Under The Microscope

Increasing The Truck Number

Smash!Today we present a brief look inside Rogue Amoeba’s fabled Support Department. If you were playing close attention, and I hope you weren’t, you would have noticed that our Support section was updated yesterday. We’ve added a Knowledge Base which will shortly supplant our FAQs, and we’ve linked to the PDF downloads of our manuals along with the developmental builds of our software. The whole support area is now searchable as well.

All in all, it’s a nice update, but this isn’t a monumental change for users. We’ll still take all support requests via email, and strive to handle them rapidly and responsively within 24 hours. The big difference is on the backend. Our support department will now be run on top of eSupport 3, a support package from Kayako.

Up until now, our support has been primarily handled by one man – me. To be clear, I had assistance from everyone else at Rogue Amoeba, but the majority of issues were simple and those were read, analyzed, and handled by me. That meant that our Truck Number was at, well, 11. If I got hit by a truck2, support would be pretty well screwed, at least until the emails could be re-routed. Even then, the database of old emails would be lost, and no one would be properly trained or experienced to handle all the issues.

Since we opened our doors over 3 years ago, I received all email (totaling tens of thousands of emails) to our support addresses, via POP and into my email client PowerMail. Emails were then handled on a first-come, first-serve basis, 7 days a week, at any hour I had time. This meant that customers got rapid responses even on the weekends, which is very good for sales. But it also meant I never got a day off. As our downloads grew, so did our support mail burden. Hell, even my vacations involved a laptop and (hopefully) wireless internet, or heaven forfend, dial-up. The horrors!

With eSupport, emails are now funneled into a ticketing system. For the moment, I’m still the only one handling the majority of these tickets, but shortly, we’ll have at least one support tech working with me. Previously, when I needed assistance with a ticket, I would forward it to one of our main programmers and he would reply back to me, or I would redirect it to him, and he would handle it directly. This worked, but had all sorts of lag and potential for lost emails. Tickets, on the other hand, can be rapidly passed back and forth, and it becomes quite clear when one is overdue.

In the future, we may also take advantage of auto-responding to point customers towards potential fixes even faster, or even the real-time suggestions that are possible with the web-based ticket submission. For now, hopefully the support section will help users find answers faster. On our end, we’ll be able to increase that truck number a bit.

1 There’s always debate on how the “Truck Number” should be defined. I prefer this definition, from Truck Number Fixed:

“The TruckNumber is the size of the smallest set of people in a project such that, if all of them got hit by a truck, the project would be in trouble. Thus, a low TruckNumber is bad (1 being the worst), and a high TruckNumber is good (equal to the number of people on the team being the best).” Back

2 Those who know me will know that this is perhaps more likely for me than others. In the past 8 months, I’ve been involved in two different car crashes, both involving cars crossing a highway median at speed and neither being my fault. I walked away from both, but come on, how long can my luck last?

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