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Buffer Reports

The December Happiness Report at Buffer: New Focus on Monthly goals and 2013 in Review

I just hit send on the following email to the Buffer team to give them a glimpse into what the Happiness Team worked on and achieved in December!

Hi guys!

December was an awesome month of focused efforts on goals, syncing up as a team and individually a lot more, and some personal bests. Here are the highlights.

1. We launched LiveChat!

On December 18th, we launched “live chat” as our third tool (with Olark). In order to learn as much as possible as fast as possible, we kicked off with no set schedule of how we would manage it and instead decided to just be on Olark as much as possible when we were working. This proved to be extremely fun and motivating. In subsequent weeks, we learned that it often gets “back-burnered” as the third tool when Twitter and Email inboxes are high. For December, we pushed forward with being on whenever possible. The goal for the next few months will be to solidify live chat as our third tool.

With Olark, we notice that we feel more connected to customers, as well as recognizing and triaging bugs faster. We are currently experimenting with how many chats each Happiness Hero can effectively and joyously maintain at one time.

Look forward to having this graph all green! :)



2. Numbers for December

4655 customer helped via email (1% increase from November) 7982 total email replies (16% increase from November)
247 live chat Conversations
5,266 tweets sent (3% increase)
742 job applications

55% of emails received a reply within 1 hour (November was 27%)
78% of emails received a reply within 6 hours (November was 56%)

Of 702 Hively ratings, 96% rated themselves as “happy” after a conversation. (This is a new record for us! November was 94%.)
3% rated themselves satisfied.
1% rated themselves unhappy. (Another record! This is the lowest it has ever been. November was 3%.)

3. Setting Goals

On December 16th, Joel and I set some goals for volume, speed, and “inbox zero” for the Happiness Team.

The goals we set:
60% within 1 hour (we hit 55%)
80% within 6 hours (we hit 78%)

Because we were already halfway through the month, the goals for each of the following two weeks were even higher. Also, since these goals represented a significant improvement over November, it took some major cranking from the Happiness Team, especially with Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve included in there.

The act of setting goals probably gave us some push, here. It was motivating to simply have a specific number to aim for. Additionally, we started much more regular sync ups across the team so we could reflect on how we were doing each day and “month to date,” so that we could iterate when necessary. For example, we declared “code red” on all emails that hadn’t gotten a reply in 6 hours, and decided that we’d need all hands in the inbox when that happens. (That means that the Happiness Heroes would pull out of live chat and Twitter and focus exclusively on email during that time.) We hope to decrease the frequency of these “code red” moments as time goes on. So far, we haven’t seen that being available on live chat decreases email volume, but we would like to eventually get to the point where we are always on live chat, and we don’t have to sacrifice any tool for another.

What we’re aiming for in January:

By setting the goals at the start of the month, we’re hopeful about our ability to improve on our numbers even more.

Goals for January:
65% within 1 hour
85% within 6 hours
1,000 Olark Chats

How do we do this?

In January, we will try be more scheduled about Olark (live chat) and Sparkcentral (Twitter), so that we can improve our ability to provide effective service through these channels.

These goals, coupled with the increasing volume, of course, lead us to hiring. :) We have been extremely lucky to receive many emails from people in the Buffer community who would love to serve our customers as our first “Weekend Warrior” (which is a full-time position that covers weekends as well as 3 week days). We will soon also start looking for another Happiness Hero to cover the European timezone. We’re excited to continue this process to move forward toward finding the right people for these roles. :)

These hires will help cover the current “gaps” in our service. At the moment, despite having an internationally distributed team, we currently only cover 17 hours of the 24 hour weekday (leaving 7 hours unattended), and there is a gap of 44 hours over the weekend when no Happiness Hero is scheduled to work. (That 44 hours is 5pm San Francisco Friday to 8am Sydney Monday.)

These gaps in service cause each US East Coast week day morning and each Australian Monday to be in “catch up” mode, and ultimately doesn’t give customers a very pleasant or consistent experience.

So, hiring Weekend Warriors in several timezones, as well has getting someone in Europe to cover the remaining weekday hours will help us “mind the gap” if you will. :)

Year in review

Tools: In 2013, we added Sparkcentral, Hively, Olark, Trello, Sqwiggle, Hackpad, and an FAQ to our list of daily resources, joining Help Scout as tools that we couldn’t imagine life without.


Volume: Our total replies per month stayed consistent for the first half of 2013, and then started to climb halfway through. October saw our highest volume of the year, due to the hack at the end of that month.


Response Time: We saw a generally decreasing response time throughout the year, and managed to make a massive improvement in December after making it a central focus.

Team changes: We went from a team of 2 to a team of 5 over the course of 2013. This year, I changed roles and moved mostly out of day-to-day support. Åsa also tool on the role of Senior Happiness Hero, and now plays a big role in leadership and hiring decisions.

5. Looking forward to 2014

We have several exciting goals for the next year. We are looking to make more improvements in our email, twitter and live chat volume and speed. In order to do this, we’ll aim to triple our team size, set ambitious personal goals, and (fail and) learn fast. Join us for the ride! :)

  • Love it guys, way to go with the records! I can *happily* say I was one of those customers in December that was helped and very happy after needing your support (uh, hello, I even got a response back on CHRISTMAS!) even though we had to go back and forth a few times to get there. You provide such amazing service and clear instructions to get issues resolved and your customers back in the saddle. I can’t even single out just one team member because I’ve heard a little bit from everyone. Thanks and keep it up!

  • While it’s likely not a problem for a team so dedicated to helping out, I wonder if the focus on amount of responses within a given time might create a ‘perverse incentive’ (

    That is; if the goal is to get as many emails responded to as possible, there’s an incentive to prioritising the ‘easy’ emails – replies to friendly hellos, fixing simple issues, and replies that can easily be form emails. One could easily knock a bunch of those out of the park, and happily get good stats in terms of response speed, while leaving the really meaty, difficult problems, that you know are going to take a while to chew through, on the wayside, filling out the 35% and 15% who don’t meet the 1hr and 6hr goals.

    So, by giving a very sensible goal (‘respond to lots of people quickly’), one creates a potential incentive to avoiding difficult issues. I’ve seen this before, in call centres, where there’s a goal of x minutes per call, it can become habit for agents to hang up when it becomes clear that a phonecall is going to seriously affect their daily average. A goal set to try to help customers ends up hurting the customer.

    As I say, I suspect the Buffer team have a little more integrity than that, but I do wonder whether there is a clearer way to align incentives and goals. Perhaps something as simple as retaining the current timeliness goals, but with the proviso that each email get dealt with in order received?

    That aside, good work! I had the pleasure of dealing with the Happiness team last month, and it’s amazing to see so many others have had a similar experience.

  • Heather YamadaHosley

    Wonderful report, Carolyn! :) Very interesting to see the impact of adding Live Chat, which was a great feature to add to the Happiness Team’s tool box. Very excited to see what lies ahead for Buffer in 2014!

  • Stanil Dobrev

    I love your transparency!
    We can all learn from what you’re doing… especially how you’re making your customers happy!
    Thanks for sharing these stats!

  • Love the emphasis on support goals. Looks like good progress!

  • Stevie Schenk

    I love that you are pushing your goals to be even *more* ambitious in January! Keep up the great work!!

  • Laure Parsons

    Yay! This is an awesome report and I think I even learned something. :) Congrats on all your success!

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