Category: Work

It’s Good that Data is Man Made

There’s a post from the folks at Highrise that’s been going around Customer Support and Success circles over the last couple of weeks: Data is Man Made, from Chris Gallo.

As someone who writes and speaks about customer support and leveraging data to do customer support better, I’ve had this article dropped to me in at least two Slack channels. Folks get a sense of mirth, I suspect, from needling me with articles and arguments that run contrary to the sorts of things I write about, and try to be persuasive around.

Yes; I will admit that I found this piece hard to swallow at first blush. Opening with…

Here’s a secret from the support team at Highrise. Customer support metrics make us feel icky.

… is a guaranteed burr in my side. Arguing against measurement from emotional premises?

Continue reading “It’s Good that Data is Man Made”

A Civilian at World of Watson Part Two: Business

Back in October I was invited by IBM to attend their World of Watson event in Las Vegas – I wrote a little about it at the time.

Now that I have had some time following the event, I’ve been able to percolate and put my thoughts to paper, as it were. In the interest of you, dear reader, I’m splitting these thoughts into three different posts; Technology, Business and Philosophy. Note that there are no bright lines here: I’m sure to touch on each of the three topics in all three posts.

(I predict #1 and #2 will far outshine #3 in terms of traffic – such is life, friends!)

This post is the second, talking a little bit about Business. You can find my first post, discussing the Technology and my experience of it, here.
Continue reading “A Civilian at World of Watson Part Two: Business”

Research in the Right Order: When to Interview Your Customers

One of the parts of my work that I get the most satisfaction from, and the part that most consistently surprises me, is in listening to our customers.

WordPress.com has a lot of customers. When you are dealing with a B2C company at this scale, it gets to be important not just to learn to listen, but learn to seek information in the right order.

(If you were at my SupConf talk, some of this is going to be very familiar!)

I like to talk to people – it’s part of who I am. I am an unapologetic talk-to-think-er. My most successful side hustle was a thinly-veiled attempt to get incredibly smart and incredibly busy cutting-edge farmers to talk to me. It worked! I interviewed them (and other members of their industry) for over a year. I think the art of the interview is a subtle one, and I’m the sort of person who literally reads books about different types of interviews.

Continue reading “Research in the Right Order: When to Interview Your Customers”

Packing a Conference Bag & Recommended Reading

Or, Packing a Carry On, 2016 Edition

I have a conference coming up next week, so I’m putting together my things, as one does. In prepping for the trip, I figured I’d do another What’s In My Bag post, since things have changed some since January of 2015!

Check it out:

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 8.04.02 PM.png

The last conference I attended was the first-ever SupConf (number two is coming up!) and it illustrated for me the allure and the failure (for me) of one-bag travel. I love the idea – go where you’re headed, have one bag and only one bag. The simplicity! The ease!

On the recommendation of my dear friend Clicky Steve, I went with the Osprey Porter 46 – it’s a great bag! I could backpack using it through all sorts of terrain and terroir for as long as I’d like and it would never let me down. It’s a great recommendation and it will be coming with me on this trip as well – but not as a solo bag.

The problem, for me, is that I don’t want to bring all of my luggage with me from the hotel room to a conference floor. Carrying a 46 liter backpack through a professional setting – it’s not a good look. At SupConf I settled on a reusable grocery bag to shuttle my laptop and conference materials from the AirBNB to the conference – and then promptly stashed it away from sight. I have some impostor syndrome around looking professional, I guess!

OK, so the Osprey Porter 46 will be acting as my clothes-and-sundries bag. Not a problem. That means that this faux-leather Timbuk2 will be doing double duty as my carry-on and my day-carry conference bag.

While it’s true that Automattic provides all of its employees a WordPress branded Timbuk2, and I absolutely adore mine, the lack of an exterior water bottle holder has come to be a consistent irritation on longer days – this bag, which I’ve had since my days as a community organizer for the City of Binghamton, has water bottle holders on both sides.

That means I can have a travel mug of coffee on one side, and a reusable water bottle on the other. What more could I need?

Here’s what’s going in my carry-on and daily-carry conference bag, for a 3-night conference trip with air travel:

1.) This is the bag itself. A quick look at the Timbuk2 website doesn’t look like they’re actively producing them anymore – it has the TSA compliant laptop compartment and notably fewer pockets and zip-ups than my WordPress bag. This will be its first big trip. This is your chance to shine, little buddy.

2.) A little notebook! It’s unlined, a sort of oversized Field Notes notebook. I’m 90% sure my colleague Timmy gave me this for doing QA testing on our new Editor. This is for various travel notes, potential blog posts, sketches, doodles, talk notes, etc. Your classic catch-all.

3.) It’s a Kindle! I left my last one on an airplane. This one, also, is secondhand. It’s full of books! Sort of! I’ll have to find my Kindle light before I leave, it’s not pictured but I would like to bring it – airplane overhead lights are too diffuse, and I always worry I’m keeping my seatmates awake with it on. A nice focused book light is key for late night and early morning flights.

4.) Fitbit Blaze! I did not think I was going to like this as much as I do – the latest update especially has added a few new front-facing templates. Being able to have the screen stay off until I’ve turned my wrist always gives me a sense of “Oh yeah we’re living in the future.” Plus, quantifying my heartrate, etc, is really interesting to see over time. This is the only small device I’m bringing that doesn’t charge using a micro USB charger.

5.) Stickerbombed Anker Powercore battery pack – this thing is seriously a lifesaver, especially in unfamiliar towns where I’m using GPS, wireless data, and other power-sucking functions. I can charge my Galaxy S4 up to six times with this beast!

6.) Karma Go Wifi Hotspot – Certified 100x better than airport wifi. Plus, it creates a wireless network that anyone around you can use, and when they do, you get some additional free data. Being friendly to strangers and getting free data is a nice combination!

7.) Dopp kit! This has toiletries, mints, an eyeglass repair kit, all that sort of stuff. Super handy to have on layovers! Once I get to the hotel this will stay in the hotel bathroom. I could do a whole post on the contents of this bag alone – it’s changed over time and is, I think, a pretty ideal balance of the necessary and the nice to have.

8.) 13″ Macbook Pro. Not pictured: the charger for this.

9.) Another notebook! This one is a slimmer Moleskine, specifically a Bullet Journal! The Doc has been following the format for about a month, and has been raving about it, so I’ve started giving it a try. I’m still undecided!

10.) I AM CRAZY ABOUT THIS THING! It’s a leather travel wallet made by a local company called Samwell Leather – I met them at a craft fair and they were the coolest folks. I’ve been complaining that I needed something like this for travel every time I came home from a trip – it holds a little notebook (how many notebooks do I need?), plus has space for your boarding documents and a pen. I am also the kind of maniac who likes to have hardcopy boarding documents, even with a massive smartphone battery pack.

(I’m skipping the pencils, pens, crayons and pencil sharpener – y’all know what those are, right?)

11.) Backup headphones! These are the in-ear headphones that came with my phone. They work, they fit fine, and they don’t need a battery to operate. They take up nearly no space, so I tuck them into a bag pocket and forget about them until I need them.

12.) These are the same on-ear wireless bluetooth headphones from Outdoor Pursuits that caused such conversation in the last Post! I still like them a lot for travel (since they fold up and don’t have a cord) and they’re holding up to lots of being thrown into and yanked out of bags, which is a good sign!

In addition to getting my bags ready, I’ve been doing a literature review of blog posts and other articles on maximizing my conference experience – I tweeted my way through them, but here are those links if you missed them in the information dump truck that is Twitter:

Five in Five: Looking to the Future

I live in a neat little neighborhood just outside of the city center of my town – it’s not a development, but a little residential pocket with a half-dozen streets, maybe 80 homes?

It’s one of those neighborhoods whose first or second round of homeowners are starting to get a little older, move into apartments or somewhere where it doesn’t get so darn cold in the winter time. As they sell their homes, first time homebuyers and small families are moving in – it’s a neighborhood in transition, and it means that my kiddos, when they’re a little older, will have lots of kids around their age in the neighborhood. It’s a good thing. It’s a nice place to live.

One joke I have with my wife, about our neighborhood, is this: there’s a street hockey goal that’s always in the street where we turn toward home. We’ve never seen anyone actually using it, but it’s always there, rain or shine, spring, summer, fall. We had both noticed it, independently, and once, driving together, I said;

“I figured it out, by the way. It’s not for street hockey – it’s a reminder.”

She looked at me, and nodded.

“It’s a reminder, so when we drive in, when we get home, we say to ourselves, ‘Don’t forget to have a goal.’ ”

We had a chuckle – I’m still working on my Dad Jokes, obviously. But, still, it was the sort of little thing that has stuck with me, and every time I pull into our neighborhood, I see the street hockey goal, and I say to myself, ‘You’ve got to have a goal.’

Especially when you’re working in a job you enjoy, with people you respect, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day ebb and flow of The Work. It’s a small thing to do your work and go to meetings and let the tide carry you in and out of your daily labor. I have been in that type of aimless, do-good-work-and-go-home mindset for some time.

There’s no shame in it: to be ambitious without a clear destination, though, is a recipe for frustration and for burnout. So – I joined a Mastermind group. I got more involved in the broader support / success community. I’ve given it some thought – my need for a goal, I mean – and I’ve decided on this:

I’m going to be in the top five Customer Success professionals working in the SaaS space within the next five years

Or, ‘Five in five.’ Even shorter: 5in5.

Here’s why Customer Success is the right fit for me:

I’m an analyst; I know how to find patterns in behavior, I know how to use the tools of Big Data to identify the best course of action that will reveal real insights. I understand the import of Small Data; I’ve surveyed and interviewed customers across multiple product lines, using a diversity of approaches. I know how to turn all of that research into action and communicate that action clearly – even to busy folks who aren’t interested in statistical significance. 

I’m customer focused; I’ve built my career on finding ways to make the millions of publishers, bloggers, artists and business owners find success at WordPress.com. I understand how customers can provide us information even when we aren’t asking for it. I am keenly aware that while reducing the time it takes for customers to get a reply is important, it’s not as important as reducing and preventing the pain that causes your customers to reach out in the first place.

I am dedicated to leading; I know that I am better for the folks I work with. I know that a diverse collection of perspectives and approaches will always be greater than the sum of its parts. I’ve found great satisfaction and endless opportunities for humility in leading teams, especially remote teams. I’ve written about that an awful lot.

Customer Success is in its infancy; the combination of skills that I have, this weird intersection of analysis, customer experience, and team leadership – it’s not clear how I can leverage this into impact, into creating the most value in the universe. In this way, the fact that the work of Customer Success is still so flexible, without the more rigid history and expectations of something like Customer Support (‘Reduce response times’), it allows me to not only pursue impact – but to create the role, shape what it means to be successful.

The next piece of the puzzle; how do I get there?

Stay tuned!