The Beginning of Microsoft’s New Outlook

The new Microsoft Outlook is being developed with help from the Acompli team, and Helpshift couldn’t be happier for them. We sat down with Kevin Henrikson (Cofounder of Acompli, Engineering Manager @ Microsoft) to discuss Outlook’s beginnings as Acompli, how he conquered the app store, managed a support team, and provided the excellent experience that got them noticed. His insights are written below.

1. The Beginning of Outlook — Acompli

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Outlook is a mobile app for professionals. Think of your email, calendar, and contacts all recombined together and optimized in a mobile experience. Our vision brings calendar, email, and context into a single app made to help people accomplish tasks. For instance, we provide ways to quickly accept invites, send invites, send files, schedule and move meetings, all from a single place. We have a big focus on speed and allowing professionals to get things done quickly. It’s less about looking at all your emails just to reply or forward, and more about “Hey, I need to take action on this.”

I’ve been doing mobile for a long time. At Outlook we’re 100% focused on mobile. Helpshift has been a core piece of what we’re doing from the beginning. Even before we launched and were in beta as Acompli, we used Helpshift to get feedback from our hundreds of users. You know, friends and family. We could easily diagnose issues, rank what features they wanted, and get opinions on the app in a very scalable way.

It’s pretty straightforward to initialize Helpshift. We’ve expanded it into a larger, more contextual help for Outlook. Quite honestly it was cheaper to set up an FAQ in Helpshift and localize it there, then update it offline after shipping a release. It takes several days to go through an Apple approval process, but since the FAQs are updated in real time, we can drop in new FAQs the minute we see a problem. It’s actually been a huge benefit and time-saver for iterating the app.

2. Conquering the App Store

Once we actually launched and went live in the app store, obviously the scope of customer issues increased radically. Very quickly it became impossible for our small group of people to handle the amount of tickets. We hired a lot of part timers, and began to put all of our email responses into Helpshift. The dashboard handles all the mobile work and also the small amount of email work that we have to do. We could quickly escalate the issues that needed it.

We probably have hundreds of FAQ items for our users. Some are shared across versions, and some of them are platform-specific. We update the questions at least twice a week–either because of a new build, a problem that’s been solved, or a new confusion that’s emerged. We’ve written FAQs that are tied to specific errors. Our FAQs are super important and are becoming the biggest support tool in our app.

We also know, based on breadcrumbs, where a user is coming from. We can see what’s going on and respond intelligently even if they don’t provide all the context. That’s far better than instead having to say ‘Hey, what phone and OS are you using?’ or other basic information questions. The goal now is one response to close the Issue.

One of the cool things Helpshift does is that it allows you to categorize users. As users enjoy the app, we can sort of bucket them based on things like how long they’ve been using it. When a user first comes in we can tag them as ‘New User.’ Very quickly we can focus solutions for those users and make their initial experience even better.

Meanwhile, a power user will also be making feature suggestions, and we can add more weight to that. Both because they have a more informed opinion and also because it’s a priority to make our loyal customers happy as well.

3. Managing a Support Team

We have a large outsourced support team that manages our end user support. I check in with those guys to see if we have a couple leads. I look for what the ticket volume is like, I check out new issues and bugs with our QA team, and I read the customer feedback. We get a lot of feedback not only through our support tool but also through app store reviews and things of that nature.

On a weekly basis we get a summary of the tickets that have been opened and processed throughout the week. Helpshift — from an engineering point of view — is great! We analyze the incoming feedback to see the hotspots of things we should look at in the build. Helpshift gives us the ‘Top 5 things we should be looking at this week.’ We address the biggest concerns of our userbase for both existing users and new users.

It could be a set of bugs or something else particularly troubling. We can dig in fast and provide fixes. Or maybe there’s something in the app that’s not clear and users are confused coming into the app. That’s a job for the FAQ.

Our support people are able to recommend changes to the FAQs and make some changes themselves. They self-solve a lot of problems! If they need help they can escalate it to us with the dashboard. The number of tickets that get escalated is pretty small, though. About 10%. 90% get solved before the second pass.

4. Tips to Delighting the Market

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In Mobile, everyone is used to the “3 dots” when communicating. That iMessage or WhatsApp kind of experience. You know the person is typing and there’s life behind the screen. Helpshift provides that real-time connected environment people have gotten so used to. Now when users are using our app, we provide you instant feedback and real-time chat. All of our users feel they get a live chat experience. Sometimes their issue is a real bug that we need to investigate, but providing a quick answer in itself has been a big change. They are delighted just to get a response quickly.

We also use automations to close out tickets where people haven’t responded. If they don’t respond in 7 days, we send that automation which says ‘Hey, I hope your ticket is resolved. If it isn’t then let us know, and if it is then thanks for using Acompli.’ It makes sure users are happy after each ticket.

Once we turned on the FAQ search feature, it literally dropped the tickets we received by 50%. People just weren’t in the mindset to search. Being able to proactively present FAQ items has allowed us to continue adding better FAQ items for things that fall through. We always wonder ‘How can we provide answers to the user?’ There’s nothing better than being able to help before they even have to ask.

CRM, in the old world, was this sort of asynchronous pass. When people send out an email they expect to get it back at some vague point. Now in mobile it’s real time. It’s great being able to provide a contextual CRM experience. You also get anonymous metadata with what kind of phone they have, the version, the app features they used…all of these things are bundled up for the support agent. We’re able to respond in a much more intelligent way, and users begin to get better answers quicker.

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