Enterprise support and the term abroad
Delphix customers include top companies across a wide range of industries, most of them executing around the clock. Should a problem arise they require support from Delphix around the clock as well. To serve our customers' needs we've drawn from industry best-practices while recently mixing in an unconventional approach to providing the best possible customer service regardless of when a customer encounters a problem.
There are three common approaches to support: outsourcing, shifts, and "follow the sun". Outsourcing is economical but quality and consistency suffer especially for difficult cases. Asking outstanding engineers to cover undesirable shifts is unappealing. An on-call rotation (shifts "lite") may be more tolerable but can be inadequate -- and stressful -- in a crisis. Hiring a geographically dispersed team -- whose natural work day "follows the sun" -- provides a more durable solution but has its own challenges. Interviewing is tough.
Training is tougher. And maintaining education and consistency across the globe is nearly impossible. Live communication simplifies training. New support engineers learn faster with live -- ideally local -- mentors, experts on a wide range of relevant technologies. The team is more able to stay current on the product and tools by working collaboratively.
In a traditional "follow the sun" model, the first support engineer in a new locale is doubly disadvantaged -- the bulk of the team is unavailable during the work day, and there's no local experienced team for collaboration. At Delphix, we don't outsource our support engineering. We do hire around the globe, and we do have an on-call schedule.
We've also drawn inspiration from an innovative approach employed by Moneypenny, a UK-based call center. Moneypenny had resisted extending their service to off-hours because they didn't want to incur the detrimental effects of shift work to employee's health and attitude. They didn't want to outsource work because they were afraid customer satisfaction would suffer. Instead they took the novel step of opening an Auckland office -- 12 hours offset -- and sending employees for 4-6 months on a voluntary basis.
I was idly listening to NPR in the car when I heard the BBC report on Moneypenny. Their customers and employees raved about the approach. It was such a simple and elegant solution to the problem of around the clock support; I pulled over to consider the implications for Delphix Support.
The cost of sending a support engineer to a remote destination would be paltry compared with the negative consequences associated with other approaches to support: weak hires, inconsistent methodologies, insufficient mentorship, not to mention underserved, angry, or lost customers. And the benefits to customers and the rest of the team would again far exceed the expense.
We call it the Delphix Support "term abroad." As with a term abroad in school, it's an opportunity for one of our experienced support engineers to work in a foreign locale. Delphix provides lodging in a sufficiently remote timezone with the expectation of a fairly normal work schedule.
As with Moneypenny, that means that Delphix is able to provide the same high level of technical support at all times of day. In addition, that temporarily remote engineer can help to build a local team by recruiting, interviewing, and mentoring. David -- the longest tenured member of the Delphix support team -- recently returned from a term abroad to the UK where he joined Scott, a recent hire and UK native.
Scott spent a month working with David and others at our Menlo Park headquarters. Then David joined Scott in the UK to continue his mentorship and training. Both worked cases that would have normally paged the on-call engineer. A day after arriving in the UK, in fact, David and Scott handled two cases that would have otherwise woken up an engineer based in the US.
Early results give us confidence that the term abroad is going to be a powerful and complementary tool. Delphix provides the same high quality support at all hours, while expanding globally and increasing the satisfaction of the team. And it makes Delphix Support an even more attractive place to work for those who want to opt in to a little global adventure.