Closing the feedback loop
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Closing the feedback loop

How Zapier uses Airtable to automate customer feedback collection.

Don’t bother looking for a Zapier office: the team for the popular automation tool is entirely remote, with 48 employees working from homes, cafes, and coworking spaces all around the world. For a company obsessed with streamlining the complex workflows and disparate tools that comprise the contemporary IT stack, adding another complication — time zones — is all in a day’s work.

Zapier is a tool that allows individuals and businesses to connect their apps and automate workflows. By assembling a series of “zaps”, users can take information or activity from one app and use it to trigger updates or behaviors in other apps. The Zapier team believes passionately that by coaxing computers to do the work they were built to do — repetitive (read: tedious) or calculation heavy tasks that can dominate an employee’s time — they can free people focus on the creative, strategic projects to which human workers are most suited.

Naturally, this focus extends to their own workflows: the Zapier team uses their own tool to build sophisticated processes to help their 48 employees get more done, faster. When it comes to customer-facing programs, either capturing feedback for product, conducting customer interviews, or helping to build a customer success dashboard, the Zapier team uses Airtable to gather and organize all the information they need to get a comprehensive view of their projects and customers.

Streamlining the Customer Interview Process

When building a product like Zapier, it’s essential to get regular feedback from customers, both to prioritize feature development, and to make sure that the resulting UX remains simple and intuitive for end users. Product manager Chris Geoghegan uses Airtable to streamline the process of conducting customer interviews to help guide feature development.

As the owner of a new feature that’s currently in development, team accounts, he placed a survey on the main Zapier pricing page to help gauge interest in the feature from prospects. When a prospect fills out the form, which was built with Typeform, their responses automatically populate an Airtable base.

That base has a number of views set up to automatically sort and filter the new entries. If a form response fits certain criteria, including interest in both paid plans and team accounts, it’s automatically shown in a specific view. Once the record is in that view, an Airtable formula pulls out the person’s first name and domain. From there, all Chris needs to do is check a checkbox in that record to trigger another zap, which performs a “magical mail merge” and automatically sends the person an invitation to participate in a customer interview.

Consolidating Customer Feedback

Eileen Ruberto is a UX Researcher on the Zapier team whose mandate for the past year has been to talk to users, get their feedback, and turn it into actionable insights that can be used by the product and design teams. Much like Chris, because Zapier has over one million users, and Eileen’s time is limited, she uses Zapier and Airtable together to help implement her feedback collection efforts at scale.

Eileen first encountered Airtable after she proposed collecting all of their user insights in a single location, and a coworker suggested Airtable. She started with the User Studies template:

From there, Eileen began customizing the template to better fit her user research processes. At this point, it has four main tables: ‘People’, ‘Studies’, ‘Sessions’, and ‘Issues/Feedback.’

Eileen has assembled a series of surveys to help gauge user opinions and interest in participating in the studies she designs. When an individual responds, a Zap automatically takes their responses and adds them to an Airtable base.

She links each person to the studies in which they’ll be participating, and uses the ‘Studies’ base to offer a “birds-eye view of all the things related to each study,” from which features it will include to the exact steps each person needs to take.

When it comes to organizing the actual sessions themselves, Eileen also makes use of Zapier multi-step integrations with Airtable. She uses a tool called Calendly to allow study participants to schedule a specific time slot, which automatically generates a GoTo Meeting invitation. The zap then looks up the person in Airtable to see if their email address is already recorded. If not, a new record is created for the person. A session record is also created that includes the participant, the Go-To meeting URL, and the time of the session — in her time zone.

Fifteen minutes prior to the scheduled time for the session, a zap looks up whether the person has canceled (which is recorded in Airtable). If they’ve canceled, the zap stops. Otherwise, it sends a message to the participant reiterating the GoTo Meeting link and some instructions for how to join the call.

30 minutes after the scheduled conclusion of the call, a zap looks up the record in Airtable by their email address, and checks to see if they were a no-show. If not, the Zap updates the record to say that the session is complete, and then creates a draft email to say thank you. The email even includes a link to order a free, custom teeshirt — which was also generated by the same, multistep zap.

Whew.

I have this one source of truth for all the stuff I need to keep track of without having to duplicate it in multiple places.

“I love how organized this makes me. I have this one source of truth for all the stuff I need to keep track of without having to duplicate it in multiple places,” says Eileen. She’s also thrilled by how her team, who also receives feedback during their day-to-day support interactions, has been able to participate in the process. “Knowing that the feedback they’re hearing in support isn’t just going to get lost into the ether and that we can make better decisions based on that information is huge,” she says. “Pulling all that data together helps us take action to better serve our customers.”

Cataloging Customer Resources

For Jess Byrne, who works on customer success at Zapier, making sure users are happy and getting the full value out of Zapier is the highest priority. They’ve been at Zapier for nearly 2.5 years, and in that time, have transitioned from working primarily with traditional spreadsheets to organizing projects and information using Airtable.

One of Jess’s primary roles is to act as a trusted advisor for customers trying to use Zapier to solve a wide range of business problems. Because Zapier integrates with over 500 apps, keeping track of them and their associated documentation all can be a challenge: “We have lots of resources for apps, but not a great way to consolidate them,” says Jess.

So Jess used import.io to create a full list of apps, including the zapbook URL, description, status, type, and features, which was then turned into an Airtable base.Using a zap connected to the Zapier blog’s RSS feed, Jess automatically imports all new blog posts into the Airtable, and periodically has a freelancer go through and tag them so they end up connected to the correct app’s record.

I can see everything I need to know, all in one place. It helps me do my job better.

Where previously they would have to frantically search for resources on specific while on the phone with customers, Jess can now simply open the record for the pertinent app and find links to case studies, blog posts, and more: “I can see everything I need to know, all in one place. It helps me do my job better.”

Since creating the consolidated encyclopedia of customer resources, Jess has shared it with the support team. “They think it’s awesome,” says Jess.

Building a Custom Dashboard

One of Jess’s other favorite Airtable bases is a dashboard that automatically calculates and displays all the metrics they need to evaluate the success of their programs. “We’re very data driven at Zapier, and I don’t have the tools otherwise to get these stats,” says Jess.

For example, a few years ago, Jess introduced a ‘Concierge’ program. The dashboard automatically captures all form submissions for the concierge program, and then uses a Count field in the Dashboard table to count the total number. Another zap connects the base to Calendly, to capture each consultation that occurs automatically. Those consultations can also be counted in the Dashboard table, allowing for the full pipeline from request to consultation to followup to be quantified and evaluated at a single glance. They also track billable hours against a goal number for the month, and can see at a glance how close they are, percentage wise, to reaching their monthly goal:

“It’s so much easier to do this using formulas and linked records,” says Jess. “It’s such a pain to do it the other way, using VLookups.”

It’s so much easier to do this using formulas and linked records. It's such a pain to do it the other way, using VLookups.

Saving Time for What Really Matters

By using Airtable in conjunction with their own tool, the Zapier team is able to achieve their higher level goal of automating away repetitive tasks in order to focus on what really matters: developing a great product and helping their customers have amazing experiences. With Airtable to serve as a platform to combine and manipulate information from sources as disparate as Calendly, forms, RSS feeds, and more, they’re able to build a comprehensive picture of their customers, resources, and more, all without having to resort to manual entry.

And as their roles grow and change along with their company, the team looks forward to using Airtable for even more: “Airtable is great when you need to spin up a simple CRM for a project,” says Chris. “Airtable has been able to handle all the stuff I throw at it,” says Eileen.

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