50 Shades of Support

50 Shades of Support

I live in Mataró, very close to Barcelona. Many friends commute daily into the metropolis, putting up with crowded trains or traffic jams. I don’t. I am  Happiness Engineer for WooCommerce, a division of Automattic (and we are hiring). Our offices are not in Barcelona. Our offices are where we are. We are a distributed company.

Happiness Engineer? Distributed company?

Happiness Engineering at Woo means helping our customers to take full advantage of the extensions available at WooCommerce.com.

Working for a distributed company means I do not share a physical space with my colleagues. Instead, we share a virtual environment full of P2s (internal blogs) and slack (chat) channels, internal and external documentations and occasional video conferences. These resources help us to support our customers, wherever and whenever they need it.

50 Shades of Support: every ticket has a story

Currently our main support tool is a ticket system. Customer open a ticket in their account, we answer the ticket. On average a ticket needs 2-3 answers to get resolved – answers that can come from any Happiness Engineer.

I start my (work) day with a quick review of our main support P2s, just to make sure I am aware of any hiccups with our products that are so-called “known issues”. Now I am ready to tackle the first ticket, starting with the oldest one available in the queue. We aim to answer in less than 17 hours – and have recently added life chat for US hour. But until we roll this out in UTC+, my main interaction with customer are tickets.

Every ticket is it’s own world. Mike needs help setting up a WooCommerce Bookings product for his coaching business. He wants only certain days to be available. I create a quick test product to show him the settings he needs to use and indicate additional documents he can consult.

Marisa doesn’t understand why some of her client’s subscriptions failed to renew on the expected date. Digging into the error logs on her server we discover that her customer’s credit card expired.

Carla needs help with Product Add-Ons. She wants to add gift options to her product, but the add-ons are nowhere to be seen. Her theme apparently is not prepared to handle Product Add-Ons, so I help her to get in touch with the theme’s author.

Roy is thinking about launching a new paleo diet subscription service. He bought a couple of different extension and needs help setting up a workflow that makes sense even when his business grows.

A glimpse of my test store - squirrel themed.
A glimpse of my test store – squirrel themed.

With 400+ extensions, every day I discover something new: a plugin I did not know, a business idea I would have never thought of, another inspiring business owner. Our support policy contemplates we help with product installation, configuration and use. We fix bugs and track down incompatibilities. We answer questions, and help customers to find their way in our documentation. We teach debugging and simple techniques to discover potential problems.

But there are things we cannot do.

We don’t customize. We don’t solve bugs of external plugins. We don’t update theme templates. We DO help our customer to contact those who can help them.

My alarm goes off – time to take a 5 min break. I leave my coworking space and walk quickly around the block breathing in deeply, before diving back into tickets.

Balancing tickets and “other”

I spend around 80% of my time on tickets and related tasks: replicating bugs and creating the necessary bug reports for our developers to work with and setting up test products on my test site to make screen shots and screen casts for customers.

break.pngBut there’s more: once a week I review the customer feedback for our team to help us improve in the long run. I help Spanish speaking customers in Social Media and I am involved with the documentation part of some products yet to launch. And, of course, the day to day communication also requires time.

My timer is my best friend here. Toggl tracks my time and Break Reminder makes sure I don’t get stuck too long without airing my brain.

What else is there to my day?

Most days I work from 10:15am to 7pm. I like my routine of running/writing before the kids wake up. But I know that I can always shift schedules to take a kid to the doctor, to get grocery shopping done before the crowd arrives, to host a social gathering with other moms. On those days I might start early, or shift an hour or two to after bed time (for the kids).

Your workday is whatever works for you.

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