An open letter about staying a step ahead

Dear Application Engineer,

You are here because you are trying to stay a step ahead and you are realizing … wow, this feels hard. It is hard! And like all of life’s wonderful complexities, it is possible to process it and metabolize it until it clicks and makes such deep sense it suddenly feels easy.

Let’s do that!

  • Staying a step ahead means our customers know what you are thinking, what you are intending, what you are wondering.
  • Staying a step ahead means you are leading and our customers are following.
  • Staying a step ahead means our customers feel a deep truth that they are in good hands with you.

Not tangible enough, right? Right!

  • Staying a step ahead means summarizing the current status, giving clear next steps, and setting expectations in every communication.
  • Staying a step ahead means our customers don’t even feel compelled to escalate because they can feel your progress so frequently it never even occurs to them to do so.
  • Staying a step ahead means communicating in a deeply nuanced way that leaves our customers feeling reassured.

Still not quite tangible enough, right? Right!

  • Staying a step ahead means sharing the details to the point where you wonder if you are oversharing, but it won’t feel that way to them because you share the most important details first and then you share all of the context they will also appreciate
  • Staying a step ahead means you hold the truth tight that you are responsible and you freely speak in “I” or “we” so that are customers understand you are the one making this happen (regardless if you need to bring in others, which is always okay to do)
  • Staying a step ahead means you accept the reality that when an issue isn’t resolved in a week, our customers start to get nervous, start to lose faith … and you do something about it. You get ahead of it. You move through our workflow at a quick clip, you help your engineering teammates understand they need to join you on a call, you stay thoughtfully persistent and thoughtfully relentless.
  • Staying a step ahead means you often ask your teammates for help AND then engage engineering within a day or two (it’s okay to move that quick if you need to).
  • Staying a step ahead means if you don’t feel like you are going to resolve an issue within a week, you bring in engineering on day 3 or 4, not week 2.
  • Staying a step ahead means if you are working with engineering and you are not getting it or you don’t feel you can yet help the customer, you ask your engineering teammate to Zoom with you (they will and you will get what you need to help the customer faster!)
  • Staying a step ahead means if you reach a week and the issue isn’t resolved, a call with the customer is probably the best next step to making sure the issue doesn’t drag on for another week or another and it’s okay to ask engineering to join you on those calls and find a time that works for everyone to do the call.

Couple this with the list for how you, as an application engineer, know if you are being successful and you will be unstoppable. This is why it matters to only have 5 active cases – we are going for quality here, folks, and quality takes time and space. To be responsive, reliable, and consistent, you cannot be stretched too thin. If ever you feel overwhelmed or like you cannot show up to honor the depth of what it means to stay a step ahead, simply post in #customer-support-internal these simple words “I am trying to do too much to do it all with quality. I need help.” Your teammates will have your back, your leadership team will support you – we will all work together to ensure every member of the team is set-up for success so we can all stay a step ahead.

This is how we stay a step ahead.