A Beginner's Life

Lifting The Heavy Ass Weights of Support

3 min read

UserConf 2013 in San Francisco was an absolute blast! I made a bunch of new friends, got to hear some great speakers, and was able to talk about what I call the Heavy Weights approach.

My big takeaway, after digesting all the talks and some of the post-conference chats as well:

Automate where you can, be intensely human wherever you can’t

The slides from my talk, “Lifting the Heavy Ass Weights of Support”, are below. Check them out, and then the Q&A that follows – I’m going to address some of the great questions I received via twitter and email.


Here are some great questions I received post-talk.

What is ‘App Sanding’? (slide 24)

I didn’t speak to that specifically in my talk, which I’m bummed about because clearly it was a bit confusing.

App Sanding means finding places in our customer’s experience that aren’t quite right. These might come up from support emails, or just from poking around.

The example that comes to mind right now is our password reset email. The old language said “Your account has now been reset”.

Account reset? To what? If I received that I would freak out. It’s about finding places that generate a few emails here-and-there, but can cause confusion or add up to a frustrating experience.

When you find things to automate, who does it?

This part really depends on what we’re looking to automate. If it’s something messaging-wise, like a documentation change or an error message, that is normally headed up by the Customer Happiness team. Example: To reduce emails related to failed uploads, we added an Uploads Troubleshooting doc page, and link to it from an uploads failure message in-app.

If it is something more in-depth, for example improving our encoding processes to reduce failures, that is something we’d work with a member of the development team on. Communicating what needs to be done and how much pain it is causing our customers is critical in getting buy-in.

What’s the process for developing a new resource?

First, four steps for developing static content.

  1. Clarify and understand the problem: Make sure you have a good understanding of how the problem manifests itself, who experiences it, and how often.
  2. Identify where current options fall short: If we already have a resource in-place, why isn’t that doing the job? Is it out-of-date, confusing, in the wrong place?
  3. Find a place for it to live: Content must have a consistent presentation spot in order to drive value.
  4. Make it! Start writing / shooting / recording.

Now let’s talk making stuff.

Determine who should be involved – which depends on your situation, and the content that needs to be made. For us, if the content is specific to teaching the customer how to use the app, we can probably run the show.

If the content involves a new web presence, especially one on our marketing site, then we need the marketing team. Either way, we communicate with them constantly, to get their input and make sure we’re on the same page.

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