Evolving Support

For the past while I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to provide awesome support. While there are many aspects to that question I believe at the most basic level is to ensure you are there. Make it so your users can reach you easily and in a timely manner.

The concept itself is fairly simple, but despite that there is a whole industry which has been constructed around work force and scheduling. In the past I haven’t seen the specialized software and people involved be able to properly cover support without having either a lot of down time or a queue of users waiting to contact support. This could very well be related to the companies I worked with, or call centers in general. I think the answer to the problem is much more straightforward, but that doesn’t mean it is easy.

Businesses are always changing, your users may change and their expectations will undoubtably change. What worked before isn’t always going to keep working. Support needs to stay flexible and be able to adapt in order to provide the best support. The same applies to scheduling.

At Automattic we’re pretty well known for having very flexible schedules. In The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun the inside cover of the book mentions “There are no schedules, few meetings, and fewer rules.” That was likely the case when the company was smaller, but not 100% accurate today, especially in support. This quote from the book is more true though when it comes to schedules, “About a third of the company had children, and working remotely helped them manage the logistical challenges of raising children. Much like college students, they could be free to arrange their work schedules to fit their lives rather than constantly struggling with the pull of one against another.”

While we Happiness Engineers still get to choose our schedule to fit our lives, the reality in providing 24 hour support for our users dictates there is now a need for us to be flexible in when we choose to schedule ourselves. Even if it might not be our first choice for hours, if there is time which is under scheduled, we need to bend and fill in that area. Our job is to best support our users, so scheduling ourselves for best coverage is part of our jobs. We don’t ask anyone to work crazy hours, that is part of the benefit of having co-workers across the globe. For the most part we have people who are available to work in normal times for them which could be the middle of the night for me.

Our goal is to actually over staff our live chat coverage so that there is no queue and there is always a Happiness Engineer available. This goes along with what I mentioned earlier about call centers. If you overstaff it means there is down time. Luckily for us live chat isn’t the only way users contact us. So if chat is slow through communication and flexibility we can switch gears a little and reply to email tickets or help out in our public support forums.

This isn’t something we’ve perfected yet, but the goal we are working towards. It also isn’t the way things have always been done, but as our business evolves the way we approach and handle support has to move with it.

How to traumatize your child

Today I’m fairly certain I traumatized Caile. For the past few days she has not been feeling well. Picked up a bug which was going around.

Everyone else in the house has been busy and that left Caile and I at home alone. She relaxed and tried to get feeling better when I worked. She’s come along way and is feeling much better but we decided today would be the same.

A small glitch though. In the middle of the night I woke up with the same bug she had. So we hung out together being sick. 

While we were watching a movie I felt the urge and made my way out of the room. I was pretty weak and not feeling well as the next thing I knew I could hear Caile crying and asking me if I was alright. She was on the phone with Jen and very scared. Having made it to the bathroom I promptly passed out. It must have been a bit of time as Caile had run down two flights of stairs and then back up before I came to. 

She was pretty freaked out but after assuring both her and Jen I was ok she calmed down. I fee awful for putting her through that. I can only imagine finding your parent lying on the bathroom floor not answering you. Pretty sure my constant apologizing for the rest of the day might be annoying her though. 

Nova Scotia Summer

Nova Scotia Summer

While most summers we take a trip away from home and away from Nova Scotia that is only small part. We still love Nova Scotia and spend lots of time finding things to do here as well. 

We have a really great Muesum system here. There are 28 sites as part of it across the Province. In years past we buy a family annual pass which allows us access to all of them. We haven’t done that this year so far but we may still. 

This year, in partnership with our also awesome library system, they are piloting a Culture Pass. It works like borrowing an eBook from the library. Each library group in the system have so many available and people can borrow one for the specified time and use it to have access to the museums!

Yesterday we tried to borrow one for the first time to go to one of the museums but they happened to be all taken. I have access to two library groups and one has. 200 passes available with 6 people waiting for each and the other had 100 with 2 people waiting for them. Even though j was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to use the pass, it was also very exciting to see it getting so much use. Hopefully everyone borrowing them are visiting museums!

Our local library group also has a Summer Reading Club which I’ve written about before. The kids get to do activities and spend time reading to earn a pass to Upper Clemments Park. This makes another good day trip which we always enjoy as well. 

Today we are off on another day trip to do one of our favourite things and visit relaxing Nova Scotia Beach. Yesterday as part of your day we stopped at one as well. There are so many to choose from but today’s is one of our families top choices each year and we haven’t been yet. A few years back we started making a point of visiting new ones we hadn’t been to yet and I want to do that again soon. 

There are so many things to do and lots which don’t cost much or anything at all for families to do here. How are you spending your summer?

Alarm not working

Once again this morning my alarm seems not to be working. It did go off at 6:00 am but I was already up looking at this view. 

This is our last morning on Hampton Beach and I’m a bit sad. It means vacation is almost over, but I really enjoy this beach. So thankful we get to spend a bit more time here this morning before heading out. 

Boston Day

Yesterday we spent the day touring around Boston with our big clan.

We all met at the Charlestown Navy Yard so we could catch a short ferry ride across the harbor to get a great view of the city. We did this from Hingham last visit and everyone enjoyed it. This one was a lot shorter but also a lot cheaper as well. 

From there we walked up and hung out in the Boston Common and Public Gardens. Such a beautiful area. The frog pond is always a favourite so everyone can splash around a bit and get cool. From there we stopped and had a bit of a picnic lunch in the shade. 

Noah has an affection for swans ever since a few years ago a couple swam up into our yard at a cottage we were renting. This made taking the swan boat ride a much easier decision. It’s a nice relaxing way to get a view of some of the gardens and one of the best parts of my day. 

Later in the afternoon the kids long awaited visit to Legoland was on the schedule. It didn’t disappoint! They were thrilled to be running around playing with Lego and going on the couple rides there. The 4D movie theatre was a hit for some, but the falling rain and snow wasn’t for everyone. 

After a quick late dinner we headed to our next destination. We made it to our hotel on Hampton Beach not long before the fireworks show. It was a little chilly but worth it. The kids, and Jen and I, had no problem falling asleep. 

Drive to Washington DC

Drive to Washington DC

Yesterday was a long driving day. Seems fitting that our odometer would roll over 200,000 KM during the trip. We went through seven states all together to get to our final destination for the next few nights. We started out in Massachusetts, through part of Connecticut, to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and ending up in Maryland. We have some good travelers!

Our route wasn’t the most direct route but we decided to take a stop over in Allentown PA to visit the Da Vinci Science Center. Every vacation we go on we take advantage of our Discovery Centre membership. With the membership we are included in the ASTC Passport Travel Program. This is the Association of Science – Technology Centers. It means that the large number of places included in the program allow us entry using our existing membership for our local centre. The Da Vinci Science Center is one of the ones included on the list and it’s how we found and choose the stop.

As we pulled in and started walking to the door we started looking for the pass. It was no where to be found! We had just renewed it shortly before the trip and it had arrived in the mail about a week ago. Somehow we neglected to bring it with us😦 We called home to get my Father in Law to dig through so we could at least get a picture and see if that would work, but he wasn’t able to find it. We had just had a long part of the drive and didn’t want to continue on so we figured we would just suck it up and pay the admission to go in.

The friendly person at the front desk quoted us about $90 for our family. I asked if she had anyway to lookup ASTC memberships and explained the story. She even tried calling the Discovery Centre to verify but wasn’t able to get through. In the end she said no worries and just let us in on our word! I was blown away and so happy. I was feeling pretty bummed that we would have to spend that much money. She turned my day around very quickly by that simple act of kindness and I am so thankful.

Today we headed into Washington DC. It was a beautiful day even if it was a little hotter than I would like. At one point the temperature in the car was showing 37℃ and with the humidity it felt like around 45. We did a fair amount of walking, my Fitbit is showing at over 16,000 steps, but the kids did great for that as well.

We started out by visiting some of the Memorials we didn’t see last visit, the George Mason, Jefferson, and Roosevelt. They are all impressive and very awesome to see in person. They have a great view across the tidal basin of Washington and the Washington Memorial. Once we were done there we went to the Museum of Natural History as part of the Smithsonian Institute. We had been here last time but Alexandria really wanted to go through the Butterfly Pavilion inside which we skipped last visit, so we decided to do it this time.

From there we headed into Old Town Alexandria. We wandered a bit and ended up at Ben and Jerry’s for the first time. Such good ice cream, but a bit more than we intended to spend. There offer a free trolley ride up and down King Street so we used that as a way to see a bit more of the shops along that street. Even though we didn’t get to spend a huge amount of time it seemed like a beautiful little city, and there was lots more we wanted to do. There is some rain in the forecast so maybe we will make it back for some of the indoor things.

Visit Automattic East

This morning we left our friends house in New Brunswick and continued on with the next part of our vacation. While we were stopped in Bangor Maine I thought a next good stopping point would be Portland, or just outside Portland anyway.

I didn’t plan it in advance but on the drive started messaging people who regularly work out of the Automattic office there. Like the rest of my co-workers everyone I wrote was awesome, but no one was at the office. One of them was willing to let us in though so we could take a look around, but as it turns out just as we pulled in received a message from one of the other people who had just shown up. He gave us the tour and let us look around.

The kids played some foosball and ping pong, but I think their favourite part was looking through the swag!