Ginger cat sleeping on a desk under a keyboard.

Engineering Happiness in Public Support Channels

Have you ever desperately looked for support and ended up on a company’s Facebook page? Have you ever tweeted at the brand you really love? What about the one that you can’t stand? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on the other side?

My name is Oliwia and I’m one of the Happiness Engineers from a team called Chiron. We take care of the WordPress.com forums and reply to users on our social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I live with several cats and they are all very invested in my work. I don’t always allow them to write my replies but, as you can see in the photo above, Kluska loves to be involved in any way she can.

Let’s get back to Chiron. What’s special about our team is that everything that we do is public. There are no emails or private chat – you can see how we work visiting the support forums, Facebook, or Twitter pages for all Automattic products.

We’re a small team spread across the globe – that allows us almost a 24h coverage of our social channels. That’s why it doesn’t matter if you reach to us at 6 am or at midnight, someone will get back to you soon. This, however, can sometimes pose a challenge. Like when we have to choose the time for a team call. While some of us have only just woken up and are drinking their morning coffee, other are at the end of their work day and getting ready to have dinner.

Working on the WordPress.com support forums takes a big chunk of our day. We make sure that all users who need our help get it. That includes reviewing and moderating all threads, while also manually checking our spam queues to make sure there are no legitimate support threads that got caught by our Spam filter. (Here’s an example of an interaction on the forums.)

We have a bunch of great volunteers on the forums. They make our work easier by helping fellow users get the best out of their WordPress.com sites. Some volunteers are people interested in applying for the Happiness Engineer role and are building their customer support experience. Our team makes sure that the volunteers are informed about any important changes or new features using private P2s sites.

While replying to forum threads is pretty straightforward, Social Media is a whole different world. To be able to manage all of our social channels (there’s almost 20 on Twitter alone), we use a tool called Agorapulse. That way we can see everything in one place instead of manually logging in and out of every account. Whew! (Here’s an example of helping a customer on Twitter.)

Every day we see hundreds of forum threads, private messages, Tweets, comments, but not all of them are related to our products or websites in general. Some are funny, like spammy messages about joining the Illuminati, or using black magic to punish an unfaithful spouse (yes, we really get these). If you’ve used social media, you know that people aren’t shy about airing their frustrations with vendors in public. People can behave downright rudely when they’re experiencing problems with a product.

But even in those cases, it’s important to try to focus on what we can do rather than on things we have no control over. We want to help everybody have a good experience with our products no matter how they reach out to us. Since Twitter limits the number of characters we can use, it can be challenging to keep these kinds of conversations there, so sometimes we do redirect people to our official support channels, where we can answer complex questions more effectively and help them move forward.

It can feel really good to help an angry customer who comes to us feeling like this:

so that they walk away feeling a lot more like this:

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