Fog Creek

Know the Responsibilities of Your Team

Knowing the current responsibilities of your support team—firstly, maintaining the high level of service you are providing to your customers—is incredibly important. There are few things in support more painful than getting a call from a customer requesting the status of an urgent case, only to realize that their ticket was completely overlooked and hasn’t been touched since last Thursday. Ouch.

After our first post on how we implement customer service, Fog Creek’s Email Workflow, we had several customers ask how we prevent cases from falling through the cracks. For example, if a customer replies to a member of our support team who is now out of the office, how do we make sure the customer gets a timely response?

We have several mechanisms for keeping an eye on cases, but the most notable one is having multiple filters in FogBugz and having someone on the team whose job it is to check those filters periodically.

The Role of the Team Lead

We’ll look at which individual filters we use in a minute, but the key here is to note that we have an individual whose job it is to check these filters to make sure the support machine is humming along smoothly. This lets the other team members focus on the work at hand, namely, solving customers’ problems, without having to worry about management minutiae. Some of the things the Team Lead does:

  • If someone is out of the office, assign their cases to Up for Grabs
  • Make sure Fix it Twice cases actually get fixed (or get “won’t fix”-ed)
  • Make sure Tech Calls don’t get overlooked
  • Help out overloaded support team members
  • Make sure cases don’t become overdue

At Fog Creek, we have a dedicated support team lead, Derrick, who is responsible for these tasks. You could just as easily rotate these responsibilities on a day-to-day basis between various members of your team.

Let’s start by looking at a few of the shared filters we use:

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Filter: Next Due Cases

The Next Due Cases filter is the most important filter for our support team because it represents our commitment to respond to all incoming inquiries within one business day. As such, it gets checked more frequently to make sure we’re responding to customers in a timely fashion.

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Another import use of this filter is looking for fires (firefirefire). If you check this filter first thing in the morning, you might be able to spot common themes, alerting you to a larger issue that needs to be brought to the immediate attention of the engineering team.

Also, since we modified our Inbox workflow so that when a customer emails in, the case gets assigned to the support rep who last sent the email, Derrick will use this filter to re-assign cases to Up for Grabs so that another team member can pick up the case.

Filter: Tech Calls

I blogged about how we schedule tech calls and this filter shows upcoming calls:

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This filter gets checked relatively frequently to make sure that calls aren’t being missed. If a call is still open, but past due, it’s possible that someone just needs to respond with the tftc snippet (thanks for the call) and close the case.

Filter: Fix It Twice

Having an area in FogBugz to dump “fix it twice” cases keeps your support team productive (read the “Fix everything two ways” section of Joel’s Remarkable Customer Service article for more details). Let’s say you get off the phone with a customer, and it’s clear from the nature of her issue that there’s a hole in your documentation. At this point, you could:

  • Fix the documentation now or
  • Make a note to yourself to fix the documentation later

If you’re blazing through your support queue and want to make sure you service all of your customers, you should create a new case in a Fix it Twice area to handle later, once you’ve finished responding to customers (since this fix is important, but not urgent). Here’s a glimpse at our current Fix it Twice filter:

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Derrick will check this filter periodically to make sure it doesn’t just build up over time. He might put an edit in a case to ask when something can get done, at which point the person who opened the case might fix it if he has time or mark the case as “Resolved (Won’t Fix)”. By the way, this is an entirely reasonable action. Sometimes what seems important now doesn’t seem as important after you’ve been away from it for a while.

Filter: Known Issues

Another useful filter we keep around is the Known Issues filter. This is the only one of the shared filters that we have set up in Outline ( outline ) mode. When a new case comes in that matches the known issue, we’ll make it a subcase of the known issue. This allows us to gauge how much of our customer base is being impacted by a particular issue.

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When Derrick looks through this filter, he’ll close Known Issues that have been fixed and if a particular issue is becoming more widespread, he’ll contact the appropriate team lead to see if a fix is on the way.

Filter: Onboarding

An onboarding filter helps you monitor the replies of a new team member so you can offer technical advice, tweak style issues, and in general make sure that onboarding is progressing smoothly.

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The above filter shows all cases edited and resolved by Sonny that are unread (color:blue indicates unread cases). Once Derrick reviews a case, it no longer shows up in this filter (unless, of course, Sonny edits it again) and he can move on to the next case.

Personal Filters

The above filters help to monitor the workload of the entire team, but each individual team member should be using personalized filters. Ideally, when onboarding a new team member, you’ll supply him or her with a few basic filters to get started, expecting the filters to be customized over time.

You’re probably going to want specific filters that represent your major areas of responsibility, but it’s also worthwhile subdividing your My Cases filter to remove unnecessary noise. As someone who works both on the support team and on strategic work for the company, I end up with a My Cases – Queue filter as well as a My Cases – Strategic filter. The latter is simply an inverse of the former. It took me over a year to figure out how I needed to divide the cases—not to mention the search string is incredibly ugly—but it’s worked really well for me.

Filter: My Cases – Queue (Flat)

The My Cases – Queue filter represents any work I would do when I put on my support engineer hat, e.g. incoming emails, tech calls, etc.. Being the end of the support day when I grabbed this screenshot, the filter is a bit bare, but you should get the idea.

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It’s worth noting that I’m using a Flat view instead of an Outline view. This favors working quickly through a list of disparate cases, which is exactly the purpose of a having a Queue filter.

Filter: My Cases – Strategic (Outline)

The queue that represents my strategic work is essentially an inverse of my Queue filter (wrap everything in parentheses and put a “-“ in front of it). The Strategic filter, however, uses an Outline view, which makes it much easier to visually group cases together in a parent/child relationship. When I’m not wearing my support engineer hat, this is the first filter I check to see my current area of responsibility outside of the queue.

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Filters to Meet Your Needs

The filters we have set up work really well for us, but of course they are tailored to our needs. If you are using FogBugz for customer support, you will want to set up filters that give visibility to how well you are servicing your customers as well as the overall health of your support team. Encourage each team member to set up personalized filters that represent their current area of responsibility while simultaneously removing noise. This keeps your team focused and servicing customers effectively.