How our support team contributes to product launches

Marketing News Open


Launching a new feature is an exciting time at Buffer. It is the culmination of days, weeks and sometimes even months of work that goes into building something new. There is much excitement and much to celebrate. This is also an important time for our support team. A product launch can generate many conversations with our customers. We want to be ready to handle that ticket volume, quickly answer any questions about any nuance of the new feature, and effectively channel feedback to the product teams that built it.

Introducing a new feature can be a step into the unknown – our customers are creative and will use our product in ways we didn’t expect and ask questions we haven’t prepared answers for. In some edge-case scenarios, they may discover bugs we didn’t know about, or have great suggestions for future iterations of the feature that we can add to our product roadmap.

We have refined a process for working on launches, ensuring that the relevant people from the product, support and marketing teams come together to work on the launch plan. In this post, we’ll share a little about what we do in preparation for launches to create the best possible outcome for our clients and our team.

Review new feature functions

Our product team regularly shares updates to our product roadmap — the outline and timeline of the features we plan to build. Transparency is one of our strongest values, and we share this timeline publicly with clients here.

At an early stage, a product manager will create a design brief that describes the new feature’s functionality so that the engineers and designers can begin planning their approach to bringing it to life. The Customer Advocacy team will also be watching – as the team that works incredibly closely with customers, we hear from our most vocal users about what features they’d like to see us add or what parts of their current workflow they’re looking to improve. We can offer valuable insights and suggestions to help shape the feature.

Collaborate with marketing

Once the product manager sets a delivery date for a new feature, the Marketing team begins to set the wheels in motion for the launch event. We usually want to make a big part of a launch to ensure that as many existing and potential customers learn about it. The Product Marketing Manager will work with the Product team to select the launch date, and the Customer Advocacy team will ensure we have good inbox coverage for the proposed date.

The product marketing manager will begin crafting the messaging for the launch, including the emails, blog posts, and social content. Our Customer Advocacy team may also review this as it helps us anticipate the customer’s response. Beyond the new feature’s functionality, the marketing communication shares the story of why we built it and how it benefits customers.

Test the function

The design team will often share a design prototype internally, an interactive preview of how the new feature will look and function. The Customer Advocacy team is usually keen to try it out. This helps us understand how it works and enables us to make suggestions for any adjustments or changes.

A week or two before launch, the product is usually ready for some testing. Initially it’s internal before we start inviting customers to watch. Testing helps us ensure that the product is of high quality and easy to use before it reaches our customers’ hands. This helps uncover any last-minute bugs or issues that we can fix before launch. Some members of the Customer Advocacy team will usually be involved in testing. We are our customers’ first point of contact when they need help, answer questions and help solve problems. So, we need to have a good understanding of the product before launching it. This way, we will be ready to help our customers get the most out of it.

Creating external resources

Within our Customer Advocacy team, we have a customer education team. They will be involved from an early stage to start creating Buffer’s Help Center articles, prepare customer-facing guides and resources that describe how the feature works to answer common questions. We often share these resources in the emails and blog posts we create when we launch a feature. It will cover more technical details and the nitty-gritty, including any important technical limitations or complex processes. The blog posts and emails often focus more on the high-level features and benefits of the new feature.

Updating the internal release guide and training of team

We create an Internal Release Guide for the Customer Advocacy team for each new feature that describes how it works and highlights things to know, such as plans for future iterations. Depending on how customers use it, some additional functionality may be planned for the future, and we can expect questions about this. For example, when we first launched TikTok publishing, we didn’t have access to the TikTok API for direct publishing, and we used a workaround to share scheduled posts to the TikTok app. We knew customers would ask about the possibility of direct publishing, so we anticipated this question in the Internal Release Guide and shared the context around the limitations and the plans for the future.

The Internal Release Guide is a working document, and includes a space to capture customer feedback from our email and message inboxes and an area for the Customer Advocacy team to ask questions. The product manager and marketing manager will review the feedback and answer any questions that arise. A lot of the time, the customer feedback and questions that come up help us develop our help center articles. We may not have expected that all the frequently asked questions before them would actually be asked frequently!

If you would like to view the template we use for the Internal Release Guide, you can download a copy in .pdf format here. Feel free to use it and adapt it to your needs – I’d love to hear from you if you do! I’m on Mastodon here: @davechapman@mas.to

In addition to the Internal Release Guide, we have internal training sessions for significant or complex product changes.

Expect inbox volume

When we launch a feature, we expect an increase in the volume of questions and tickets on the support channel in response to the marketing communications on email and social media. A day or two before the launch we aim to double the inbox to reduce the volume beforehand. For a significant feature launch, we will aim to maximize team coverage. Tuesdays work well for us, with the highest number if teammates are available, and we’ll avoid any syncs or meetings that would take away from the inbox on these days.

[Callout: We work a four day work week at Buffer. See how our Customer Advocacy team works just four days a week while keeping up customer support.]

We will also prepare macros and snippets containing pre-written sentences and phrases to help us quickly respond to anticipated questions. This works well as a way to consistently share the steps needed to navigate certain settings, for example. These are all added to the Internal Release Guide to share within the team.

Launch day

Creating a dedicated channel for the launch is a great way to keep everyone informed. This helps keep track of what’s happening with the launch and makes it easy for the team to access information about it. We have a dedicated Slack channel for launches, and we’ll share essential milestones and timings, such as:

  • the initial rollout to 5 percent of users (important last check for any unexpected problems!).
  • deployed to 100 percent of users,
  • the blog post is live,
  • introduction email is sent
  • etc…

This screenshot shares just a small taste in our #launches Slack channel:

It’s also handy to have one place to direct team members looking for information. The Customer Advocacy team will work in their regular channels and use the Internal Release guide as a resource to ask questions and share non-urgent feedback.

Summary

When a new product or feature is launched, there is often a lot of excitement, and hopefully a lot of happy customers! The Customer Advocacy team will work with users who have various questions, and some may have concerns or experience problems if there are some unexpected errors or problems. We do our best to ensure that the team is prepared to handle all these situations, and careful planning of product launches makes a huge difference to how things go on the day of the launch and in the days shortly after. Having a plan and working closely with the product, engineering, design and marketing team along the entire journey to bring a product to market gives our Customer Advocacy team the best chance to contribute to a successful launch day. There is always more we can do to prepare for a launch, and we take time to reflect on each one. It’s always a learning experience.
Here is an overview of our current approach:

  • Review the exploration/discovery brief once the product team has laid out their plans for the new feature. At this point, the Customer Advocacy team can provide valuable insights, as well as possibly put the Product Manager directly in touch with customers who may have some great perspectives to share
  • Review the design prototypes. This often gives us our first idea of ​​the look and feel of the new feature and is our chance to offer feedback and perspectives to the design team.
  • Create an internal release guide to describe the features, including the ‘good to know’, and create a space to answer questions and collect feedback.
  • When the engineering team is done, the Customer Advocacy team does thorough testing to make sure everything works as expected
  • Prepare the Customer Advocacy team to focus on the inbox, ‘all hands on deck’ style, both before the launch to clear any inbox backlog, and during the launch to maximize response times
  • Create an inbox filter so that members of the product and marketing teams can track responses to the launch emails
  • Gather the team in a special launch Slack channel on launch day, to share the excitement and follow the launch and announcements
  • Review the feedback and questions raised in the Internal Release Guide. This typically helps us develop the customer facing help center resources as well as keep everyone updated and informed.

As Buffer has grown, so have our product and engineering teams. And as our product becomes more powerful, we need to work together to successfully launch a new product or feature. Launching a new product is a lot of work, but it’s worth it when you see customers using it and getting value from it. And as a Customer Advocacy team, it’s even more satisfying to help them every step of the way.

What does a product launch look like to you? I would love to hear your stories! You can reach me here on Mastodon: @davechapman@mas.to

This post was originally published on Buffer’s customer service blog.



Source link