How we reply to 52% of support emails within an hour: The August Buffer Happiness Report

At Buffer, we try to be transparent about everything, and our customer support processes and successes (and failures!) are no different. Here’s a snapshot of how we did in August.

August was a unique month at Buffer, because it began with the first-ever all-hands company retreat. Although this provided a unique challenge for the support team, it was absolutely amazing to have all of the full-time staff together. More on that in a bit. :)

In August, we chose to focus on one key metric: response time. We hypothesized that a faster reply would translate into happier customers. In order to accomplish this, we adjusted the division of labor to better reflect our energy levels throughout the day in our respective time zones.

Old method: No organized approach. Generally, everyone worked from oldest to newest.

New method: In order to better “manage our energy,” now we start our days with the older, ongoing and more involved conversations. By the end of the day, when we’re less fresh, we focus on answering simple questions as they come in. That way, the trickier ones that need developer help are flagged appropriately, and we can still delight the folks who just need a quick, simple answer. Let’s see how we did.

How we did in August

HappinessReportAugust2013

Speed:

Our response time, according to Help Scout:
Percentage of emails that got a reply under 1 hour: 52%
Percentage of emails that got a reply under 6 hours: 78%

Helpscout_August+2

Verdict: We did improve our speed! Unfortunately, this didn’t translate into an increase in self-declared customer happiness this time.

New: Twitter stats

The service we use to reply to support questions via Twitter, TwitSpark, now shows us how many customers we’re responding to! We sent 3,059 Tweets in August. Here’s a visual of our volume this month. That spike you can see was our Google+ Pages launch.

TwitSparkAugust

New support channels we’ve been experimenting with:

BMR has recently started replying to Google Play Store reviews that contain questions or product confusion related to our Android app. It’s hard to quantify the effects of this, but it feels right to be covering another customer touchpoint.

Also, we had our first ever “Buffer office hours” where I sat on a Google+ hangout for an hour and talked to anyone who dropped by. Three people joined. There’s nothing quite like looking customers in the eye and talking, so we’d like to try this again. The disorganized structure was fun and encouraged the casual feel we were looking for, but might not be conducive for a bigger crowd.

The impact of a product launch on support:

Lastly, we also had a big launch this month; we announced support for G+ pages in Buffer web, iPhone and Android. Interestingly, launch days usually pull our stats down because of the volume, but this launch (at 6am PST) was one of our best days yet, due to the whole Buffer team’s efforts:

Helpscout_Aug28+2

The struggle of providing great support at the weekend:

How do we provide great support all week long (including weekends) without discouraging our team from disconnecting and taking time to renew?

Our time-zone spread helps with this, as the weekend only lasts from Friday evening in San Francisco to Monday morning in Europe (and soon Australia, which helps shorten the weekend even more). But, that’s still 24 hours where customers only get answers if Buffer staff suspend the weekend and dip in to answer a few questions here and there. Similarly, we felt this challenge when all Happiness Heroes found themselves in the United States, causing the weekend to extend to 2 full days. As Chase Clemons illustrates in his post, it can be tricky to have the whole team traveling at once!

We would love to hear how other support teams tackle this! :) And, as always, please reach out to us with any questions right here in the comments or at @buffer!

  • Ian Nuttall

    Personally, I think having a hardcore Bufferite Happiness Hero based in the UK timezone would really help you out in covering the weekend.

    But hey, I might be a little biased. ;)

    Seriously though, really impressive numbers. I’m excited to see how high you can get that Happiness %.

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • http://supportops.co/ Chase Clemons

    I’m really excited to see how the Google Hangouts progress. It’s an awesome way of connecting with customers to help them out!

  • http://hollyvonhuene.com/ von Huene, Holly

    Very nice! Thanks for sharing this. Keep up the good work :)

  • Pingback: The Customer Support Weekend Roundup #19

  • http://diogo.stash.pro/ Diogo Andre

    Thanks for sharing! The kind of transparency Buffer strives for is really awesome.

    Quick question: Do you measure the happiness level at the beginning of the conversation? I’ve used the ‘Get Support’ link in the Buffer Dashboard and there is a ‘How are you feeling?”. It would be really interesting to see how people feel at the time they reach out for support.

    • carokopp

      Hi Diogo! Thanks so much for asking. We do both, yes. We ask them how they’re feeling when they first get in touch, and then they can rate the experience afterwards as well. Both are optional of course, so it’s not an exact science, but it’s great to compare! :)

  • Josh

    Hey Carolyn,

    Something our team at Razoo has considered is adding a filter to all incoming support requests, so if it contains certain language it gets bumped to high priority. Then, on weekends, one of our staff (rotating schedule, of course) can hop on for an hour or two during the weekend and try to deal with those high-priority issues.

    These usually deal with an organization being unable to process donations – that’s really the only truly urgent request, and it’s a pretty easy fix from our end.

    We’ve not pulled the trigger on this yet, but we’ve kicked it around. It hinges, or course, on us being able to accurately filter out high-priority items. Usually, users are totally satisfied letting things wait until business hours.

    Just my $0.02!

    PS 50% of tickets replied to in an hour is awesome! Way to go!