This is a transcript of our February 2015 AMA with Justin Seymour on providing support to the people who use HelpScout. To find out about future events, join our chat!

scott Hi everyone :smile:
scott @channel we’ll be starting the AMA in a min
scott @justin: So is support the most important department at HelpScout?
justin We’ve built the brand around providing great support, so we’ve got to live up to the motto.
scott @justin: How do you work with product when your product is a support product?
scott Got any stories, examples, etc you can share?
justin @scott: I assume you mean the product team, or how we use the product itself?
scott @justin: Let’s start with the product team :smile:
justin We have a small product team, but they’re incredibly receptive to feedback from the front line. Customer comments and suggestions very much drive our roadmap. We meet once a week just to talk about customer tone, specific requests, share use case examples and so on.
scott @justin: How do you decide what goes on the list of topics?
justin Everyone on the team has a very clear understanding of short-term goals, future projects, and where we’re heading with the product on the whole. We don’t have any specific policy or procedure for deciding what goes where on the feedback front. If we feel like it’s a good idea, and it’s something that might be a quick fix or addition, we’ll talk about it.
justin We say “no” quite a bit, and for good reason. Everyone has priorities!
scott Nice :smile:
scott @justin: Do you feel like it’s easier or harder supporting people that do support?
justin Our customers on the whole are absolutely wonderful. Providing support for support folks can be challenging, though, as their demands are often just as high if not higher than our own, when using the product.
scott Do they give you slack cuz you’re in the trenches too? :smile:
scott Got any examples of demanding customers?
justin Totally. I’d say one of the biggest challenges is just working through specific use cases, workflows that might make sense to one group of people, but not to many. Everyone runs support in a different manner, and we can’t cover every little detail in the product, so we rely on people to meet us half way at times.
justin We care more about big roadblock issues than tiny tweaks, as roadblocks often have some effect on other similar use cases, for separate customers.
justin Demanding customers are few, but we get a fair share of “we must have this feature, can you code it for us” type requests.
chaseclemons :wave:Heyo!
scott :wave:
justin Yo!
chaseclemons Sorry for my lateness.
chaseclemons @justin: With customers that demand a certain feature, how do you handle those?
justin We’re pretty straightforward with feature requests. If it’s not on the roadmap now, and it’s not a feature or request that fits in to our product vision, it’s not getting added to the roadmap. With that said, we do listen, and we do like to understand why someone absolutely needs what X feature or update.
We make no promises. If support feels like it’s a good use case, it might fit on the roadmap, we’ll chat it over with product and go from there.

justin For the most part, the product team doesn’t see a large amount of the feedback we receive. They’re focused on high-priority stuff, and if we stopped to tackle every little request, we’d be in trouble.
scott @justin: How do you go about understanding why they want something? Is it a bunch of back and forth emails?
justin We’ll often ask someone to just paint us a picture, top to bottom. Help us understand why it’s so important.
justin That could be email, Skype, a join.me session, anything works.
justin Most folks aren’t passionate enough about their request to take the time to do that, though.
chaseclemons From the few feature requests we’ve sent over while using Help Scout, the team has always been open and curious about the idea. I know I’ve talked with @justin several times about the situation behind a request.
justin And it’s always a pleasure! One thing that makes a difference with requests is who is requesting them.
scott What do you mean?
justin Feedback/requests from smart people makes a huge difference. Their comments and suggestions are often well thought out, grounded, and make sense. I know that might sound rough, but it’s true. We all have customers who send mindless feedback, and if you say you don’t, you’re not being truthful!
justin People who are vested in your product always want to make the product better.
chaseclemons Haha – definitely seen customers like that before.
justin People who aren’t vested tend to want more overall, rather than improvements.
chaseclemons Someone who uses Help Scout once every few days is going to have pretty different requests compared to someone that lives in it for eight hours a day.
justin Absolutely
scott @justin: That’s an interesting point about wanting more… So do you ask for why with every request or just some of them?
justin Only the ones that make me curious, the ones that I could see potentially playing an important role down the line.
justin Use case example would be Chase’s recent request for a change to how we handled manual workflows. We didn’t notify anyone else about that update, but it turns out it was something that people noticed, and loved.
chaseclemons :simple_smile: I LOVED that one.
justin Excellent!
chaseclemons By the way, we just shut down our Desk account and went all in on Help Scout. It’s been absolutely fantastic!
justin Boom!
scott @justin: How do you go about understanding why they want something? Is it a bunch of back and forth emails?
chaseclemons Do those types of conversations happen a lot? Or is it mostly reacting to support tickets coming in?
justin We do a bunch of outreach every month. We’ll go through our list of customers, fire off a few check-in emails, and take it from there. As we grow, and as our roadmap changes, we want to make sure we’re on the right track…working on the right things. There’s no better way than to talk to some of your more vested, or heavy users to see how things are going. Anything getting in the way? Is there a process or workflow that sucks for you? What could be better about X feature for your use case?
justin We’re super curious. We want to know how people are using the product, and that requires a lot of chat.
scott @justin: Can you share an example of a check in email? What do you say?
justin

Cookie cutter:
Hi friends,
Justin from Help Scout here. I hope all is well! If you’re up for it, I’d love to chat a bit about how you’re using Help Scout, what sort of pain points you’re running in to, and what areas of the product could use some TLC based on your daily workflow.
Let me know if you’re game. Shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes! ​

chaseclemons We used a similar email doing some Basecamp research. Customers love when they get to talk about how they’re using your app.
justin I’ll change it up based on the customer, thinking about who I’ve been in touch with in the past, who has emailed in recently and so on.
chaseclemons And all those emails are tracked in Help Scout? Or is there a separate CRM for those?
justin We put everything in Evernote so the whole team can see, sometimes we’ll record the conversation.
justin One of the best parts about being in the queue all the time is simply the relationship building that come with it.
justin Makes these check-ins easy.
scott Have you ever been surprised by one of these conversations? Good or bad.
justin There are some use cases that blow my mind, and I’m wanting to help, but you can’t always push change even if it’s for the better. Example, 15 Users and 54 mailboxes.
justin What in the world is going on with 54 mailboxes?
justin That can’t be productive.
scott That’s a lot of mailboxes per user
chaseclemons Whoa – 54? That’s crazy.
michaelg rofl
scott Did you find out what they were doing with it? :smile:
chaseclemons You get a mailbox. And you get a mailbox. Everyone gets a mailbox!
michaelg “helpscout’s come to life”
scott You get 5 mailboxes!
michaelg “it’s making its own mailboxes!”
michaelg “send help!”
scott Make sure you’re at inbox zero with all of them :smile:
justin They have conversations coming in, going out, things getting done, but it’s not orderly and it’s not efficient. And to some extent, they’re okay with it. You can only offer a solution and hope that they’ll take the advice.
chaseclemons Speaking of mailboxes, what happens when Help Scout goes down? How do you handle support then @justin ?
jszotten I was curious about that too
scott /giphy inception
chaseclemons http://media.giphy.com/media/aImJnc9F8Omzu/giphy.gif (669KB)
justin If the app is totally down, we’re dead in the water as well, so you won’t be hearing from us until service is restored. I’ll usually open the phone lines in that case for inbound calls, but we Tweet about it, and post frequently to our status page.
justin Luckily that rarely happens!
justin When the service is down, we queue up all incoming emails.
justin As soon as it’s back online, those messages are delivered.
chaseclemons Saw that happen with my ISP. It’s a local company that uses it’s own products. So when they went down yesterday, their website was down, email, phone – everything. That’s gotta be rough on them.
justin Worst case scenario for us, for sure.
chaseclemons Thankfully y’all are rarely down, like you mentioned. :simple_smile:
michaelg it’s all part of the plan- people can’t complain about the product being down if it’s down for you, too.
chaseclemons @justin: With the status page, is that updated automatically when you go down? Or is a manual process?
scott I’m sure they’d find a way to complain :wink:
justin It’s a manual process right now, we’re working on automating the initial updates. We’re also getting reading to push in-app notifications when there’s a status event.
justin StatusPage.io is the bomb.
chaseclemons In-app notifications would rock for that.
michaelg haha i like statuspage.io’s pricing
michaelg Enterprise -> “CEO’s Phone Number Support”
chaseclemons Hah – that’s awesome.
scott @justin: What’s your favorite part of using the HelpScout product?
justin It’s beautiful.
scott Got any tips or tricks living in it all the time?
justin I mean, from a design perspective, I think it makes it wonderful to use.
justin Design team obsesses over pixel perfection on everything.
chaseclemons We compared Help Scout to the Apple design of support apps. It’s so easy to live in, which makes going back to any other app feel like you’re going back to Windows 98.
justin And when you’re using a product for 8+ hours a day, it’s got to work on the UI front.
justin Nice!
chaseclemons And I mean, Nick’s stylish hair is a nice selling point.
justin Also true.
justin

One tip to make things flow would be redirect options: http://docs.helpscout.net/article/228-redirect-options

Action buttons in Help Scout contain a linked dropdown menu with various redirect options. These options allow the User to specify where they’ll be redirected

justin Not many people change the default, but it’s a huge time saver based on your workflow.
scott What’s an example of how you’re using it?
chaseclemons I think everyone on the Basecamp team has it set differently depending on how we like it.
justin I have mine set to go back to the folder, because I’m all over the place.
justin If I’m powering through the queue all together, I’ll set it go to the next oldest, active (default) just to prevent extra clicks.
chaseclemons Anyone got any last minute questions for @justin ? Otherwise I’d say we can wrap things up. I’m sure he’s got some customers waiting on replies! :simple_smile:
scott Thanks for hanging out with us @justin! :simple_smile:
justin Just a few! Slow today :simple_smile:
justin Anytime, always a pleasure.
justin Thanks for the AMA!
chaseclemons You rocked it! Thanks so much for hanging out with us!
michaelg :confetti_ball: :thumbsup: