One night, I got a Facebook message about the 100 Happy Days challenge. So I clicked through and here’s what I read: “While the speed of life increases, there is less and less time to enjoy the moment that you are in: Every day submit a picture of what made you happy!” OK, fair point, we don’t take time to appreciate things anymore… I was about to click away and get on with my life, when I read that next sentence: “71% of people tried to complete this challenge, but failed quoting lack of time as the main reason.” Uh!…
June was a fantastic, fascinating month for customer happiness at Buffer as we made great strides toward meeting goals, expanded our awesome team, and pushed forward in a number of new, exciting areas.
June 2014 is the first month that I know of where we hit “inbox zero” at least once per day in both email and twitter. (We use Help Scout and Sparkcentral, respectively.) It feels great to be getting closer to the point where our customers don’t have to wait for us in order to get their work done. By better managing these two communication tools, we can also continue to devote time to Live Chat.
Our email volume is slightly lower than last month, which, naturally, has made this easier. We’ll continue to hire in the next few months so that we’re ready for autumn volume.
May was a huge month for the Happiness Team at Buffer. We began the month answering 50% of emails within 1 hour and finished it answering 80% of emails within 1 hour. This results in a palpable difference in the happiness of our customers. Huge congratulations to the Happiness Team!
How we keep in touch as a distributed team (meaning: no all-hands meeting)
We each enjoy the luxury of living in the place that makes us the happiest, and we use the geographic distribution to answer our customers’ questions quickly, during our local daylight hours.
There is one hitch to this. When we’re properly distributed, there is no reasonable time for a weekly meeting. It took us a few months to settle into just the right tools to stay in close touch, and it works well for us now. And no one wakes up at 2 a.m. for a meeting, which is a plus. :)
Our daily and weekly schedule
“I see you have a static FAQ, but why have you chosen not to have a searchable knowledge base or robust community forum for support questions?”
I’d love to share why we chose not to scale support, and why we ask customers to email, tweet, or live-chat us each time instead. It’s very simple, and it’s all about how fast we can learn.
Simply, we don’t learn anything if customers find the answers themselves on a forum or knowledge base.
Why we don’t scale support
As an example, let’s say we get the same question 5 times. I’ll use a real-life Buffer example. “How do I change my credit card in your system?”
So, after the fifth time this question is asked, Company ABC might put it on a knowledge base. Then the next 50 people who have the question might find out themselves. They don’t have to wait for your customer service team to get back to them; they can find the answer at any hour. Right?
Modernized, it is:
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
The conventional wisdom is that it’s always preferable to teach someone how to fish. However, the Buffer support team has been thinking about this concept a lot lately. We’re learning that often there is a huge market for skipping the lesson completely.
This can be a stretch for tech support folks. After all, we gravitate toward support positions because we love to teach. We feel pain when people don’t love the technology we love. That makes us great at our jobs.
However, we also tend to be the people who like to push every button in order to find out what it does. We would always rather learn the how, and the why, of every process. That’s why people start asking us for help at an early age. That’s how we learn that we love helping. That’s how we end up in these roles.
But I’ve had to try to break this habit a bit in order to take my own customer service skills up a notch. There have been many times when I’ve tried to teach when I should have been serving up a fully prepared meal instead.
Posts like this one, while written in jest, enforce the stereotype that working in support essentially sucks. We are known for getting abused by ranting, angry customers. We can’t take a day off, because the emails never stop flowing in. We must just be doing this to get trained with the company, right?
Well, I’d like to offer a slightly different view into the world of customer service.
While we do occasionally bear the brunt of unhappy customers and receive unkind words, those experiences are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the patient, smart, grateful and human emails that usually flow in. I recognize that I’m spoiled by my Buffer users, but I’ve experienced this same trend in all previous customer service jobs.
Picture this: It’s your first month on the job as a Customer Happiness Hero. A core piece of your company’s app stops working. And 16 of the 20 team members of the team are on flights across the world.
That’s exactly what happened to our newest two sweet, unsuspecting Happiness Heroes when Buffer stopped shortening links for a few days in April. (Both new heroes have since completed Buffer Bootcamp and come on board despite this. :) Sorry about that, Patrik and Dave! Lesson learned about all traveling at once!)
So, with the all-hands gathering in Cape Town off to an exciting start, the common theme of April was our retreat, travel, and how we managed our emails, tweets, and team communication.
This has been remarkably hard to do, and I still have to struggle not to let it past my lips or fingers. At Buffer, we have found that there is a small band of words that takes away from your message, and “actually” is their leader.
It almost doesn’t matter how good the news is; if it comes after “actually,” I feel like I was somehow wrong about something.
Consider these two sentences:
Actually, you can do this under “Settings.”
Sure thing, you can do this under “Settings!” :)
We set our sights on a big jump this month. :) It’s been really fun crashing toward these new highs!
Goals set for March:
- 76.5% within 1 hour (February was 64%)
- 91.5% within 6 hours (February was 84%)
- 189 live chats (February was 105)
Actual numbers for March:
- 67% within 1 hour (Missed the goal)
- 93% within 6 hours (Exceeded the goal!)
- 1% over 24 hours (Forgot to set a goal, but this is an improvement over Feb :))
- 480 live chats (Exceeded the goal!)
- 10,769 emails sent (a 9% increase from February)
We had a fantastic February,
reaching exceeding our goals due to the very hard work from the Heroes. Read on for some of the changes we made and lessons we learned!
Our goals for February were to hit 55% within 1 hour and 80% within 6 hours, a sizable but feasible improvement from January.
At the end of the month, we reached:
• 64% of emails within 1 hour
• 84% of emails within 6 hours
We sent 9,800 replies in February, roughly the same as January, in order to assist 5,400 customers. Of these, 1,400 generously took the time to give us a happiness rating (via Hively), earning us a 95% happiness percentage. We also saw a decrease in tweets, sending 3,900 total.