How Support Should Be

At WordPress, Happiness is Automattic is a lovely read, written by one of Automattic’s the newest Code Wranglers, Jason Munro. He nailed it when he described the Happiness Team—they have the opposite of a “not my problem” attitude, infectious helpfulness makes you want to find disgruntled users and turn them around, and there’s a culture of courtesy and respect. Putting all of that together is no easy task.

“To date I have not once heard an employee disrespect or disparage a user, even in private.” —Jason

It’s all true! If you work in customer service, you should read Jason’s post because it’s inspiring. I started working as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, and I’ve since moved to Team Custom. When I was on the Happiness Team, I liked to tell any resident Happiness Engineer faced with a difficult help request to stop and think about how it should be handled… once they replied, I would pause for a minute and then say, “do that.”

Adding to Jason’s description, I’d say empowerment and empathy are major factors of Automattic’s Happiness tour—a three-week support rotation every employee completes when they start.

In customer service, I think real empowerment is rare—but it’s also harder to receive. It means you have to make decisions, and then own them. You can’t rely on “policies” or pointing to what so-and-so told you to do. Sometimes, you just have to figure stuff out for yourself. That kind of thinking will also make you a better developer. It’s harder but more rewarding. Automattic takes it a step further though and backs you up on your decision. Feeling supported while doing support is a really good thing.

Empathy is the last, and probably most important, benefit of the tour. A lot of companies talk about (or maybe they just like the idea of) user-centered design or user-driven development, but they don’t actually do it and they don’t really get to know the users. Automattic does, and knowing how another human being feels while working with the things you build is absolutely invaluable.

Happiness Engineers at Atuomattic round out their repertoire with patience and grace, and I can’t imagine working any other way in customer service would keep me as happy.