Case Study

Planning Center

Planning Center is a church management software with 8 different apps to help your church grow.


Planning Center & Guru: Customer Support Solution Case Study

Planning Center is a church management software with 8 different apps to help your church grow.

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Luc Herlitz joined the Planning Center team as a new community support agent. While he had prior product knowledge as a user of Planning Center's apps, the internal knowledge that only agents would know wasn't getting disseminated efficiently to the broader team. Their knowledge base was stitched together in Slack and Trello, but now that their mostly remote support team was handling 1500 tickets a week (on 8 different apps!), they needed a more robust solution to enable their team.

The Challenge

The way Planning Center was sharing important support knowledge was inefficient and inconsistent. When a support team member had a question they would first go to Slack. Once a conversation ended with an answer they would then pin that message to a Slack channel. When that issue came up again and someone needed that information, the person who knew it was pinned would realize they already pinned that information and search in Slack to get it. Finally, they would repost it back into Slack or directly message that individual. Clay Rector, advanced support at Planning Center shared his thoughts on the challenges of pinning files in Slack:

"We tried to pin files in Slack, but they weren't intended to be used for how we used it - important things can't live there or have any sense of longevity. We were barely treading water using Slack as a "knowledge base"

Clay Rector
Advanced Support Agent

The main challenge was the amount of repeated questions that were being asked over and over again in Slack. Since conversations were happening across their #support channel, one-on-one direct messages, and group messages, searching for information in Slack and finding what you were looking for in a timely manner was difficult.

While they initially evaluated internal wikis like Confluence to address their knowledge sharing problems, Clay quickly realized it was not a solution their team would adopt. He expanded: "Confluence required a good bit of setup and wouldn't fit our needs. We already had support documentation in Zendesk, so it seemed redundant. We really needed a solution that integrated with the apps we already used."

Since over half of the Planning Center team was remote, when they said they lived in Slack, they really meant it.

When it came to evaluating a knowledge management solution, Clay and Luc were explicitly looking for two things:

  • A solution their team would adopt, which meant that it integrated with Slack.
  • One, single source of truth for their internal knowledge. Previously knowledge could live in Slack, or one of their Trello lists that acted as a mini knowledge base for each of the 8 apps they support. Planning Center needed to point their support team to one resource that housed all of their knowledge to simplify and add structure to their knowledge sharing process.
"No one on our team will use any new app. It had to work in Slack because we just live there. We needed a knowledge base solution, but one that didn't feel like a separate app."

Luc Herlitz
Community Support Agent

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The Solution

Strategic roll-out & implementation of Guru was key to adoption

Planning Center started using Guru by testing it out for free first. Luc mentioned that the 10 user trial was a great way "to get our feet wet" and understand what Guru could be used for and what it should not be used for. Additionally, it allowed them to see how Guru would fit into their team's existing workflow.

Since their support team primarily lived in Slack and Zendesk (their ticketing solution), Luc and Clay wanted to make sure there was a clear distinction between the purposes and use cases for each solution. They already had great external documentation living in Zendesk so they knew they needed to keep Guru knowledge separate. The dividing line they ended up drawing was if it was information that a customer should know and a problem they could solve on their own, it should live in Zendesk.

"Zendesk is our customer-facing ticket management and documentation platform and Guru is where our internal knowledge lives that an agent needs to know like advanced troubleshooting."

Luc Herlitz
Community Support Agent

The final key to their roll-out strategy was ensuring knowledge was already populated in Guru before rolling out to the wider team. They wanted users to be able to use Guru in a real world scenario and have a good first impression of the tool to help drive long-term adoption.

Guru's Slack bot allows the support team to access and create knowledge in their workflow

Conversations in Slack move fast, but with Guru's Slack bot, Clay is able to capture knowledge that gets organically created in their Slack conversations in his workflow.

"I exclusively use the Slack bot to create new cards. That's mainly because I can capture important knowledge that gets generated in our conversations without ever leaving the app."

Clay Rector
Advanced Support Agent

Not only does Guru's Slack bot help grow their knowledge base, but also the analytics search report which shows search terms their team is using that yields no results in Guru. With that information, Luc or Clay can easily use Slack to add that knowledge into Guru. Luc expanded on the benefits by saying, "When someone on the team is looking for something and Guru can't help, it tells me there is something we can be doing better to build up that knowledge base."

Now, their process around knowledge sharing is also more structured, as Guru is now the first line of defense for their support team. Most of the time their team now knows to use the Guru slash command first to search for information. If they do end up asking Clay a question directly, he will search as well and if there is a result, will post it into the appropriate channel. What usually follows is a reaction with a facepalm emoji because they realize they should have searched Guru first!

The Results

When assessing the success of Guru, Luc wanted to make sure the focus of their success metrics was around improvements to how they support their users. Two key areas, where Luc and Clay believe they achieved that were:

  • Decline in repeat questions
  • Less noise in Slack channels

Guru's slack bot and analytics report helps reduce the amount of repeat questions teammates face. Searching Guru first is quickly becoming an ingrained habit and part of their natural workflow for support agents at Planning Center. Additionally, since they can also create knowledge directly in Slack, when new questions do come up, they can be immediately captured for the entire team's benefit.

"There has definitely been a decline in repeated questions to team members. As an advanced support team member that also helps support our internal team, I know I get less duplicate questions."

Clay Rector
Advanced Support Agent

With the drop in duplicate questions being asked, now their Slack channels are less noisy. Much has been documented about the distracting effect of instant messaging in the workplace. With less direct messages, Clay can stay focused on his high priority tasks, instead of having to put out fires when teammates directly ask him questions. Just as important, support agents now can respond to customers and solve their problems faster, as they no longer have to wait on subject matter experts like Clay to respond back. With Guru, Planning Center now has a structured process around knowledge sharing, enabling their support agents to provide better support for their users.