Fast-growing Bolt goes from data blind to data driven with Zendesk
Learn how Bolt went from a data-blind “war zone” to a 500 agent, 18-country powerhouse that processes 3M tickets a year using The Zendesk Suite.
“We thrive on building something in a way that’s never been built before, and to continue exploring and considering the endless possibilities that Zendesk is giving us in terms of what we can integrate into the whole system. That’s just bloody amazing—I think we can change the way that support is being done in an exciting way.”
Employees using Zendesk
Annual ticket volume
CEO Markus Villig was a fresh-faced 19-year-old when he established Bolt in his hometown of Tallinn, Estonia in 2013. With a goal of making urban transportation easier, faster, and more affordable he developed a mobile application that allows people to request a taxi or private driver from their smartphones.
Far from a teenager’s pipe dream, Villig’s idea was ignited by a $175+ million investment from Daimler, Didi Chuxing, and others in 2018, leading to a billion-dollar valuation for the company.
The company recently rebranded as Bolt and now operates in more than 30 countries and 100 cities in Europe, Africa, West Asia, Central America, and Australia. Since the very beginning, the company has operated in hyper-growth mode, and now Bolt serves 25 million customers globally.
The company’s current objectives include maintaining its growth trajectory, revolutionizing transportation globally, and becoming the No.1 ride-hailing app in Europe and Africa.
From data-blind to data driven
It’s been a wild ride filled with high speeds, blind corners, and turbo-charged success for Bolt, the international ride-hailing company. Since joining the organization within six months of each other in 2017, Fred Gehrke, head of customer support, and Toby Humphrey, product manager for customer support, have worked hand in hand to do a little revolutionizing of their own.
They quickly discovered that there was no visibility into the customer experience. “We were using the Intercom platform, and we found that its data-capturing tools, ticket coding, and reporting were not necessarily the best way to go about it,” said Gehrke.“We had 30 people in support, no centralization, no proper tools, no documented knowledge, no vision, no strategy. There was no data to prove anything or to back up any of our claims. We were heavily understaffed and backlogged. It was a war zone.”
Compounding the data-blind state was the company’s unrelenting growth: for example, Bolt grew eight times its former size in 2017 alone. It was clear that the existing 30 people in support wouldn’t be nearly enough, but it was a challenge to predict how many would be needed. “One of the worst-case scenarios I was mapping out looked at needing 350 people by the end of 2017,” Gehrke said. “I realized there was no bloody way we could do that unless we started deflecting users to self-help, understanding what’s in the tickets, and improving the process and product.”
Gehrke quickly made the case for an improved customer service platform to Villig, and the company ultimately chose Zendesk for its simplicity and flexibility. Like everything at Bolt, the team jumped into integrations with both feet.
“The process of setting it up was kind of an emergency, because we created all of the groups and triggers required to make sure that all incoming new tickets would go to the right place,” Humphrey said. “We added a few automations to make sure that the thousands of existing tickets got to their right place as well.” At the same time, we added hundreds of agents and quickly onboarded them, making sure they knew what to do and that they had access to the tickets that they needed to work on.”
Today, with around 500 support agents in 18 countries, Bolt uses Zendesk Support, Guide, and Talk to ensure the right tickets meet the right agent at the right time. Bolt’s support team has been able to make tremendous operational strides:
– From 2017 to 2019, the team reduced incoming support volume (tickets per ride) by 70 percent–while growing the business more than 10x
– In 2018, the team reduced the average first response time by 75 percent
– More than 50 percent of inquiries were deflected with a help center implementation
A holacratic approach
Bolt’s team of support specialists abide by the company’s commitment to holacracy, which Gehrke says empowers all employees to do the right thing.Rather than moving ideas or objections through the ranks of support specialists, team leads, and finally, management, all employees at Bolt are given the freedom to connect directly with other teams, in any capacity.
“We are a very fast-growing company, and we need to remain flexible. Since we hired our people right, our support specialists are super bright and talented and there is no reason why we shouldn’t trust them with this kind of stuff,” Gehrke said. “They can go and have these conversations themselves, and then influence the people who actually make the decisions about products and processes.”
Humphrey says the ability to collect data more effectively through Zendesk has been key to creating an empowered support organization. “We can get exactly what we want from each customer contact. This has enabled us to quickly establish feedback loops that help us understand the problems our customers are having,” Humphrey said. “Then we can go to other teams within the organization armed with the data and the customer story and say, ‘Hey, we can actually improve the product in this kind of way. Here is the information, go for it.’”
Another game-changer? Self-help, which the team activated within three months of launching Zendesk. “This was instrumental in reducing our customer interactions, or the amount of customer interactions required,” said Humphrey. “It’s preferable for the customer if they don’t contact us at all. If they have the answer in front of them and it’s easy enough to digest and they can take care of the issue, they’d rather do that than have a conversation with someone.”
With Support, Guide, and Talk fully in place, the team is looking at building its own custom automations within Zendesk. “It comes down to the fact that we can structure the data as we want, integrate it with external services, and build our own AI on top of Zendesk’s flexible architecture,” said Humphrey.
One of the drivers behind the team’s velocity is the awareness that if it doesn’t move quickly, someone else will “come and take” the opportunities first. In customer support, that means taking full advantage of Zendesk’s capabilities as the team continues to scale.
The future is fast. Bolt is determined to be at the forefront.