Over the years we’ve received requests from our customers for a feature that can enable their customers and their end users to create/ report incidents directly on Squadcast. To our valued customers - we heard you! We are excited to introduce Webforms to do exactly that.
In the past, we’ve addressed the challenges pertaining to On-call processes and best practices that teams can implement. Today, we’re proud to announce a new feature called Webforms that not only enables users outside Squadcast’s ecosystem to report incidents but also promotes a healthy on-call practice.
Traditional implementations focused on solving this problem involved a phone based system for users to call in to open incidents. These features were typically marketed under the term “Live Call Routing (LCR)”. LCR required enterprises to maintain dedicated phone numbers for users to call in to, have support engineers on staff to receive these incoming calls, limited the richness of data that could be shared and led to mistakes as issues were translated from one user to a support engineer and so on up the chain.
Webforms solve all of these issues. It achieves the same outcome as LCR but is also a modern way of collecting feedback async from end users and customers. With Webforms, engineers don’t need to manually create incidents on Squadcast.
It enables end-users (customers/ stakeholders) to automatically report incidents by filling out a web-based form with all the necessary details regarding the incident's impact and the affected service(s). Once this form is submitted, the issue is automatically routed to the right engineers who are on call. This not only eliminates the dependence on having dedicated support personnel to receive incoming calls, but will also help teams discover issues sooner, report quicker, and remediate faster.
While the monitoring tools of today do a fantastic job of routing issues to Squadcast’s platform, there are still numerous issues that are caught only by the human eye. Issues such as UI glitches, issues in the field, and other minor bugs are just not meant to be captured by monitoring tools.
So how are engineers to know of such issues? After all, they can only fight what they can see.
If this is missed by internal testing and gets deployed to production, then there is a risk of bad user experience as and when it gets exposed to customers and stakeholders. Surely, there are various processes that can be established to test applications better before deployment, but the fact of the matter is, that bugs will find a way to permeate and upset end users. Hence it's always a good practice to enable users to report issues and complaints.
Voila! This is where Webforms come into the picture.
With Webforms, you can enable your organization’s stakeholders & customers to report issues by themselves.
As the name suggests, this is a simple web-based form which can be used to expand your customer support by hosting public Webforms, so your customers (or anyone else for that matter) can quickly create an alert from outside the Squadcast ecosystem. Not only this, internal stakeholders can also leverage Webforms for easy alert creation.
The form can be either hosted on Squadcast’s domain (by default) or you can provide a custom CNAME to host it on your own domain, say https://support.example.com.
By lodging issues directly from end-users, Webforms itself acts as a support portal of sorts. And once an issue has been recorded, an entry for the same will get created on Squadcast’s Incident Dashboard.
So what’s the outcome here? On-call engineers get notified right away!
You can also enable users filling out the form to include more details such as the service that is affected, establish the severity (or priority) of the service impact, while also notifying other users that they wish to keep looped-in. Now, depending on the severity of the impact and the escalation policies in place, the relevant on-call engineers can get notified to remediate the issue.
There are a couple of important metrics that will naturally improve if you start distributing Webforms to your most valuable customers.
1. Mean Time To Detect-
By definition, Mean Time To Detect or Discover (MTTD) is a measure of how long a problem exists in an IT deployment before the appropriate parties become aware of it.
The sooner users are able to report issues, the sooner those issues can get fixed, and a lesser number of users get impacted by the same issue or face a poor user experience.
2. Mean Time To Acknowledge-
By definition, Mean Time To Acknowledge (MTTA) is the average time required for an alert to result in the initiation of action, usually the issuing of a service ticket, on the part of the IT operations team.
With the right escalation policies in place to mobilize response teams, and a detailed description of the issue coming directly from the source, teams will stand a better chance at understanding the root cause of the incident and not just the symptom.
3. Mean Time to Respond-
By definition, Mean Time To Respond (MTTR) is the average time it takes to recover from a product or system failure from the time when you are first alerted of that failure.
When the severity of the impact and the importance of the user (special/ valuable customers) reporting the issue becomes known in advance, there is an added incentive to resolve issues on priority.
In short, Webforms can act like a hotline of sorts for a select set of customers who are very valuable to your business and whose requests are of utmost importance and need a high-priority response.
Speaking of providing a good user experience, all is not lost when a buggy feature is reported by customers. Yes, they might get disappointed in the moment, but that is understandable and is a common occurrence in the software world. But what can be done to combat this disappointment is the promise of quick fixes & appropriate responses in the form of Email notifications to the reporter and associated stakeholders.
When reporting an issue via Webforms, users can include the email id(s) of other members they would like to keep notified. And whenever the on-call engineers acknowledge or resolve the issue, an email notification will indeed be sent to the reporter(s) along with the incident status.
This is the added incentive for on-call engineers to quickly remediate open issues, no matter how severe they turn out to be.
Having an in-house engineering or support team means that stakeholders will directly report issues to the concerned engineers when they spot an issue. This creates an over-dependence on the availability of those engineers because the incident will have to be created on the Squadcast platform. The unavailability of engineers will only result in an increased MTTA and MTTR which is an unhealthy sign.
By sharing Webforms for incident reporting, you enable stakeholders within your work ecosystem or external customers to directly report an issue with the necessary details (covered in the previous use case) highlighting the impact of the issue. This process will substantially reduce the MTTA from the time the incident was initially discovered.
If you are a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for various clients or if you are a Network Operations Centre (NOC) or Security Operations Centre (SOC) ensuring service reliability of multiple clients from a single Squadcast account, then Webforms is the way forward.
You can create a separate Webform for each client based on how important they are to your business. Whenever they want to report an issue, they can directly go to the form URL and fill out the details of the service(s) affected and explain the issue in detail, indirectly acting like a hotline to your Support Portal.
Since Live Call Routing is an outdated practice and promotes a stressful on-call culture, we should innovate better alternatives that will give the same outcome, while at the same time making on-call more pleasant.
We believe that Webforms is the way forward. Whether you’re part of an in-house team or an MSP providing service to clients, we recommend you set up Webforms for your users to lodge complaints.
Most of all, Webforms symbolize the SRE-esque approach that helps in collecting feedback swiftly and deploying improvements in a timely manner.
To setup Webforms for your users, refer to our documentation: https://support.squadcast.com/webforms/webforms.
Squadcast is an incident management tool that’s purpose-built for SRE. Get rid of unwanted alerts, receive relevant notifications and integrate with popular ChatOps tools. Work in collaboration using virtual incident war rooms and use automation to eliminate toil.