Pandas: Performing in Public

8 Sep 2015

How we learned to love letting it all hang out...

Support Panda

After each support call here at Engine Yard we ask our customers:

"How'd we do?"

It's a simple question: great or terrible? The results are posted on our support website immediately. Want to add a comment? That's posted too. No editing, no filtering, and every customer gets to see their words on the site instantly. We let it all hang out there. We are performing in public.

One hundred Pandas either smile or frown based on the last 100 support calls.

Real results, in real time, in public.

Why Did We Do This?

It all started with a desire to get feedback from our customers. After each customer service call we were left wondering: "How'd we do?" Our team members would hop on IRC or send an email. "Things ok?" Silence could mean so many things... Then, "Ya, we're fine. Thanks for the help." Or, sometimes... more silence.

"We could do a survey."

Nope, too onerous for our customers. And if they're ticked off at us, this could make things worse.

"We could call them."

Nope, our customers are great, but they are extremely busy folks. Phone call? Not happening.

Finally, we settled on a simple "yes" or "no" question. After every support call.

Starting Out... Scared

This wasn't easy to do, this performing in public. We thought our customers appreciated our dedication, our follow through, and our tenacity. But did they? Would they slam us on our own web site? We had no idea. There were some intense discussions. We did it anyway.

Our customers loved it!

Happy Support Panda

The results started pouring in, comments like the ones yesterday:

"Awesome support. Clear, helpful and very knowledgeable. Thanks again." — @StudioForty8

"You guys went the extra-mile and contacted me back when the problem was solved even though it was not caused by Engine Yard in the first place!" — @Skillable

We got a lot less scared. It was working.

We asked our customers: "Why?"

The answer was simple: they liked that we cared, that we asked, and that we let it all hang out.

Hitting 100%

We never expected to get 100% customer satisfaction. We joked about it. "Sure, someday, when no one is looking, we'll bag a few minutes at 100%."

Then it happened.

One hundred happy pandas were peering out at us, big smiles, arms up, HAPPY! And it stayed that way for a while...

... So now what?

Who was going to be the first support person to let the team down? There was lots of banter. And even a few bets.

It had to happen. That first sad panda....

Sad Support Panda

When that finally happened, the customer saw it and called us—actually called—to apologize. "I didn't realize I would be the only sad panda. Geeesh, I wasn't that dissatisfied. Could you just fix..."

So the team went to work! They fixed whatever the problem was that had been responsible for the fall from grace, and they hooted when the sad panda vanished into a sea of happy faces.

A team motto emerged:


Learning To Perform In Public

For two years, the support team has been performing in public like this. Most of the time we've held customer satisfaction above 98%, with bursts of 100% and a few terrifying downdrafts to 96%.

We know exactly why people are happy. We know exactly who is unhappy. The customers know everything. No spin, no managed expectations, no nonsense.

The customers know the entire company is doing WHATEVER IT TAKES.

Performing in public changes things.

Where We Go From Here

Our experiment with performing in public has encouraged other new approaches. We talk to customers in depth. No annual advisory board with snacks. It's now a real conversation. We listen to them. We solve problems together. They become part of the team.

Sure, this is simple. It's basic business. But somehow, this basic stuff had been neglected in an era of intense analytics.

Our great support team has taught the rest of us a lesson: perform in public. We're applying it to everything we do. And our customers like it. A lot.

Posted in Support

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