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The Customer Support Scrum Master: How Xero Is Applying The Winning Formula for Software Development to Create Better Customer Experiences

Posted 3 years ago in Xero news by Beeny Atherton
Posted by Beeny Atherton

I am proud to share the exciting news that Tim Swartz, a Senior Customer Experience Specialist based in Xero’s office in Denver, has won an International Service Excellence Award from the Customer Service Institute of America!

Tim has led the charge in in re-thinking how Xero can deliver a world-class customer experience by borrowing techniques used by our software developer teams. He has introduced a new way of working that allows us to keep up with our rapidly growing customer base — 1.6 million customers across the globe at last count. He has helped us find a way to deliver the same #beautiful experience to millions as we did with our very first customer.

For most of us, even those working at tech companies, the world of software development can seem mysterious. It’s a world of “zeroes and ones” and foreign languages, such as Python, Ruby and Java. But software developers are clearly doing something right. Without them, our daily lives would look very different — no internet, apps, smartphones, no Xero!

A big part of what has made developers so successful is their unique way of working and solving problems. Developers at Xero use methodologies, such as the “Scrum” framework, to work cohesively as a team, solving complex problems and delivering groundbreaking new products and services.

Tim’s award winning work has broken into this mysterious world of software development and used its methods to deliver even better customer support.

Tim is responsible for helping front-line support agents deliver the best possible service to customers. But in his early days in the role, he found that the volume of inquiries was preventing him from delivering the results he wanted. For example, his team was only able to deliver about 60 percent of the agent feedback reviews, losing valuable opportunities to coach customer support members, increase response time responses, and delight customers.

“When I first started at Xero two years ago, the big challenge was how to support the rapidly increasing customer numbers while continuing to deliver world class customer support,“ Tim explains. “It was a struggle to keep up with the growing demands of a rapidly growing customer base, and we didn’t always feel like we were doing our best work.”

With the support of the customer support team, Tim explored how he could change the trajectory of the team. He quickly identified the Scrum methodology, used by his colleagues on Xero’s software development team, as a technique that could apply equally well to the customer experience team.

Tim underwent intensive training from the the Scrum Alliance, an organization that offers courses to people and organizations create better workplaces, to become a certified Scrum Master. While most of the other people taking the training were software developers, Tim immediately saw how he could apply the methodology to solve the challenges his team facing.

In a nutshell, Scrum is a framework for breaking deliverables into digestible chunks so a team can work more cohesively together. Because of this, implementing the Scrum framework was as much about instilling a new culture within the team as it was about new process and procedures.

“The reason Scrum has been successful is because everyone on the customer care team, from senior management to front-line agents, were open to trying to something new, thinking differently, and adapting our approach in order to deliver better results for our customers.”

The team now uses simple, but powerful tools, like gathering feedback from frontline agents via Google feedback forms to understand what they want from training, what works well, and what needs improvement. The team also holds daily “Standups” that provide everyone with the opportunity to share their top priorities, surfacing information so that the most knowledgeable person could help.

The data shows why the approach Tim brought to the team is a winner. Within six months of implementing the Scrum methodology, the team went from completing only 60 percent of agent feedback reviews to a remarkable 95 percent!

“The Scrum approach works for us because we need to be quick to adapt and be constantly looking for new ways to solve problems,” says Tim. “It has helped us prioritize teamwork, and it has instilled a culture of learning and collaboration.”

“Winning this award is a huge honor, and it’s exciting that they see the value in trying new things,” says Tim. “I don’t see it as I am winning the award, more that the concept has won and the team has won.”

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