Pandas: Performing in Public

How we learned to love letting it all hang out…

Happy and Sad Pandas, the last 100 support calls.

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… more silence.

“We could do a survey.” Nope, too onerous for our Customers and if they are ticked off at us, this could make things worse.

“We could call them.” Nope, our Customers are great but they are extremely busy dev/ops folks and programmers. Phone call? Not happening.

We finally 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. Did they? Would they slam us on our own web site? We had no idea. There were some intense discussions. We did it anyway.

The customer’s loved it!

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

“Awesome support. Clear, helpful and very knowledgeable. Thanks again.” from: @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!” From: @Skillable

We got a lot less scared. It was working. We asked our customer’s “Why?” it was simple: they respected that we cared, that we asked, and that we let it all hang out.

Hitting 100%

None of the team expected to ever get to 100% customer satisfaction. We joked about it. “Sure, someday when no one is looking, we’ll nail a few minutes at 100%.” Then it happened. One hundred happy pandas were peering out at us, big smiles, arms up, freaking HAPPY! Then it stayed that way for a while…

Now what!!!???!!!

Who was going to be the first person to let the team down? There was lots of banter and a few bets. It had to happen, the first sad panda hit the screen….

The customer called, actually called, and applogized. “I didn’t really think I would be the only sad panda. Geeesh, I wasn’t that dissatisfied. Could you just fix…” and the team went to work. They fixed whatever the problem was that created the first fall from grace, and they hooted when the sad panda vanished into a sea of happy faces. A team moto emerged:


Learning To Perform In Public

For two years the support team has been performing in public. Most of the time we have 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 novel approaches to customers. We talk to them 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 has 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. Customers like it, a lot.

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