Searching Google from Any App

At work, I find myself always referring to our support docs, guides, and blogs best possible answer to our customers. I also support two different products. To make this search quick I use Google’s “site:” search operator to search an entire products website quickly.

This weekend, at Tiny Bit of Space I created a small script to my my search workflow instant.

The scripted is triggered by a keyboard shortcut available in any app on my computer. It brings up a dialogue box with a field to put my search query then opens a new tab to Google in my default web browser searching for my query.

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The script I made, triggered within Tower.

 

The Greatest Support Conference I’ve Attended*

This week I attended SUPCONF, the first conference put on by Support Driven. It took place at Automattic’s HQ in the heart of San Francisco’s SoMa district. The theme of the conference was making a career out of support and had 14 talks that supported this theme. There was also 2 keynotes.

In this post I’m going to pull out the “Just tell me what to do” points I took away from the conference.

Language, Data, and Credibility

These three words weaved in throughout the conference.

Many times support departments don’t speak the same language as other departments in companies. The support department celebrates “A response time of 10 minutes” (which is great btw). That doesn’t mean something actionable to others in the company. The language others in the company speak is data and money. We need to realize this and create metrics around how they speak.

Find ways that your support team can build credibility by sharing data that’s meaningful to others in the company. Mix in stories to build empathy.

If you can say X problem is losing us Y signups causing us to miss out on Z revenue that’s something everyone can understand.

Learn to model staffing your support department. As ticket volume grows you can predict how many employees you need and the cost of those employees. It allows you to determine the cost savings if ticket volume can be diminished with product changes.

Highlight Positivity and train your employees to be more knowledgeable

There’s no doubt that support can be a negative job at times. Find ways to combat this by having employees keep a happiness folder. They can store their big “wins” or positive cases for reflection. If you have 1 on 1’s give constructive feedback and praise. Have different employees each month go through tickets to find and highlight the positive feedback. Share the positive feedback they find to everyone.

As long as you’re not an early stage company someone at your company has answers to questions. It could be “how do I install an SSL cert?” or “how do I use X feature in the product?”. Create a standardized process to request training, have internal trainings, QA the process, and store the artifacts of the training so others can refer to them.

Have employees become subject matter experts in what they’re interested as your team grows. This keeps them doing what they love.

Career & team development

Focus on support, not in support. Find time and create ways to get out of the whirlwind of answering cases. This allows to you to create proactive content. Delight your customers.

Be confident when communicating. Put yourself in the middle of passive and aggressive tones. It’s OK to ask “What is the status of the bug fix?”. When not necessary stop saying “I think,” “Just,” “I believe” these statements don’t create action.

Create niche and industry knowledge. If you work for a company that supports design work you should learn the type of work your customers do. Share their pain and victory. Learn how others support customers in similar situations. Like how to staff for weekend support.

Share your perspective (like I’m doing now!). This gives moments of “I didn’t think of that”. Realize posting on the internet opens yourself up to all kinds of feedback. Keep an open mind.


I was amazed by the professionalism and organization behind the conference. As I heard another attendee say, this is some professional grade shit. I’m proud to say I was a tiny part of the conference by clapping and listening in the crowd.

* For the record SUPCONF is the only Support Conference I’ve ever attended.

Header image in this post is courtesy of Ben MacAskill.

Lead vs Lag Measures

“Make there be fewer tickets unsolved in the queue and speed up the response times!”.

In my career, those words have caused the most amount of stress. It happens when someone looks at the ticket system without context. I start to think about all the work I have put in. The thought that comes to mind is “… that’s not good enough!?”.

Recently I read The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX). It has given me a new perspective on ways to handle this type of situation.

While both of items mentioned would be great goals to achieve there are 2 questions:

  • Does it fit into the current goals of the support department?
  • If so, how do we achieve these goals?

The idea of saying “We need faster ticket response times” or “There should be less open/pending tickets” are Lag Measures.

To achieve goals we need to focus on a wildly important goal (WIG). If you have 15 goals you’ll lose focus and accomplish none. Identifying Lead Measures is the best way to achieve your WIG.

To Define:

Lag Measures are historical measures of some sort of performance. They’re easy to measure, but hard to influence.

Lead Measures are the highest leverage actions or activities that can accomplish goals.

Using Lag Measures without Lead Measures is dangerous. They only measure a result towards your goal. While Lead Measures can influence the chance of success in achieving your goal. In some cases, they can even be predictive of success.

An Example:

You might say “I want to lose 2 pounds this month!”. To do this let’s apply the principles of 4DX.

The 2 pounds is the Lag Measure, a way to measure if you’re successful or not at the end of the month. To actually achieve the weight loss you would apply Lead Measures. That could be cutting out 200 calories a day and working out 5 times a week.

It’s also good to keep yourself accountable. Keep score of when you go to the gym and eat less. On a weekly basis, weigh yourself to review progress.

By focusing on the Lead Measures it sets us up for success. We know going to the gym and eating less helps us lose weight. They’re the high leverage activities.

Applying this thinking to Support:

The goal: “In the next 6 months improve the first response times to our customers”.

To achieve this goal you could take an indirect route by using Lead Measures. Leave the whirlwind of customer support and creating proactive customer success content.

Think of the highest leverage activity your support team can do to achieve your goals. In this case, it might be to build out the best possible customer help site. It would answer customer questions before they have to contact support. Thus lowering case volume, and allowing your support team to have faster response times.

Now that you’ve identified what you’re going to be doing the next checkpoints would be:

  • Analyze the past X months of tickets and identify help docs to create.
  • Take employees off of support and have them focus on customer success by creating the help docs. This could raise response times. Keep in mind it’s about achieving your goals through high leverage activities.
  • Meet on a weekly basis to see how progress is going, keep score of how many docs you created.

After 6 months of Lead Measure work, take a look at Lag Measures. Ask “Are response times quicker?”. By focusing on the high leverage activities there’s a great chance they will be.


The idea behind these thoughts come from The 4 Disciplines of Execution. If you’re not achieving your goals I recommend checking it out.

How Snapchat Teaches it’s Users New Features

As someone who is in their late 20’s, I’m fascinated with Snapchat. It’s the platypus of social apps and I don’t get it like younger people do. A couple of weeks ago SnapChat released the 2.0 release of their messaging features.

For social services like Snapchat a big feature release is one of the biggest days for your service. You’ve spent months developing the newest features. If users can’t find these new features it could mean a loss of revenue or engagement. Often times a popular way to teach users about new features is an overlay called a coach mark.

I decided to fire up Snapchat to check out the new messaging features. I quickly realized that in their platypus way, they might have cracked a new way of teaching users about a new feature.

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When users viewed the Snapchat Discover stories (generally reserved for content from the likes of ESPN, CNN, Vox, etc.) the first story was from Snapchat.

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The first screen of the story was a coach mark used to explaining some new UI interaction. Right away users were being taught how to use the new features.

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Next, if there was any doubt about what you were viewing, you were told that you were being shown new features.

The next few screens weren’t great to screenshot (they were animations), but they went through all of the new calling, video chat, and sticker capabilities of Snapchat.

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Finally, at the end it told you that those features were available now and gave you an opportunity to get even more info.

While I might not be enamored in the faceswap culture that Snapchat has popularized it is a great place to see how new releases and features are being shown to users to help engagement. I’m extremely interested in their decision to use a spot in the Stories section to show users the messaging capabilities; For perspective I can’t remember the last time I learned about a new Facebook feature. The next time that you’re involved with the roll out of a new feature in your service think about a unique way that you can reach your users to teach them how to use your big new release.

More than “Support”

When people ask me what I do I tell them “I’m in the support department at…”. This unfortunately doesn’t capture what I do or what I want to do in the future, but hearing the word hear “Support” does almost inevitably invoke all the terrible experiences they’ve had with their cable companies, mobile providers, airlines..

The word “support” is rarely associated with the idea of a better customer experience. Nor does it sound like the person providing support cares about how successful a customer is. Support is a function under a large umbrella of activities, and to that end we need a name/title for it that really describes what we do.

Possible titles:

  • Customer Support Pro
  • Customer Happiness
  • Customer Service
  • Customer Champion

None of these are bad, but they don’t quite capture what I’m looking for.

Centric adjective having (something) as a central interest, influence, subject, etc.

After recently thinking and speaking with someone on this topic, I’m going with Customer Centric.

Why am I going with this? Customer Support is the reactive work; someone is emailing / calling / live chatting you seeking help. Customer Success is the proactive work; creating guides, how-to videos, the preventive content that the customer can consume without having to directly contact you (Success has the bonus of being 24/7/365). There’s a touch of Project Management that comes out of here too; if you’re frequently having customers report the same issues or questions you can make product recommendations to solve the issue or you can create content that answers a question. Customer Experience is what the customer thought of their experience; it could be the response from someone replying to an inquiry or following a guide on how to set something up.

An individual, an organization, or even a department within an organization can identify themselves as Customer Centric if they do both support and success in a day, or if a company or department understands that being Customer Centric is one the best ways to grow their business alongside an amazing product.

So, if that describes you, then the next time someone asks what you do, please join me in saying: “I’m Customer Centric”.

Thank you to Camille, Darren, Matt, Scott and the rest of the amazing community in the Support Driven #Draft Channel for helping me edit this post. Want to suggest a change to this post? Hit me with your best feedback and comment on my Draft post.

UserConf Talks for the slow week

I hope you’re having a great holiday season, with some of my downtime I’ve been able to watch some of the great video library of UserConf talks on the UserVoice YouTube channel. In no specific order here are five I’ve really enjoyed:

Robert Kranzke from CoSupport gives a fun talk on how he prevents burnout in Support by being himself (And not being a robot).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpnHHM8OXsw

With the release of iOS 7 Omni Group made a hard decision that they knew would anger customers. Brian Covey explains on how they handled the situation in a humorous talk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGFB4K-s8Yk

Erin McCaul and Chiaryn Miranda from Moz break down how they improved Support at Moz by improving team structure, updating the Support tools they used, and having fun with the content they provided to customers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryN7Dk9LVfI

How Shopify turned Self Help into a way to empower users to ease the Support load and how to use Self Help as a way to reduce friction in Support.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfubYkRI4ac

Olark noticed their Support feedback loop with customers started to become cut off with their engineering team as they only started to receive escalations. To fix this they introduced all hands support, doing so they learned more than they expected.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rs2NN-qQZf0