiring cake finally came out a cookbook worthy level of “Just right.”

And after only a few weeks into our new Supporter joining us, she had already surpassed our expectations in the queue. And now, 4+ months later, we’re reaffirmed daily we made the right choice.

Postscript | You might be wondering ...

Wasn’t it a pain to build this thing?

Surprisingly, not at all. It took us less time to build out the content, write the script, and set up the test accounts than it did to actually hold the simulations themselves. We tested the simulation with a past-supporter and current FullStorian first and ironed out a handful of kinks before deciding to move forward. All in all, the entire process from idea to final simulation took less than a week to complete, and the outcome was 100% worth every minute.

How does support work with Fullstory?

This may come as no surprise to some of our more seasoned blog readers, but—that’s right!—we absolutely eat our own dogfood here at Fullstory. In support, we really couldn’t do what we do without it. Fullstory gives us the information we need to move quickly and accurately help our customers.

Replaying sessions lends critical context to those sometimes-vague “It’s not working” tickets. It allows us to level up our support game by being able to understand what actually happened before the customer wrote into support. With Fullstory, gone are the days of asking for screenshots or to reproduce steps. Never again do you need to worry about directing someone to a knowledge base article they already accessed three times. 😠

And if you’re in support and want to know how your support team can leverage Fullstory, explore The Modern Support Stack: a guide and set of resources focused on helping support leaders build their ideal tech stack.

NOTE: No Fullstory customers were harmed in the making of this support simulation.

Kailee UrbanCustomer Support

About the author

Kailee Urban is the Head of Customer Support at Fullstory. She's based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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