#5 State of Mozilla Support: 2018 Mid-year Update – Part 5

Hello, present and future Mozillians!

We are happy to share with you the final post of the series, which started with two external research report analyses, moved on to sharing updates and plans for support forums, social support, and localization, and now is about to conclude with our strategic summary.

The presentation that is the source of this post can be accessed here. The document is meant to be a set of recommendations for the Marketing team’s leadership as to the state and direction of Support (the Support team being a part of Marketing as of mid-2018).

An important disclaimer before we dive into the summary: as it is customary with projects and ideas, everything described below as a future move or plan is not set in stone and may not happen or can significantly change in nature or details, depending on many factors. That said, this summary should give you a general idea on where we are coming from and where we are headed to as Mozilla’s Support.

The recommendations are a result of external research, data analysis, and recent experiments. In general, we learned that:

  • Our site is not delivering optimal support the way it could (when compared to other support sites)
  • Our approach should probably be more tuned to specific product requirements (not a “one-size-fits-all” way of doing things)
  • Our community is stretched to its limits and needs more support and growth
  • We need to look into alternative approaches and experimental methods that may contradict our “old ways”
  • We can and should participate in shaping product development through the insights our community and users provide

Thus, the Support vision within Mozilla is evolving from “Partner with the Mozilla community to maximize user success and happiness.” into “People seek out support when they have a problem while using our products. We need to be there for them in ways they expect and in unexpected ways that will delight. We deliver product support that earns user’s trust, helps them take control, and empowers them to do more online.”

There is no reason for alarm due to the “Mozilla community” part missing from the updated vision. Just like all of Mozilla, Support happens in a huge part thanks to the tireless engagement of hundreds of people around the world. Going forward, the community should not be its only engine and driver. Meanwhile, the focus on the user through many different means (sometimes experimental) is at the core of Support’s vision for 2018 and beyond.

Further integration of Support into Mozilla’s overall product strategy means consciously diversifying between solid support for our flagship product (Firefox) while being agile and flexible about new and challenging projects coming from different parts of Mozilla that require support – be it Knowledge Base, Social, support forums, 1:1 or any other format.

For Firefox support, this means focusing on what we already know works and making it work better. For new products, we may want to try new ways of delivering support that step outside of what we have been doing so far. These new, experimental ways may be later expanded into Firefox support. On both fronts, Support will also focus on delivering interesting and impactful insights that shape what the future of Mozilla’s products.

The above is broken down into five separate recommendations, described in more detail below.

Securing the foundation

With a huge number of users visiting the Support site every day for quality help powered by a small group of core contributors, we do not have a stable and solid foundation at the moment.

To avoid running into a one-way street and not delivering support to our users, we want to develop and redesign our community approach with the help of the Open Innovation team. This will come through a series of research explorations and experiments taking place in 2018.

The platform itself should also receive a few tweaks thanks to a more streamlined support from the Marketing Developer team.

Some of the options considered for this segment are:

  • Contextual recognition and unobtrusive gamification for our existing core contributors.
  • Prototyping a DIY learning program and experimenting with changing community communication channels.
  • Combining community coordination with Mission Driven Mozillians and the core Localization team.
  • Experimenting with pay-per-use services as backups.
  • Investing time and resources into pushing Social support to a new level.

Improving user experience

The Support site has not been reviewed or streamlined for user experience in the recent years, resulting in its current design being dated and hard to navigate. With site search hobbled by technical challenges and lack of development, the old information architecture is not enough to help users find the information they need.

Researching the site’s usability and reworking its visual appeal are key to changing the current state. For this to happen, we need to have technical and visual experts within Mozilla make the experience both modern and in-tune with Mozilla’s new aesthetics and back-end requirements.

As is the case in the most recent years around the web, mobile formats keep being an important part of the user experience, so improving site performance for those on mobile devices is definitely a priority in the coming months.

Improving search (both within the site and as SEO for popular 3rd party search engines out there) is also a priority, although we are doing moderately well when it comes to content discovery on the Support site from the wider web.

An interesting direction of experimentation is the idea of having separate product support sites that may all fall under the Support umbrella, but with different content organization and presentation. This is in very early stages of discussion, so at the moment we can’t offer any more details.

The entire process should be as transparent and agile as we can make it, but ultimately it will involve some tough calls on what we need to change that may be outside of the hands of the community. We hope you trust us enough to make the site better based on the data and research available during the redesign period.

Delivering insights, mapping impact

Over the years, we have amassed quite a big stash of data that (if used with the right focus and purpose) could help us make the Support site itself much better, but also help the teams working on Mozilla’s products make well-informed decisions about development and patching priorities.

What we are finding challenging without additional resources is surfacing and organizing all of this data into a coherent set of insights.

For this to happen, we first could prototype improving internal reporting and automate as much of it as possible if the prototype reports prove useful.

Reworking some of our key metrics (for example through adding Customer Satisfaction measurement in all places where Support happens) and improving the technical side of reporting (through deployment of new community dashboards based on Bitergia) is another set of potential developments in this area.

All of the insights gathered and forwarded to either the developers or community members should help us connect the influence Support activities and resources with user retention or other relevant product metrics.

For the above to happen, we need to work on identifying product metrics that the Product teams need from us and then expand the existing dashboards with additional data or representation methods.

Experimenting with new methods

At this moment, the only way support.mozilla.org stays active and useful is through the tireless and humbling engagement by our community members, who easily belong among the most ardent fans of Mozilla’s vision of the web.

This tried and tested method of providing support is not going away – but in order to adapt to the new directions Mozilla wants to explore, Support needs to flex a bit and get out of its “comfort zone”. New challenges mean new approaches, so there is a lot of space for trying things out (and succeeding or failing – we want to be ready for both options!).

What could some of those brave new worlds we want to explore be? The Google App Store experiment worked out quite well, so going further down that road is definitely on the table as an option.

Getting a friendly robotic mind to help out from time to time is also in tune with the future. Automated (but friendly!) support options could include email queues or chatbots. But code is not our only ally out there – we can also consider stepping outside of support.mozilla.org and reaching out with more resources to external communities (for example Reddit’s /r/firefox).

Finally, another area to explore, albeit quite costly from the perspective of time and resource investments, can be found on YouTube, where many people look for instructional or “useful tips” content.

Since these new areas need a lot of preparation, the rest of 2018 is an exploratory and brainstorming period in that respect, with more to come in 2019, especially through collaboration with Open Innovation on participation systems and alternative approaches.

Customizing product support

You could say that Firefox is the flagship product of Mozilla at this moment – and you would not be wrong at all. Even so, it has many faces and aspects that very often require slightly different approaches. But Firefox is not everything that Mozilla plans to offer in the (near) future. New products may benefit more from support solutions that have not been used on support.mozilla.org yet.

With the upcoming new flavours of Firefox and products beyond that, we might want to consider creating customized support strategies and tools for communities (but not only) to get involved through.

Giving new tools and new approaches a chance requires a very good understanding of where we are and where we could easily get without overinvesting time and energy in a complete overhaul of Support. It also means partnering much closers with Product teams on their needs and engagement with Support in the future.

As this is yet another area we are hoping to boldly go into (but have little experience as of now), it’s targeted mostly for next year, rather than 2018.

What are we NOT planning on doing?

Now that you know a bit more and you may start wondering “how could all this possible happen?” (don’t worry, you’re not the only one asking that question), it is good to make sure that we make clear what is not going to happen in the near future.

We are not planning to significantly redesign the current contribution experience and tools on support.mozilla.org (the idea is rather to expand or synthesize it).

We are also not going to invest time and effort into replacing the current support platform, since we have not fully explored its potential yet.

…and more

Being a part of Mozilla is exciting and challenging at all times – and the future is not going to bring anything less ;-) In 2018 and afterwards, the Support site is going to be involved in and impacted by the changes to Firefox as a brand (and as a bundle of interconnected products and services that are not only the browser itself), as well as the continuous integration of Pocket into Mozilla (which means expanding its available locales). Our platform will need to be revised and updated accordingly to match the requirements of the road ahead.

Whatever future steps we take or directions we look into, we want you to be a part of that journey. Together, we have gone through quite a few bumpy moments, and not having you as part of our community would make reaching new horizons harder and less fun. As always, we want to thank you for being there for users worldwide and for making Mozilla (and its Support) happen.

Onwards, towards the exciting unknown! :-)