Between Two Clouds - A Look Inside Cloudflare Support
Inside Cloudflare Support explores the people and processes behind Cloudflare's Customer Support team and service. Each segment will include a discussion with a different Customer Support professional on their experiences and their take on the effort to support Cloudflare's customers and products.
Hello everybody, welcome to Between Two Clouds, A Look Inside Cloudflare Support. This is our first episode in a new series where we get to know team members on the Cloudflare Customer Support team and we learn about what Cloudflare Customer Support is, the tools, the processes, really just anything.
But today I'm honored to have as a first guest Carolina Maduro from our London office with me to talk about support.
Hey Carol. Hello, hello Shane, hello everyone. I'm very pleased to be here today in this first episode of the series where we'll be introducing our amazing team in Cloudflare TV.
Thanks so much for the opportunity. Yeah, well thanks for joining me.
Tudo bom? Tudo ótimo. Yeah, so I happen to know that Carol is Brazilian, speaks Portuguese, but lives in London.
How did you come to live in London?
Yeah, that's it Shane. I was originally born in Brazil, in Rio, and I always had a dream to move to London.
It all started when I was 15 years old.
I came to England for the first time in one of these exchange programs to learn English, and I was living in Cambridge for a couple of months, and I fell in love with the country and the culture.
So I set myself the goal to move here.
Then I came back to Brazil, carry on my life, and then a few years later here I am.
You're back, you came back. Yes. That's great. Well, you've been on the support team now a few years.
How long have you been with us? Two years or three years?
No, it's actually one year and a half. One year and a half. It feels like forever.
Yes, I've been a technical support engineer at Cloudflare. Yes, that's right.
You're one of our veteran tech support engineers in the London office.
Yes. And one year and a half, you know, I think in Cloudflare time that's more like four or five years because we just move so quickly.
Correct. Yes, after me so many new people started, so that I feel like I am already a veteran.
Yes, you definitely are helping to train the new people with shadow sessions and whatnot.
I was going to ask, I should probably know this, but before coming to Cloudflare tech support, did you do support before?
Actually, my background is in telecommunications.
Yes. I am originally a telecoms engineer and all my career I've been working for mobile operators.
I've been like doing network service assurance and performance analysis.
And most recently, my previous job before Cloudflare, I moved to a supplier and I was providing solutions to the mobile operators to monitor their network.
So Cloudflare is a huge career shift for me. I am so pleased that I took this step.
Actually, it all started when I came back from my second maternity leave.
I thought like to be away from my children. I really want something exciting and something new.
I want to do something different. So instead of going back to my previous jobs, I decided to reinvent myself and try something totally new.
So here I am. Wow. That's great. That's great. And you've done really well.
So what did you find challenging about switching careers from telecoms or coming back from being a mother and still being a mother, but coming into the workplace and being a mother at the same time?
And Cloudflare, we're just throwing so much at you.
We have all these amazing products and you're learning about layer seven application layer support and my website's down and fix this website.
There's so many things that were probably challenging. Is there anything you want to speak to on that transition?
Yeah, definitely. It was not easy.
The amount of things that I had to learn to be able to support our customers were huge.
Thanks to the very complete onboarding program that you guys put, I was able to learn and progress along the way.
And little by little, I was progressing on the support chain, starting with free customers.
Then when I felt more confident, I moved on to business and then enterprise.
And now I am finally supporting our premium customers as well, that I'm feeling more confidence technically to do so.
But easy is not easy. So it's like, especially during the pandemic where I've been at Cloudflare for one year and a half.
One year of this time, we were like in lockdowns and working from home.
That's right. I had to be like a technical support engineer, a teacher, a mother, a wife.
It's a bit overwhelming, but I think I'm managing.
I'm managing well and support from everybody.
Yeah, you seem to be managing really well. I think it's been a real challenge this last year for everyone to not be in the office, to go through this traumatic experience as a people.
And especially for mothers, I think it's been really hard.
I think there's been studies, studies do both jobs more so than fathers in many cases.
So hats off and kudos to you for doing it all. It's been a crazy year and you've done well.
But I must say that the company has been really supportive.
The company has been really supported throughout this pandemic. Like everyone is very caring to each other and I feel like we're all holding hands and we are in this together, which is really good.
Yeah, that's true. We formed a caregivers task force early on in the pandemic of cross-functional people from different teams in different offices around the world and came together to try to figure out how we could support all the caregivers in the company.
Mothers, fathers, parents, but people taking care of other people in their lives, their grandparents, another loved one that they need to care for.
So the company has been really flexible.
We've been trying to provide resources when possible. We've been flexible about needing to leave early to pick up your kids from the daycare.
That's not conventional anymore.
So yeah, it's really been amazing to see how we've adjusted and just supported each other and try to make this whole thing work while shipping new features and learning about those new features as a support team and how we're going to support them.
When one of them needs to be configured differently and the customer is writing in and they're not sure how to configure it properly.
It's been a fun journey the last year.
Yes. And one thing that I've noticed that obviously every crisis brings an opportunity.
And I noticed that within our team, we've become much closer to the people in other offices in other countries, especially in Europe.
We've become really close to people in our Lisbon office in our Munich office.
It's like there's no geographical distance between us anymore.
We are like working as one team. So this is one positive side of things.
Yeah, we all had to start working remotely one day and make it work. And now we're talking every day, video chatting with people that we wouldn't have done that with as much.
So that has definitely been a good thing to happen along the way. So you mentioned Lisbon.
We have a big office in Lisbon and we have an office in London.
We have an office in Munich and you speak Portuguese. I know you're Brazilian, but is there any interest in moving to sunny Lisbon and away from London or pretty happy in London?
No, I'm pretty happy in London. Yes. I would exchange.
Yes. Yes. I'm settled here. Have our house, the kids going to school. Yeah. It's fine.
London is good. Yeah. Although when I miss Brazil and I cannot really travel back to Brazil because it's either too expensive or too far.
I go to Lisbon and I feel like I'm at home as well.
Oh, really? Yeah. You've been there. Yes. Yes. My father is Portuguese.
So I have some relatives living in Lisbon and architecture, obviously language, food, everything reminds me so much about my hometown, Rio.
So I feel like home in Lisbon too. I can say I have three homes. Yeah.
And we can come up with some good reasons for you to go to Lisbon to give a training to new tech support engineers.
Yes. Happy to do so. Very happy to do that.
Cool. So I guess segueing to Cloudflare customer support and features as a team, we've recently transitioned to a new workflow model, which is called skills-based routing.
Our old model was that a customer inquiry would come in and one of us would pick it up based on the urgency level and, you know, first come first serve, right?
We prioritize tickets based on if it was really urgent and someone really needed help, we'd do that ticket first before someone who had a standard question.
But we sort of had a swarming approach where we swarmed on these as a team, but we developed a new system where we route tickets by your skill area.
And so now we have someone triaging every ticket as it comes in and categorizing it.
And this one is about this feature and that one is about that feature.
And then that ticket will get automatically routed to a person with that skillset.
And I don't recall offhand, which are the skill groups that you are a part of?
I am part of a core advanced skill group, which covers SSL, DNS, analytics, load balancing, and data logs.
Nice. Yeah, I'm pretty happy. I'm pressure of us being a specialist in every Cloudflare product, which is super challenging and nowadays almost impossible.
So the skills-based routing, I think will only bring benefits to the team.
We'll be able to answer tickets faster.
We'll feel ourselves less under the pressure or if we don't really know anything, something about what the customer is asking.
So I think it's something that is really positive.
And especially in the long term, we'll bring a lot of benefits to the team.
Our customer base is growing exponentially and we are not growing our team on the same rate.
So it's a big challenge. We need to work more efficiently.
And I think definitely skills -based routing is coming to achieve this. Yeah, I think for me too, as a training manager for the team, which I probably should have said at the beginning, I helped the rest of the team, I trained the rest of the team.
And now instead of a task in front of me that says, every tech support engineer needs to have every skill, all 120 people need to know everything.
And what a huge undertaking that is. Now, it's a more manageable approach where it's like, okay, let's focus on nine or 12 people in each region to focus on this skill.
That said, we still train everyone on everything that's fundamental, all of the core stuff, how DNS works, how SSL works.
Everyone has to understand some of those core things.
And then we specialize people on other features, but we also specialize people into getting what your group is, the more advanced skills in those skill groups.
So from a training standpoint, it's also been helpful to focus our scope a little bit more.
And I think from the tech support engineer standpoint, like you said, it's a lot less daunting to get a ticket about anything, right?
Oh my God, what's this next ticket I'm going to work? It could be anything.
And now it's like, okay, well, it could still be anything, but it's anything within these fewer categories.
Still, when we like help customers via chat facility or emergency helpline, we must be prepared for anything, right?
So that's the challenge of this job we have to manage.
And I'm glad you mentioned that.
Yeah. So we still have chat support for enterprise and business customers can chat to a live person 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, even on weekends, even on holidays, Carol will be there.
Carolina will help you fix your problem. How do you feel about chat support and phone support?
Some people really love it. Are you one of those people or are you neutral?
I think when you manage to solve the customer problems online is always very rewarding.
Like so many times a customer contacted us via chat facility, like I am under attack, please help me.
I don't know what to do. And it's like so good when we manage to guide the customer through to mitigate this attack and bring back the service.
It's one of the heights of this job. I think when we help the customer and we see the effects straight away and the customer sometimes they are so thankful for our help.
So it can work very well, but sometimes it can also be challenging and I may not know the answer for what the customer is asking at the moment.
I don't know everything. So it's always, we have to manage and still make the customer happy, but.
Yeah, that's the balance, right?
That's the balance. Would you say with under attack tickets, and that's what we call those scenarios that you mentioned, we call them under attack.
Would you say that's your favorite one to solve? If you get in under attack, are you like, yes, yes, here we go on chat and on the phone is definitely my favorite ones, like the buzz of it.
And when we are looking at our internal dashboards and we see the attack being mitigated, going down and the service customer service being bring back to normal operation is really, really rewarding.
Yes. And it's amazing how the options our platform offers for doing so.
Yeah, there's a lot. Yeah. There's the firewall rules.
It's unbelievable. Rate limiting. Yeah. And the firewall rules are so incredibly flexible, like you can do almost anything you want with this firewall rules.
So yeah. That's a feature that's been really fun to watch mature over the last, I've been here four years now, and just the amount of configurability now that customers have on the firewall rules feature, it's really powerful and it's really amazing what can be done there.
And so you're guiding people to create the firewall rule or the rate limiting rule that's going to stop this malicious traffic coming to their site.
That's probably one of the more fun things that we get to do as a support team.
What else? Are there any other tickets that you get that you're like, Ooh, this is going to be interesting to figure out as maybe a load balancing one or a SSL connection or are there any others that you like?
The SSL for SAS tickets are always interesting for me. I think it's pretty awesome that our customers can use our platform to provide services to their customers.
It's always interesting to see the different use cases and how they use our services to provide services to their customers.
So I'm enjoying dealing with those tickets as well.
Yeah. And it also adds an element of complexity to the request, to an HTTP request coming through and it's the SSL certificate is handled by us, but then the site is served by our customer, but it's their end users site.
So these are typically big e-commerce platforms using this product, right?
Yeah. It's quite interesting to troubleshoot why the custom host names are not activating and what is missing on the certificate chain.
I like those.
I was just going to say all the products, if you look at load balancer or if you look at Cloudflare for Teams, the amount of infrastructure our customers can save just by putting their sites behind Cloudflare and configuring these things that can be super complicated using another options.
And you can set up your load balancer in five minutes at Cloudflare.
That's one of our biggest value propositions, the value that we're adding to customers.
They're not having to buy middleware boxes. They're not having as many developers to manage their backend and they get the awesome customer support team to come in and help them when they're confused.
Or if a feature is not behaving as expected when it's interacting with their origin server, they get us, they get you to help them fix the problems.
So that's another thing that helps us, I think, differentiate us in the market as our support.
We hear that a lot, that we have pretty outstanding support in the analyst relations, analyst studies that are done.
And when Cloudflare is found like a leader in DDoS mitigation support by these analyst groups, support is one of the ones that we score really high in.
So that's we're pretty proud of and something we're trying to maintain.
And as you mentioned before, it's getting more and more challenging because this is a good problem, but we are adding customers and sites to our platform exponentially.
And we're trying to do more with less as a team, right?
We're trying to automate as much as we can.
We're trying to get more efficient with our workflows like skills -based routing, which will route the customer's inquiry to the person with the right skills.
And it improves the customer experience too, because now they're working with someone who is trained on that feature for sure.
And we're also doing ticket ownership along with that, which means that you will work that ticket throughout the course of that ticket's history, unless it's a high urgency ticket, we'll hand it over.
So for everyone that's watching Cloudflare has 24 seven support, and this is a global team.
So Carol doesn't work 24 hours a day. She works her shift and then she hands over to the US team.
And we have a handover every day where the team meets on a video call like this.
And we just say, here are the top issues.
Here are some of the customer issues that the next team needs to be aware of.
And we sort of hand it over. And in the past, what we would have done is anybody working in the US shift would be able to take any of the tickets that were worked previously by the European shift or the Asia Pacific shift.
And now if that ticket is a low urgency and the customer can wait for Carol to come back online the next day, and we will, then it'll be Carol.
And that's actually a good experience.
We hear that from customers all the time. And we hear them saying, can I just work with the same person?
And if it's an urgent issue, if your site is offline, then we're going to hand it over and it'll be a new person picking it up immediately.
But if it's something that can wait for tomorrow, they want to work with the same person.
Yeah, have you? Have you? No, I believe that ticket ownership makes a lot of sense.
Yeah, because most they don't like to talk to different people all the time and have to sometimes explain the issue more than once.
So the best approach is really if we take the ticket and we work through all the way to resolution, it saves everyone's time.
And yeah, it's a definitely a very good approach, unless it's really urgent, and it has to be looked after in the next shift.
Yes. Yeah, because it was causing us to try to come up with interesting tools and processes to try to to try to fix that.
We were leaving a lot of notes for each other on these tickets so that the next person would know what to do.
So we'd have to train on, oh, make sure you leave this really detailed and succinct note to the next person who picks up that ticket, because it could be anybody.
And we have to develop these special tools for leaving notes and these sticky notes that would make them more visible to the next person.
We're still using those, but it makes more sense to just for it to be the same person.
And customers tend to like that.
Have you noticed repeat customers? Have you ever gotten the same customer twice at this point?
Yes. Yeah. Yes. There's a few customers that contact us quite a lot. And I have like some customers that like to speak in Portuguese as well.
Oh, right. So sometimes I try to use my second language to be able to support them in their your first language.
Yeah. So that's nice. It's always good. I think in general, in any kind of support, when you speak on your own language, you always feel happier straight away.
Yeah. So I think it's really amazing that Cloudflare is like supporting customers in so many different languages officially now.
Yeah, that's true.
We have people that speak Portuguese. I think we probably of all the second languages, that's probably the most common one we have on the team.
We have a good few Portuguese speakers.
I mean, now that we have the Lisbon office, but we had we had a decent amount of Portuguese speaker before the Lisbon office.
And we have Spanish speakers, Chinese speakers, French, German.
And we're building a team in Tokyo as well so that we'll have Japanese support.
That's a huge undertaking for us as a team.
You know, we're not at the 24-7 level yet with all these languages.
It's really best effort right now. But with some of them, with Portuguese, we have speakers in most regions.
So across all three time zones. Yes.
Yeah. Yeah. So we're able to we're able to do that. The other aspect of multi -language support is translation, translation of our support documentation and our dashboard into other languages.
As the team, our strategy is to provide a great customer experience.
Sometimes the best customer experience is there's a knowledge based article that solves your problem and you don't have to contact support.
Contacting support might not be the best customer experience all the time. And so it's also a big undertaking to translate the articles into all the languages.
I noticed a big, really big improvement across this one year and a half that I've been here.
A lot of our public facing content is now being translated and even the dashboard.
Yes, I've noticed a lot of improvements in that sense.
Yeah. So it's been 18 months, you said, about 18 months. We've probably added millions of domains and customers and dozens of products and features.
What's it been like to to work for a company that is just moving so quickly, growing so fast?
Yeah. Yeah. It's sometimes I have to manage the pressure I put on me because I always feel that I don't know anything because there's always so many things coming.
Yeah. But I think that's our business. We are very fast paced.
Yeah. We release things all the time and that's it. It's amazing. It's yeah, that's what it is.
Yeah. I like to feel a bit overwhelmed, but it's always like.
Incentive for you to study more and to learn more.
You will never get to the top. Oh, I know everything.
I don't need to do anything else and get to your comfort zone.
It will never happen at Cloudflare. And I think that's why I apply for the job here.
I really wanted to move out from my comfort zone, from my job that I have been doing like for 11 years.
I said, no, now I want really something to challenge myself and to do something different.
And that's part of what really I think is so exciting about Cloudflare.
Yeah. If you like to learn and you're a curious person, you want to keep learning new things.
This is a great place. We don't just do one thing. Sometimes I tell people it feels like we're in a different company every six months because we have so many new features coming.
And we like to release completely different technologies.
We have Magic Transit Layer 3, 4 now. There's a stream product.
There's a serverless product. There's so many different things coming out.
It's been really fun and challenging. It's the challenge and it's the fun.
Yeah. Like you said, we're reminding ourselves to not get too overwhelmed and and keep having fun and keep helping customers.
I'm looking at the clock here.
It looks like we're almost out of time. Yeah. Wow. Time flies so quickly. I really had fun.
Yeah. It's been a great chat. Thanks for coming on.