May 8th, 2018

Long-term support at P'unk Ave

Alex Bea

I think it’s fair to say that the majority of the work we do at P'unk Ave is creating new experiences. Those include design materials, strategies, branding, and of course websites and digital applications. One thing that separates P'unk Ave from many agencies is our additional emphasis on supporting that new work through its life. That’s where our support team comes into play.

At the most basic, our support team fields questions and requests from clients following their project launch and helps answer or resolve them. While most of our work only involves our support team developers, we frequently work with designers and UX strategists at P'unk Ave to reach the best conclusion.

Support with purpose

Since I joined the team here a bit over nine months ago, a few values have been repeated to me several times. One is that we believe it’s important that we support our work long-term. This is because we stand by our work and want our clients to continue to be successful with it. Fixing bugs is part of that, which is often the focus of tickets during our warranty period following launch.

The majority of the requests we get are better categorized as helping clients evolve their sites with changing needs and standards. For example, as browsers have increasingly emphasized the security of HTTPS, even for sites that don’t have ecommerce or other forms, we’ve added a considerable number of security certificates to older projects. It’s also not uncommon for our clients to hire new leadership and for that person to want new ways to present information on the site.

A second point our long-time P'unks have repeated is that our support team is as much about making our clients’ experiences great as it is about building new features. Our founder, Geoff, occasionally suggests changing the team’s name to something like the “client relationship team.” This definitely comes into play during the warranty period, when we make sure any loose screws are properly tightened and the right shade of the primary brand color is set.

More than that, making clients’ experiences with their sites great is about answering little how-to questions quickly, asking the right questions to understand their needs, and suggesting best practice alternatives even when someone sends a ticket with a specific solution in mind. Our ticketing system keeps things efficient, but we won’t shy away from jumping on the phone with a client to talk through a need.

We often build sites with ApostropheCMS, the content management system that our team created and has been expanding for many years now. We certainly have expertise there that few other teams have, but in no way are clients locked in to get support from us. It’s an open-source platform and we do lots of answering public questions about it. The fact that we also have clients sticking with us for Wordpress and other platform support is a testament to the relationships we’ve maintained.

Continuing to improve

The support team at P'unk Ave isn’t new. Originally led by our chief software architect, Tom, we’ve been putting those values into action for years. As he transitioned to a focus on ApostropheCMS and enterprise clients, the support team has continued to evolve with new team members. Significantly, that change involved the team being a long-term dedicated group rather than being comprised of developers rotating between other large projects.

A dedicated team has meant dedicated focus on developing processes to resolve work quickly and respond reliably. In the last few months we’ve implemented processes around response time and scheduling that have dramatically improved our resolution time for clients.

During weekly team meetings, as well as our quarterly company retreats, we continue to look for new ways to improve. Some things we try and discard when they don’t help enough. Others become core parts of our process and make life better for everyone involved. Put simply, we’re nowhere near done refining how we help our clients. As a former project manager, this can be as rewarding for me as writing beautiful, efficient code.

That’s us!

Since I’m not one of the ones currently building new client sites, I can (mostly) objectively say how impressed I am with the work my colleagues do. I don’t think I’ve worked with a group of people I’d recommend more highly to design a brand or build a website. We on the support team look forward to making sure that work, and the people who they built it for, continue to be successful going forward.

Alex Bea