Article | 6 min read

Cheers to a job well done: Why peer recognition matters

Last updated May 4, 2016

Meet Ramona—or Rami, as she’s more frequently known. Born in Germany, and raised in Galicia, Spain, Rami is truly a citizen of the world. For the past eight years she’s lived and worked in Dublin and travels as often as she can around Europe and Asia with friends. Prior to Zendesk, Rami worked in roles related to customer service, though never directly in tech support. That is, not until she became Zendesk’s first advocate hire in Dublin. There were just over a dozen people in the Dublin office then, a number that’s grown to nearly 200 today. Of that group, 31 are advocates.

As the Dublin office’s first Tier 1 Support Team Lead, Rami’s spent considerable time training and onboarding new advocates as Zendesk has grown. Here she shares a bit about what advocates can do to advance their careers, and why it’s important for everyone—not just leadership—to recognize their colleagues for a job well done.

Name: Ramona Lopez
Tenure at Zendesk: 3 years, at the end of May
Years in a support role: 3 years
Personal mantra: “Close your eyes, clear your heart, let it go.” Basically just to release, because life is sometimes hard and a lot of things happen, so you just need to find a way to let go of whatever impediments you might face in your work or personal life.
Favorite place to go out in Dublin? I really enjoy the atmosphere at this very small place called Kinara Kitchen. They have tapas and the cocktails are awesome. You can say what spirit you like, what flavors, and they’ll mix something up for you.
You mentioned you travel frequently when you have time off. Is there a city you always return to, or always somewhere different? I always go somewhere different. For me, one of the most impressive and amazing trips was to the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. They live totally different there from how we do here.
As a customer, what company have you had the best support interactions with? Airbnb. They are very fast in response, and friendly and open. I felt comfortable talking to them.

Ramona Lopez photo collage

Let’s talk support. What qualities should a new advocate develop if they want to advance to a Team Lead position?
It’s important to have a strong desire to help others. As a Team Lead, you still help customers, but there’s more emphasis on helping your team to progress. You have to be available to coach your team, provide training, and be approachable so that your team can always reach out when they need to. You have to be very present.

It’s great, too, when advocates come up with ideas and take initiative for how we can make things better. I like it when an advocate says, “This thing isn’t working. Here’s my feedback, and here’s how I will fix it.”

It also matters how advocates interact with the rest of the team. Are they available to answer questions or to jump into a ticket if needed? We care about metrics and quality, but focusing only on metrics or on the number of tickets solved shouldn’t be someone’s only focus.

Now that there are 3 team leads in Dublin, you have fewer direct reports and time for new projects. What are you focused on lately?
Myself and the other team leads and managers in EMEA are launching a pilot advocate recognition program here in Dublin and I’m excited to see how it goes. We haven’t disclosed all the details yet, but it’s basically based on peer recognition. We’ll ask the team to nominate their colleagues, based on our pillars of service, which are: Lead, Serve, Innovate, and Have Fun. We hope people will nominate their colleagues not because they solved a hard ticket, but because that colleague helped them with a hard ticket, or cheered them up on a rough day. It’s more about the quality of interaction. At the end of the month, we’ll see who has the most nominations and there will be prizes.

What was the motivation behind launching an advocate recognition program?
For me, advocate recognition was something I thought about as the team was growing, thinking back to experiences I had at previous companies and wanting to bring those experiences here. It can be hard to stop and take time for recognition when you’re growing quickly and really busy. But it’s nice from time to time to tell advocates, or your colleagues, how good they are.

Recognition helps keep people motivated, and it’s not about saying every day, “Oh, you did great.” Instead, it’s about saying, “You did some awesome work here because of this and this specific thing.” We want to provide positive feedback so that advocates know their work is worthwhile and that they’re seen. I also think recognition is especially meaningful if it comes from colleagues as well as managers. The advocates are the ones who really know best what’s going on. Managers can give feedback in one-on-one meetings but it’s hard to know who’s really helping who on a regular basis, and it’s nice to give the team the option to say nice things about each other. I think it’ll make our team relationship stronger.

Last question—what are the plans for global rollout?
When you’re a global company, different offices face different challenges, so it’s something that needs to be figured out locally. Some offices are smaller and there aren’t as many advocates. Others are large and the advocates may sit on different floors, so the peer recognition program might not work as well. Also, in some offices advocates often support sales and other teams outside of support as much as they help other advocates. So, it’s hard to implement in a streamlined way. We’ll have to recognize across the world differently, but starting small with peer recognition will be a good way to recognize specific moments of good work.

Zendesk advocates are front and center with our customers and our product. This series highlights the people behind the tickets and their perspective on what makes great customer service.

See past posts from:
Abel Martin, on building great internal partnerships
Arthur Mori, on what everyone should know about Tier 1 support
Benjamin Towne, on constructive criticism and mentoring advocates
Rodney Lewis, on setting up an internal shadowing program
Sarah Kay, on her move from advocate to data analyst