Office for iPad

Today Microsoft announced the release of their anticipated Office for iPad suite, which includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Speculation around this announcement has been circulating for quite some time, so it’s nice to finally see the release. I imagine this will signal the end of the PC for many Office users, as they’re now able to get everything done with only an iPad.

With the free versions of the apps, you can read your Word documents, view your Excel data and present with PowerPoint. Your documents will look as good as they do on your PC and Mac®, and better than ever on your iPad.  With an Office 365 subscription, you can edit and create new documents with the iPad.

With this release Microsoft is going with a freemium model. Viewing documents you already have is free, but editing them will require an Office 365 subscription, which will cost $99.99/yr or $9.99/month. Offering the apps themselves for free will more than likely increase their app store discoverability, while the in-app purchase model for editing will still provide the revenue stream they need from Office.

I definitely plan on trying the apps out, though I don’t have a need for Office after graduating college. This is a nice move for Microsoft, and one that will keep their Office suite relevant for many people who have long since left their other products behind.

OmniFocus 2 beta is back

I’ve been a fan of OmniFocus for quite some time, and while I’ve strayed away occasionally to try other tools, I always end up coming back to OmniFocus when there’s a new update or feature announcement. The OmniGroup recently announced that the beta for OmniFocus 2 for Mac is being resurrected after several months off. I had the current stable version installed, so I was pleasantly surprised when I updated to see the changes that had been made, the most striking being the new layout and visuals. It appears that they’ve taken some design cues from their recent iOS 7 redesign on the iPhone and brought them to the Mac. Overall I’m a fan, and can’t wait to see the improvements that are coming later, as well as hoping for an iOS 7 updated version of their iPad app.

Writing the Internet You Want to Read

This is something I’ve been hearing lately, especially from Shawn Blanc on his members-only podcast Shawn Today. The Internet is full of writers and blogs each trying to push their ideas or opinions. Many times these writers are writing to make money. This leads to some not-so-great content being published every day. Then there are those of us who are interested in creating good content that people are genuinely interested in. That’s where the idea of writing the Internet you want to read comes in.

I love reading great articles, especially about all things tech related. I also love writing (hopefully) good articles about tech. I’m not in it for the money or fame, I just love the act of publishing my thoughts for others to read and engage with. Discussion is one of my favorite parts about the Internet of today, so hearing from someone who’s read something I’ve written, whether they like it or not, is an awesome feeling. Because of this, I try to write things that I would enjoy reading. If I enjoy something, I think others will too, which in turn means that they will share my writing, just as I try to share other articles I find interesting from other writers.

We all have a voice and thoughts worth sharing, so get out there and write the Internet you want to read.

My Task Management Conundrum

task management

Productivity is something that’s very important to me, so I’m constantly reading and researching the best techniques and apps available to help me stay productive. There are so many methods out there that claim to be the best, that it’s hard to decide which one will actually help you be productive. Sometimes I spend more time thinking about and tweaking my productivity tools than I do actually getting things done. Luckily though, I don’t think I’m the only one who faces that situation regularly. Lately I’ve been re-evaluating my workflow, hopefully for the better.

Up until recently, I had been using OmniFocus as my main task management software. While I still love it and think it’s an amazing app, it’s just a bit too fiddly and complicated for me. With that in mind, I went looking at some other popular apps, and finally landed on Things, which I’ve also used on and off in the past. It offers many of the powerful features that OmniFocus does, but without as many of the options that I seem to often get bogged down in. So far it’s been a nice change, and I’ve found that capturing and sorting my tasks is much faster. I see this as a win since that allows to move on to actually completing tasks rather than spending time sorting them into various projects, contexts, etc… My task list is not usually very long or complicated anyway, so those things are often overkill for me.

Hopefully this switch in tools will help me save time on the front end so I can accomplish more on the back end with my task list. I’m constantly working to refine my workflow, so I would love to hear any suggestions or advice you might have. Hit me up on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

Quick Thoughts on iOS 7.1

So far so good with iOS 7.1. I’ve been very pleased with this latest update to iOS 7. Previously I experienced lots of full iOS crashes and reboots, but this seems to have brought a lot more stability to the platform. It really seems like 7.1 was what should’ve been released at 7.0, but because of time constraints, Apple had to push 7.0 out the door unfinished. The UI changes and stability changes they’ve included really seem like changes that would be made during the beta iteration phases. Some of the changes, like the way the shift and caps lock buttons look now will take some getting used to, but overall I think they’re positive changes.

What do you think of this latest update?

Focus on New Users

Who are arguably the most vital customers your company or product has? Your “new” users. If they don’t feel supported and cared for, it’s not likely that they’ll stick around and spend money on your product. Currently at Automattic, we’re focusing our live chat support efforts on our new users, defined as those users whose accounts are less than 14 days old. We find that those users tend have some questions that we can help them with and achieve a “quick win” to help them get their site set up quickly and move on to using their website for what they intend, rather than getting bogged down in building it.

I think this applies to more than just WordPress.com, it can apply to any product or service. Focus on your new users and the word about your product will spread organically because of the support and level of service you offer to your new users, whether they’ve spent money on your product yet or not. Many products offer “priority” support to paying users. While this is all well and good, maybe we should also consider providing priority support to our new users. If they feel like they can’t get in touch with you for help solving their problem, they’re not going to stick around for long. By doing this, the hope is that these new users will be converted to paying users more quickly. People will pay for things they perceive as important to them, and for things that they feel supported in.

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Customer Support

help-sticky

A few days ago I posted an article detailing the live chat initiative we’re working on at Automattic. One of the big things we’re finding is that the synchronous nature of live chat support is one of the biggest benefits to our customers. I think there are many reasons for this, which I’d like to go into more detail about in hopes that some more teams might consider trying a live chat option for their customer support.

Instant Feedback

This strikes me as the biggest benefit of live chat and other synchronous customer support methods. When corresponding via email, both the support agent and customer could go days without talking, and so a significant amount of time could be spent just reviewing what’s been said previously in order to craft a coherent reply. I understand that many email support interactions can be resolved quickly and with only one or two replies, but there’s always a few that take quite a bit of time and lots of replies. With live chat, we can walk through issues in real-time and walk the user through step by step, with them able to ask questions throughout the process. This usually means that the customer’s issue is resolved by the time the chat is over, which is around 10-15 minutes on average.

Quick Response Time

When contacting support via email, it might be a few hours or even a few days before you get a reply. With live chat, you’re connected almost instantly with an operator who begins assessing your question. In general, faster response times equal happier customers. When a customer is able to minimize the time between first contact and issue resolution, they’re almost always going to rate and speak well of your product and its support, and live chat allows us as customer support agents to accomplish that.

Informal Interaction

From my experience as both an operator and a customer, live chat tends to be a bit more informal than other means of customer support. The quick back and forth seems to bring out the humanness and personality in both parties involved. People tend to respond better in situations where they feel comfortable, and I think this informal-ness lends itself to a more comfortable environment for problem-solving to happen.

What do you think?

Live Chat Support at Automattic

Live Chat Support

I’ve had the opportunity to begin leading a new live chat initiative at Automattic with a few other awesome Happiness Engineers and thought it might be worthwhile to post some thoughts. Live chat support is a big push within Automattic this year as we strive to give our customers the best and fastest method of support possible. We’re starting off slow, but hope to ramp up as the year goes on.

Live chat support is very exciting since it’s an almost immediate way to help users, where as they may have to wait hours or even days in extreme cases to get help via email. As long as there are enough happiness engineers online to handle the volume, users can expect quick response times and fast follow-up replies from those helping them. It’s is also preferable to email because the issue is usually resolved once the chat is finished, whereas email correspondence could take several emails to resolve an issue, often spread over days. In rare cases we may need to follow-up with the user via email if their issue can’t be fixed immediately, but that’s easy enough to do and doesn’t disrupt the flow of incoming chats too much.

The rapid fire nature of live chat support can be a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone adjusts quickly and once they’re up to speed on the tool and feel confident in giving answers, we can all handle 3 or more chats at once with relative ease. It definitely helps to use a tool like TextExpander to have some general replies and links ready to go, but I generally wouldn’t recommend having large blocks of text as snippets since the conversation then begins to lose its informal feel.

All in all, this has been a great experience, and I look forward to expanding it even more as the year goes on. We’re already planning a live chat focused meetup later this year so we can brainstorm how to refine and improve our current setup. If you have questions or comments about what we’re doing, I’d be happy to receive those. The best way to get in touch with me is via Twitter.