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Spartan Race champions messaging for scaling support

Spartan Race is the world’s largest obstacle race and endurance brand. Learn how the company adapted to the global pandemic and a subsequent staff reduction by upgrading its Zendesk system to include bot and messaging features. Additional channels and stronger CX tools helped the team to achieve a 46 percent increase in self-service and a 90 percent CSAT rating, while establishing Zendesk as a reliable partner that can support the company through business cycles, economic challenges, and growth.

Spartan Race
“Messaging made a huge difference by providing asynchronous communication that’s always available. Now it’s possible to meet the customer wherever they are across our website and channels.”

Aja Varney

Director of Global Customer Engagement - Spartan Race

“Zendesk messaging allowed us to optimize our limited staff, while creating a powerful hybrid model between email and chat.”

Aja Varney

Director of Global Customer Engagement - Spartan Race

Company Headquarters

Boston, Massachusetts

Monthly tickets


Number of agents


Number of event participants



One-touch resolution rate




Increase in self-service


Increase in help center views

Spartan Race started in the green mountains of Vermont as a single race. Today the company is a world-renowned lifestyle brand featuring its own gym, television specials, and a retail line of clothing and athletic gear. With over 5 million participants and racing events in more than 30 countries, the brand has fostered a growing community of like-minded Spartans who believe in a good physical challenge and the power of transformation.

A Zendesk customer since 2013, Spartan Race had been using a traditional live chat model for years very successfully. Following a period of rapid growth, the onset of the pandemic prompted the cancellation of events which required a staff reduction and led the team to explore new CX capabilities in 2020.

As the Director of Global Customer Engagement at Spartan Race, Aja Varney had guided the brand through past transitions so she recognized the gravity of the situation. “We simply didn’t have enough staff to sit on a live chat during support hours waiting for messages,” recalls Varney, “and we couldn’t support the volume that was coming in.” The lean team needed to expand its CX functionality beyond Zendesk chat and support, and it had to act fast.

Asynchronous messaging increases staffing flexibility

Upgrading to the new Zendesk Suite was the best option for Spartan Race, as well as shifting to a new CX model with messaging and bot features. “Messaging made a huge difference by providing asynchronous communication that’s always available. Now it’s possible to meet the customer wherever they are across our website and channels,” says Varney.

The team can address messages in a live scenario or capture the conversation when agents aren’t available while still ensuring the customer’s message will be answered as soon as possible. Plus, customers don’t have to repeat themselves if they get in touch on a different channel.

Using Zendesk, Spartan Race is able to provide reliable omnichannel support through email, chat, phone, bot, social media, web form, and the help center. The team has also managed to achieve a one touch resolution on 78 percent of tickets thanks to the CX upgrades.

Bots lead the way to 46% more self-service

Varney understands that Implementing bots and automations into customer service strategy can be challenging, since some customers still prefer live support. Achieving a balance is key.

“The goal is to preserve that live access and make sure agents are utilized for those essential interactions while using the more efficient bot for simpler issues,” says Varney. “We use a bot to answer the top three or four most common questions that are easy to solve through self-service, while also making sure that we give customers the option to reach a human.”

Since rolling out Zendesk automations, Spartan Race has increased self-service by 46 percent and help center views by 40 percent. All good news for a company focused on efficiency and productivity.


Scaling support with a 90% CSAT score

Today’s team of 75 support agents is now well equipped to handle more than 36,000 monthly tickets. As each year brings new business challenges, having a flexible CX system has been crucial for Spartan Race.

“We needed a more robust solution to help us focus on our customer and really enhance that experience,” Varney says. “Zendesk stood out to us because of its focus on global scalability. Zendesk seems to always be a step ahead and knows what we’re going to need next.”

Varney’s team was particularly drawn to Zendesk reporting and analytic capabilities that allowed them to easily measure customer satisfaction. “The native reporting informs us when we need more resources, and when we can scale back during less busy times,” Varney notes.

CSAT remains the most important KPI at Spartan Race. “One hundred percent of our focus is on customer satisfaction. Everything else is secondary. Whether agents handle 10 tickets or 100 tickets, I’d like to see a 90 percent customer satisfaction rating,” says Varney. “We want to make sure each customer interaction is fully resolved and they’re happy when they walk away.” In fact, the team has achieved an average CSAT score of 90 percent. “We were psyched about that,” adds Varney.

The team also uses StellaConnect, which gives customers the option to provide star ratings for customer service. “We’re focusing on getting events up and running, updating our tech, and re-examining our customers to see what their needs are compared to two years ago. It’s an ongoing learning experience for all of us,” explains Varney. “The more interactions we have with customers, the more feedback it creates. They tell you about your product and where they need more information. If agents are properly trained, those interactions can be very rewarding.”

Boosting sales by 27% with the Shopify integration

As a lifestyle brand with a large following, the Spartan Race team handles a high volume of requests related to its online retail store. However, the days of logging into multiple platforms to collect customer information are over. Integrating Shopify with Zendesk centralized the team’s customer service and ecommerce data. “Now we can stay within the Zendesk world and see all the information that we need. The Zendesk integration with Shopify increased our efficiency by 23 percent,” says Varney.

By adding live chat to their online store, Spartan Race saw a 27% increase in retail sales. Varney adds, “We’re getting through tickets faster, and customers are happier because we’re able to respond more quickly.”

As Spartan Race continues to grow and adapt to changing business environments, Varney’s team appreciates the flexibility of the Zendesk platform. “Zendesk products have made my life much easier,” Varney says. “It’s been a really positive experience.”