Cloudflare TV

Between Two Clouds: A Look Inside Cloudflare Support

Presented by Shane Ossa, Tiffany Cruz
Originally aired on 

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.

This week's guest is Tiffany Cruz, Techical Customer Support Team Lead.


Transcript (Beta)

Oh, hello there. Welcome to Between Two Clouds Inside Cloudflare Customer Support. My name is Shane Ossa.

I am your host today. And welcome to the show where we talk about customer support topics and get to know members of our team, our customer support team.

Today I am joined by Tiffany Cruz. Hi, Tiffany. How are you? Hi, Shane. Well, I'm sorry that I disturbed your work.

Clearly, you're busy. You didn't even see me here.

I guess I missed the PagerDuty escalation page. But we're here nonetheless.

How are you doing today? I'm good. How about you? Great. Yeah, just enjoying a relatively nice day here in San Francisco.

And where are you based again? I am in Austin.

So I live just south of Austin. So it's very nice out here. Well, it was a little foggy today, but shaping up pretty nice.

Cool. Well, thanks for coming on the show.

Looking forward to chatting with you, get to know you a little bit, get to chat about some customer support topics.

You've been with the team now about three or four months.

Feels like it's been a year. I have. Yes. Well, if we consider support years, like we do have to for dogs, I feel like it has been at least a year or more.

It's been, you know, fast and furious and a lot of fun.

So it's been a good time. Yeah. So, yeah, Cloudflare years, like one year is like five or six.

So I can't do the math live on air, but I guess three or four months, 132 days and 25 seconds is like at least a couple of years.

Features we release and teammates we add.

Yeah, the features and products are fast and furious.

So we've got to keep up. Yeah. What's it been like joining Cloudflare, I guess, compared to other places?

And we can talk about some of your past experiences, too.

But what's it been like your first four months? Has it been crazy? Has it been fun?

Is it a combination of both? Yeah. So I think it's been really interesting.

So, you know, I joined during COVID. So all of my interviews were done remotely.

Onboarding was all remote. I've never even met my team face to face. Right.

It's always been through, you know, Google Hangouts or, you know, Zoom type calls.

So it's it was definitely a new thing. I had never done that before. Never been through that process that way, which I think a lot of people have been experiencing.

So I don't think I'm unique to that, but I think it was a lot of challenge.

It was definitely challenging, to say the least, to kind of go through it that way.

I kind of had to take a leap of faith, you know, leaving somewhere to join somewhere new in the middle of kind of unrest, you know, for a lot of people.

But very fortunate, you know, when I heard about this opportunity and some of the unique things that they were looking for in a new teammate to join.

Of course, my peers, which are the other team leads.

I really jumped at the opportunity thinking that I could definitely provide some help and some use and, you know, my perspective to help drive the business forward.

And so it's it's been a really good challenge. Definitely mind exercise in different ways than I've done before.

So I think that's a great thing.

So it's been a lot of fun. Well, I'm really grateful that you came on board.

You've already made a huge impact to our team and our processes and and everything.

So it's been a great few months. So we want to talk just for a minute or two about your role.

You're a team lead on the customer support team. So you have a team of tech support engineers that you manage and you do other stuff, too.

Yeah. Yeah. So. So I have six TSEs right now. So we call them technical support engineers.

Fortunate that, you know, a lot of them are very senior. So that's been a great thing because I can learn from them and people that are junior to them can learn from them as well.

So we can leverage them in several different ways, which has been awesome.

You know, I think when you join a new team, that's who you learn from, first and foremost, is your team in my position.

So I've been very lucky in that regard to have such a welcoming team on the broad scope.

Right. Our whole support team.

And then on the smaller scope, my own personal team has been very supportive and welcoming and teaching.

Right. That's another part of their responsibilities to make sure that that we're aligned.

So it's been a great partnership so far.

But sorry, I got off track from your question. I think the biggest part is, yes, we I lead them.

But, you know, I always look at my job as a partnership.

So it's trying to find out what their needs are and try to help them grow and develop and find out really where they want to be and where they want to go and lift them up and help them get there by any means possible.

So, you know, is that interview prep?

You know, are we preparing for our next role? And, you know, we need to kind of refine our interview skills to get ready for that.


I'm right there with you. Is that skill set? Is that things that we need to go and learn to level up to a new position or a different technical role?

Right there with you.

How can I engage with like your team, Shane, and the training team to help support that?

So it's really us kind of working together to find those things, set goals and work to get those.

Yeah. Yeah. And I want to come back. That was great. And thanks for that.

And I want to come back to how the training team and the managers kind of collaborate every day on, you know, development and upskilling of our team.

But, yeah, I just wanted to echo what you said and, you know, you've managed to plug right in and it's been amazing to see that.

And you have a great management style and it's been it's been amazing.

I think it's probably a challenge to to come into a big team at a manager level sometimes.

Right. As opposed to people that are promoted internally.

Right. So you came in externally and you've brought in all these amazing skills and experiences that you have from your previous career experiences.

Do you want to take a minute to kind of touch on where you came from before you came to Cloudflare and what your experiences were?


Yeah. So I guess I I started my journey in tech. Back at Rackspace, I was an account manager.

Yep. And then I developed into the lead of that team. So then I was their manager.

So I was managing my peers, which fortunately for me was a good experience.

You know, sometimes you can hear where that has mixed results.

But I was very fortunate. I had a wonderful team there and it still in contact with that team.

We usually try to go do a lunch once a year. We saw the group thread where we kind of tell each other what we're up to and where we're at.

So it's kind of neat how you see people evolve and what they're into now and that they care to stay in touch with you is another big thing.

Yeah. That was huge for me.

So great experience there. Then I was recruited to go to a company called WP Engine, which is a big customer here as well.

WordPress, of course, is their bread and butter.

So I led the second shift team there, which was a mix of what we would call like our L1 techs or L2 techs.

So I dealt with SMB type customers all the way through to our top tier enterprise customers.

So I was doing any and all. At the most, I think we had about 32 people on the team that I was managing myself with a shift lead.

And then we had some senior techs that were also kind of my right hand people.

So that was a really good experience in operations. I was your you had any tweets or Facebook during that time.

That was that was a scroll. I had to deal with the legal issues that would come through at night.

You know, being second shift, you were it.

You know, everything passed through you before it went anywhere else.

You had to own and make your decisions. So gaining that experience from first at Rackspace to here, you know, really gave me the confidence to be able to to act, which is what you need for that role.

Once I left there, I went to a company called Clear Data, which is all health care in the cloud.

So I was in charge of taking the VMware product offering and migrating all of those customers out of data centers into the cloud offerings like Azure, GCP.

What's that other one?

AWS. So just moving them over into those offerings and shutting down the data centers.

Yeah. A lot of compliance, very compliance heavy. So we had to do a lot of audits.

We had to run a ton of those drills. I had to do some DR, some disaster recovery.

And what we would do in certain scenarios if we lost data centers or if we lost connections here and there, like do disaster run throughs, which is a lot of fun.

I've never done that before. I also pulled out their phone system, implemented a new one and also their paging system.

I took out PagerDuty and put in a new one called X Matters.

Oh, very interesting. I wouldn't be the top of mind person that you'd think to do that, but I did it.

Yeah. Yeah. That's a lot of fun.

After that, I went to eBay and that's where I was before I came here. So I was there just shy of three years.

So at eBay, I had a team of about 20 or so, like give or take, plus or minus.

And we helped our buying and selling people. So people who are buying and selling, doing transactions on eBay, we were helping with their payments, with managed payments, which was a new thing that eBay was offering.

It's fully rolled out now and we were divorcing PayPal.

So that's off and rolling. And then we also helped in the mitigation when there was conflict between buyer and seller.

I had teammates that helped with that. And then I also helped brand new people who were learning to sell all the way up to some of our top sellers, everybody in between.

And then your buyers who were like, you have to make the seller sell this to me.

Like, I have to have this thing, go to the warehouse and get it. No, sir, we don't have a warehouse.

Yeah. So lots of fun conversations were had at eBay.

That's cool. That's really interesting. Wow. It's a great path and journey to get here.

And yes, I guess we could kind of segue into some support related things.

You have so much support related experience and now you've come to Cloudflare and you're helping our customer support team.

We handle upwards of 4000 contacts per week across several channels, mostly the support portal, which is a web form, but also email and also chat for business and enterprise customers and also phone support for enterprise customers.

So that's a lot of contacts. And it's a good problem to have that we are adding customers and domains and sites and applications and assets faster than we can hire.

So we have this fun scaling challenge.

And I've been at Cloudflare for about four years now. And the team is about 25 or so people when I joined and we're up to 120.

So we're always sort of forward thinking about, OK, what are we going to be doing in six months?

What are we going to be doing in a year when we have this many more customers?

We have this many more products, but we only have this many more support people.

How can we set ourselves up for success?

So I guess in your experience, I mean, we can talk about any of those things I touched on or whatever you want, really.

But, you know, what are some of the really important things to do as a support team scaling wise in order to provide a great experience, both for the customer and the support professional on the team?

Like what are some of the top priority things that we try to implement, you know, the knowledge base or, you know, you can take it anywhere you want, really.

Yeah. So I think like if we go big, you know, drilling down, I think overall the main thing we should focus on is working smarter, not harder.

Right. The things that kill us are the small little things. Right.

The pittal tasks that end up taking up more time than they're worth and questioning why do we do those things?

Right. What might have been important to us a year ago, even six months ago, two years ago, may not still be as important.

So do we really need to hold on to those things or can we transform them?

And I think sometimes that's where people will get stuck because they've been doing it that way for so long that it seems more important than maybe it really is at times.

Yeah. So doing a really good analysis of some of those things, watching the workflow, talking to, in my case, my TSEs.

Right. They are a wealth of information.

And I go to them frequently and say, hey, what about this? Or what if I did it like that?

Or how about this? You know, and just throw things at them just to see what they would say and also challenge them.

Hey, what what, you know, worked two weeks ago may not work tomorrow.

So we have to keep an open mind. What are your thoughts on this?

And I think that's where we will gain so much. Right.

We have all these really great, brilliant, smart people that are here and they're here for a reason.

And so we have to leverage them. So working smarter, not harder.

Yes. Always at the top of my mind when I do anything or look at anything. Absolutely.

Yeah. So when you when you think about that and then you come down, you know, another layer and you start to get into like processes.

Yeah. And things like that.

Are there automated things we can do? You know, Shane, you've been involved in conversations where, you know, we are looking at some different ways.

Like, how can we better serve our customers with the information they need now?

You know, instead of waiting on us, how can we serve them that information first off so they have that exposure to it quickly?

And then maybe if that's not quite the answer they need, then we come in and we have something to go off of.

So, you know, I think those things are great.

Anything that we can do with automation to try to help the simple things, you know, things that maybe don't need our intervention or a click of a button for us.

Why isn't it a click of a button for the automation to do?

So, you know, pushing our engineering teams or the powers that be to really see what the the total cost of that is, because it is expensive.

Right. When you start to look at those numbers, how can we be more efficient there?

So I think that's important. Yeah. And then coming down another layer to like your people layer, which is super important.

You know, you want to keep people happy.

Right. I kind of for my own self, my own management go off of my principles.

Right. Which is happy, healthy and engaged. Everyone always kind of looks at me side eye when I say happy because it's like, well, how do you engage happiness?

Right. Well, OK. Is someone calling out every week because it's like I have to go to work?

You know, things of that nature or or it also pairs with your engagement.

Right. Are they just like, I don't even care anymore. Like I've talked to the wall like no one hears me.

It's not worth my time. You know, we've all kind of had that at some point in our careers.

Yeah. I know how that feels and it's the worst feeling.

So I go the extra mile to make sure that doesn't happen, at least for what I can influence.

So, you know, looking out for those three tenants on my own team and then the greater whole when I have the opportunity are super important to me in keeping your your people happy and engaged and healthy in the organization that then drives everything upward.

And I think those are kind of those three layers that are important to look at.

Now, there's tons of stuff in between.

But when you're trying to do a little bit more with less at the moment and trying to really drive getting there, like we're on the way.

Just give us a little bit more time.

We're getting there. We're doing this. We're doing that. That's what you need, in my opinion, right, to try to bring the crew together.

That's great.

Yeah. I mean, especially in your role as a manager, focusing on the people that you're working with your team, you know, getting feedback from them on what we can improve and what's what's feeling like a chore that they're just flipping one switch.

Can we automate that? You know, what do they wake up excited? What problems do they wake up excited to solve?

And what types of problems do they wake up, you know, not so excited to have to deal with, right?

And how can we get them working on the fun stuff, the challenging stuff and get the robots and the great content to solve what it can.

I like how you mentioned it's also about the customer, right?

It's about the customer support engineers experience on our end, but also with the customer.

Like you said, we have millions, literally millions of free customers and we love our free customers and they love us, but we don't have a million support personnel, so we can't do that one on one attention that we'd like to give everyone.

So it's just, it's, you know, it's just to be blunt, you know, it's going to be faster to go check for good content in our KB knowledge base in the support portal, right?

It's going to be faster to check in the community to see if there is another Cloudflare user that's tried your cool use case and you're using an interesting flavor of Linux and you're trying some kind of interesting web application and you're using Cloudflare in this interesting way.

Some edge cases, the community is a great place for people to go check before they come to the support team, right?

And for us, honestly, too, like we go there to see as well because sometimes, you know, our customers are very clever and sometimes they figure out ways to do certain things, you know, maybe we hadn't thought of.

And so that forces us to go and exercise our options in the world to see what others have thought of and done and leads us to our own community pages, which is a wealth of information.

That's right.

And we have community MVPs. We have people, amazing Cloudflare customers, Cloudflare users hanging out in the community, answering dozens of, you know, questions in there.

Shout out to the community MVPs. Thank you much for your hard work in there.

And we're also getting internally some traction and more involvement in the community as well because it is such a great resource.

And it's something we want to build up because it's a great resource for the customers, but it's just, again, it's one of our tools for scaling, right?

Millions of customers, 120 support people.

So you do the math, right? We're working on some fancy automations.

We have a really cool autoresponder called Helper Bot, which we've built ourselves internally, which has some amazing machine learning algorithms behind it.

It's using natural language processing, keyword matching, and we're training it and we're training it to get better and better.

And he's honestly, well, I say he, the bot, does a really good job, you know, at helping, like I said, with those first even just qualifying questions, even in some cases, right?

Just to narrow down our focus and say, nope, not that, but you're kind of close because it's similar to this.

And just even having that helps that TSC jump in and go to work, right?

Just based off of that. So it's definitely helping. You can see where it's going, which is a good thing.

Yeah, for sure. And, you know, both of us are in the support industry, and so we might take some of this for granted, but, you know, there's a reason that companies will sort of, for lack of a better word, hide the contact support button behind the knowledge-based articles, right?

Behind a web form that asks you to categorize your own problem and describe your problem and maybe choose your priority and choose from other criteria, which is going to feed a good automated answer service to then try to get you the right information faster.

Faster than a human can get it for you. So I think a lot of people, and myself included, years ago, before I was fully in tech support, would go to look at, you know, my cell phone services for information, and I'm like, I can't find the contact support.

This is ridiculous. And why do they do this?

And now I get it. And I don't know, you know, we take that for granted, but it's a customer effort, and we want to make it easy to get your information.

The tech support engineers that we have are amazingly talented people.

They're highly skilled, and they are troubleshooting. They're trying to fix things that are broken.

Copying and pasting bits of an article is not their favorite thing to do, right?

It's not what they're, you know, what they're paid to do, if you will.

So HelperBot is part of that. It's getting smarter. It also is getting hooked up.

It's also become a part of our skills-based routing workflow model.

Should we take a minute to chat about our internal workflow, how we process customer contacts as they come in?

Yeah. I think that would help provide a little bit of context.

So, you know, I think that also goes back to, you know, even what could be future content for you is, you know, how to be a helpful customer, right?

I think sometimes you don't know what you don't know. So, you know, some of our customers or ones who may even be newer to us, they may not know what is important or helpful in an update to then let our TSCs do what they're great at, right?

Instead of having us have to come back to them and say, well, we actually need some more, and then we have to wait for you, and then comes back to us, and then we can dig in.

So maybe future content for you, but I think that's always helpful.

But once we do get your request and we do start getting it to work, being able to work on it, rather, it does go through our system, and we are able to route it by skill set.

So before, all of our TSCs were responsible for knowing every product and everything and supporting all of that, which, you know, was a monumental task.

That's a lot of information. And so now we've kind of narrowed scope a little bit down into some bucketized categories to where our TSCs have primaries and secondaries in these skill sets.

So, for example, security or CDN, that then the tickets, depending on how they're categorized, will then go into those buckets and then be answered by that group of TSCs in that skill set.

So far, at least from what I'm hearing from the group, this has been a good approach.

You know, it's giving them some more ownership to go back and forth, especially if we do have an active customer with us in the ticket.

So, you know, during my shift, I might be able to go back and forth with the customer and actively troubleshoot a problem and get it finished.

Where before, we'd kind of go back into the queue, larger pool, and, you know, I might not see that as readily.

So, you know, I think that feature's been nice.

And then it really lets the TSC focus in on that skill set and become, you know, masters of that or get really good at that, which is what we want to see.

Yeah, and not feel like, oh my gosh, I have to know everything. And as the training team feel like, oh my gosh, I have to train 120 people to know everything.

No, it's like these 20 people need to know, be an expert in this product line, and we'll route the tickets to them.

It's great. We're still working out some of the kinks.

It came online pretty recently, but it's another thing our amazing support operations engineers were able to build and link up with our CRM we're using on the back end.

So, hey, we're almost out of time. It's gone by really fast.

I guess I'll reiterate. You're a good chat buddy. That's right. We could do this for hours.

I'll reiterate what you said, though, if you are a Cloudflare customer out there watching this, customer support wants to help you.

We do recommend that you give us the steps to reproduce your issue.

Give us a HAR file.

Have you or have your customer run an MTR trace route from where they're experiencing the errors or latency.

One of the most important things you can do is tell us about the urgency of your issue.

We use internal P1, P2, P3, which is priority one.

Let us know what P level this is for you. And you can say this is highly urgent for us.

My website is offline. This is a P1. We'll try to ask you that, but, again, like Tiffany mentioned, there's a back and forth.

We want to reduce back and forth.

So the best type of ticket for us so that we can help you faster says this is how urgent it is, really urgent.

Here's the HAR file. Here's how you reproduce the problem.

And then we don't have to go back to you and say, okay, give us this information.

So that's important. So with only a minute or so left, one of my favorite things, Tiffany, about you is you love jokes.

Can you clarify really terrible jokes?

Some of them are terrible. Some of them are not so terrible.

I guess that's like an eye of the beholder, really. Okay. Sure.

Well, I did tell you that it is National Pencil Day. Okay. So I love writing instruments.

Like that's a whole other segment we could do. So it was important for me to do a pencil joke with you.

So I kind of let you think on this one.

So let's see if you came up with the answer. So where do pencils go on vacation?

So the best guess I could come up with is Ticonderoga. No. They go to Pennsylvania.

Oh, yeah. Of course they do.

Of course they do. Naturally. All right. I've got one for you.

Okay. What do you call a nosy pepper? A nosy pepper? Yes. It's not nacho business.

So I'm out. You're close. It's jalapeno business. Jalapeno business. I love it.

Jalapeno business. I got it. That's really good. That's a good one. Yeah.

Classic. Everyone's like, oh, my God. Cringe. Hard eye roll. I know. You all had a laugh.

That's the best. All right. Thanks for coming on, Tiffany. Absolutely.

Thanks for having me. Yeah. And everyone else, tune in next time for another episode of Between Two Clouds.

Inside Cloudflare customer support. Get to know the team.

And you can ask questions next time. And thanks again, Tiffany. Yeah.

Have a good day. Bye. Bye. Bye.

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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...
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