Turning the corner — how Adelante helped this charter school HR team get Zendesk up and running in just 7 days.

The Great Oaks Legacy Charter School (GOLCS) is a high-performing, innovative charter public school in Newark NJ, serving students from Pre-K to 12th grade on multiple campuses across the city.
Setting up Zendesk and going live within a tight deadline.

The GOLCS HR team needed to move away from relying on shared email inboxes to support the day-to-day needs of their 300 staff members and came to Adelante for help. We implemented Zendesk and went live within 7 days, allowing them to manage inquiries more efficiently, reduce first-response and resolution time, and access in-depth reporting allowing them to predict periods of high demand.

We spoke with Leslie Wade, Chief People Officer at GOLCS about her experience of working with Adelante, and what contributed to the success of the project.

“There was a lot of reopening inquiries — which wasted time and caused delays getting back to people.”

“I was already an avid Zendesk user — I’d used it in a couple of different settings in previous roles,” Leslie explains, “but when I joined the HR team at GOLCS, they were still using a shared email inbox to manage all communications with staff. There is about 300 staff in total, so it was difficult to know which emails had been opened, and which had been responded to already. There was a lot of reopening of inquiries to figure out if a response was still needed — which wasted time and caused delays getting back to people.”

“I knew they really needed Zendesk to organize incoming inquiries, assign them to the right people and ensure that our staff was getting the support they needed,” she continues, “There are three of us in the HR team here, with different areas of responsibility, so we needed a system which would allow us to easily route each incoming inquiry to the team member best qualified to deal with it.”

“The questions Adelante asked were so helpful — about functionality or features we wouldn’t have considered.”

Leslie knew that moving to Zendesk would give the team at GOLCS much greater flexibility and insight when it came to managing critical functions such as payroll, state pensions, retirement plans, and vacation days.

As she explains, “Having used the platform before, I’d seen the benefit of being in an environment where we transitioned from email only to Zendesk. First, I knew we’d have more clarity — visibility of which inquiries had been responded to, and which were pending or complete.”

“If someone’s on vacation or out sick, it’s easy for colleagues to pick up and cover the work — we have visibility of each other’s tasks.”

“Also, I really wanted to be able to access Zendesk data to help us identify trends. For example, in my previous role, if we saw a spike in a particular type of inquiry at a certain time of year, then in next year’s planning we could set a task to push out advance communications at that time to anticipate the demand and prevent a sudden influx of tickets.”

“I also value being able to send out autoresponders on certain topics, and have visibility into one another’s responses,” Leslie continues, “So if someone’s on vacation or out sick, it’s easy for colleagues to pick up and cover the work.”

“I really appreciate being able to access Zendesk data to help us identify trends — we can plan communications to anticipate demand.”

Leslie found Adelante through Fiverr initially, recalling, “I’m a fan of Fiverr – helps me find great people who are good at things! I think I reached out to a couple of providers at the same time. I liked Adelante’s intro video on the process — it personalized the company, but also gave me useful info on the process upfront.”

She valued the positive reviews on the site, commenting, “It was the sense that we weren’t Adelante’s first client – we really needed that experience and expertise. When I first contacted you we were at the peak of our busy season, I was new to the team, my colleagues were new, and there were learning curves everywhere – we didn’t have the headspace for another one. We needed to be able to rely on Adelante’s expertise. And the questions you asked were so helpful — some of them were about functionality or features we wouldn’t have considered.”

“Without Adelante, we could have got Zendesk live, but without the functionality we needed — we would have had to revisit that down the road.”

Despite a tight deadline of just seven days to get the Zendesk platform live, everything was ready on time. Leslie reflected on what contributed to the success of the project, commenting, “First of all — Tamir and the team at Adelante! In the two environments where I’ve used Zendesk before, we had a data, IT, or tech team that was already using Zendesk, so they would just create a module for HR, or they could do all the heavy lifting in terms of implementation and we could just design the UI we wanted to create. But at GOLCS, the tech team was tied up prepping for the new school year, and didn’t have much Zendesk experience anyhow.”

As Leslie had some experience with the platform, she made a start herself, but soon realized she and her team would benefit from outside help. As she puts it, “It wasn’t an effective use of my time — to try to teach myself Zendesk implementation — when there are people out there who know it inside out. Our Zendesk definitely still wouldn’t be live if we hadn’t found Adelante!”

“Adelante helped us turn the corner from just paying for Zendesk, versus actually using it in a way that benefits us.”

Leslie describes why GOLCS decided to choose Adelante as their Zendesk implementation partner, explaining, “We could see you guys had done lots of these implementation projects – and you know Zendesk backward and forward. Whereas our internal IT team wouldn’t have the specific platform knowledge, they’d have had to learn on the go. Adelante’s commitment to a 7-day go-live was also very important to us. We’d already lost time – we’d been paying for Zendesk for a few months, and hadn’t been getting any benefits. And we couldn’t have done it in a week internally.”

“We’d lost time – we’d been paying for Zendesk for a few months, with no benefit. Adelante’s commitment to a 7-day go live was important.”

The GOLCS team was impressed by the efficiency of Adelante’s process, and the clear gameplan they laid out. As Leslie describes it, “The speed at which your team works is great, but also the clarity of the process, the project board on Monday.com, the helpful resources. It was really clear that this is what you guys do well – you’re not figuring it out as you go. We were able to just plug into Adelante’s system and process. That contributed to meeting the deadline, but also having access to info and tools right away was really helpful.”

“Adelante’s gameplan meant we always knew what the next step was going to be – we felt informed at each stage of the process.”

“Communication was also important,” Leslie continues, “I really appreciated the consistent touchpoints. Also, I love that we worked with Tamir the whole time. We never felt like we were being handed off to different people, there was always a single point of contact. The gameplan was key too — it allowed us to carve out the time we needed, to provide Adelante with what they needed to keep the project moving forward. Yes, there were demands on our time, but because of the clear game plan we could make that work with our other responsibilities — as opposed to a 30-day implementation, which would have been brutal!”

“A lot of external vendors or partners make promises and don’t follow through. Adelante always does.”

With the GOLCS Zendesk up and running, Leslie reflects on why she would recommend other teams in a similar position to work with Adelante. “First up – they do what they say they’re going to do. That alone is 90% of why anyone should partner with Adelante,” she emphasizes, “Secondly, Tamir and the team are experts in Zendesk. Any question, tweak or fix we had, they could get Zendesk to do what we wanted. And I always feel like we can reach out with any issues. I don’t feel the door is closed just because we’re live and implemented!”

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