As with other buffer teams, our advocacy team was excited when we first tried a four-day work week in May 2020. Unique to this team, however, was a little wary of the success of the four-day job. a week for a customer-centric team.
As a company, Buffer has always had a high customer service bar. We strive to provide prompt, personal and informed customer support responses 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We also assign one attorney for each ticket so that each client gets a sense of continuity with us. The lobbying is that even if we work one day less a week, the number of tickets arriving will remain largely unchanged.
So how do we try to set the bar high when we work four-day work weeks?
We have tried several different settings and are quite happy with the landing. Here is exactly the system we currently use to make a four-day work week for our customer relationship team, as well as a transparent picture of our team’s goals and metrics for the final year of the four-day work week.
How lobbying is set for a four-day work week
Over the years, the team of lawyers has done a few batches summer Fridays, where our teammates spent half a day on Fridays for a month in the summer. We learned quite a bit from them, so we already had a framework for the challenges and opportunities when we started the four-day work week.
A shorter work week is usually a good opportunity for the legal team to learn and grow in several areas:
- Communication: In a four-day work week, we need to keep excellent communication a priority in asynchronous communication.
- Knowledge management: We’ve already invested a lot in sharing information and documenting processes, and this is another opportunity to improve the way we do it.
- An experiment with time management: It’s an opportunity to explore how we can work more efficiently on a daily basis and how we can better manage energy.
- Setting individual goals: This was a great opportunity to rethink individual goals and give the team clear goals.
Where we started with a four-day work week
When the entire buffer team first started working in four-day work weeks, we gave each Buffer team the freedom to choose the day of the week for takeoff. The whole company was mostly divided into two camps: on Wednesdays or Fridays.
We already knew that choosing a consistent day each week didn’t work for us on the team because we need to be available to clients seven days a week. Every day we don’t have lawyers, the number of tickets increases and clients don’t get answers. It is also possible that we will lose an error or problem with the buffer product that arrives through the mailbox.
From the start trip, we knew we needed different holidays for different team members. At first, we switched holidays, so teammates were away on a different day each week, but there were always teammates online. We did this for the first month and it was not a popular option. Firstly, far too much administrative work was involved in setting this timetable; second, it was difficult for lawyers to plan anything when the day they were offline was constantly spinning.
A system that works for our team
The timetable we have now is the timetable we reached in July 2020, three months from now we will adopt a four-day working week. We asked the team members for their preferences for the day off and we try to follow it as much as possible. Most people chose to be Friday off, some prefer Monday, and a smaller group leaves on Wednesdays. Now it’s consistent every week, so we know exactly who’s online each day of the week.
An important part of this system was for us to build it to optimize most of the team’s people so they could take it three days in a row. This structure of work – four days, three days off – can really complement that, and we wanted it for our team members.
In addition, it can be tricky to have a constant conversation with a client if you are away for one random day in the middle of the week. We built the schedule with that in mind, even though we have a few team members who find value in Wednesday’s release and support it. However, for most of the team, it is Monday or Friday.
How we handle weekends
As you can see from the chart above, we also have customer support on weekends. That’s what we’ve been doing since the early days of Buffer, and we hire a few people specifically for weekend shifts. By default, they work weekends and not both, so they have one weekend day. The exception is that one teammate wants to work from Friday to Monday and keep away from Tuesday to Thursday.
For those who use weekend shifts, we still optimize three days off in a row to maintain the benefits of added rest and to stay in touch with customers.
Goals and metrics and a 4-day work week
Usually, we set goals and measure incoming volume over seven days instead of the four that each teammate works on. The challenge for us is to make sure we are productive together for those seven days on this new schedule. Honestly, we struggled with this for the first six months; we did our best we could, but we didn’t have clear goals and we couldn’t clearly expect productivity growth.
This year, we’ve been much clearer about our goals, especially the number of tickets for destinations that hit in four days. This clarity means that teammates can reach our response time goal and continue the four-day work week. As with other Buffer teams, attorneys also have the option to work part or all of the Fifth Day of the week if they don’t feel they have achieved what they plan to do in a particular week. We call it the fifth day, the “day of overflow.”
An overview of our goals and their development
The two main goals of the Advocacy team have always been response time for clients and individual ticket goals (how many tickets a lawyer gets through per day). These goals were, in our view, based on realistic targets for the team and the level of each individual.
In the first quarter of 2020 (before we worked a four-day work week), our goal was to respond to customer emails within six hours. We also had individual ticket targets based on daily volume. As we transitioned to four-day work weeks in the second quarter of 2020, we introduced new targets for tickets per day, but did not tie them to the customer experience we wanted to provide or set these based on achieving the same output in four days instead of five.
We decided to develop working hours to provide customer support. At the start of the four – day work week trial, our working hours were on Mondays at 3 ET – Friday at 20:00 ET – ie 24 hours a day during the work week. To create more consistent expectations for our customers, we changed our time from Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Now, in 2021, we have set ambitious company- and team-level OKR goals (objectives and key outcomes) around customer response times and overall service experience. It is important to us that we do not sacrifice the customer experience for the sake of efficiency. We have sought a two-hour first response time and subsequent responses sent within seven hours (from email tickets).
A few results so far in the first quarter of 2021:
- Customer satisfaction scores rose from 92.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 94 percent during this quarter.
- We achieved our goal, a first response time of two hours, with a median of 1.6 hours during work hours.
- Our team sent 71% of the second responses within seven hours (our goal was 90%).
We have also aligned our team’s goals for weekly ticket responses (148-170 tickets) and the quality of the ticket expected by each individual. These goals will ensure the level of production that we need to achieve to achieve our goals, while allowing us to take that fifth day off.
We are proud to have been able to improve our customer response times and experience in 2021 as we work a four-day work week. Nevertheless, we know that there is still room to develop what a four-day work week looks like for our team.
Shortening the hours available to a global team means that sometimes we have little hands when we are affected by external factors such as third-party downtime or API issues. While we can get the same number of tickets in four days as five, it is always valuable to be available on certain days and times in the world of customer support.
As a team, we continue to discuss how we can adopt a little more flexibility in our future strategy.
Do you work in a customer support team that has four days of work weeks? Or do you have more questions about how we approach a four-day work week? Drop us a tweet! You may only hear from one of our client representatives.