As Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”
The end of the year is a natural time for reflection — one thing comes to a close, another begins. You might ask yourself, “What accomplishments am I happiest about?” Or, “What was my biggest challenge, and why?”
Most importantly, you should be planning ahead. What ideas do you have to push yourself forward next year?
With that in mind, we looked back at the Help Scout blog over the last 12 months and curated some of our favorite posts, covering everything from providing remarkable customer support to doing better work.
Hopefully one or all of these will help you connect your own dots and set you up for even greater success in the New Year. Enjoy.
Providing Exceptional Customer Support
This is far and away our favorite topic—we built our help desk, knowledge base, and Beacon to help you get the job done, and we hope our writing has served as extra guidance along the way. Here are some of our favorite support pieces from this year.
- 1. How to Write a Killer Knowledge Base Article
A knowledge base can be a customer’s best friend during the “help me help myself” phase of exploring your product. Unfortunately, many companies drop the ball with help content. Here’s our guide to making sure all of your documentation is informative, engaging, and unquestionably clear.
- 2. Don’t Leave Your Support Team Flying Blind
We’ve had the unique opportunity to talk to support managers at many top-tier companies. One thing they have in common is presenting a regular update that answers, “How is our support team doing?” Here’s their advice on what data to gather and how to present it in a way that’s actionable.
- 3. Handling the Curveballs of Customer Support
While great support is grounded in the day-to-day interactions, there’s always a surprising situation or two headed toward the queue. In these cases, a little preparation goes a long way. Here are a few troublesome scenarios you may come across and guidance on how to handle them.
- 4. How to Recover After Your Website Crashes
An unfortunate reality in web businesses is that serious outages are always a looming possibility. Writing a status follow-up, or “postmortem,” is one of the better ways to get things back on track. Steve Klein of StatusPage.io gives a brief guide on doing just that.
- 5. Avoiding the Silo of Team Communication
One of the biggest obstacles to effective and quality customer service is a lack of dialogue between the support team and everyone else. Cassie Marketos of Dollar a Day explains why support teams that don’t consistently communicate with other departments are in danger of repeating, rather than reinforcing, each other’s hard work.
- 6. Support, Marketing, Community, and PR—They’re All the Same Thing
Elizabeth Tobey, Director of Community at Tumblr, has spent the past decade running support, community, marketing, and PR teams, and she believes they’re all connected. Armed with her hilariously accurate Venn diagram (below), she explains her reasoning.
- 7. 15 Resources for Mastering Email Support
A list within a list! This is a collection of some of the best pieces we found around the web on the art and science of email support. You’ll find a few deep dives from our own archives (inbox zero) as well as other great pieces from support pros (24/7 support).
- 8. Are Unicorns Built to Last?
Growth can be a tricky metric. Many compromises that could be made in favor of short-term growth simply aren’t worth it. We’ve been careful to take a different approach at Help Scout, and our CEO Nick Francis shares why.
- 9. The Unsider’s Perspective
Steven Wade, from our engineering team, shares why a good place to work is defined by ownership, excellence, and helpfulness. Ownership means you are trusted by everyone, excellence means you are working with people who inspire you, and helpfulness means those around you want to see you succeed.
- 10. How We Stepped Up Our Employee Onboarding
When we realized we’d be more than doubling our team this year, our top People Ops priority was to revamp our employee onboarding experience. Becca Van Nederynen, head of people ops, details the changes we made and offers some advice on getting started.
- 11. Customer Support People Need Care, Too
Customer-facing roles require energy and resilience, even if you’re completely in love with your job. Alex Ragsdale, from our customer team, explains why self-care is so important in customer support: you have to take care of yourself if you want to take care of others.
- 12. What We Learned Telling Customers’ Stories
With a dozen Customer Spotlights published, we’ve learned a lot along the way—lessons any company that spotlights their customers can relate to. Our content marketer Paul Jun takes you through his process of writing our customer success stories and shares our new focus moving forward.
- 13. Easy Reading Is Damn Hard Writing
Writing that is effortless to read takes great work to create. But it’s difficult putting thoughts to page without losing a little luster along the way. In that spirit, our content strategist Gregory Ciotti shares a few lessons on the dark art of polishing a first draft.
- 14. A Brief Guide to Better One-on-Ones
Great communication requires constant maintenance. It’s unavoidable that what worked when you were a scrappy group of six falls apart with the twentieth hire. The single practice that should never change at your company—and the one best suited to address these problems—is the one-on-one.
- 15. Those Who Can’t Teach
“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” So the saying goes, but it’s incredibly shortsighted. Great teachers amplify the work of everyone around them, and that’s only the beginning. Putting time and care into sharing what you know benefits you, your team, and your company.
- 16. How Music Affects Your Productivity
Music is regarded as one of the triumphs of human creativity. But does music itself help one to create? It’s a question worth asking, since music has increasingly become a part of the modern-day workplace. To better understand music and productivity, we took a look at the research. Here’s what we found.
- 17. Leaving Your Desk Behind
Creativity cannot rest on eureka moments; it is a process, designed to consistently bring abstract ideas into the tangible world. Add to that how creative work requires slogging through many duds before you reach a yes. You’ll find it’s much, much easier if you step away from your desk.
- 18. Why Better Sleep Equals Better Work
A bad night of sleep is always a recipe for an unproductive day. You’re groggy, you’re irritable, you’re making stupid mistakes, and suddenly, simple tasks seem complicated. Here’s how to stop sleep deprivation from taking such a massive toll, and advice from Jane Porter on consistently improving your quality of sleep.
- 19. The Benefits of Learning as a Team
All great organizations learn together; those who aren’t open to learning are susceptible to stagnation. Here are ways to ensure your team learns (and grows) together.
- 20. The Hidden Beauty of Constraints
Constraints will always be part of the work. If they aren’t obvious now, they will surface sometime in the future, either intentionally or surprisingly. How you view constraints—through the mindset of victim, neutralizer, or transformer—makes all the difference.
- 21. If You Aren’t Cringing, You Aren’t Improving
The “creative cringe” is the feeling you get when you look back at old work; it seems so terrible after experience has given you enhanced perception. But if you think you’ll be able to outrun the creative cringe, think again—the only way to avoid it is to plateau. If you aren’t cringing, you aren’t improving.
- 22. How Practicing Mindfulness Can Lead to Better Decision-Making
When feedback stings or when it’s difficult to empathize with a co-worker, do you find yourself responding or reacting? Mindfulness helps us to be self-aware, thoughtful, and mentally present when we make decisions. If it requires a brief time to pause and think, then that’s time well spent.
- 23. How Writing Regularly Can Improve Your Creativity and Clarity
From engineers to marketers, most professionals deal with a storm of self-doubt. One of the best avenues for problem solving is writing. The process of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) allows you to digest and distill experiences mindfully.
- 24. Keeping Your Remote Team Connected
Few things motivate more than a strong connection within the team. Closeness creates and sustains a drive to overachieve. Remote teams can be very close-knit, but overcoming the distance requires planning and deliberate effort. Here’s how we make it happen.
Thoughts from the Help Scout Team
We’ve long believed that publishing is a team sport. Keen to share on how we think about product, support, growth, and culture at Help Scout, we ramped up our team submissions this year to include posts from across the entire company. Here are a few of our favorites.
Ideas on Doing Better Work
Part of the reason we added the Culture section to our blog was to share more about our vision of what makes a great place to work. This year we doubled-down on pieces covering creativity, teamwork and everything in-between.