We just celebrated our 3 year anniversary since spinning off from Basecamp! Thanks to all of you for helping us get here. Read more about: how far we’ve come. And today, we have another couple improvements to mention.
You’ve been able to add a CC (or BCC) to an outgoing message for some time, but now that field has gotten a lot smarter. It will automatically populate from CCs in your previous message, and will automatically fill from your contacts as you type:
PieSync, one of our integration partners, consolidates contacts located in disparate cloud applications and synchronizes them 2 ways and in real time. Today PieSync releases an all new & improved way of setting up two-way contact syncs with their IF-THIS-THEN-THAT filters:
These filters, on top of the already powerful custom fields feature launched last quarter, allow you to segment and create workflows in one app, to other apps, giving you even more in-depth sync possibilities than before. Register for PieSync’s upcoming Webinar on Wednesday, Sep 27 on using the new IF-THIS-THEN-THAT filters: here.
When I joined the Highrise team in May of 2016, the support team wasn’t a team at all: it was a single person. Chris did everything, from answering emails, to maintaining our help site, to recording how-to videos. Just the emotional output from being “on” empathetically all day every day can be exhausting, so I came along to help.
After a few months of me getting up to speed we realized that while there were certain times that it made sense for both of us to be helping users, like first thing in the morning, for a portion of the day one of us answering emails was sufficient. So we started asking ourselves, what was the best way for us to not only help our users and teammates, but to take care of ourselves as well?
As we started brainstorming the best way to accomplish that, we began by going through all of the other areas of Highrise we wanted to help contribute. The help site and all of it’s written and video content was always our responsibility, but we realized there were other ways we could help with the “extra” bandwidth we found ourselves with.
Chris and I spent some time going through different ways we could divide our time. We settled on a time frame that would help us not only recuperate emotionally from being on, but enough “off” time to really dig into other projects and interests we have.
Any project that you really need to dig in and complete needs more than just a 3 hour chunk of your week.
What did we decide to do? A week on support, and a week off.
The week you are on the support inbox, that is your #1 priority. The expectation we set for users is that we’ll be here from 8am-5pm CST, so when you’re on the inbox, that’s what you cover. There’s still time to sneak other little things in there, but we pride ourselves on giving replying to customers as soon as we possibly can, so when you’re on, you’re on.
When you’re off the inbox, that’s the time to take care of bigger projects. It’s amazing to be able to write and tackle other things without having to constantly go back and check the inbox.
I personally use the time to take care of myself a little bit more too. It’s a great time to catch up on reading and learning, meeting up with users or colleagues to chat over coffee, even just taking a walk in the middle of the day to let the brain relax and think.
This system has worked incredibly well for us. Both Chris and I approach the job refreshed after a week “off”, and can give customers the best version of ourselves, which they wholeheartedly deserve.
We also get to scratch the other professional itches we have, while simultaneously helping our other teammates out as well.
Some may say that their inbox has a perpetual backlog, and they need all hands on deck at all times. Which is understandable, I personally have experienced that on many occasions. But even if your support team is 10+ people, finding room to start on a “small” version of this plan could pay off huge dividends.
If I knew I had every Wednesday afternoon off from the inbox to recharge my empathy batteries and tackle some other passion projects of mine, it completely shifts my mindset, and can very easily stave off burnout.
Will we always work this way? Maybe not. We’re already exploring other options for seasonality, and things may change when a third person joins our team at some point in the future.
You may be hard pressed to find two people who care more about helping users than we do. However, to take care of others, we know we have to take care of ourselves first.
Maslow had it wrong. To get it right, we have to move social needs to the bottom of his pyramid.
-Matthew Lieberman (Professor of Social Cognitive Neuroscience at UCLA and author of the book Social)
Babies would die without their caregivers at birth. Study after study show the pain and ill we go through when we are isolated from others like us. As humans, we are wired to connect to one another.
However, instead of connecting, we seem to be heading the opposite direction. On the streets and in restaurants people are looking at their phones instead of the person right next to them.
Businesses strive to make everything quicker, faster, and automated. Sending automated welcome emails with generic information to everyone who signs up. Introducing artificial intelligence to weed through support inquiries instead of having someone read and respond to your query.
It’s important to us here at Highrise to help people build great relationships. For many of our users, Highrise is an essential piece of that equation.
But what about us? How is our relationship with our users?
We try to make the welcome you get when signing up for Highrise a bit unique by changing the templates every day, asking people to chat, and a few other tweaks our CEO Nathan covers in detail here.
But we want to go even further. What else can we do?
Now, when you sign up for Highrise, you hear directly from me.
And by “directly from me”, I mean you see me, you hear me, and I address your individual needs based on what you’ve told us about you so far.
I personally greet you and ask you what you specifically need. And how we can help solve the problems you are having with your business.
The results so far have been really, really positive. And while making the human connection is the most important thing, we are hearing some really incredible feedback too.
First of all, holy crap. I’ve never gotten a video as a welcome message from a SaaS product before. I’m really impressed.
What an AWESOME email and video. Highrise is killin’ it! I really loved how personal this was.
Thanks Alison. I appreciate the thought and effort!
Hey Alison, that custom video for me was just mind blowing. Do you try to reach out to every customer that way? So impressed.
We are still a few weeks away from finding out whether or not these videos have an effect on our conversion rate. But one other huge factor is at play too: the memory of someone who cares. — Even if Highrise isn’t a good fit now, you may recommend us to friends, or even come back when the time is right. But most importantly, you might remember the human that took the time to make the connection with you.
As experts in helping people build great relationships, we keep learning too!
If you use Inbox by Gmail, you know how helpful bundles can be for organizing your email.
The Basecamp team has worked with Google to organize Basecamp 3 email notifications into bundles. Here’s what it looks like in the Inbox web app:
Inbox shows you a summary of what’s new in your projects. Every Basecamp email notification is now grouped into a bundle specific to its project or team. Basecamp 3 bundled notifications work great in Android and iOS too:
Also, now’s a good time to make sure Basecamp is notifying you the way you want. Read our Help Docs for tips on how to turn on/off email notifications and more.
We hope this helps you and your team stay up-to-date on your Basecamp projects. Thanks for using Basecamp 3!
Running your business on email, chat, and meetings? No wonder you’re frazzled — that’s the hard way! You do not have to put yourself and your team through the anxiety ringer all day, all week, all month, all year, and all career. There’s a better way.
Do yourself and your whole team a solid and switch over to Basecamp 3. It’s the saner, more organized way to run your business. We promise.
Often, the work I do feels invisible. I’m not building a feature or designing a website. I’m ensuring that our support team (a sect of tech with an industry standard of high turnover) has the information they need, doesn’t suffer from too much burn out, and is empowered to make their own decisions. Part of my job this year has been to adjust our team’s culture: a shift that has often felt like repeatedly rerouting a ship’s course.
When we lost a successful, tenured employee to Help Scout last December, we suffered a bittersweet loss. Only a few weeks later did we abruptly lose a newer employee, which became a more challenging loss than anticipated. The combination of losing a long-term team member who shaped our team culture and experiencing a contentious departure by that newer team member hit our morale pretty hard. With shaken morale, we also had to work through the busiest time of the year with those two gone and a third person on paternity leave: we were working at 70% capacity at the height of busy season with a stressed-out team.
January is notoriously busy for us and is always a bit of a shock to the system after the lackadaisical holiday season when customers don’t write to us often. The sluggish season offers a nice break for us after another year of work and allows us to bond with each other and our families. Since customers aren’t writing to us, we seldom have a backlog and rarely a queue, which means we can respond to customers within minutes. November and December are often Inbox Zero.
Enter January. Enter 70% capacity. Enter low morale. Enter a swell from n emails to 6n emails. Enter an obsession with an idealized and impossible image of Inbox Zero.
Each day felt like a packed CTA train at rush hour in the winter: sweaty, steamy, and uncomfortable. We went from each answering 60 emails per day to answering 150 per day. I couldn’t spend any time on admin work since we were down three bodies, which meant I couldn’t even begin the hiring process until February. I was too busy to work.
Meanwhile, the team felt the pressure of Inbox Zero. Inbox Zero is an arbitrary goal; there will always be another customer email or phone call or tweet. Inbox Zero is a fruitless fight for control. It became an image that tied us to our screens, that swallowed any self-care practices we had instilled over the years. It also became a habit of treating our customers less like humans who needed support and more like screens to get rid of.
By March, we finally hired two new folks: Carrie and Elizabeth. We brought them to Portland and welcomed them to our damaged team by accidentally showcasing our stress. During a 1-on-1 with Carrie, she brought up how disappointed she was by our negativity and stress: we hired her to help alleviate stress only to pass our stress onto her. Carrie opened our eyes to our bad habits and the true depth of our low morale. Together, she and Elizabeth showed us their fresh perspectives and willingness to fight the negativity we had introduced them to. Without them, we might still be spiraling.
But, we’re still a work in progress. While we’re not where I want us to be — there’s some lingering negativity and stress — I see movement. Part of that movement has been to stop following the 37signals hiring standard to “Hire When It Hurts.” That doesn’t work in support. If you’re waiting for The Hurt to tell you to hire, then your perspective is off and you’re expecting your team to carry the weight of another workload. Instead of carrying extra weight, we’re working on creating space for personal projects, better communication, innovation, brainstorming; if you can’t breathe, then you can’t think.
So, during the summer, we hired Jayne. Last month, we welcomed Esther and Janice. Last week, we promoted Natalie, a senior support employee, to help manage the team (we’re now at a total of 14). We hired more and created a new managerial position to help open that much-needed and well-deserved space for the more-tenured employees to relax into.
And, while we lost two people last year, we gained five this year. That’s five fresh perspectives to hold us accountable to our high standards while reminding us to remain human and keep ourselves first: Inbox Comes Second.
At Highrise, we have a very small team, yet we get a lot done. Three quarters of the way through the year seemed like a good time to take a moment to reflect on all of the things we’ve accomplished so far in 2016.
Late last year we rolled out 2 game changing features and this year we’ve worked hard to make them even better:
A simple bulk email service to get your email newsletters out quickly without tripping over fancy templates that get in the way:
This year we added images, real time stats for opens and clicks, reporting, and the ability to bulk unsubscribe contacts (especially useful for someone who has been using a separate email marketing tool to reach out to contacts).
But that’s not all. Here’s just a handful of some noteworthy projects:
Katie Munoz — Moving Forward, Inc: Everyone at my company loves Highrise. It’s easy to learn and intuitive to understand — even for the seriously non-technical employee. The few times that I have needed to contact support their response was swift, friendly and easy to follow. It’s WAY cheaper than Salesforce and some of the other contact management databases out there.
Basecamp 3 is great for keeping your entire team on the same page. All your to-dos, important events, documents, and conversations in one place, wherever you are. But what if the conversation starts outside of Basecamp?
Email is hard to avoid. Small businesses of all kinds depend on email to get things done. You discuss plans for the new office with your contractor over email. You review job applications submitted via email. You receive marketing emails from competitors you want to share with your team.
You could paste these important emails into a message or text document, but keeping up with replies can be a real hassle.
With the new Forwards tool, you can save any email to Basecamp 3, collect comments from your team, and reply directly to the original sender. Now, the whole conversation — comments and replies — lives in one place.
To start using Forwards in Basecamp 3, turn it on via the “Pick your tools…” screen. You can even rename it to something like “Job Applicants” or “Survey Responses” to suit your needs — whatever works!
Once you’ve turned it on, Forwards will appear beside the Message Board, To-dos, and all the other tools in your Basecamp:
Now that you’ve enabled the tool, you can send emails two different ways:
Forward any email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you a response email asking where to save it.
Forward email to your personalized dropbox address and we’ll automatically save emails to Basecamp 3 without being asked where to file it. This is especially handy if you want another service to forward emails into your Basecamp directly.
After you forward it to Basecamp, your email will show up in the Forwards inbox along with all the other emails you’ve saved:
Click through to view the email, add a comment, or reply directly to the sender. Either way, your team is always in the loop!
Comments are for your team’s eyes only. The original sender will never see what you write. Replies are emailed to the original sender and shared with your team.
Basecamp 3 will collect replies from the original sender and thread them in alongside comments from you and your team. It’s all there — the original email, every email reply, and any comments along the way.
Thanks for using Basecamp 3! We hope this makes it easier for you to keep your entire email conversation — not just comments from your team — in once place.
Running your business on email, chat, and meetings? No wonder you’re frazzled — that’s the hard way! You do not have to put yourself and you team through the anxiety ringer all day, all week, all month, all year, and all career. There’s a better way.
Do yourself and your whole team a solid and switch over to Basecamp 3. It’s the saner, more organized way to run your business. We promise.
Before I worked on Basecamp’s support team, I freelanced as a writer and editor. One of my less glamorous gigs was contributing to a textbook teaching non-native speakers how to write business emails in English. Language stuff aside, I’d be researching emoji or “netiquette” or how tone rarely transmits over text, and catch myself thinking, “doesn’t everyone already know this?”
Now that I respond to emails all day, I can safely say: no, a lot of people don’t know how to write a good electronic message. Because they weren’t taught how. Folks who would never call themselves writers are thrown into a world in which most communication is done through text, and, in many cases, their livelihoods depend on it. Unfortunately, unlike my limited readership, most people aren’t handed a textbook when they sit down to craft emails.
That’s where we come in! Basecamp’s support staff write hundreds of emails a day, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it. At the time of writing, 93 of our last 100 customers were happy with our replies, saying things like “easy to follow”, “quick, simple and to the point”, and “the perfect response”. So I thought I’d take some time to share what we’ve learned about writing clear, efficient, effective emails.
Before I begin, let me say that we appreciate all of your emails, because they mean that you are using our product and either want our help using it better, or want to help us out, by giving us a heads-up about a possible bug or improvement. We treasure in particular messages from non-native speakers, whose English is almost certainly better than our Spanish, German or Chinese. Please keep sending us emails, and if you would like to get really good at writing them, follow these tips.
“Dear Sir/Madam” is how we used to begin communications, back when we had to scratch our messages on dead trees with pointy sticks filled with liquidised vegetables. Back when being formal mattered. Back when we believed there were only two genders, and that it was important to assign a person to one or the other.
That was then, and this is now. Now we say “Hey!” or “Hi”. Or, “How’s it going wonderful Basecamp helper unicorns?”. Imagine you aren’t Writing An Important Letter, but walking up to a stranger and introducing yourself — only you’re blindfolded and can’t see what kind of body the person inhabits. Actually, that sounds kind of scary — forget that. Just be friendly, be informal, be cool.
DON’T USE ALL CAPS
You would think that everyone would know this by now. YOU WOULD THINK THAT.
Get to the point!
Everyone on my team reads upwards of 100 emails a day, more like triple that if you count the ones we scan to see if they’re spam, out-of-office replies or something else that doesn’t need our full attention. So please, get to the point. As quickly as you can.
Say what you need up front (right after your friendly salutation!), before getting into the specifics. Try to let the reader know: here’s what the issue is, here’s what I want you to do about it, and here’s all the info you need to get it done. We all wish we had time to read epic tales sewn through with plot twists and colourful characterisation, but we don’t. Keep it moving, people!
Paragraphs are your friend
There is nothing more disheartening than opening an email to see a dense block of unbroken text. OK, there are far more disheartening things, like war, famine and injustice, but we’re talking about email here. And sometimes email will screw with you, removing all the formatting and mashing your carefully-chosen words into a single stream of consciousness. You can’t always control the output, but you can be mindful about what you put in — and aim for it to be as legible as possible.
Use paragraphs. Even better, make every paragraph a single sentence, each of which makes one discrete point.
That’s how I write most of my emails now, because this way they’re most easily understood.
I’m doing it right now — doesn’t it look nice?
Writing this way forces you to consider everything you’re setting down.
Think about the person on the other end, the person who has to read this, and ask yourself:
Could this section be clearer or more concise?
Should that part come before or after this part?
Do I need to include this at all?
Try to avoid this:
And aim for this instead:
Don’t tell us it’s urgent
You know how we feel about “ASAP”. If you’re writing to Basecamp support, we’ll get back to you in a matter of minutes, because we want to keep you happy and productive. And anyone else you contact will be working to their own set of priorities. If you’re up against a specific deadline, or you need this thing dealt with before you can do that other thing, by all means say so. But words like “immediately”, “URGENT” or (ew) “ASAP” aren’t going to speed things up.
So far, so prescriptive. But writing is always personal. It’s your voice, and we want to hear from you. So forget everything you were taught in Business English 101 (but remember everything you learned here 😉) and drop us a note from a living, breathing actual human. Ask us to “take care of” something, rather than “actioning” it, and we’ll respond in kind — with the real words that real people use. And probably an emoji or two. 👍
Attach photos of your pets!
This is special advice for when you email Basecamp. Your CEO or divorce lawyer may not appreciate an attachment of your dog in a Halloween outfit — unless they’re really cool. But, no matter what size or shape of animal you have, we want to see it! There are times when you need to be strictly business, and there are times when you need to sign off your correspondence with this:
Happy emailing — we look forward to hearing from you 🙂
How a simple email to Mike Monteiro led to a handshake and a hello.
A couple years ago I attended a conference in Austin. There were a lot of great speakers, but the one I really wanted to see was Mike Monteiro. I’ve admired Mike’s work from afar for many years because it’s so honest and direct.
I watched Mike’s entire talk, What Clients Don’t Know (and Why It’s Your Fault), and enjoyed it thoroughly. It was so great, I wanted to say thanks — it’s the least I could do for something I liked so much. I looked through the crowd for a while, but was never able to find him.
But I still wanted to say thanks, so I took a shot and sent him an email, fully assuming he wouldn’t read it. I kept it brief — I introduced myself, let him know that I’ve admired his work for many years, and thanked him for a great talk.
Later that morning as we hung around the lobby, Mike walked up to me and said hello. We shook hands, and he mentioned he got my email and said thanks for that. The whole interaction was maybe 30 seconds, and I probably made a fool of myself.
But my foolishness aside, I got to meet someone who I admired. All it took was the simple act of saying thank you in an email.
This isn’t a unique story, either. Before I started working at Basecamp, I would occasionally email Jason — just to say hello and to thank him and the team for Basecamp. Eventually those individual emails turned into conversations. And those conversations ultimately turned into my dream job.
Our friend and current CEO of Highrise, Nate Kontny, has written about a similar story. He’s cold-emailed hundreds of people over the years. And while most have been ignored, some have started some really important conversations (like the one that led him to become the CEO of Highrise).
So if you admire someone, want to say thank you, or just want to strike up a conversation, don’t be afraid to send a nice email.
All the headlines keep declaring that email is dead, but it absolutely isn’t. Let your ideas, genuine gratitude, and personality shine in an email. You might be surprised what it leads to.
Ever since I emailed Jason and landed my dream job, I’ve had tons of fun working on a lot of great projects, including the all new Basecamp 3 and its companion Android app. Check ’em out!
Go check your inbox right now. I guarantee you’ve got a few emails from a “email@example.com”. A quick search through mine yielded 28 different no-reply emails from 28 different companies. It’s not limited to only big companies either. Tiny startups use them to send out their newsletters, invites, notifications, etc.
When I get an email from a no-reply address, I know that company doesn’t want to hear from me. They’re telling me that while I need to read this email, they won’t be reading any replies that I want to send them about it. They can consume my time but they won’t spare any of their time for me.
In short, they don’t care.
Sometimes it’s unintentional. A new startup sees that other businesses are doing it so they do. Sometimes it’s intentional because a company doesn’t want to get bombarded by auto-responders about being out of the office. And sometimes it’s justifiable. If your app sends out email notifications for certain actions, like checking off a to-do or sending a message, then I can understand the use of a no-reply email address.
But overall, stay far, far away from them.
You want your customers to be talking to you. You want them sharing ideas and experiences with you. Instead of a no-reply, set it to your support email address. Make sure someone will see any replies that a customer sends. Sure, you’re going to get lots of auto-responders. That’s why your email app has filter and rules you can set up.
Embrace the idea of a yes-reply email address. It’ll keep that communication lane open between you and your customer. It’ll make customers realize that you do value their time and will give them some of yours if they want it.
Your goal should be to talk more with your customers. Switching your no-reply addresses over will be a great first step towards it.