From furloughing employees to a 200% increase in bookings over the span of a week, Outdoorsy, a RV rental marketplace that connects owners to renters, went from almost shuttering to scaling faster than they could handle. We sat down with Rebecca Prejean, Senior Support and Training Specialist, to understand how the world’s most trusted RV rental marketplace was able to revolutionize their onboarding and training process to accommodate the rapid growth to quickly scale.
Rentals and rapid change
Tell us a little bit about your role and what your department looks like?
Rebecca: I am in the Learning and Development Department. I handle everything from training curriculum, to knowledge base building, to building out the LMS system, any type of continuing education, anything in that vein, I’m in charge of, the whole nine yards. I’m part of a larger group, which is CX Ops. We have the analytical branch where we focus on optimizing tools for the Support Team which is currently around 150-200 agents. Most of them got onboarded within the last three months so our team has grown exponentially during this time. The team takes inbound calls, inbound chat, inbound emails, just anything that you would think of from the customer support elements.
It sounds like there was a ton of change for you and the team the last few months. How did COVID initially impact Outdoorsy?
Rebecca: First, we all went remote, but that was a really big change from having this core small office in Round Rock and being able to communicate immediately with somebody to then shifting completely to a virtual space.
Things really did a complete twist — in April we were actually laying people off because parks were closed. When California shut down all functional parks and RV parks, that really hurt us because that's our primary business. Our core line of business was just deflated.
When parks began to open up again and people started discussing the benefits of being outside and how COVID couldn't spread as well, that's when we saw change.
In the course of a week, we had a 200% increase. It went from a 75% cancellation rate to a 200% increase in bookings in April. I've been with Outdoorsy for almost three years and I've never seen anything like that.
Outdoorsy navigates exponential growth
How did you navigate such a drastic change?
Rebecca: We felt like fish out of water. And you have to remember, we had just furloughed all of our contracted agents in customer support the week before. Within 48 hours we were calling them back and saying, "We actually need you guys to come back, because our volume is growing exponentially." And with that 200% increase we had, we really didn’t even have enough agents to sustain that type of growth. It became a weird exercise of hiring, training classes and trying to balance all of this growth at once.
I think I'm still processing because it all happened in such a short span of time that you really couldn't even comprehend what was happening while you were in it. I also feel very fortunate, because in a time where other businesses are shutting down, we actually had the opportunity to grow and stretch and fly. And that to me was just very humbling.
Tools to strengthen remote support
How is Guru used within the team and particularly for new reps?
Rebecca: New reps are tapping into Guru as their first touch point on any question that they don't know. If they don't know something about insurance, a specific policy, product, or feature, they are instructed to go into Guru first. As you can imagine, with that many agents we have a very specific subset of team members that are able to answer questions on the fly. But there's no way they can feasibly manage that many agents all asking very simple questions.
Our agents utilize Guru for those one-off questions as well as any kind of announcements on product changes, we include those in Guru as so that really becomes their main source of information.
In terms of getting the information out to all of these remote agents, Guru has become a real staple for us. It allows us to ensure that the right information is communicated department-wide.
Knowing that agents need their knowledge fast while answering calls, tickets and emails, what are the different ways your agents access Guru?
Rebecca: Most of our agents use the Slackbot. We have started in the last couple of months to really push the extension and make that mandatory so it’s easy to access. Guru also works really well in tandem with our CRM Kustomer as agents are answering tickets. A few agents will still go directly to the web app which is fine since that’s what they’re comfortable with.
During this time, what tools have you ended up leaning on more?
Rebecca: Guru is 100% it. We have our CRM Kustomer and, of course we lean on that but really, Guru has been essential for us during this growth. Simply, because we have a lot of information and a lot of changes come through so that spread of information to our agents is just critical. You can have a great CRM, you can have Slack, which is what we use daily for communication but the flow of information is critical for CS.
In all honesty, Guru is probably the product we’ve leaned on most during this time.
What did your influx of support look like? And are there any tricks to combating an insane amount of emails, chats and calls?
Rebecca: The last week of May is when it all spiked and then June and July were just bananas. We had 9,000 emails at one point with 1,500 chats waiting. We were a week behind and then at one point we had 104 phone calls waiting.
It’s hard to say but for us we decided to focus on live contacts. Because, emails and chats are absolutely important but the people who are calling on the phone, they are looking for that immediate touch point. So we've really siphoned off a lot of our resources over to our phone queue and that's where a lot of new agents went because that’s where we needed that immediate help. And of course, we leaned on a lot of overtime.
Our more seasoned agents ended up answering the emails and chats because they can read between the lines and do a one touch answer and wrap it up. That's the formula that we used and it really did work. The volume was astronomical so it took forever for us to catch up but the new process worked.
Now looking back, what would you have done differently as you experienced that level of growth?
Rebecca: I think that being in a startup, you're used to just go, go, go, go, go. But I think part of dealing with a spike like this and dealing with increased growth, it's about just taking a minute to say, okay, there's no way we could have predicted this. This is amazing, but let's stop for a minute and really just plan. Take a couple of days and plan out the scope of what this needs to look like. And I would suggest that because in our case, we absolutely could have prepared Guru a little bit more so that our agents could have a higher chance of success with the right knowledge on hand.
So if I had to give any advice to anyone it's breathe and don't react to the immediate thing that you see.