The Greatest Support Conference I’ve Attended*

This week I attended SUPCONF, the first conference put on by Support Driven. It took place at Automattic’s HQ in the heart of San Francisco’s SoMa district. The theme of the conference was making a career out of support and had 14 talks that supported this theme. There was also 2 keynotes.

In this post I’m going to pull out the “Just tell me what to do” points I took away from the conference.

Language, Data, and Credibility

These three words weaved in throughout the conference.

Many times support departments don’t speak the same language as other departments in companies. The support department celebrates “A response time of 10 minutes” (which is great btw). That doesn’t mean something actionable to others in the company. The language others in the company speak is data and money. We need to realize this and create metrics around how they speak.

Find ways that your support team can build credibility by sharing data that’s meaningful to others in the company. Mix in stories to build empathy.

If you can say X problem is losing us Y signups causing us to miss out on Z revenue that’s something everyone can understand.

Learn to model staffing your support department. As ticket volume grows you can predict how many employees you need and the cost of those employees. It allows you to determine the cost savings if ticket volume can be diminished with product changes.

Highlight Positivity and train your employees to be more knowledgeable

There’s no doubt that support can be a negative job at times. Find ways to combat this by having employees keep a happiness folder. They can store their big “wins” or positive cases for reflection. If you have 1 on 1’s give constructive feedback and praise. Have different employees each month go through tickets to find and highlight the positive feedback. Share the positive feedback they find to everyone.

As long as you’re not an early stage company someone at your company has answers to questions. It could be “how do I install an SSL cert?” or “how do I use X feature in the product?”. Create a standardized process to request training, have internal trainings, QA the process, and store the artifacts of the training so others can refer to them.

Have employees become subject matter experts in what they’re interested as your team grows. This keeps them doing what they love.

Career & team development

Focus on support, not in support. Find time and create ways to get out of the whirlwind of answering cases. This allows to you to create proactive content. Delight your customers.

Be confident when communicating. Put yourself in the middle of passive and aggressive tones. It’s OK to ask “What is the status of the bug fix?”. When not necessary stop saying “I think,” “Just,” “I believe” these statements don’t create action.

Create niche and industry knowledge. If you work for a company that supports design work you should learn the type of work your customers do. Share their pain and victory. Learn how others support customers in similar situations. Like how to staff for weekend support.

Share your perspective (like I’m doing now!). This gives moments of “I didn’t think of that”. Realize posting on the internet opens yourself up to all kinds of feedback. Keep an open mind.


I was amazed by the professionalism and organization behind the conference. As I heard another attendee say, this is some professional grade shit. I’m proud to say I was a tiny part of the conference by clapping and listening in the crowd.

* For the record SUPCONF is the only Support Conference I’ve ever attended.

Header image in this post is courtesy of Ben MacAskill.

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