src=”https://buffer.com/resources/content/images/2023/01/nasa-dCgbRAQmTQA-unsplash.jpg” alt=”How our Support Team Contributes to Product Launches”>
Buffer is excited to launch a new feature. This is the culmination many hours, sometimes even months, of hard work that went into creating something new. It’s a time of great excitement and celebration. This is also an important time for our Support staff. A product launch can lead to a lot of conversations between customers. We need to be able to quickly handle the volume of tickets, answer any questions about the new feature and channel feedback to the product team that created it.
It can be scary to launch a new feature. Customers are often creative and use our product in unexpected ways. They may ask questions that we don’t know the answers to and make assumptions about our product. They may discover bugs that we didn’t know existed or offer great suggestions for future iterations.
We have developed a process to launch products. This ensures that all the relevant people from support, marketing, and product teams are involved in the planning of the launch. We’ll be sharing some of our preparations for launches so that we can create the best outcome possible for our customers as well as our team.
New feature functionality being reviewed
The Product team regularly shares updates to the product roadmap, which is the outline and timeline for the features that we are planning to develop. This timeline is shared publicly with customers because transparency is one of our most important values.
A Product Manager will prepare a brief that describes the functionality of the feature so that engineers and designers can begin to plan their approach to making it a reality. Customer Advocacy will also be present. We work closely with our customers and hear what features they want to add, or what aspects they would like to improve. To help shape the feature, we can provide valuable insight and suggestions.
Marketing and collaboration
After the product manager has set a date for a new feature’s delivery, the Marketing team starts planning for the launch event. To make sure that potential and existing customers are aware of the launch, we usually want to make it a major event. The Product Marketing Manager will collaborate with the Product team to decide the launch date. The Customer Advocacy team will make sure we have good inbox coverage.
The Product Marketing Manager will begin drafting the communications for the launch. This includes emails, blog posts, and social media content. This will be reviewed by our Customer Advocacy team, which helps us anticipate customer responses. The marketing communications tells the story behind the new feature and the benefits it offers customers.
Test the feature
The design team will often share an internal design prototype, which is an interactive preview of the new feature’s appearance and function. It is a common request that the Customer Advocacy team try it out. This allows us to understand the process and makes suggestions for improvements.
The product is typically ready for testing a week before launch. This is initially internal testing before we invite customers to look at the product. This helps us identify any bugs or problems that we can fix before the launch. Testing will often involve some members of our Customer Advocacy team. Our customers can contact us first for help with questions or troubleshooting problems. Before the product launches, it is important that we have a thorough understanding of it. This will allow us to assist our customers in getting the best out of it.
We have a customer education group within our Customer Advocacy department. From the beginning, they’ll be involved in creating Buffer’s Help Center articles and preparing customer-facing guides. They will also help answer common questions. These resources are often shared in emails and blog posts when a feature is launched. This will include more technical details and the nitty gritty, including any technical limitations or complicated processes. Blog posts and emails tend to focus on the benefits and high-level features of the new feature.
Training the team and updating the internal release guide
Each new feature is described in an Internal Release Guide that we create for Customer Advocacy. It highlights the important-to-knows and details how it works. We might anticipate any questions about future functionality, depending on how customers use it. TikTok Publishing was launched in the beginning without the TikTok API. We used a workaround for sharing scheduled posts to the TikTok App. Direct publishing was something we knew customers would be interested in. We prepared an Internal Release Guide to address this question and provided the context about the limitations and our plans for the future.
The Internal Release Guide is a document that can be used to collect customer feedback via email and messaging. It also includes an area where the Customer Advocacy Team can ask questions. The feedback will be reviewed by the Product Manager and Marketing Manager, who will answer any questions. We use customer feedback and any questions to help us improve our help center articles. It is possible that we didn’t anticipate all the commonly asked questions before they were asked.
You can find a copy of the template that we use in the Internal Release Guide here. You can use the template and make your own modifications – I would love to hear about them! You can find me on Mastodon at @email@example.com
We offer internal training sessions to assist with complicated or significant product changes.
Anticipating inbox volume
We expect an increase in tickets and questions on the support channel when we launch a feature. This is due to marketing messages on social media and email. We aim to double the number of inboxes a day before launch to reduce volume. We’d like to ensure maximum coverage for a major feature launch. We find Tuesdays to be the most productive days for us. We have the best team mates and avoid meetings or syncs that could take us from our inbox.
[ Callout We work a 4-day work week at Buffer. You can see how our Customer Advocacy team works only four days per week, while still providing customer support.
To help you quickly answer your questions, we’ll prepare macros and short snippets that contain pre-written sentences. These are great for sharing the steps required to navigate certain settings. All of these are added to the Internal Release Guide for sharing within the team.
It is a great way for everyone to be kept informed by creating a dedicated channel. This helps to keep everyone informed about the launch, and allows them to easily access any information. Launches are covered by a dedicated Slack channel. We will share important milestones and timings such as:
- Initial rollout to 5 per cent of users (important last-check for any unexpected problems! ),
- Roll out to 100 percent users
- The blog post is now live.
- Launch emails are sent
This is a sneak peak into our #launches channel on Slack.
It is also useful to have one location to point team members to if they need information. The Customer Advocacy team will continue to work in their usual channels, but the Internal Release guide will be used by them as a resource for questions and non-urgent feedback.
There is often excitement when a new feature or product launches. This can lead to many happy customers. Customers may have questions or have trouble. The Customer Advocacy team can help. Our team does everything possible to make sure that they are prepared for all situations. It is important to plan ahead for product launches and how they will go. Our Customer Advocacy team has the best chance of contributing to a successful launch by having a plan and working closely with engineering, marketing, and design teams throughout the entire process. We can always do more to prepare for a launch and take the time to reflect on each one. It is always an learning experience. Here is a summary of our current approach.
- Review the exploration/discovery brief once the product team have mapped out their plans for the new feature. The Customer Advocacy team is able to provide valuable insights and possibly put the product manager in touch with customers who may have great perspectives to offer.
- Examine the design prototypes. These are often our first impressions of the design of the new feature. We can also offer feedback to the design team.
- To describe the features and the “good to know”, create an internal release guide. You can also answer questions and gather feedback.
- After the engineers are done, the Customer Advocacy group conducts thorough testing to ensure that everything is working as it should.
- The Customer Advocacy team should be ready to concentrate on the inbox in a ‘all hands on deck” style. This is both to clear any backlog and to maximize response times.
- Inbox filters can be created to allow marketing and product teams to keep track of responses to launch emails.
- To share the excitement, and keep up with the rollout announcements and rollout, gather the team in a launch Slack channel.
- Check out the Internal Release Guide for feedback and questions. This helps us to improve the Help Center resources for customers and keeps everyone informed.
Buffer’s product and engineering teams have grown in size as well. As our product grows in power, it is essential that we work together to successfully roll out new features or products. Although it is hard work to launch a product, it is worth it when customers use it and get value from it. It’s rewarding to be a part of the Customer Advocacy team and help customers every step of their journey.
How does a product launch look for you? Your stories are welcome! You can reach me via Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally published on Buffer’s customer support blog.
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