All Hands Support

August 20, 2010

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Chris Savage

Founder, CEO

Recently, the team at NewRelic (an app monitoring tool we use at Wistia) announced that they crossed the 5,000th customer mark, an impressive feat for a two-year-old company. But instead of espousing about how great they are and high-fiving over their growing pile of cash (which would be justified), Lew Cirne (@sweetlew), the founder and CEO, decided to spend his time describing how a 32 person company handles 24/7 support with no support staff. In Lew’s words:

Each and every support request is handled by a development engineer who has full access to our entire source base, and the full authority to do whatever is necessary to make things right. This includes agent tweaks, production patches and — on rare occasions when we mess up — free upgrades.

The NewRelic approach resonates with me. It’s an approach that guarantees that the right people are hearing about the right problems and that customers know that you take their problems seriously.

In the comments on Lew’s post, there was feedback from Ben Congleton, the CEO at Olark, (the live chat widget we use and love) who said:

Every member of our team does a rotation on support. I think the key issue is to make sure that 1) everyone in the company knows why they have a job [hint: it’s the customers], and 2) An engineer with full commit access rarely needs to escalate anything (so quicker service).

Ben is highlighting another part of the same story: that employee motivation should be aligned with happy customers, and that fast and excellent customer service is important.” would work better.

Noticing a trend?

Well, it turns out that we do support in a very similar way to both NewRelic and Olark. In our case, we call it All Hands Support, but it’s basically our spin on the same story. It means that everyone in the company takes shifts on managing the chat widget, answering the phone, and calling to check in on customers.

The benefits of a shared support system are enormous. Not only can you more easily automate technical issues, but you also end up improving your company’s messaging, reducing confusion around features, modifying pricing elements that don’t jive properly, and cleaning out issues from every other customer-facing element of business.

Fixing problems is critical to growing a business, but more important is knowing what to fix next and how to prioritize a laundry list of other evolving issues. There is no better way to do this than to make sure that everyone has a pulse on customer needs.

There is a new breed of company that doesn’t rely on the traditional models for scaling businesses. These companies can move faster on the right problems, keep customers happier, and build better products. If given the choice, I’ll always pick this new breed over the establishment. It’s great to be surrounded by such great company.

Chris Savage

Founder, CEO

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