Support Breakfast Podcast | Episode 8 – Sending Out an SOS

Happy Thursday! This week we’re talking all about managing crises, fighting fires – and experiencing a mini Support Breakfast crisis of our own…

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Dave starts us off. He’s had coffee and an empty stomach run so no breakfast yet, but following the recording, he’ll be having a well-earned bacon sandwich. Nomad Sarah had an amazing omelette with ham, mushroom, onions and gouda. Lisa had harissa potatoes (recipe inside!), Kiwi Sarah had totally-not-boring porridge with strawberries.

Quick question: what time of day do you listen to the podcast? Are we supporting your breakfast choices?!

Unfortunately, we’re missing our fifth, as Conor is offshoring with Expensify in Uruguay. We miss him soooooooo much (and are also really concerned about what he’s having for breakfast….Conor? Help us?)

From the mailbox: Helena from sent us an email to let us know they listen to the podcast in the office. Thanks so much Helena! 😀

We’d love to hear from you – click here and send us an email!

Dave’s been having trouble getting maintenance into his flat to fix a nasty leak, but has realized the importance of language, empathy and confidence when escalating customer service issues.

Lisa had a great experience with Wellingborough Cycles – who took extra care when servicing her bicycle.

Nomad Sarah’s had a flashback of nostalgia because she’s working on a project with Kaegan at Baremetrics, who she used to work with at Hootsuite Support.

Sending out an SOS

We’re sharing how we fight fires – not literal fires – metaphorical fires!

First, we chat about our crisis processes. Kiwi Sarah shares how Timely has two ways of finding out there’s a crisis – NewRelic monitoring, or through customer reports. They use tags and workflows in HelpScout to handle follow-ups.

Nomad Sarah asks about how many people provide actual ETAs of recovery.

Lisa and the Moz team use an Early Warning template that sends information out to engineering and support team with all the information they need. They use a set tag in Intercom to pull out crisis related questions into a separate queue to manage follow-ups.

Both Lisa and Kiwi Sarah mention (as we talked about last week) that status pages aren’t the first place customers go to.

“Oh, sorry…. I was staring into Dave’s eyes” – Kiwi Sarah



Our free recording software was running out of time, so we were interrupted and needed to start a new meeting. A perfect opportunity for us all to make more tea or visit the bathroom.

Dave talks about the different tones customers take when reporting outages. Buffer drafts standard responses and run it by the team so everyone’s on the same page…but then personalizes it.

“People easily just go “oh, that websites not working” and come back later, so we definitely thank people for flagging it up.” – Dave

HOT TIP: Use pinned tweets with status info, because it turns out we all go to Twitter to see what’s going on if a service is down.

Lisa asks everyone who’s responsible for communication to customers during an outage.

“It’s always been on support to handle communication in crises, because we’re often the first people to know there’s something wrong.” – Nomad Sarah

Kiwi Sarah says that it’s a big team effort, with support leading the effort and marketing pulled in for social updates and the tech team with the status page updates.

At Buffer, Dave says the support team is very empowered to handle all communication and the status page updates as well. He mentioned in his first month at Buffer he was left on weekend support coverage and everyone he needed to talk to were in airplanes heading to a company retreat…

Kiwi Sarah asks how customers respond when chatting about outages because she usually sees really positive responses. We learned that there are three kinds of people in the world.

Nomad Sarah talks about how they’ve set up VIP customer lists for customers that need to know about outages first so they can proactively phone them and keep them in the loop.

Lisa’s signed up for Intercom’s status alerts (and integrated into their Slack channel) so they always know quickly if something is happening.

Dave talked about the Buffer hack and how their team kept customers up to date with a blog post that was super transparent, which caused a really positive response. Kiwi Sarah mentions that it was one of the first times she had heard of Buffer, and their values of transparency were really brought out into the conversation.

CHECK OUT THE BLOG POST so you can refer to it when writing your own crisis communications.

“I really resonate with it, and I can’t imagine another way to handle something like that.” – Dave on Buffer’s transparency during a crisis

Lisa asks us about how we deal with customers after the crisis, how transparent we should be and mentions Slack’s blog post after a 2014 outage.

Kiwi Sarah suggests that there might be times that we can’t be as transparent as we want to be due to proprietary information or it’s just not appropriate to share the full story.

“I feel like transparency is one of those words that likes to get used by companies a lot, but often they aren’t fully transparent.” – Kiwi Sarah

“Sharing every detail about everything, can be information overload. You might be interrupting people to tell them things they don’t need to know” – Dave

Lightning Round!

Here are the questions, you’ll need to listen to get the answers.

How do you handle planned outages? (Dave answers in a non-lightening response…)
How do you learn and move forward when you’re firefighting?
MUST LISTEN: How do you self-care during a crisis? Hint: It’s more than just :pizza:


Follow us on Twitter @supportbrekkie or individually at @gentlethorns,  @conorp, @sarahleyh, @davechapman & @sarahleeyoga

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