Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Paying attention by not automating too early

August 20, 2013

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here is Jason Fried from this past July on Why we’re doing things that don’t scale on Signal vs. Noise:

But automation can also lead to myopia. And premature-automation can lead to blindness. When you take human interaction out of a system, you’re removing key opportunities to see what really happens along the way. You miss stories, experiences, and struggles – and that’s often where the real insights are hiding.

This is precisely the reason why we did customer support manually for the first 3 months of Barley rolling out. We didn’t use any special tools or shortcuts, just email and talking to our customers to see what they were seeing.

What did we discover that we wouldn’t have otherwise? A lot. We managed to keep our FAQ up-to-date, we were able to push daily updates to Barley that would fix our customer’s issues within 24 hours of being reported, we were able to add copy around confusing features like subscription cancellations and site deletions, we quickly realized that web developers didn’t understand they could use Barley for their own customers or their own projects, and we figured out which three features we needed to add to Barley to truly give us a minimum viable product.

Without direct feedback from our customers and us handling these manually I don’t think we would have found these things as quickly as we did nor have the motivation to fix them as quickly as we did.