Something remarkable has been happening in Magento's Support area. In the span of a few short months, the team has tripled its size, revamped its processes, and crushed their benchmarks for addressing customer issues quickly and effectively. We sat down with the head of Magento Support, Paul Wallace, to get the recipe for the Support team's secret sauce.
Baruch Toledano: Paul, it seems like each time we talk, you have some new data that quantifies the Support team's momentum. What do you have for us today?
Paul Wallace: Actually, I just compared some data from May 2011 with the same period last year. Thanks to the growth of our Enterprise Edition customer base, the number of support tickets is up 300% vs. a year ago.
BT: And how has your team dealt with this explosive growth in demand?PW: My first answer to that is "incredibly well!" Even as demand for support services has surged, we have dramatically improved our performance across every key metric. For example, in just the past 5 months, we achieved a 40% reduction in average time to resolution, and a 90% increase in first call resolution for Enterprise Edition customers. Simply put, customers are getting their issues resolved in significantly less time, with almost twice as many of them resolving their issue on the very first call.
BT: Now that you've told us how well the team did, can you tell us how they did it?PW: It's all about blocking and tackling. We have great people, we provide them with the right training, and we nurture a culture that's focused on doing the right thing for customers. It helps that we communicate effectively with our colleagues in product development, the Customer Success Group and Sales, and that we have metrics in place to help us continually evaluate our performance and aim higher.
BT: How did the introduction of Magento Go back in February impact Magento Support? Is it difficult for your team members to support two such distinct products as Magento Go and Magento Enterprise Edition?PW: We have dedicated teams for each product, so our Support Specialists focus on one product or the other. Personally, I enjoy the fact that we get to work with such a broad range of businesses, from huge enterprises to sole proprietors. In terms of supporting Magento Go, we've gotten great feedback from merchants. Many of them are brand new to this space, and they are delighted by the simplicity of this solution, and the availability of support to help them get past any issues.
BT: Can you talk about the evolution of Magento's support for the Enterprise Edition?PW: There's no question that the quality and consistency of our support efforts have evolved over time. This is still a very young company; the Enterprise Edition is barely 3 years old. By necessity, product development was our #1 focus as the platform first hit the market. As our sales started to take off, the organization had to play a bit of catch up when it came to support.
BT: So there were customers whose support needs weren't being adequately met.PW: It's fair to say that initially, Magento wasn't as prepared to meet our all of our customers' support needs as well as we would have liked. It's not unusual for new software companies to play catch up when it comes to support. And given the explosive growth of our platform, we had a lot of catching up to do. So to answer your question, yes, we had some frustrated customers in those early days. But to their credit, Roy and the leadership team recognized the issue early on and took action.
BT: One of those actions was hiring you.PW: Yes. And one of the things that drew me to the organization was their sense of clarity about what needed to be done. They had built this amazing platform, had attracted a world-class group of customers, partners and developers, and were committed to doing whatever was necessary to help the Support team meet the needs of customers. I made it clear during the interview process that significant investments would be needed in staffing and in systems. Their attitude was "draw up the plan and let's make it happen." They have been completely supportive of our team's growth.
BT: And, I imagine, thrilled with the results you've been producing.PW: Let's just say we all agree that we're moving in the right direction. But we don't have time to pat ourselves on the back, because there's still so much to be done. Around here, positive results are just an incentive to keep pushing forward.
BT: And what are your plans for moving the Support team forward?PW: Now that our support processes and systems are well established, our number one focus is staying ahead of the growth curve. We have enough experience to know how much staff we'll need to support the Sales team's growth forecast. So even though we've tripled the size of our support team in the past year, we're still not done building our team. We have a new hire starting this week, another starting next week, and four positions that we'll be filling in the weeks ahead.
BT: I understand that members of the Sales team have been dragging you into customer presentations lately. What's that about?PW: A number of our sales people have seen the dramatic improvements that we've made in Support over the past year, and they want to make sure that prospective customers understand what we are able to offer them in terms of support. And I guess it's helping them close deals, or they wouldn't keep inviting me back into the calls!
BT: What message do you deliver in these conversations?PW: Besides sharing some of the growth metrics I mentioned earlier, I talk about the evolution in the depth of our support. For example, a year ago, if a customer was having an issue with a 3rd party customization or extension, there wasn't much we could do for them. We simply weren't in a position to provide meaningful troubleshooting on their customizations. In an open-source environment, where the vast majority of customers are customizing their stores, that's not a customer-friendly stance, and it had to change. Today, we have the bandwidth and expertise to help customers pinpoint problems they may have with their customizations and extensions. By pinpointing the issues – sometimes down to the specific code snippet – we dramatically simplify the process of fixing the problem. Customers love this, because it takes the fear out of the customization process. And sales people love it because customers love it!
BT: Which leads to more customers and more work for the Support team.PW: Hey, that's why we're here. I say bring it on!
BT: I'm sure we will. Paul, thanks again for sharing your insights on Magento Support.PW: Always a pleasure!