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How Buffer’s Happiness Team Translates Customer Emails Into Engineering Team To-dos: The April Happiness Report

Happiness ReportPicture this: It’s your first month on the job as a Customer Happiness Hero. A core piece of your company’s app stops working. And 16 of the 20 team members of the team are on flights across the world.

That’s exactly what happened to our newest two sweet, unsuspecting Happiness Heroes when Buffer stopped shortening links for a few days in April. (Both new heroes have since completed Buffer Bootcamp and come on board despite this. :) Sorry about that, Patrik and Dave! Lesson learned about all traveling at once!)

So, with the all-hands gathering in Cape Town off to an exciting start, the common theme of April was our retreat, travel, and how we managed our emails, tweets, and team communication.

Retreat in Cape Town

Buffer retreat photo

Seven of the eight Happiness Team members—five Happiness Heroes, one Happiness Hacker, and I—were in one timezone. This meant that we could all hit the inboxes together and get it to zero by the end of our day. But this also meant that we didn’t have our usual benefit of being distributed around the globe, being awake whenever our customers are. The effect on our speed stats was noticeable. We completed April with 78 percent of emails answered within six hours, but the two weeks in Cape Town reminded us of the convenience of covering several continents. :)

Despite this, the benefits of meeting face-to-face can’t be overstated. We met our new teammates for the first time, brainstormed challenges and upcoming opportunities as a group, told stories, laughed at ourselves, and even went on an African safari. We find that these work weeks are incredibly beneficial for our team culture, and the gift of visiting a new and distant city gives us powerful new perspective and gratitude.

Here’s more on why we go on retreats, from Joel.

We haven’t quite figured out how to avoid this dip in response times when we’re all together. I’d love to hear from other remote teams on this!

How our Product and Happiness teams keep in touch

Buffer Product Happiness Trello

We’ve continually iterated on our process for tracking bugs and areas of confusion. I’d love to share our current process in case it might be helpful to you. :)

For all bug reports from customers, we use Trello. We have a “bug board,” and each new bug gets a card on the bug board. With every new instance of the bug, we comment on the card with the link to the Help Scout email or Sparkcentral conversation.

Trello has a cool feature called “card aging.” This helps us see which cards are still active, while the older ones that don’t bother customers anymore fade to the background.

The bug board is meant to be a “quick and dirty” process. We want our Happiness Heroes to have a simple and fast way to report it, without taking too much time away from the customer conversation. This can occasionally result in the same bug getting reported in a different way on two different cards.

So, we have a Bug Czar, who keeps watch over the bug board. Adam consolidates duplicate cards, keeps a close watch on trends, and reports the key bugs to our product manager each Friday. This requires extensive organization on Adam’s part, and also some judgement calls. Some bugs have affected fewer customers but are complete blockers. Others are smaller, and don’t prevent customers from doing what they need to do, but annoy a great number of people. Adam makes the call on these and prioritizes accordingly.

Brian takes this information and incorporates the high priority bugs into the developers’ schedules for the following week.

Of course, this process only works if you have an empathetic and interested product team. We are very lucky that customer happiness is baked into every role and personality on the team, so customer feedback is the top influencer for Brian and the product team.

Happiness Dashboard

Help Scout Tags

Colin, Buffer’s “Happiness Engineer,” built a beautiful dashboard for the Happiness Team in April. It’s a work in progress, but we’d love for you to take a look here and share your thoughts, especially if you track different metrics. :)

View the dashboard at

Right now, this serves as an at-a-glance update on how we’re doing this week or month, as well as which areas of the app need the most attention from our product and engineering teams. Colin continues to add to it, and it’s shaping up to be a real-time “state of customer happiness” at Buffer. Of course, it’ll always be totally public, so drop by anytime! The data should be accurate from May 1 on. :)

New Community Champion

Buffer notes

We’re so excited to have our brand new community champion kicking off Buffer Bootcamp. She’s dedicating time to our social presence on places like Pinterest, planning meetups (like our first in Chicago), and delivering happiness by mailing t-shirts to a few Buffer fans as a thank you for spreading the word, finding a bug, or otherwise helping us improve. We feel the customer happiness difference already, and we look forward to growing this team to spread the #Bufferlove even further.


We had a huge glitch in our application form in April, causing us to lose a great number of applications. I’m so sorry to anyone who experienced this. :( We emailed everyone who applied during this time, and we’re hopeful that we’ll hear back from everyone who reached out.

In the days before and after, we received 393 applications (54 Hero, 84 Warrior, 217 Champion, and 37 Specialist). We’ve temporarily paused applications for now, but we’ll be opening these back up soon.

Two Heroes finished Bootcamp and came on board full time! Welcome, Patrik and Dave! And we made an offer to an additional Happiness Hero who has started Bootcamp.

Over to you

Thanks for reading! I’d be so interested to hear how you handle these or other challenges, or if we can answer any questions! We’d love to hear from you. :)

  • Props to Adam for being the Bug Czar! I am a Quality Assurance Analyst so I know all about maintaining a bug database, keeping an eye out for duplicates, and having to make judgement calls for prioritizing! :)

    Just a heads up, the #BufferLove link is trying to take me to a Hackpad page that requires me to sign in (which it will not allow me to do).

    • carokopp

      Thanks so much for the heads up on this, Laura! Really appreciate you catching that one! :)

  • erinchampwalker

    Thank you! – think you lost more than that though ;) Applied three times, emailed twice, Twitter direct message twice. No reply. Ha maybe I’m just trying to hard.

    • carokopp

      Oh no, so sorry Erin. :( I am dreadfully behind on hiring. I know it must be awful to apply and not hear back. I don’t feel good at all that I made you feel that way. Hope to get back on top of hiring in the next couple of weeks!

      • Tschaka

        Gosh, you sound busy Carolyn! Are you using any apps to help you with the hiring process?

        I note that allows you to input candidates from various sources such as email or folders. There’s also the ability to customise the stages you need to go through to complete the recruitment process.

        If it featured my own application in shining lights it would be perfect ;)

  • Daniel Gdowski

    Wow, that Happiness Chart is made up of pure awesome. Super useful with tagged fields and timed ranges. Too cool!

    • carokopp

      Thanks Daniel! Colin is a hero indeed. :)

  • Thanks for being willing to give us such candid insight into your challenging month Carolyn! :) It looks like Murphy’s Law attempted to buffer your retreat (and your month!) but you all handled it quite well. Kudos to you all for a job well done!

    • carokopp

      Oh wow, thanks so much for saying so, Thea! :)

  • The “bug board” is seriously cool, what a great way to keep track of things like what hiccups affect users! Also, kudos to Adam for keeping so on top of it. No wonder the emoticon that shows how Buffer currently feels looks so darn happy! Thanks for the peek into how your team rises to the challenges that come up and continue to keep us users (and hopeful future Buffer team members) feeling the #BufferLove. :)

    (PS – The #BufferLove link in the post leads to a Login/Signup page on Hackpad. Now I’m only more curious to find out where it’s really meant to go! :)

    • carokopp

      Thanks so much for your interest, Natasha! Whoops, so sorry, didn’t mean to include that link! :) Meant to share that for the internal version of this. :) It is just a hackpad list of folks who Nicole is planning on sending notes / stickers too. :)

  • I love all the dashboards you have! Awesomeness.

  • Andrea Glass

    Perhaps you could do rotations where one key member of each team and/or time zone stays behind and then perhaps one member of each team that went on the retreat could make themselves available in case of business emergency.

    • carokopp

      Hi, Andrea! I agree, that seems very wise; I think a few people staying behind (or one going early) is a great idea, and then maybe they can join the team once the first batch has solid internet! :) Great thoughts on this, thank you! :)

      • Andrea Glass

        You’re very welcome! : )

  • Agnes Dadura

    Buffer is Happy now :) The board is really nice! Your response times are great too. Thanks for explaining about the April’s applications problem, that’s reassuring :)

    As for how to deal with the travelling team… how about buffering it? ;) Plan out arrivals/departures in a way that will always have someone from the team with solid access to his/her working computer.

    • carokopp

      Haha, “Buffering it!” That’s so funny and seems like a very good idea. :) I think that’s what we’ll try to do next time; make sure at least a few folks are on solid ground when others are flying. :) Thanks, Agnes!

  • Maybe for longer-haul flights to retreats, you could arrange for a stopover mini-bonding/co-working session for smaller groups of Buffer employees. So the UK, US-East Coast, US-West Coast, South American, etc. employees all headed for the same half-way stopover en route to the final destination for 1-2 days to hang out, work together in the local area and then get to the retreat location afterward. It might be more hectic to plan, but perhaps it could ensure that there’s a little less time that everyone is solidly unreachable in the air and allow for even more team bonding :)

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