Customer calls

Workflow for conducting customer calls in Support Engineering


This page presents the workflows to be used in Support Engineering to schedule, prepare for, manage and follow-up on customer calls.

Emotional Headwinds

We hire smart humans to provide smart support. Humans have feelings. It is important to recognize that there are emotional headwinds that can make it harder to schedule or be in calls. During a call you’re putting yourself into a situation where you have to manage:

  • your own feelings
  • the customer’s experience
  • the customer’s feelings
  • technical troubleshooting
  • time, efficiency and your own energy

Calls can be a vulnerable experience that hit on core human fears:

Ignored (Opposite of Significant)

  • Being lost - in a call with many stakeholders, not being able to influence the group towards the right outcome
  • Being trapped - not being able to control or escape a tense or challenging situation
  • Being alone - having no support or guidance as you work through a challenging situation

Humiliated (Opposite of Competent)

  • Being wrong - providing incorrect information or poor guidance
  • Being thought of as incompetent - operating from an area of weakness when there are opportunities to contribute your strengths
  • Being drained - spending so much energy on preparing, running and following-up on a call you don’t have energy to contribute elsewhere

Rejected (Opposite of Likeable)

  • Being in conflict / tension - having to work with customers in heightened emotional states
  • Being rejected - having a customer judge you as insufficient, incompetent or inadequate to meet the challenge
  • Being attacked - an angry customer yells at you or insults you

If you’re feeling the results of any of these headwinds it can be easy to rationalize why you shouldn’t move the ticket to a call. The feelings you’re having shouldn’t be ignored. Before judging whether or not to move to a call:

  1. Stop and experience what you’re feeling without judgement.
  2. Be curious about your feelings: is any of your resistance related to a core fear?
  3. Try and separate out the facts of the case: form “steel man” arguments for resolution time, SSAT or customer experience to round things out.
  4. Empathize with the customer and try and see the case from their perspective.
  5. Talk with a peer or manager to give yourself a second / more objective opinion.

It goes both ways

Customers are subject to the same fears Support Engineers are. To understand more about core fears of all people, consider watching this Introduction to Core Human Needs video and the follow-up video, Triggering Fears. Try to be mindful that your actions in a call can calm or trigger the customer’s fears.

Be mindful as well that customers likely have pressures from their business or from their users who rely on GitLab. And, they may feel nervous or scared about appearing ignorant in front of a GitLab expert. It can be very helpful to seek to understand these forces acting upon a customer, as is discussed in these two videos:

  1. Understanding the Customer Intro - introduces the idea of understanding what forces are acting upon the customer
  2. Understanding the Customer Discussion - presents a discussion of many examples of those forces

When should a ticket go to a call?

Feelings aside, it can be difficult to sort out how to balance the demands of asynchronous ticket work and real-time support. There’s a cost to customer calls in terms of preparation, running the call and doing the post-call work summarizing any findings and passing along next steps.

Various pieces of the Handbook can be used to justify a range of behaviors:

Use video calls if you find yourself going back and forth in an issue/via email or over chat. Guideline: if you have gone back and forth 3 times, it’s time for a video call.

Take initiative to operate asynchronously whenever possible.

Consider the time investment you are asking others to make with meetings… Try to avoid meetings.

At GitLab Support we use two operating principles to help us interpret the sometimes conflicting guidance:

  1. Customer Results: Our focus is to improve the results that customers achieve
  2. Freedom and Responsibility over Rigidity: we give people the responsibility to make a decision and hold them accountable for that

Our customer-facing Statement of Support section on video calls supports this:

At times it may be useful and important to conduct a call, video call, or screensharing session with you to improve the progress of a ticket…the support engineer… will determine:

  • whether a call is necessary; and
  • whether we have sufficient information for a successful call.

As a Support Engineer you are charged to act in the best interest of the customer. Customer calls are a tool in your toolbox. When used well, customer calls will allow you to be more efficient, build relationships and resolve tickets faster.

Markers for when you should consider moving to a call

  1. The customer asks for a call: One of the fastest ways to get a negative SSAT rating is to flat out refuse a call. You don’t have to immediately jump to a call. However, you should strongly consider communicating your availability and how to gather and upload any information that will make the call effective.
  2. The ticket has failed to progress after several interactions: If a customer isn’t providing needed data, is having trouble describing the problem or is signalling that our urgency isn’t matching their urgency in resolving the problem you should strongly consider moving to a call.
  3. The ticket has received a STAR: STARred tickets represent situations that have been highlighted where SSAT has been threatened by some factors within or outside of our control. Moving to a call may help restore the relationship. Providing quick, high quality counsel may calm customer concerns.
  4. There’s a critical missing element between the customer’s reported experience and your reproduction: Sometimes a customer leaves out an important contextual detail that isn’t within your immediate troubleshooting tree. Moving to a call can help make sure you’re both starting from the same spot.
  5. The customer’s tone within the ticket has shifted negatively: Sometimes offering and initiating a call can show our commitment to solving the customer’s problem. Talking with a technical peer helps build trust and empathy on both sides.
  6. The next steps in the ticket are complex or have a branching decision tree: There can be points in the troubleshooting process where it’s best to switch into the more highly interactive communications mode of a call so that you can provide direction, observe results and provide real-time feedback until it makes sense to go back to async.
  7. A Support manager has recommended a call: When reviewing a ticket, a Support manager will often take the points above into consideration along with possible outside context from the customer or other GitLab team members, and recommend moving to a call.

Types of calls

Feel free to adjust the length, timing and agenda of your calls to suit the needs of the ticket and customer. The following are examples of call types that Support Engineers have found useful in the past.

To the extent you can, try not to exceed the length of call you’ve arranged with the customer as this can set up unrealistic expectations for future Support Engineers working with the customer. If you feel that you’re close to a resolution or need more time to collect info always pause and verify with the customer that they have the time to continue and note how much time you have left to continue.

Discovery calls


A Discovery call is a short call with the sole purpose of learning enough to start troubleshooting asynchronously again.


15-30 minutes

Troubleshooting calls


A Troubleshooting call is a longer call where you’ll work real-time with the customer to guide them through a series of troubleshooting steps you’ve crafted to gather additional information or make progress towards resolution of the issue.


30-60 minutes

Reset & Review calls


A Reset & Review call is an opportunity for an engineer to connect with a customer on a long-running or high priority ticket to review the troubleshooting that’s taken place so far and explain the next steps to be taken towards resolution. For high priority tickets that aren’t quite emergencies in particular, establishing a cadence of Reset & Review calls early can help avoid (or ease the transition into) an account escalation.


15-30 minutes

Upgrade Assistance


Premium Support customers may request a call as a part of upgrade assistance. Read more about this in the dedicated Upgrade Assistance workflow.


30 minutes

Taking Calls

Scheduling the call

When you know a ticket is ready for a call, start by determining who will lead the call:

graph TD
    A{Does the customer want to<BR>meet during my work hours?}
    A --> |Yes| B{Am I comfortable leading the call?}
    A --> |No| C(Find someone in the appropriate<BR>region of your group who is<BR>willing to take the ticket,<BR>preferably but not necessarily<BR>with the needed expertise.<BR>The new SE can pair with another<BR>person in their region if necessary.)
    B --> |Yes| D("Proceed to<BR>#quot;Providing the call link#quot;")
    B --> |No| E(Pair with an SE who has the right expertise)
    C --> H("(sync or async)" Review the ticket with<BR>the new SE before handing it over.)
    E --> F{Look for an SE in your group}
    F --> |Found one!| D
    F --> |Didn't find one| G(Find an SE from the<BR>rest of Global Support.<BR>Get manager help if needed.)
    G --> D

Start by using the General::Invite customer call macro in Zendesk. Be sure to change PERSONAL_CALENDLY_LINK to be your own personal Calendly link.

When sending a customer a call link:

  • Always use single-use Calendly link to invite customers to a call so that we can avoid ghost calls.
  • Ensure the event title includes the word Support (case insensitive). This is necessary for the event to appear in the GitLab Support Calendar.
  • Make sure your calendly event includes a required Invitee Question asking for the Zendesk ticket number.
  • If you know your availability is limited, or you need additional backup, check with another SE to see if they might also be available to take the call.

Removing the need for a call before it even starts

It’s important to remember that customers also don’t want to waste time on calls. The primary reason most customers want a call is because they believe it’s the best use of time for them in making progress towards the resolution of their issue. In the interval between offering a call and hosting the call you have an opportunity to deflect the need for the call completely. It’s prudent to shift into a more rapid response mode as you center in towards a call.

Having a customer engaged in forming the agenda for the call will help you do research and be well prepared. Ask the customer for (or prepare your own set of) questions that will need to be answered during the call. Once you have a list, (to the extent that time allows) answer them prior to the call within the ticket or provide instructions for how the customer can answer them for you.

For each item on your call agenda, seek to find a way to shift towards an async workflow to complete it prior to the call. For example, if the customer wants a call to demonstrate an issue: ask them to record their screen while reproducing the issue and tailing logs, and then attach the recording and relevant logs.

This will (potentially):

  • let you more deeply engage the customer in troubleshooting asynchronously
  • allow you to cancel the call completely
  • give you breathing room in the call to point to previously documented answers within the ticket

Remember: you don’t have to solve everything while you’re on the call. It is okay to schedule a follow-up if you hit time or knowledge constraints. Here are some phrases that could be helpful in moving back to async:

  1. I’ll need to do some additional research on that and follow-up with you in the ticket.
  2. To the best of my knowledge, the answer is X - but let me confer with a subject matter expert and get back to you.
  3. At this juncture we’ve made some good progress, but there are some outstanding questions that need follow-up. Let’s move back to the ticket, and once I’ve got a bit more information I’ll send that along.
  4. Homework on my side is: X, on your side: Y. Let’s move async for now and schedule a follow-up for later this week.

Pre-call email

Please consider sending a pre-call email. This helps set expectations to the call regarding goals, duration, and the people required to be on the call for effective troubleshooting. You can use the Support::Self-Managed::Pre customer call macro in Zendesk for that, please modify it as you see fit.

Tips to keep calls within the scheduled time

  • Set expectations (again) at the start of the call:
    1. Call duration will be X
    2. 5-15 minutes before the end time, call wrap up will happen (below)
    3. Will need access to applicable systems
  • At wrap-up time:
    1. Start to wind down the call
  • Stop the call and review progress and status (solved, not solved more info needed)
    1. Solvable in the next few minutes
    2. Need to research/schedule additional call
  • Review
    1. Summary of what was learned
    2. Next steps for GitLab Support Engineer
    3. Next steps for user
    4. Next call recommendations (timing/goals/expectations)


Today we’re going to be looking at the configuration of your object storage for attachments. In the ticket you were able to provide the values.yaml for the deployment and we were able to capture some errors for viewing attachments. We were also able to verify that attachments were correctly being stored in S3. We haven’t been able to verify if the IAM roles you’re using have appropriate permissions to retrieve objects. We’re going to spend 30 min. today running through a few scenarios that I’ve detailed in the ticket.

Tips for making calls successful

  1. Come prepared: do your research, have a plan for how the call should go
  2. Be curious: Sometimes things don’t go according to plan and you’ll have to adapt your plan, or end the call early and come up with a new plan.
  3. Treat customers as technical peers: Be courteous and professional, and be human and try to connect with the other humans on the call.
  4. If you don’t know, say you don’t know (and what you’ll do to find the answer): customers don’t expect you to know the intimate details of every configuration of GitLab live. If you don’t know, that’s okay - it’s better to be transparent and explain what the path forward is. You can:
    • look things up in the docs live on the call
    • move async to request help from development or a peer
    • try something in your own environment or (if it’s safe) in the customer’s environment
  5. Adapt your tactics to the situation: Large calls with many teams represented require a different level of formality and precision than a single engineer on a lower priority case.

Ending calls gracefully

Setting context and expectations before you start the call is the best way to a graceful exit. Review tips to keep calls within the scheduled time for some tips on handling the overall call flow.

Some calls can be difficult to exit though:

  • The customer has an unrelated topic to discuss
  • A delay on the customer side has resulted in the call time not being long enough
  • Progress through the issue being discussed was slower than anticipated
  • No further progress can be made because of reasons outside of anyone’s control

Depending on the specifics of the situation you may need to get manager help, but often careful handling can be enough to reassure the customer of your commitment to seeing a timely resolution to their problem. It can be helpful to remember: you are responsible for coordinating the ticket and finding subject matter expertise to guide it to resolution. You are not responsible for directly reproducing and solving everything.

  1. Establish context: what impact is the issue having? Have you found any workarounds to reduce the severity of the issue? Does this issue need to be escalated or handed over with urgency? Does another ticket need to be opened?
  2. Explain your constraints: are you at the edge of your knowledge and need time to find a subject matter expert? Do you have another call coming up? Do you need additional time to research?
  3. Provide a path forward: what’s the next step? What homework do you have? What homework does the customer have?
  4. Agree on conditions to rejoin: Will you meet once you’ve finished reproduction in your own environment? Will you set a time tomorrow or later in the week to continue the work?

Overall: communicate that the customer can trust you and that you are proactively managing the situation.

A customer who has an understanding of what work will happen next and has secured commitments from you (that you will fulfill) for how you’ll engage in the future will feel taken care of.

Getting manager help

Managers can be called in by paging the on-call manager or tagging them in Slack if:

  • a call can’t be ended gracefully
  • the customer is being abusive / bullying
  • there is another situation that requires urgent manager involvement

Customer No Shows

There are many reasons that a customer may not be able to join a call. If a customer doesn’t join the call and you’ve waited for over 10 minutes, end the call, update the ticket and resend your Calendly link to schedule a new call. Your response on the ticket should just state that you’re sorry you didn’t get a chance to meet and that you invite them to use the link to schedule a new call.


Congratulations! You made it through the call. Unfortunately, your work is not yet over (even if the issue was solved).

Call summary

The call summary is important for confirming with the customer what was said and done during the call, and documenting for them and for us the agreed-upon action plan.

Immediately following your call you should construct the call summary in the Zendesk ticket using the macro Support::Self-Managed::Post Customer Call. The macro provides a template to structure the summary and applies ticket tags used to track work involving customer calls.

Why should the summary be written immediately? First, your ability to remember the details of the call will fade quickly, especially if the call was at the end of your day. Second, follow-up action may be required from others, and they will only be able to act appropriately if they have the call summary available.

When writing the call summary, keep in mind that your summary will be a source of valuable information for support engineers looking for resolution guidance from tickets similar to their own.

Special Handling


For some customers, only Cisco systems are allowed and in those cases, WebEx will be the best tool for calls. To start a call/session, use the GitLab Support WebEx account. Go to our WebEx Portal, click on the login button on the top right and use the credentials found in the Support Vault on 1Password.

WebEx Login

Once logged in, click the Enter Room button to start the WebEx meeting and send the following link to the customer and ask them to join the call.


WebEx Room

Note: Make sure you lock the meeting so that you (as the presenter) have to allow people in. Otherwise others may attempt to use the room.

WebEx allows you to see the customer’s desktop and to control it on request. It also gives the customer the possibility to join via phone and us the possibility to use our computer audio connection.

If a customer wants to record a support call

Frequently during screenshare sessions plaintext secrets or other sensitive information can be displayed. To ensure sure that any recordings that inadvertantly contain this information stay within customer’s security boundary, you should ask that customers initiate and store any recordings.

If a customer wishes to record the session, then transfer the ownership of the call to the customer or ask the customer to invite you to a new call to make sure recording is done by the customer.

If you’re not comfortable having the call recorded, please involve your manager in the discussion with the customer.

Audio and Video Guidelines for Support Engineers on Customer Calls


You’re not required to turn your camera on, and some clients may elect not to. At GitLab we try to have our video on at all times because it’s much more engaging for participants.

See more tips about video, environment and dress on our communication page and our all-remote meetings page.


You’re strongly encouraged to use a headset with a microphone.

See more tips on our All Remote Workspace page License for GitLab Support Team will mute background noise when you’re in a noisy environment so you can hear and be heard more easily on calls. You may consider installing this app for your calls. GitLab Support team has a Teams Pro license. If you are interested in getting one, kindly leave a comment at this issue. Currently, it is unavailable for Linux.

Last modified August 21, 2023: Fix broken links across the handbook (7877c2be)