Fireside Chat With Automattic, the Makers of WordPress

Customer Service4 MIN READJul 29, 2020

Fireside Chat With Automattic, the Makers of WordPress

Are you ready for another Fireside Chat with Klaus and Valentina? We can’t wait to share the next episode with you, featuring one of the largest fully remote companies Automattic - the makers of WordPress.com, WooCommerce, Tumblr, and other Internet giants.

While being one of the biggest players in the tech industry, Automattic is also known for delivering some of the most outstanding customer experiences. Andrea Badgley, Happiness Engineer at Automattic, sheds light on how one of the largest remote support teams in the world can also be one of the best providers of customer service.

Enjoy the full fireside chat and check out the key takeaways about hiring and contracting agents, onboarding new support folks, and managing remote work below.

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  1. Contractors help deliver multilingual support. If you want to deliver localized customer experiences, you need to find support reps who can read, write, and speak in your customers’ native language. Local contractors are definitely one of the easiest ways to start offering multilingual support.
  2. Pair new contractors and employees with a buddy who will help them through the self-guided onboarding training, introduce them to the tools you use, and mentor them as necessary.
  3. Onboarding checklists are given to newcomers, their buddies, and the hiring team. This way everyone can always be sure that the newest folks receive all the necessary information, training, and access to the tools that they need to use.
  4. One quality rubric for all (300+) Happiness Engineers helps maintain a consistent support quality across the company. Automattic uses Klaus to conduct conversation reviews during and after agent onboarding.
  5. Reviewing reviews improves the quality of feedback. Coaching helps reviewers find the right words to say when pointing out other agents’ areas of improvement - like “This is something you’ve done well”, “This is something that could be done better”, “You're on the right track here, maybe add this in next time”.
  6. Giving critical feedback is more difficult than receiving feedback. Andrea’s experience indicates that people find it hard to leave negative comments and ratings because they feel like they’re throwing their colleagues under the bus. That’s why they pay special attention to explaining the reasoning behind peer feedback - reviewers are helping the team by making sure that agents won’t make the same mistakes again and again.
  7. Rating scales feel more comfortable than binary scoring. Automattic’s Happiness Engineers started off by giving thumbs up or down to their peer’s conversations. However, they soon realized that people don’t like giving 👎 to their colleagues, so they switched to a rating scale that allows them to score their peers’ performance in more detail.
  8. Emojis and GIFs replace body language. Since Automattic is a fully remote company, they don’t have the possibility to sense the other person’s emotions through facial expressions or gestures when discussing feedback. Emojis and GIFs are a fun way to replace body language in these interactions.
  9. Job interviews are done entirely in written form because that's the way the new employees and contractors will work in the remote setting. It's a great way to see if the setup is a good fit for both parties.
  10. Most social activities happen at the team level. Automattic’s customer service team is composed of small teams of about 8-16 people. Each of them has their own internal blog, team calls, private Slack channels, and other ways of keeping in touch.
  11. Company-wide watercooler Slack channels help people find like-minded people through topics like #gardening, #cats, and others. That’s a fantastic way to get to know people in your company you’d otherwise rarely talk to.
  12. The Science of Well-being “club” is one of the latest additions to Automattic’s inter-team communication. Everybody is encouraged to participate in this free personal development course available on Coursera to learn how to increase one’s own happiness and build more productive habits. Later, everybody will discuss what they’ve learned and share their experiences in a dedicated channel.

Though Automattic has always been a fully remote company, they also found themselves in a new situation due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As businesses suddenly moved online, their support volumes exploded.

Though they’d seen increases in volumes before, this time they’ve had to face this challenge in a new work environment. Everybody’s work arrangements had changed. Homeschooling kids and sharing the space with family members who also switched to #WFH mode made the situation more challenging than what they’d experienced before. Watch the video above to learn more about how Andrea and her team at Automattic are adjusting to the new challenges they’re facing.

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Fireside Chats with Klaus and Valentina and found some useful ideas on how to improve both the remote experience at your workplace as well as the customer service.

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