How Hugging Continues to be a Key Part of FullStory's Empathy-Forward Organization


2018 has been a busy, growth-filled year at FullStory, and as we near the holidays, the Hugging team has begun to reflect on what we've learned.

An Early Challenge

In my first few months at FullStory, I got an email stating something to the effect of, “I’d give it about 6 months until you drop the ‘Hugger’ title.” I took this as a compliment. A nod to the imagined future success of a fledgling startup that seemed to be doing well enough that we’d need to grow up and strap on some real titles in the near future. Fair enough.

Of course, the comment also plucked at my competitive nature.

If you’ve been following FullStory’s journey, you’ve probably read a bit about Hugging already. Although we’ve thought about retitling, it really has proven difficult to shake the concept of Huggers. The truth is, there is great power in words and we’ve consistently found memes work to perpetuate our company culture and values. At FullStory, the concept of Hugging continues to shape who we are and how we operate—and ultimately the product experience our customers receive.

(Even still, as a woman in leadership there have also been some challenging aspects to work through with this title. More to come in a separate post.)

It’s Evolution, Baby!

In my post from last May, I discussed how Hugging was a combination of support, success and product management. While that is still true, we have certainly had to lean into the specialties of our job functions more than ever as we flew past the 100 employee mark. If you visited the FullStory office today you’d meet folks who spend most of their day in support and folks who spend most of their day product managing and folks who spend most of their time proactively helping customers succeed.

But even as we’ve specialized, Hugging has not gone away.

As Huggers stared into the mirror to ask the big questions about who we are and why we’re here at FullStory, we settled on a pretty compelling vision:

We believe daily life will be greatly improved when every organization starts with empathy for making key decisions.

We feel we can achieve this goal by modeling and evangelizing the “Hugging” concept as a compelling structure for an empathy-forward organization.

Core to this mission is the layer of empowerment that comes with the Hugger title. In many companies, support and success can be on their own island with no ability to influence product or organizational changes. And that is a shame, since these roles often have the most up to date and unbiased knowledge of current customer feelings and perceptions. As we grow and specialize, we continue to ensure that Hugging still carries the weight of influence that was originally intended.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Reflecting on our evolution, a few vignettes came to mind that may help to illustrate the continued influence of Hugging at FullStory. I’m writing these down with the hope that these examples will inspire your own organization to rally around a customer centric and empathetic structure.

All the Small Things

What exactly does it mean to empower a support team by calling them Huggers? For us, it has meant ensuring all support agents have dedicated time outside of the ticket queue (we aim for a 60% time in queue / 40% time out of queue split for our most seasoned agents) to focus on macro problems and make progress on large process improvements or projects.

One result of this “extra time” has been our Top 10 process.

If you’re a FullStory customer, you may have run into the same problem that we have—FullStory is just so darn good at uncovering bugs and usability issues that you can sometimes feel like you’re drinking from a firehose of things that you should improve.

Our Top 10 process is an effort to always have a shortlist of product work that, if completed, would be maximally beneficial to our customers. The things found on this list tend to be the papercuts or rough edges in our product that never quite rise to the level of “more important than new feature work.” These are the shoulds rather than the musts.

As Huggers, we know these small things can add up over time to become big pain points that may lead to churn. We also know that our well intentioned developer coworkers would love to help, but it can be hard for them to know where their spare time would be best spent.

Top 10 leverages the signal we receive from customers about product papercuts and combines that signal with input from the rest of the company (both their objective and subjective data points). With some dead simple math, we then output a score that stack ranks all the “shoulds” and creates a Top 10 list.

Some tangible outputs of the Top 10 process this past year have included: the screen resolution breakdown, tons of subtle tweaks to our OmniSearch functionality to enhance discoverability and usability, a more discoverable “Create a segment” CTA in the segments sidebar, a Report a Bug feature for customers who aren't taking advantage of a bug reporting integration (or prefer the ease of copy/paste), a redesign of our long neglected record by domain settings, and a new Save As button in search to supplement the duplicate button that was never quite what you needed. And that’s not even everything!

It was impressive to see how much velocity increased for these simple fixes just by focusing on having a well scoped and clearly prioritized list of shoulds. As Huggers, it is also edifying to see these changes actually get built and on their way to helping real customers.

How ‘Bout That GDPR?

In early January, Hugging collectively decided on the main things we wanted to impact over the course of the year. As we brainstormed and wrote down our ideas, one theme quickly emerged -- security & privacy.

As the representatives for our customers inside the walls of FullStory, we understood the world was-a-changin’ and our customers were more and more concerned about how data is gathered, processed and protected. We felt it was a mission of Hugging to ensure the data and privacy drum was consistently beaten at all FullStory product meetings on behalf of our customers.

In many companies, GDPR compliance was likely a project initially raised by the legal department, ensuring that ducks were in a row by the letter of the law. But at FullStory, it was Hugging who really grabbed the GDPR bull by the horns. Knowing we wanted to beat that privacy drum, we asked legal to train us up in their understanding of GDPR and then we helped to translate these GDPR implications into actual gaps and features to be built with the product team and we trained the rest of the company on the who/what/how/why of GDPR.

We also made sure that our communication to customers about our GDPR stance was proactive. We wrote and updated GDPR help articles (Also FullStory GDPR FAQ), worked with marketing to get the word out about FullStory and GDPR on our blog and resources pages and created an opt-in email list for customers wanting to receive updates about FullStory’s GDPR preparedness. We even spearheaded a DPA automation process to make it easy for customers to find and sign our DPA.

In short, Hugging knew GDPR was important to our customers. That knowledge plus our internal customer advocacy mission helped us to prioritize data privacy in the new year.

FullStorians Need Hugs, Too

As Hugging has grown, we’ve become a nucleus within the organization. When people are trying to figure out the answer to a question, inevitably you hear the response, “Ask someone in Hugging, they’ll know.” As we found ourselves increasingly becoming the keeper of the knowledge keys, we knew we had some internal customers who could also use hugs.

Rather than be knowledge hoarders, we wanted to find ways to socialize and publish the things we knew. This led to Hugging pioneering the use of Guru as our internal knowledge management system and creating a self-led product training in Typeform.

Even still, we knew our efforts were falling short and found that new employees needed more support to get up to speed. We wanted every customer interaction with FullStory to be with a subject matter expert and we wanted everyone in our Sales family to feel confident when talking about our industry, our product, and customer use cases.

This knowledge (and our bleeding hearts) led to Hugging advocating for and creating a position for an internal training manager. Now that our training manager is on board, he’s developing and leading the charge to get all FullStorians up to the same “Common Knowledge” bar. We’re excited to watch the knowledge ooze into all corners of FullStory, which we think of as spreading Hugging culture.

Hugging to the Future!

In summary, rather than shedding the Hugger title we’ve leaned in as an organization. The number of employees in Hugging has grown by 167% in the last year. And we’re not planning to slow down as long as our influence is still helping to shape and evolve our product as well as the customer experience that users ultimately have with FullStory.