pagerduty_logoWhen I first checked out PagerDuty’s UserVoice forum, I wanted to ask them about their consistent engagement with their customers. For a complex, technical app (they aggregate and send you alerts from website monitoring tools), PagerDuty is remarkably active in listening to the ideas from their community. When Alex Solomon, CEO of PagerDuty, got back to me it turned out that the more interesting story was how PagerDuty interprets what seems like “bad” ideas.

For PagerDuty, a “bad” idea is simply a real issue with the wrong solution.

Unless they’re spamming or trolling, people rarely post things that make no sense. It may seem like it sometimes, but usually it’s simply that it makes sense to them because they know the problem they’re trying to solve. If they don’t tell us what that problem is, we may not understand their proposed solution.

Alex and the PagerDuty team take this to heart, working hard to understand what the motivations behind “bad” ideas are. Case in point:

“One customer asked us to [create] the option to turn off…security for the on-call duty schedule pages. After talking to the customer about his use case, I learned that he wanted to give access to managers to see the…schedule and reports in PagerDuty. I suggested a much better solution (one that doesn’t involve scrapping our security model): adding support for read-only user accounts that can view the schedules and reports.”

Many people would read an idea about turning off security, laugh, and decline the idea. Alex went the extra step and understood the customer’s need, and found a solution that helped them without sacrificing security.

Another example Alex mentioned was a request that PagerDuty connect their system directly to another system. This is obviously a good chunk of work that would only benefit PagerDuty customers using the other system. Alex got down to the source of the idea – a need to avoid duplication on both systems – and created an API that allows the customer to avoid this situation, without building a huge custom integration. Problem solved, customer happy, and many dollars saved.

By listening carefully and asking questions, PagerDuty delights even the customers whose ideas get marked as “declined” – because they solve the actual issue behind the idea.

In the end it’s not policy that benefits PagerDuty so much as an admirable respect for their customers. Says Alex, “Browsing through our UserVoice list of ideas is definitely a humbling experience: it shows that we still have a long way to go before the product is perfect. However, it’s also a really great feeling because it shows us that our users really care about PagerDuty and like what we’ve built.”

Have your own success story or want to point out a company that is doing an awesome job with their UserVoice forum? Drop me a line at the email address below!

Evan Hamilton

Community Manager, UserVoice


Broken Lightbulb photo courtesy of Cesar Santiago Molina.

Lightbulb photo by Jennifer.