How Braze Worked Across Teams to Build a Support Portal
Picture this: You’re on an airplane that’s stuck on the tarmac. People start to get antsy. Seat belts come off. Some folks get up to use the restroom. There’s a steady flow of “bings'' as passengers try to find out from the flight team about why they haven’t taken off yet. Passengers are frustrated, the flight staff is overwhelmed, and every time someone unbuckles their seatbelt or stands up, it just prolongs the issue as the flight team tries to reestablish order and carry out safety precautions.
Now, picture the same scenario, but the pilot comes on within the first 15 minutes saying, “We’re now number 12 in line to take off. We expect to be airborne in about 30 minutes and we should be making up time in the air. To ensure we are able to take off when it’s our turn, I’m going to ask you to do your best to stay seated and buckled. I’ll be able to give you an estimated arrival time once we’re in the air.” In this case, there’s a dual benefit. The customers feel heard and informed; the flight staff is able to focus on pressing matters like safety checks, and the domino effect of flight delays for the rest of the aircraft’s track is minimized.
Why the stressful travel visualization, you ask? Well, in many ways this situation mirrors the circumstances that led our team at Braze to build our platform’s Support Portal. Read on to better understand the key role that the portal serves, how we conceptualized its benefits, and the roles our cross-functional teams played in bringing this feature to life.
What is a support portal—and why did Braze build one?
A support portal is a tool that gives customers transparency into their relationship with a brand or technology partner. It enables quick and effective solutions through self-service and expert support, tracks the status of technical support tickets and requests, and maintains a history of technical support interactions for each brand.
We built this, in part, as the latest iteration of our technical support intake process. When Braze was just starting out (as Appboy, for any long-time followers out there!), our technical support intake process was just an email alias. Customers would send us a note when they needed help with the platform or when something went wrong and then would simply...wait.
On our end, we were manually coordinating the right team members and responses based on the issue—and sometimes it would take several back-and-forth emails just to understand what the issue was in the first place. We eventually evolved the process by incorporating a web form for technical support requests that made it possible to gather more information. This definitely helped to streamline the process, but it was still an imperfect solution. Couple this with the rapid scaling of a startup growing into a public company, and you can start to see how both customers and technical support team members might start to feel frustrated: Our technical support teams felt like they were working through constant fire drills, and customers felt like they were stuck in limbo (see how my airplane metaphor starts working its way in?). This brings us to the part of the metaphor where communication, clear timelines, mutual accountability, and agency save the day.
How our Support Portal benefits customers and our team
Self-serve is more accessible
Just like any business, our customers come to us for support with a range of queries—some quite simple; some very complex. Through our Support Portal, customers can self-serve for several issues just by searching in the portal, which houses our entire technical support Knowledge Base. Additionally, team members have the ability to search through their team’s unique history with the Braze platform. This is particularly beneficial as newer employees are hired by our customers. It’s a great way to familiarize themselves with roadblocks and solutions and can help ensure that work streams are minimally disturbed by turnover, promotions, or team expansions.
Support teams are more efficient
On the flip side, we see notable benefits for our internal teams. As customers have more ability to self-serve, technical support teams are able to move with more agility. They have more time and bandwidth for complex issues, with the capacity to scale as the business grows. There’s also more transparency for customers—they have the ability to see where their active tickets are in the queue instead of shooting an email off into a black box and waiting for a reply.
A team effort: Building the Braze Support Portal
This project was a long time in the making, and it touched nearly every team at Braze—Technical Support, Customer Success, Product, Engineering, Revenue Operations, Marketing, Growth, Enablement, and more. If the web form was V2 of the technical support intake process, we can think of the Support Portal as V3 through roughly… V100?
Jokes aside, this was a thorough and iterative process that would not have been possible without coordination across our organization. I worked closely with a number of key stakeholders to bring this project to completion, including Product’s Diana Kim, Technical Support’s Erika Semtei-Rotundo, Customer Success’ Rachel Welber, and Growth’s Stephan Blackwood (then part of the Revenue Operations team). Despite the sheer number of teams involved, we were able to stay focused and move forward because we had a shared throughline when it came to our work—namely, creating a seamless, intuitive customer experience for customers and a system that supported and empowered our teams.
Once we’d aligned internally on the need for a Support Portal, these stakeholders and others came together to build out and execute a workflow that let us go from concept to completed feature. Then Rachel and our Customer Success team worked with Technical Support to carry out research to help us identify gaps in the customer experience that the portal could help to address. The Product and Engineering teams, led by Diana, worked to scope out what the portal UI and UX would look like for customers, then built, tested, and iterated on the portal, working closely with Stephan and the Revenue Operations team to test different integrations and to manage a particularly meticulous integration with our CRM solution.
But once the actual integration was complete, there was still a lot to do. Erika worked closely with the Growth and Enablement teams when it came to preparing both our internal teams and our customers for the launch of the new portal and educating them about the benefits it could provide. “We put together a communications plan that covered everything from enabling our coworkers on the new portal to providing guidance to new and existing customers on what to expect from this new feature,” Erika says. “We knew we needed to share our vision for the portal and how it added value to our customers.” In addition, the Marketing team helped to make sure the experience felt consistent with our brand—and in the time since launch, they’ve taken a leading role when it comes to developing strategies to continue spreading the word about the Support Portal.
When the time came to launch the portal, we took a strategic approach to the rollout. “It’s all part of how we think about deploying new functionality on the Braze platform in general,” Diana says. “We intentionally chose a segmented audience to do a slow roll-out; that way, we could ensure we weren’t breaking the experience of our customers because of the update.” Once we were satisfied that the portal was working the way we wanted and not causing any issues, we scaled up access to our full customer base. And today, the portal is available to all Braze customers from the moment they first access the platform, allowing them to take advantage of its functionality from the very beginning of their journey with Braze.
As a Support leader, this effort exemplifies the Braze commitment to technical support—not just as a necessary arm of our business, but as a core part of ensuring strong, fruitful relationships with our customers. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last iteration of this portal, and I can’t wait to see where we go next.
Interested in learning more about our Technical Support organization and the work we do to help Braze customers solve issues and make the most out of our platform? You’re in luck—check out my piece on how Braze built an award-winning, best-in-class support organization.
Molly Lisenco is the VP, Global Technical Support at Braze. When she's not working with her team to help troubleshoot technical issues, you can find her diving head first down the rabbit hole into true crime podcasts, tending to her ever-growing garden, or doing comedy.