Tips by Zapier: How to motivate a fully remote customer service team

Lessons from Zapier
Motivating a fully remote customer service team

There’s something that needs to be pointed out right off the bat: Zapier is huge. The biggest, most prominent, all-in-one integration tool — or the “glue”, as they call it — that connects more than 1,500 web apps. So, their overall ratings and reviews are way above average.

Tips by Zapier: How to motivate a fully remote customer service team - TalentLMS eBook

But what about their relationship with their customers? Well, as it turns out, high-quality customer service is one more area they’ve covered.

In 2017, Zapier’s customer service ratings scored 4/5 stars on Capterra. Today, and with more than 1,100 reviews, it’s 4.5/5. How did they do this?

First of all, Zapier became bigger and better. So, this alone makes the product’s usability much friendlier to the user.

In addition to that, Zapier leveraged the concept of automation. Now, partners are notified about bugs or feature requests in their Zapier integration and the level of demand for those fixes.

For the affected users, Zapier’s added the ability to automatically notify them when their bug is fixed, or their feature requests are added. This customer service strategy based on automation has led to much faster resolutions and more direct communication with the customer.

Last but not least, the Zapier team mentions they’ve invested in growing their support team itself. In fact, the number of Customer Champions has increased from roughly 25 in the summer of 2017 to more than 65 today. All working remotely, getting customer service training online, and being motivated on Slack.

Training a fully remote workforce

Zapier is a 100% remote company. This, as Pam Dodrill, VP of Customer Support, says, allows them to pick from an unlimited hiring pool. They can hire the best of the best, and they’re able to be selective.

There are three primary levels of customer service skills training all new Customer Champions at Zapier go through. First, they log in to the company’s customer service training software to get the background knowledge and introduction to the tools they’ll need.

After their online customer service training, new employees use Groundhog Day Server (a tool built by Zapier that recreates real customer problems) to reply to tickets in a safe environment.

Finally, they pair with another, more senior Customer Champion live on tickets for two hours every day.

This customer service training period generally lasts about six months. But as Zapier says, they’ve been working aggressively to reduce the amount of time it takes to train a Customer Champion fully.

But in the last two years, Zapier’s training customer service staff program has changed. And it has changed a lot.

They’ve turned their training from an ad hoc program into a more controlled environment, where they can apply better educational practices and slowly build on concepts.

And it’s worked.

Zapier’s cust-o-meters

As a rapidly growing company, Zapier is redefining its internal metrics. From an individual contributor’s perspective, there are three top metrics they all agree on:

  • Replies per hour
  • Internal quality scores
  • Helper Score — a score determined by the times you’ve helped one of your peers on Slack, the feature or bug requests you’ve created, the notes you’ve included to share your knowledge, etc.

Tips on motivating a fully remote customer service team by Zapier - TalentLMS“The team is also teeing up and hopes to move to their escalation rate, and replies to resolution. As a team, we focus heavily on ‘time to first reply’, which will be followed by ‘time to reply’ in general.”
– Pam Dodrill, Zapier VP of Customer Support

Maintaining happy customers and a healthy workplace — without an office

Zapier holds to its values and code of conduct even when the circumstances are not ideal.

As a service tying together more than 1,500 applications, the questions the customer service team receive are sometimes immeasurable. And they sometimes have to tell customers that there’s nothing that can be done to fix an issue. As a result, these users aren’t that happy.

So, without losing positivity, they do their best to come up with workarounds as well as offer creative alternative solutions. But to deal with angry customers, Customer Champions handle the situation with kindness, compassion, and without escalating these requests to the manager. If a customer gets disrespectful, Zapier discontinues the conversation.

Tips for motivating a fully remote customer service team - TalentLMS“The advice I have for customer service managers is most importantly to empower your teams to handle these situations. Being a manager doesn’t mean you need to be an escalation point.”
– Pam Dodrill, Zapier VP of Customer Support

This healthy environment is maintained throughout the whole organization as well. How? By boosting employee motivation. According to the company’s customer support executives, a motivated team radiates and affects customers in various positive ways.

To do so, Zapier has five points of employee motivation.

1. All-hands support

Following the example of Slack, Wrike, Stripe, Wistia, and Basecamp, every employee at Zapier spends two hours a week to work on customer support tickets. Here’s a post on the benefits of all-hands support written by Zapier’s CEO, Wade Foster.

2. Employee empowerment

Everyone at Zapier (from Customer Champions to the CEO) is trained and empowered to solve customer problems.

3. Transparency and collaborative decision making

Zapier is growing, but it still ensures they’re transparent about changes with no hesitation to ask employees for feedback.

4. Diversity and inclusion

All Zapier employees must feel comfortable. Because, as they say, “when a team feels comfortable in their environment, they do their best work.”

5. Remote with a strong online social connection

Zapier might be a 100% remote company, but they take communication very seriously. Teams and each team member use Slack all the time, and they even set up meet-ups every once in a while.


Zapier’s customer support checklist

    • Consider automating some functionalities to save time
    • When trying new technologies, experiment with customer service training software
    • Grow your customer service team or consider all-hands support
    • Use blended learning by combining eLearning with offline training
    • Manage angry customers with kindness and compassion
    • Redefine your metrics as your team grows
    • Develop a strategy around employee satisfaction and motivation

Zapier’s top 3 tools:
Slack, Help Scout, and internally built tools

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