Working in customer support can be highly rewarding. Many of us find fulfillment helping people solve problems, educating them on products so they get the most value out of their purchases, and turning negative experiences into positive ones.
But this work can also be draining, alienating, and confusing. Negative emotions from customers, lack of acknowledgement from other teams in our businesses, and the rapid pace of change in the industry and technology can be a real drag. Layer in the operational necessity of working at different times and sometimes different locations from the rest of our teammates, and it can feel quite lonely at times.
Every role has its peaks and valleys, but especially given the unique aspects of customer support, having a trusted community of colleagues to turn to for assistance, advice, and validation can be invaluable. Connecting with others can help us overcome challenges, celebrate successes, re-energize us, and allow us to feel a little less alone.
At Flight, we’re people-focused and remote-first, with a mission to build belonging in customer support. As such, facilitating community amongst our team and clients has always been a priority for us, and it felt only natural for us to extend our efforts to include the broader support industry and do our part to create more opportunities for support people to come together.
The first steps toward this are our Flight Connections and New Horizons events — our attempt at meetups that have no borders, are valuable to folks at all stages of their careers, and are fun to participate in.
Read on for a recap of how we run these events, what we’ve learned so far, and a peek into why you should join us at a future gathering (stay tuned for upcoming dates here)!
Flight Connections are our casual in-person and virtual events designed for support pros to meet up, get to know one another, and exchange ideas.
Our first event was an in-person meetup at a brewery in Oakland, California. In planning the get together, we tried to be as inclusive as possible through things like making sure to choose a location that was conveniently located near public transportation, that had low noise levels, and offered an array of beverage options including non-alcoholic ones.
Seven people joined for the evening, and we discussed a wide range of topics both related and unrelated to work. This underscores the need for general camaraderie among support professionals, and the desire to get to know one another as people as opposed to just talking business.
Several people remarked on the relaxed atmosphere and no-strings-attached opportunity for community-building. This was rewarding to hear, because it’s not in our ethos to create awkward or forced sales opportunities — our goal for these events is truly just to facilitate ways for people to come together.
Despite ongoing industry uncertainties, with many on the hunt for new roles, folks were excited and optimistic about what 2023 had in store, and we were even able to celebrate recent successes for two founders in attendance — Harish Maiya, Co-founder and COO of Twig, and Martin Moznar, Co-founder and COO of WeBoard, both of whom are leading companies that are on the rise!
To extend access more broadly across locations and cater to those who aren’t able or prefer not to attend in person, we tried a virtual option. This event was more structured than our Oakland meetup and was focused on a theme oriented around the halfway point of the year.
Turnout was lower than expected, but we’re not discouraged. We believe it’s par for the course when building a community — not every format, theme, and date are going to be a hit, at least not right away, and we’ll continue to iterate until we find a fit. (Got ideas for what the support community needs more of? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Even with a small attendance, we were still able to reinforce some key points that we already knew to be true. Our exercise was a great example of the power of self-reflection and intentionality and how it can help to energize us, and how creating engaging and practical activities that allow teams to reflect and take action on desired objectives can be empowering.
In addition, our group conversation emphasized our belief that the right balance of safety and vulnerability creates space for people to relate to one another, feel seen, and receive support.
Last but not least, it was just another example for us that community events can be both productive and enjoyable!
New Horizons are our fully-digital, slightly more structured gatherings where we invite experts to facilitate education around a specific topic.
One of our overall goals for launching events is to create opportunities to learn and stay sharp on new and trending topics in the industry. This objective naturally led to a more structured design for our New Horizon series and the invitation of expert guests to share their knowledge.
But, we made sure not to make these just boring presentations or lectures by weaving in lots of opportunities for conversation and interaction. In general, when it comes to learning, we believe in connection over content and have designed these sessions to be dynamic and experiential for all attendees.
We’ve received a lot of great feedback about this structure, from both attendees and panelists alike. Attendees seem to feel engaged by the format, and many have come back multiple times.
"It was a great presentation. I’ve gone to three more CX webinars this week that were snoozefests. Your webinar was excellent."
Our guest panelists have expressed appreciation for our well-organized, structured agenda and planning process, in addition to the group-focused format that takes some of the pressure off. For us, it’s important to take care of the logistics and technology so our panelists can relax and share their insights stress-free.
Perhaps most importantly, we've been reminded of how much knowledge exists in the support community, and that everyone has something unique to offer. This includes expert panels, as well as all the wisdom shared by attendees.
On the horizon
We’ve had a lot of fun and success in this new chapter of launching events, albeit not without encountering a few learning curves along the way. We strongly believe in our goal to create a space for like-minded individuals in customer support, and we’re excited to roll out more in the near future.