Come With a Blank Slate

Consider these two ways of asking for feedback:

  1. We need to increase our sales numbers. I was thinking of moving Sarah over from Marketing to lead a new team for Q4. What do you think?
  2. We need to increase our sales numbers. How do you think we should do it?

The first option puts a suggestion out on the table. It’s couched in a way that looks like feedback, but it’s really asking for agreement and support. You could phrase it differently as “Moving Sarah over from Marketing is the best move here, right?”

Depending on your relationship with the receiving party, many will just agree with your original suggestion. As a trend, we dislike disagreements and try to avoid them. You’ve given them an easy out.

The first option allows you to check off the box for “Asked for feedback.” The other side didn’t really get to offer any kind of opinion. It’s an example of adding too much value to the conversation.

The second option asks for actual feedback. You’re not imposing some kind of secret agenda on the other side. You ask a question, and then you actually listen to what they have to say.

The hardest part of these conversations is closing your mouth once you’ve asked the question. My internal dialogue: “Ask the question. Then, shut up.”

The Three Forms of Feedback

Identifying the three types of feedback can help you as the feedback giver or receiver.

I’m in the process of reading Thanks for the Feedback, which is the best leadership/professional growth oriented book I’ve read this year. The book focuses on receiving feedback (how to accept criticism, avoid getting defensive, etc), but I’m taking a ton away on the art of giving feedback as well.

I have several posts I want to write that came to mind while reading through the book, but one of the first (and simplest) takeaways was the different forms of feedback that exist. We often think of feedback as this one thing, but the authors point out there are actually three main types of feedback. When giving feedback, it’s important to recognize which type of feedback you’re trying to use and get both parties on the same page.

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How to keep and grow great customer support talent

Imagine a Customer Support team with high turnover and low tenure across the board.

Your customers will only speak to people who haven’t had time or mentorship to become experts. They’ll receive continuous poor service, become frustrated and despite your great product, churn.

I loved reading about how Intercom is encouraging career growth in Support. We’re working on solving the exact same issue over at Automattic.

I particularly appreciated this comment:

Ensure people management is not the only progression path.

I don’t think there’s one right answer to how this should be done across every company, but I think it’s something companies should continue to talk about openly. Support isn’t a stepping stone to another position. It can be a career if you want it to be.

The Irrational User

Alvin Hsia breaks down some of the most popular cognitive biases and how they can play into product development:

Cognitive biases arise when a mental shortcut generates an incomplete or inaccurate judgement.

He references Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, which I would highly recommend. Things like loss aversion and negativity bias (he covers both)are important to think about in terms of user experience.

Pairs well with an old post I wrote: How to use science to make better decisions

Receiving Feedback as a Team Lead

I recently read a pretty kickass article by Mercer on Kayako’s blog, How to Invite and Acknowledge Feedback as a Manager. Feedback is critical to your performance as a lead/manager. Over the past year and a half, I’ve tried to build in more opportunities for team members to give me feedback in a variety of situations (voice vs text, anonymous vs non-anonymous, in-person vs remote).

The article popped into my Pocket at a particularly timely moment. We just completed our third “leadback” survey of the year on Sparta, and I’m in the process of reading through the results and figuring out next steps.

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Hierarchy of Engagement

I recently came across a presentation from Sarah Tavel at Greylock Partners titled The Hierarchy of Engagement. It’s a talk she gave at the Habit Summit. The purpose of the hierarchy is simple:

As companies move up the hierarchy, their products become better, harder to leave, and ultimately create virtuous loops that make the product self-perpetuating.

A photo of the hierarchy of engagement

She provides a great breakdown of each step. I found it very interesting to read and then think about the products we’re building at Automattic.

In particular, I’m thinking more and more about step 2—retaining users. Sarah lays out two elements key to getting users to stick around:

  1. Accruing benefits – The more you use the product, the better it gets.
  2. Mounting Loss – The more you stay with a product, the more you have to lose by leaving.

She uses Evernote and Pinterest as examples of both accruing benefits and mounting loss. Another I would throw in that mix is Spotify. The personalize Spotify with things like custom playlists, the harder it is to switch to another service like Apple Music. I have to believe that “Creating a playlist” is in Spotify’s “Day Zero” strategy.

Our Thanksgiving Day Celebration

Excuse this interruption in the normal leadership and customer service focused posts. We’re celebrating Thanksgiving a few days early this year. Instead of roasting a turkey, we’re actually cooking a pig underground using this guide.


Wherever you’re at and whatever you’re doing, I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving! Back to the regularly scheduled programming tomorrow morning.

Update-here are some shots if you care to know how it turned out.

Day Zero: A new way to define customer success

Day Zero is the minimum set of tasks a user must complete before they realize the full value of your product. Customers that don’t reach Day Zero are more likely to churn because it is harder for them to see success.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about churn recently and how it relates to customer support. This article on the Intercom blog broke down a pretty interesting concept—Day Zero.

The underlying idea is to identify a handful of actions that are crucial to a customer’s success on your product or platform. Once customers complete these actions, they’re much less likely to churn. Once you’ve identified these crucial actions, your goal is to get each new customer to complete them as quickly as possible after signup.

day_zero_inline_01

Photo credit: Intercom

For anyone interested in building products and minimizing churn, I’d highly suggest giving this article a read!

How Can You Make Developers Care About the End-User?

Cover of Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard

I’m in the middle of reading Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard (highly recommend) is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s a really great read about behavior change. A key piece to behavior change as Chip and Dan describe is addressing the two parts of our brain, the Elephant and Rider.

Think of the Elephant as the emotional part of our brain. It’s often look for the quick payoff. The Elephant is impulsive. It’s the part of our brain that rationalizes hitting the snooze button or binge eating ice cream at night.

The Rider is the rationale side of the brain. It’s capable of looking at the pros and cons and sacrificing short-term gratification for long-term gain. The Rider excels at planning beyond the moment. Where as the Elephant is impulsive, the Rider is deliberate.

Compared to our impulsive Elephant, the Rider is relatively small. That’s the problem. In a pinch, when we’re exhausted and driving home from work after a long day, the Elephant can easily overpower the Rider forcing us to drive right past the gym and into the drive-thru at McDonald’s.

What in the world does this have to do with developers and end-users?

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