Support Experience Management

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been having an issue with our home wifi router crashing every few days. It wasn’t annoying enough to deal with because a quick reboot cleared things up and everything went back to normal for a while. Last night things came to a head when the kid’s 100th streaming of The Lego Movie repeatedly *gasp* dropped out.

I set off to fix this issue “once and for all” and immediately spent about an hour searching the internet for a solution. Quickly I made my way through a handful of banal and generic FAQs, all of the stale support site content I could digest and ultimately found myself elbow deep in the morass of dense community forums. After spending too much time paging through all of the “me too” responses and “close but no cigar” solutions, I finally gave in and called tech support to resolve my issues.

The call was a fairly typical one and as an experienced support adventurer, I deftly made my way through the 9 levels of IVR hell. Avoiding the dead ends, infinite loops and pitfalls designed to trip me up and send me back to the web at every turn. As a reward for my bravery and agility, I was granted a 15 minute wait on hold with some killer 80s synth pop which is clearly intended to melt my brain and make me forget why I was calling in the first place.

Once I finally reached an agent, I was exhausted, only to find that I needed to retrace ALL OF THE STEPS I went through online for the agent. My support journey, to this point, was completely stateless and the agent had to repeat many of the same steps to try and resolve my issue. At about 90 minutes into our journey, I say our journey because we’re both in it to win it at this point, we finally had a breakthrough and roughly 15 minutes later we had rolled back the firmware that had caused my problem. Bam! Problem solved.

Improving The Support Journey

My recent experience is emblematic of problems that exist across the support ecosystem and affect companies of all sizes. Don’t get me wrong, at ANSWR, we love tech support agents but also realize that the entire support journey can be a broken and fractured experience for both the consumer and the agent. This void, at the intersection of support and customer experience, is what drove us to create ANSWR.

By empowering consumers to help themselves and enabling better agent support through data, we can bridge the gaps in the support journey together. By making the support journey stateful and automating improvements to the process, we break down the barriers that create a stressful experience. By focusing on reducing customer support effort we increase customer and agent success.

These are the things that we are passionate about and drive us to improve the support journey everyday. Not just for the consumers but for the agents as well.

 

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Support Experience Management

The ANSWR for technical debt

vintage-grey-airplane-plane

It’s officially safe to say, we live in a Post-Agile World. Though we fully realize that software developers will likely read that with a shrug because (a) most of us have been shipping software in real-time for years and (b) we really don’t have time to argue because there’s another release coming up.

Continuous development gives companies the option to release code every week, or even every day. And while this capability has given rise to some amazing technology advances, it also has some unintended consequences. The concept of the Minimum Viable Product has led to build-as-you-go-development, where we work to make solutions that are just (and only just) as thorough as possible.

In fact, today, MVP should probably stand for Most Viable Product. We run fast and push functionality first, spec’ing and planning on the fly, cutting corners where we can and architecting as we go. We’re all building planes as we land them.

But, in fact, what we’re flying is often just a pile of technical debt.

Look, we’re not judging. We’re right there with you. When it comes down to building it well or building it fast, fast will pretty much always win. Great programmers know when to cut corners—clicking over to GitHub or Stack Overflow to hunt for best practices that we can build upon to keep things moving. Or Googling code snippets that worked well in the past and can be easily modified for your current project.Hunting through chat streams and email to find solutions to problems that have already been solved.

And, along the way, the technical debt mounts. Code suddenly isn’t so elegant anymore. It works…but will it scale? The plane landed…but how many more flights can we make?

Now ask yourself a different question: what if you could buy some time to go back once in a while and fix your technical debt? Or be able to fully understand the code you’re using in order to make the next release work that much better?

That’s where we think ANSWR can help. ANSWR is an instant short cut for search. It’s an elegant way to tag, catalog and annotate your searches on the fly. So let’s say you’re searching Stack Overflow and you find the answer you’re looking for. With ANSWR, you can tag it in your parlance, comment on how you used it—and let others know how you modified it to make it work for you.

Best of all, ANSWR is a simple Chrome extension, so it becomes native to your Google search. (We even have an ANSWR Bot in beta for HipChat, and more on the way.)

It saves you time. It saves your teammates time. And the more time you save, the more you can focus on making your code great. Or…okay, who are we kidding…the more time you can spend releasing even more than before. <sigh>

So give ANSWR a try. Because, chances are, your next plane has been cleared to land and you’ve probably got a lot of building left to do.

 

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The ANSWR for technical debt

If you’re searching, you’re probably shaving the yak.

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The more you code, the more you search. It’s just a fact of life. There’s no way any programmer has time to write every line of code herself, so all we hit the Google bar and begin hunting for the code we need to get the job done a bit quicker.

But quicker isn’t always…well, quicker. One search often leads to another which leads to a chat board that leads to a threaded discussion and so forth and so on and pretty soon you’re shaving a yak trying to figure out where the last 60 minutes of your life went.

Hold on…doing what? Yak shaving is one of those terms that, on the surface, makes no sense whatsoever. But it conjures such a bizarre image that, once you understand its meaning, you’ll recognize it just about everywhere you go.

How does one shave a yak?

One of the most cited definitions comes from The Jargon File, courtesy of Eric S. Raymond:

Yak shaving is…any seemingly pointless activity which is actually necessary to solve a problem which solves a problem which, several levels of recursion later, solves the real problem you’re working on.

The entry refers to what may be the seminal definition by Carlin J. Vieri, Ph.D., described in an email from Jeremy H. Brown to his colleagues in the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab back in 2000.

Yak shaving is what you are doing when you’re doing some stupid, fiddly little task that bears no obvious relationship to what you’re supposed to be working on, but yet a chain of twelve causal relations links what you’re doing to the original meta-task.

The term has been propagated by two blogs, one by Seth Godin and one by Joi Ito, who notes that yak shaving can have some positive effects. But the definition seems to ultimately go back to an episode of Ren & Stimpy. Adam Katz, another alumnus of the MIT AI Lab, wrote:

Though not a regular viewer of Ren and Stimpy, I did see the ‘Yak Shaving Day’ episode and thought it bizarre enough to be the end of a long chain of tasks.”

And then writer Alexandra Samuel offered another bit of etymology on her blog, which effectively boils down to that time of year, every year, when Tibetan villagers realize that their rice harvest could have been be made easier if they shaved their yaks to facilitate rice-paddy bridge crossings.

But if you really want to see what yak shaving is, check out this perfect illustration from an episode of Malcolm in the Middle.

And…there you go. I’m officially shaving the yak about shaving the yak. For programmers, the idea of getting caught up in meta-tasks is all too common. But the very act of realizing you’re doing something just may be the key to salvation.

Finding another ways – or maybe a better razor

In his blog, “Don’t shave that yak – God loves lazy programmers,” Pete Warden noted,

“I swear that the biggest reason I’m a more effective programmer now than when I was 20 is that I’m better at spotting when I’m shaving a yak, and finding another way.”

Like Pete, we found a better way and it became the basis of ANSWR, an elegant Google plug-in that helps you tag, annotate and instantly share your searches. Look, here’s our ANSWR results for yak shaving stories.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 10.54.22 AM

Best of all, friends don’t let friends shave the yak either. Because when your team uses ANSWR, it becomes a instant collaboration platform. One tagged search means others can see what you found useful, comment on it, improve it, or add to it…which helps everyone work more efficiently. And ultimately, that’s what coding should be all about.

 

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Learn more about how ANSWR can help you curate smarter and share better with your team.

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If you’re searching, you’re probably shaving the yak.

Tangled up in code

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Ever read a blog post and, suddenly, as Bob Dylan put it, “every one of those words rang true and burned like glowing coal, pouring off of every page like it was written in my soul from me to you—”?

In a recent post on Code Ahoy, Umer Mansoor asked the question, “Do experienced programmers use Google frequently?” The answer for us — just like Umer — was a resounding yes. Because we are more than guilty. In fact, when he noted that, today, “Google is an essential part of their software development toolkit” we were just about jumping out of our seats.

Why, you may ask? Because, he goes on to write:

“A big reason to use Google is that it is hard to remember all those minor details and nuances especially when you are programming in multiple languages and using dozens of frameworks.”

We’d actually take that one step further. We often find ourselves so tangled up in details and code snippets that we can’t remember the work we did on a project just a few weeks prior. In fact, scenarios like this were one of the main drivers that led us to develop ANSWR.

Have you ever used Google to find your own code?

Lots of people use Google every day. In fact, it’s an essential part of their jobs. But the more you Google code, grab what you need, and get back to work, the harder it is to find that code again when you need it later.

We’ve built ANSWR to be a lightweight Google plug-in that is far more than a simple browser extension. It actually turns Google into a collaboration platform.

Imagine this: You’re locked onto your computer screen, heavily caffeinated and cranking out code when, all of a sudden, you need a quick code snippet to keep you going. You Google it, search, search, search and find it. Then—with one click of the ANSWR icon in your browser bar—you can tag it, highlight it and even annotate it for future use.

Weeks later, you’re working on another problem and need that exact same block of code. You Google it once and it pops right to the top of your search results. Right there in your ANSWRs, like burning coal, pouring off the web page from you to you. And right below it are a bunch of other helpful and related links that your teammates have found since you were last there.

Less searching. More finding. And lots of actual, real-life collaboration along with it…so right back to coding you can go.

 

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Tangled up in code

Making search suck a little less every single day

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We all do different jobs, but lots of those jobs have one thing in common. Every day, millions of us get to work, fire up our computers and, inevitably, we open up Google and start searching.

Now, Google’s awesome. It’s lean, has an efficient interface and is mind-bogglingly powerful. But all that power can actually start to work against you at some point. Ask anyone on a dev team. Or a product support tech. Or anybody who has to do repetitive search over and over and over again. I bet you’ll quickly come to the same conclusion we did…searching seriously sucks.

It sucks time. It sucks resources. It’s practically sucks money right out of your organization.

Here at ANSWR, we spend our time thinking about ways to make search suck a little less every single day. To get rid of the frustration of re-Googling that piece of code you found just the other week. To end the inefficiencies of constantly re-Slacking, re-chatting, re-sending a link again and again. To avoid shaving the sacred yak every time you start a new project, burning hour after hour doing anything and everything except that one task that you started out…wait, what I was I typing?

That accidental sage Homer Simpson once said, “Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.” These days, any coder will tell you that they can totally relate. The pressure to deliver more, to move faster, to push it live is unrelenting—and leaves us wondering, where’s that API documentation again?

At ANSWR, we’re here to make it easy for you to capture, share and re-use search results. We harness that awesome power of Google, and then let teams tag, highlight and annotate their best search discoveries with a single click. We take that knowledge, throw in a little machine learning and data magic, and make it possible to instantly share crowdsourced content every time someone else on your team does a similar search.

Right now, we’re piloting with folks in the software and tech support industries and they love what they can do with ANSWR. Maybe you will too.

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Learn more about how ANSWR can help you curate smarter and share better with your team.

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Making search suck a little less every single day

ANSWR For Teams

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We’re proud to announce the public availability of ANSWR for teams beta!

We all spend a lot of time using Google to research technology solutions, search for code snippets and sift through the recommendations that we find. Even the simple searches for syntax or setup steps can often cause us to waste more time yak shaving than we intended. We know the answer is out there and someone on the team probably has already looked for it, we just don’t know who or where they found it. So I search and you search and we all search.

And it sucks.

Until ANSWR. And now it’s free for small teams!

Here’s how:

  1. Add the ANSWR extension to Chrome and upload any or all of your useful bookmarks
  2. Then with only one click, use ANSWR to bookmark, hashtag and annotate answers, sites and pages.
  3. ANSWR instantly makes these finds available to you and your team and puts them in the place you already are – at the top of the Google search results.

There is so much more to the platform but those are basics that make ANSWR so valuable and easy to use.

At ANSWR we eat our own dogfood and it has made our whole team faster & has made everyone smarter by turning search into a team based knowledge sharing tool. That said, we’re still a small team and would love to help other teams get faster while learning from your expertise and feedback.

Get started, it’s easy:

  • Download ANSWR now and use it for yourself and with your team
  • Share it with your friends who you think could benefit
  • Please let us know what you like and what you don’t or what features you’d like to see next – feedback@answr.com
  • Learn about new features here – Like Firefox support or HipChat and Slack integrations of your knowledge (coming soon!)

So jump on the beta. It helps our team every day and I believe it will really help you.

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Learn more about how ANSWR can help you curate smarter and share better with your team.

Keep up with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

ANSWR For Teams