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Release Notes is our monthly update that highlights the recent product improvements we’ve made, so you can easily stay up to date on what’s new. Here's what we launched in January.

Each month we highlight new features, improvements and bug fixes — but our team is also working hard for you on a ton of items that may not always be visible: like our infrastructure, API and search. If you feel things moving faster or even more consistently, then it’s the work of engineering behind the scenes.

So sit back, relax, and have a peek behind the curtain as we share a glimpse at some of the work that goes into delivering you the most excellent experience possible.

Quality and Stability

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Application monitoring and logging

It’s never great when our customers notice a problem with our application before we do. Equally as bad is not providing excellent customer service because of lack of information. In a perfect world, this never happens (and normally, it doesn’t). But for us, even one time is too many.

👊 What we’re doing

In 2016, we doubled down on monitoring and error reporting systems, transferring all monitoring to a new tool that gave us more control and fine tuning of alerts, better reporting, and an enhanced integration with targeted Slack channels.

We also stepped up our system and application logging game. Now we have a centralized logging system with customized reporting tools that are used by our support team and engineers alike to better investigate and diagnose customer and application issues.

🏆 How it helps you

These changes enable us to identify and fix potential issues and diagnose and resolve customer concerns with greater speed and ease than ever before.

🚨

Spam/risk detection

Spam — ugh! We all get it, we all hate it, and unfortunately, Help Scout receives a fair share of it. While neither you nor your customers would ever see the spam, it’s possible your mailbox would feel slightly less snappy due to the increased load on the system these spammers created.

👊 What we’re doing

We’ve put a lot of energy into a more robust Spam detection system this past year that targets and purges illegitimate accounts swiftly.

🏆 How it helps you

We want to stop this before spam affects your mailbox performance — keeping everything on the up-and-up.

🎛

Expanded test suites

All the improvements and additions to our application, servers, monitors, alerts and connective infrastructure are great, but without top-notch testing and quality controls in place, the shiny services would be quick to lose their luster.

👊 What we’re doing

In 2016, we raised our quality bar by expanding the team, and automated and manual test coverage across all our applications. Coupled with myriad enhancements to our continuous integration and delivery solution, we expect to see a continued reduction in the number of bugs as we launch new features.

🏆 How it helps you

More testing means a better experience for you. We expect to see a continued reduction in the number of bugs and regressions.

Speed and Scaling

🏁

Public API

As we grow alongside our customers, we’re maintaining the performance of our application code, from quality to infrastructure.

👊 What we’re doing

As demand grows, we’re investing heavily in making our Help Scout public API more resilient to handle an increasing number of requests.

🏆 How it helps you

Our public API uptime has increased and performance of our customers’ custom applications has become more consistent across-the-board.

Pub-API uptime increase graph

💙

Database performance & monitoring

Our database is the foundation of Help Scout. If that slows down, then everything slows down, which makes maintaining the health and speed of our database an essential and ongoing focus for our team.

👊 What we’re doing

We added VividCortex, a database query monitoring tool, to our database monitoring shed in 2016, so we can now track and analyze database performance from high level to individual queries. This gives us better insight into ongoing database performance and lets us dig into and fix underperforming transactions.

🏆 How it helps you

You can delight your customers faster than before. Optimizing queries at the core level of our service allows all aspects of the Help Scout app to run more efficiently.

🔋

Improved data caching

Caching is historically “the act of storing away for future use.” Animals do this before winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and software engineers do this too (just with data, not food).

👊 What we’re doing

Help Scout stores and maintains a lot of data, which is used to power all aspects of the application, including customer conversations, workflows and Docs articles — and it’s all maintained in our database. While we’ve optimized our database to store and retrieve data as quickly as possible, sometimes it’s useful to store small pieces of information that are needed often, outside of the database, in a place called a cache.

By caching bits of data, the Help Scout application can read and display content to the webpage even faster than if it were retrieved from the database. In 2016 we finished a major overhaul of our caching solution, replacing our older caching scheme with a more performant and optimized solution.

🏆 How it helps you

Faster caching means faster load times and a better experience for you.

🔎

Search Infrastructure

Our search platform runs on multiple servers behind the scenes. Last year we redesigned and rebuilt our search infrastructure from the ground up to enhance search speed, in order to maintain optimal experience during traffic spikes.

👊 What we’re doing

In addition to strengthening our infrastructure, we rebuilt the software engine that generates our reports and search results in order to perform better under increased customer demand.

🏆 How it helps you

Do you think search has gotten faster? Do your search results or suggested type-aheads populate with a bit more pop? We made a couple changes to our underlying search code and infrastructure to make this possible.

Related: Using Search allows you to quickly locate conversations, customers, and other data within your account. See how →

Before you go

Help Scout wouldn’t be the company it is without the obsessively meticulous and passionate contributions from every corner of the organization. A special thank you to our engineering team for always holding themselves to the highest levels of integrity, quality and person accountability. I’m truly honored to work with you.

💌

Thank you to all our customers for all the feedback we get every day to help us build a better product. Please continue sending us your thoughts and ideas by emailing help@helpscout.net.

Megan Chinburg

About the author: Megan Chinburg is on the Engineering team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk that helps you build a company your customers love with more human, more helpful customer support tools.