A little over a year ago, we launched Sidekick as an internal tool to help our support teams at PartnerHero manage Quality Assurance. Since the beginning of 2018, we’ve allowed open registration for Sidekick so that any customer support team in the world could use it in their own peer review and QA flow.
Now, after months of great feedback from our users, we’re relaunching Sidekick with a new name, a new logo, and a redesigned interface.
From the moment we started building, we knew that the Sidekick brand was a temporary one. The name Sidekick has been used to describe a broad variety of things over the years, including washing machines, cars, magazines, home improvement services, pocket knives, flashlights, and pain relievers — not to mention one of the most popular mobile phones to predate the iPhone. It’s the conceptual grey-goo of branding. Still, we imagined a many-armed companion as a kind of sidekick to help you surface actionable information quickly while staying conveniently out of the way. We came to love our octopus mascot even though we knew that he, too, was only a temporary representative of the product we set out to build. Just like the name Sidekick, octopus logos were everywhere we looked. (Ok, that last one is a squid, but you get the point.)
The name Aprikot came about almost by divine providence. Shervin, PartnerHero’s founder and the original creator of the concept behind Aprikot, has the fairly common habit of purchasing domain names that feel right, even if not sure what they’ll ultimately be used for. As we began to explore how we could better differentiate ourselves from all the Sidekicks and octopuses out there, Aprikot just sort of jumped out at us as being the perfect fit in a sea of possible domain names. A bit of research revealed that the Chinese word for apricot, 杏壇, roughly translates to “educational circle” and we were sold.
We know that a quality assurance process is one of the most important things any business can do to ensure customer happiness and retention. Unfortunately, since this process is oftentimes experienced as a punitive exercise, we knew we had to make Aprikot a clean, playful, and approachable product so that people would want to engage with it even if they’d had bad experiences in the past. We decided to embrace a warm color palette with an easily-identifiable logo and a rounded, welcoming font. Our talented lead designer, Luiz, got straight to work.
A few iterations we went through on our way here:
For those who’ve been using Sidekick for a while, this’ll be a little bit of a recap which you’re welcome to skip. For everyone else: read on; this part is important.
We believe that quality is a measurement best maintained by those closest to the work. That means that instead of relying on post-service surveys like CSAT, or top-down supervisor audits, the best way to manage quality is with peer to peer feedback given regularly. Much like a high-end restaurant expects a chef to sample every dish that leaves the kitchen, we think that the best companies value peer review because it completes a necessary feedback loop that builds trust, compassion, and ownership within a support team while also serving to disperse the best ideas quickly.
Aprikot makes it easy for teams to give and receive peer to peer feedback on customer support interactions while automatically surfacing team members’ strengths and weaknesses to one another.
This radical transparency means that everyone involved has an opportunity to give and receive value from the process. For new team members, they can bring past experience and offer a fresh perspective while learning the ropes from the colleagues’ tickets they’re reviewing. A more seasoned team member can share their wealth of product knowledge while also being able to gain valuable insights from the newest addition or someone they’ve known for years. Equally-weighted, transparent feedback builds team cohesion by placing everyone on the same team right from the start.
If you’re one of our early adopters, no doubt you’ll notice some things feel brand new while others feel exactly the same.
Aprikot still focuses on the opportunities to learn from peer feedback rather than optimizing a score. Our view is that we should give you actionable feedback (“You need to focus on Timeliness”) paired with the resources to take action on that feedback (“Here’s who we recommend asking for help.”) This focuses attention on the growth opportunities that are derived from the process rather than the resulting scores.
This philosophy on feedback is echoed throughout the interface, for example, on the main dashboard where you’ll still see scores, but the focus is on the strengths and opportunities uncovered through the peer to peer feedback process. When you click on your strength, it shows others on your team who experience that as a weakness so you can offer some additional help. Conversely, when you click on your weakness, you’ll see others on your team who experience that as a strength so you know who to ask for help.
Since all data is open to the entire team and each team member is encouraged to seek and offer assistance, we remove the stigma associated with scoring and focus instead of collaboration between team members.
Secondly, we’ve updated the rating detail screen to be more representative of a team member’s journey. As a team member improves in each aspect of the quality rubric, their graph will become bigger, and more well rounded — much like the team member’s skillset. Instead of starting with low scores and red alerts, newer team members might just see an unbalanced graph highlighting strengths and weaknesses. We’re moving the focus from “not being good enough” to the conversations peer review will spark between team members.
We’ve got a bunch of new updates planned for the next few months, all aimed at helping support teams improve faster while encouraging more collaboration. We’re proud of what we’ve built and look forward to showing you what we have in store.