Fools, Natitude, and Competition

MotleyFoolDay1358

Marshall is on the The Motley Fool’s IT team, which helps Fools out with their hardware and software needs.

By Marshall Mabie

Non-spoiler alert:

Fools love to compete. And we love to learn.

A lot of us are big sports fans – I am born and raised in the DC Metro area, so I have a certain amount of passion for the local sports teams. When perusing the Washington Post recently, I came across this article by Barry Svrluga, describing the duties and mindset of the Washington Nationals’ support team. It really hit home.

Now, we don’t support million-dollar athletes, but we do support the best financial analysts in the business. And the best Customer Services team. And the best events and facilities staff. We don’t have any Prima Donnas, which is also nice. But our expectations of our service level is very similar to that of the Nat’s support crew – we always want to put our Fools in the best place for them to perform to their expectations.

Competition and learning seem like they are probably pretty helpful in the professional sports arena. We use these principles too, though maybe in a slightly different way.

Competitive is a core value of the Fool, and we constantly challenge ourselves to take care of our Fools better. Much like players asking each other about how they are treated by their respective organizations, we want to make sure that if anyone asks a Fool how their staff is, they can reply that their needs are over-met. It helps us keep Fools, but also helps us attract new ones.

And you can’t be competitive if you don’t learn about not just others, but yourself. Internal surveys, feedback meetings, and honest self-assessment is as important to us as comparing the latest software suite versions.

When it comes down to it, the details really aren’t that important – it’s about attitude. Our job is preparing a highly-skilled performer to do the best they can do. We don’t move luggage, but we do fine-tune our Fools so that they can take care of our customers with the same care.

PYOD: What’s That Mean?

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By Marshall Mabie

A few years ago, my then-boss Jeff was reviewing our IT team’s procedures for upgrading our users’ equipment. Traditionally, we would research the latest technology available, select the set-up that provided the most solutions for the largest numbers of our user base, and deploy a standard computer to Fools.

There was not a lot of initial personalization, which ended up causing a lot of later personalization after the machine was already in the user’s hands, which cost them time, and therefore money. Further, and more importantly, we weren’t serving our individual users’ needs as well as we could – they weren’t always empowered to use the technology that most helped them do what they want to do.

With that in mind, Jeff considered the possibilities, and decided to embrace a relatively new solution – Pick Your Own Device, or, as we call it, PYOD.

Instead of selecting a standard technology package and customizing it later, what if we treated every case as an individual, unique configuration? Moreover, what if we worked with each Fool individually to find the best technology tools for them? As a Windows-using office, what if Fools could use Apple products if they wanted to?

PYOD was born. Budgets were drawn up. Lists of test groups were created. Then Wave One of test groups. Then Wave Two. All in all, the first year of PYOD, we worked with 100 Fools to select their individually-tailored computers and tablets. We’re currently working with the next 100 Fools. Next year? Yup, 100 more Fools, ensuring the entire company will have new machines every three years.

It was a hit. And still is.

Fools have strong input as to what choices they have to do their work the best way possible, and we get a chance to sit down with the people we support and learn more about their jobs, how they do them, and how we can help them to do even better.

It also has provided our team with an opportunity for not just a deep knowledge-base about the technology our company uses, but also has allowed us to broaden our knowledge-base. No longer do we service only Mac or Windows machines; we work with both, providing us lots of opportunity to learn.

It’s an ongoing process that we refine and change as necessary, but at the heart of it, nothing has changed. Fools get a choice in selecting them to help them work the way they want to work. Our customers are served better, our company is served better, and that’s a win-win.

The Most Important Skill Any Techie Should Have

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By Marshall Mabie

Not sure that it’s a secret, but it may come as a surprise to many folks that the most important skill in the tech industry isn’t tech skill – it’s prioritization. I’ve worked in tech for 15 years, so that’s the lens I see it through, but I wonder if maybe that is true throughout business skills of any kind.

My name is Marshall, and I’m a member of the Fool’s desktop support team – if any employees are having any technical issues, it my team’s job to fix it. And again, tech skill isn’t our first tool.

It is prioritization.

Our list of importance is simple:

  1. Customer
  2. Company
  3. Fools
  4. Fool

Customer: The first and most important issue we focus on is making sure the folks who pay us get their money’s worth – the site is at their beck and call, and they have the strongest customer service ready to help them with any issue, tech or not. Our amazing Member Services team takes care of most of that, but as they have the most direct conversations with our members, the tech team makes sure we take care of the Member Services team’s requests.

Company: Okay, we are taking care of the people who pay us for our services. Now we need to make sure the company is in good shape to continue to make good on those promises. We keep our data secure and give our analysts and writers the easiest way to analyze that data.

The last two are intertwined: “The strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf”

Fools/Customers/Users: Different companies use different terms for the in-house fellow employees they fix issues for. At the Fool, unsurprisingly, we call them Fools. Whatever their designation, in the words of Monsieur Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” Our aim is to always address the issues that affect the highest number of Fools. For example, if email is down, that’s a huge issue. Information is not being shared as well as it could be, thereby affecting the business’ ability to serve our customers’ needs. So, yeah, that’s an all-hands-on-deck issue. Importantly, even if we are not directly involved in the solving of the issue, it is very important that we are visible and approachable – we are there to let you customers know what is being done, and to address any concerns.

It is our job to provide concise, accurate information for our internal users – if something is down, given the facts, they can re-arrange their time to continue to be effective. And no baloney! Admit mistakes, explain them, and educate as to what will be done to provide not just continuous service, but what will be improved upon. Admitting a mistake isn’t always easy, but coming clean creates a much stronger sense of trust with your constituents. They know that you aren’t hiding anything. That creates more confidence than any duck-and-cover strategy.

Finally, the individual user. They make the company run. Mostly, they have small problems, like broken mice, software licensing, etc. Sometimes they have big issues – and prioritization again takes over here. It’s easy as a techie to get too deep into how to fix a problem. It’s Sherlockian, the thrill of the hunt. It’s also pointless, because it is not our job to hunt down the obscure issue. Our job is to make sure our user/customer is able to do their job – we examine any issue through the Return On Investment filter – how much work is it going to take us to get this user back to the place they want to be? If that’s too high, get them a new machine and research the issue when you have some spare cycles. Just make sure your user is on their feet and doing what they are paid to be doing.

Ultimately, our job is judging the tech blockers of the company, and continuously considering the needs of our customers. And prioritizing is one of the best weapons in our arsenal.

  • Take care of who pays your company, because they are the company’s lifeblood. Treat them well.
  • Make sure the company can take care of those expectations. Think long-term.
  • Take care of the people who make up your company, and make sure the individuals in your company have no blockers to do what they are charged to do.

It can be hard to keep this in mind in the midst of the day-to-day, and keeping an eye on the big picture while responding to the immediate can be tough. Focusing on prioritization can be a useful tool in your process.

Our Goal is Great Customer Service

Make Fools Happy!

Make Fools Happy!By Laurie Street
Member Services Fool

Take a moment to consider an all-too-typical customer service experience. Perhaps you’ve been kept on hold with an automated recording, waiting for a representative that’s headquartered in a large – and very busy – call center. What’s worse is discovering that this electronic guide is actually your only contact, and no live human is even available. Whether it’s a cable company, credit card service, or your phone provider, I feel confident that you’ve been on the losing end of a frustrating customer service experience.

The Fool aims to make its customer service experience far, far better than what people have (sadly) gotten used to. Our hard-working Member Services team is comprised of approximately ten in-house employees, as well as a few contractors who work remotely via email. We are not recordings, but instead real, live voices that are willing and able to assist with any issue that’s presented.  Our phones receive anywhere from 100 to 500 calls per day! We take pride in our ability to connect with Fool members on a personal level, while still handling the matters at hand both quickly and efficiently.

Available to help from 9AM-5PM ET Monday through Friday, our group isn’t always able to ride around the office on scooters, attend in-house speaker series, or join a local afternoon brewery tour. While our daily schedules are somewhat constricted, this department strives to enjoy its own Foolish culture. We take the company’s core value “Motley” and make it our own.  During our busiest periods, we collaborate to implement strategies that keep our momentum high and stress levels low. We’ve organized pot luck lunches, as well as morning treats for the team – be it a box of donuts, the freshest loaf of pumpkin bread, or Starbucks coffee for all. Our wireless headphones allow for mobility to make one more plate of food or, on a more serious note, take a brief walk for stretching. And speaking of walks, the nearby game room is a nice distraction, as well as a place to spark healthy competition between coworkers on quieter days.

If you’re a Fool in need of some assistance, don’t hesitate to drop us a line at cs@fool.com! We’re happy to help make your Foolish experience the best it can be.