In the modern age of automation and algorithms, it’s easy to forget there are humans behind our favorite technologies. With that being said, we thought it would be interesting to share the story of the actual humans behind the Sketchfab Support team—how we ended up here and how we work.
Where We Began
From the beginning, the Sketchfab Support Team was focused on efficiency. There was no other option, because, back in May 2014, James was hired as a Support team of one. He built the entire Sketchfab Support ecosystem. He set up our ticketing software so customers could send us their email inquiries. He drafted the earliest version of our Help Center. He even coded an integration so that when a bug was fixed by our developers, all the users that wrote to Sketchfab about it would be informed. All of this, on top of replying to every Support email that came through, rightfully earned James the title of Support King on the Sketchfab Forum.
But several years later, Sketchfab was growing fast. The Support King needed more than efficiency, so I joined the Sketchfab Support Team in November 2017. (Check out my Sketchfab profile.) Before then I had had an eclectic run in customer support, ranging from the hands-on labor of 1-800-GOT-JUNK to the technical support for Vimeo filmmakers. But what really prepared me for Sketchfab was my experience at Squarespace. During my three years with the website design start-up, they expanded from fewer than 100 support team members to 300+ in three different time zones. Growing Sketchfab’s one-person team to two would be a new kind of challenge.
Coming from a background completely devoid of 3D knowledge meant that I had a lot of questions. James joked that sometimes I would ask questions that would completely stump him—not for lack of knowledge but for never having considered that someone would ever need to ask.
Once we were both on the same page, working together brought the team to another level. I joined the team in the month with the highest number of tickets created to date in 2017, but once they were divided evenly, we barely flinched. And since we were able to keep customer emails under control right away, we could focus on providing more proactive support.
Adapting through the years of rapid growth at Squarespace, I knew that regular reflection and structure was critical, even for a team of two. I quickly fleshed out everything I was learning from James into more granular Help Center guides. I created a variety of standard messages to quickly answer the frequently asked questions that I had noticed from my first few days on the job. James and I began meeting once a month to review a master list of tasks and schedule our next steps.
What Does Success Mean To Us?
Once we settled into functioning as a team, James and I wanted to be clear on our definition of success. It was clear that other support teams for platforms with millions of users needed to prioritize efficiency. We knew that whatever we did, we had made a promise to the Sketchfab users right on our Plans page. On business days, we promise a response within 48 hours for our Plus and Pro users. Premium and Business users are promised a response within 24 hours.
Beyond the standard agreement, though, we wanted more than just efficient service, we wanted our users’ experience to be effortless. Our definition of success means we’re always striving to make 3D accessible for all.
On focused reflection, James and I identified our markers for effortless support:
- A clear method for users to reach out directly to Support
- A thorough and organized Help Center
- A simplified and well-maintained FAQ section
How Do We Get To Effortless?
You might be wondering the big question of this article: How in the world can two people support millions? Well, to be honest, even though Sketchfab has millions of users, we thankfully don’t have millions of users that need our help. We’re pleased to say that we’ve created and maintained an intelligent and creative community. Sketchfab users are, by default, a skilled and resourceful bunch. To have the persistence and patience to learn something as complex as 3D modeling or scanning means you have the ability to work through plenty of stumping questions or technical tutorials.
The Sketchfab community helps itself, too. Every day people are answering one another’s questions on the Sketchfab Forum. They work through design issues, offer freelance projects, and propose feature requests to improve the Sketchfab platform.
Yet, we do receive hundreds of emails every week. We don’t use live chat or phone services because it can often take quite a bit of time to load, process, and debug 3D models (not to mention explain visual aspects of a 3D issue). Troubleshooting on the phone or in a chat while our 3D developers discuss an issue would not be the most efficient use of our users’ time.
Being effortless means we want to get the answer, whatever it is, to a user as quickly as possible. To deliver an effortless experience to our users requires a consistent review of every step of the process. We maintain an FAQ section to address users’ questions before they ever click “Send” on the Help Center ticket form. We constantly analyze the support ticket process, considering whether new ticket categories or auto-response emails will help everyone get to the answer more quickly. We monitor Help Center traffic and corresponding tickets to see if we might be missing something there too.
The truth is that the work is never done. And that’s just fine by us. As Sketchfab continues to grow, the 3D world becomes even more exciting and accessible. More users will mean more interesting questions and challenges.
We’re not starved for future projects either. James and I maintain a long list of possible projects to tackle and improve Sketchfab Support in the future. Some of our short-term projects include the addition of Help Center video tutorials and a clearer process to generate PayPal invoices.
Not only that, as proud as we are to say that we can handle everything now, we’re already thinking about how to take action when Sketchfab’s growth eventually necessitates adding another member to our team.
What do you think? How can we do better?