This is part of a series we’re doing to help people in our community get to know the person behind the chat screen. Say hi to Jeff at @jeff in the chat room. This post is special as it’s not just one day, but two days in two parts of the world.
Hi everyone! My name is Jeff Gardner. I’m the Director of Customer Support at Intercom. Intercom is a fundamentally new way for internet businesses to communicate with customers, personally, at scale. It’s a customer communication platform with a suite of integrated products for every team—including sales, marketing, product, and support.
Me, making dinner for the team at our team offsite on Cape Cod last autumn.
Our mission is to make web business personal so it’s no surprise that we care deeply about the service and support that we give our users. Over the last 4 years I’ve done everything from building software (our first iPhone app), to being the sole customer support person, and most recently growing and enabling our world class support team.
I lead the customer support team from my home in the Italian alps (it’s a long story). Managing a team remotely presents its own unique set of challenges, on the whole though it’s proven a strength since it keeps me from identifying too strongly with either our Dublin or San Francisco office and ensures that I always keep close ties with our remote teammates scattered around the world as well.
Living so far from most of the company does mean that I travel very regularly. Generally I’ll visit Dublin, San Francisco, or both every 6-8 weeks. I thought it might be fun to compare a typical day working from home with one on the road at our amazing San Francisco office.
My adopted home of Prata Camportaccio, Italy
If I’m lucky I’ve gotten more than 6 hours sleep. I don’t normally set an alarm and usually just wait for our oldest to rouse me.
The first hour of the day is spent making and eating breakfast and getting Luca to preschool, which is 150 meters down the street from our house. Making the coffee has become a ritual for Luca and I. He loves the Aeropress.
I’m online and catching up with some of the remote team scattered across Asia, Africa, and Europe. Since Dublin is one hour behind mainland Europe the first hour of the day is relatively quiet, at least in Slack. I use the quiet to deal with email.
I’m a fan of blocking time in my calendar for particular tasks. This morning I’m reviewing and replying to applicants for the various roles we’re looking to fill on the team.
The team leads have largely taken over hiring and interviewing for their individual teams but there are still a few roles that I own and I’m very sensitive to any that we’re having trouble filling.
I think hiring is probably the single most important thing to get right on any team. We’ve spent a lot of time iterating and refining our process. I have a very high degree of trust and confidence that when I or one of my team make an offer to someone we’re doing it for the right reasons.
I mute all my notifications. I’ve got two big tasks for today and both are going to require concentration.
My home office in the attic. It’s quiet and poorly insulated
First, I read through an ad hoc literature review that Curtis, one of our Support Engineers, compiled on the ROI of support. Then I go over the slides that Scott, one of our analysts, has put together based on our own customer data.
It seems like everyone is spinning up a Customer Success team these days but we generally prefer to work from first principles here at Intercom. I’m not convinced that another customer facing team (in addition to ourselves and sales) is the right way for us to go.
After an hour of reading, note taking, and data crunching I re-write a proposal that I’d previously discussed with our leadership team. We’ve a meeting scheduled next week to talk through how we’ll proceed. I also send the proposal along to Tom, the PM of our Support product, because I know he’ll be interested from a broader product level.
Lunch time. My wife is still on maternity leave so I’m lucky enough to have lunch each day with her and our 8 month old son, who is just starting on solid food. It’s a bit of comic relief from the deep thinking.
I check back in with the Dublin team before they head off for lunch. Our Slack channel is full of questions, confirmations, updates on small and large product changes and the odd bot alerting everyone of a new bug opened or an old bug closed. Our product team ships to production between 80 and 100 times a day so it can sometimes feel like the support team is doing engine maintenance on a car while it’s flying down the motorway.
What’s a release schedule?
I’ve just finished my other big task of the day. Adjusting and updating my hiring model, updating our budget tracking software, and sending a few clarifying emails/requests to our finance team for review. I review the model once a week and compare that with our the number of candidates we have applying to try and keep things on track. At this stage, I can forecast our incoming conversation volume to within a few percent. Unfortunately making great hires doesn’t happen quite so readily so it’s important to continually adjust and adapt.
I batch through my email again and check our candidate management software once more. A candidate has gotten back to me with their responses to our initial questionnaire. Their answers look good so I reach out to schedule a phone interview. Then I spend 20 minutes responding to customers in the inbox. Staying close to our customers and close to my team in the trenches is really important to me so I try and spend at least some time each week in the inbox.
The 8 hour time difference between San Francisco and Dublin (and 9 for me in Italy) means the few hours of overlap tend to be crammed with meetings. Today I’m meeting with Leslie, our Director of People Ops.
I quickly scroll back through Slack and chat with a few of the team. I then sign off and close my laptop. I leave my laptop in my home office so I’m not tempted to stay plugged in. A global customer base and team means something is always going on. It’s taken me a long time but I’m slowly getting better about disconnecting properly each evening.
Jetlag only started affecting me a few years ago but after being burned once now I’m careful. I drank a ton of water on my flight over yesterday and went for a long run as soon as I’d checked into my hotel. Taking melatonin helped kickstart my adjustment to the new timezone by letting me sleep properly so I’m up now and feeling well.
After a quick shower I call home and talk to the family. Our oldest, who is 3 years old, loves to see the tall buildings outside the windows whenever I’m in San Francisco. The 8 month old just yells and waves his arms.
A view of the bridge from Lands End. I love linking the major parks on long runs in San Francisco
I’m already in the office. It’s quiet, for now. There are a few other early birds but everyone does their best to maintain the quiet. I grab a bowl of granola and a cup of coffee and sit down with my laptop to catch up with the Dublin team. I take a quick look at the team inbox in Intercom and how many conversations each of the team are working.
After catching up I plow through my email. I view my email inbox as a to do list of sorts. I only read emails that I’m ready to act on and leave anything that needs more thought or input from someone else for later, marking them unread after a quick scan.
Most people arrive around now. Since it’s Monday, we have our weekly all hands meeting. The meeting is broadcast so the entire company can tune in from wherever they happen to be. Each week, there are a few updates and then our CEO, Eoghan, speaks for 20-30 minutes. It’s a great chance to step back and take stock before the start of the week.
Ming, an engineer on our Growth team, presenting
I look over my calendar. When I’m in one of our offices I am booked pretty much start to finish each day.
I use the trips as a chance to meet face to face with other function leads, candidates, and with everyone on my team.
Working remotely has huge advantages, especially in terms of quality of life, but nothing beats face time for pure bandwidth.
My first meeting for today is with Sabrina, the team lead here in SF. We talk about everything from the team, to hiring pipelines, to who she thinks I should make time to talk to while I’m in town.
I dash to my next meeting down the hall with the VP of Sales. There is a gray area between our two teams when it comes to answering product questions in the inbox from leads. Our teams have a great working relationship though so it’s straightened out quickly and we spend the rest of the time discussing a basic sales training session for the support team.
The Intercom product combines what previously took several tools into a single tool and that usually means previously siloed teams and functions end up collaborating a lot more. It’s a brilliant side-effect.
Lunch time. The morning has passed in a blur of back to back meetings but I have many pages of notes and a lot more context than I had when I got here this morning.
Both offices provide a fantastic lunch and dinner each day. It’s great to sit down with a few friends from the early days and catch up or sit with a group of new Intercomrades and make friends.
Back to the meetings. I have a full block of skip level 1:1s scheduled with Sabrina’s team. It’s great to hear more about side projects that everyone is working on and and gather feedback on how Sabrina, the other leads, and myself are doing in the eyes of the team. We always do our best to practice radical candor on the team so very direct feedback is a way of life that we’re all used to.
1:1s finished, I join Sian, our Director of Research, to discuss insights that have come from the tagged conversation data the support team generates. Each and every conversation we have with a customer is tagged. We even have a bot call us out each day when we miss conversations. Among other things the data has been instrumental in allowing us to see patterns in feature requests and UX issues that our customers are having.
I spend half an hour typing up abridged notes from several of my meetings and email those to our customer support email alias. Since the team is so distributed we don’t have any weekly meetings with the entire team. At any given time at least one person is asleep so someone would always be left out. Instead, we focus on asynchronous methods to keep everyone on the same page. Slack works well for lots of things but good old email is hard to beat for updates like these.
Standard issue Intercom notebooks
Dinner. Again I marvel at how nice it is to have a meal ready and waiting.
Tonight I’m having drinks with a few of the growth team that used to be based in Dublin. Each of my trips is so valuable to me that I milk it for all it’s worth. It’s great to catch up, hear some gossip, and talk some shop.