Transforming Our Support Heroes… Into Actual Superheroes

My old boss, Steve Jobs, used to say, “One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are.”

Kaydin Carlsen, SmugMug Support Hero

Kaydin Carlsen, SmugMug Support Hero

Our heroes are photographers, from moms who capture priceless moments with iPhones, to elite pros who shoot astonishing photos like the one you see above.  To help them, we built a team of 40 support people, mostly photographers.

Working in customer support is a hard job. In most companies, more than a third of customer support employees quit every year. Which means on a team of 40, on average you can expect to lose 12 people a year. So, few people believe they’ve heard us correctly when we say that in over a decade, only one of our Support Heroes has ever resigned.

Our customers sent so many emails to them saying, “You are my new hero,” we called them Support Heroes.

What’s our secret?  We don’t have scripts or thick training manuals. We simply ask our Support Heroes to be heroic.

Which gave photographer Benjamin Von Wong an idea:  take their photos where only real superheroes would dare go. He wanted to make them into superheroes without green screens or special effects.

What do you see when you imagine a superhero?  Standing strong on top of a building, overlooking a city, hair blowing in the wind?  That’s what we saw, so we did a photoshoot on the ledge of a skyscraper.

Here’s Von Wong’s amazing story.

SmugMug Films started with a simple idea:  to tell the story of our greatest heroes, the photographers who inspire us.  The films have taken flight on their own, and today we’re excited to introduce one about Von Wong’s inspiring rooftop shoot:

Who inspires you?  Do you have a story of a photographer worth sharing? Let us know, we might just pop over to film it!

All the best,

Chris MacAskill (aka Baldy)

Co-founder, photographer, regular guy, and on this day a terrified hero wannabe.

Chris MacAskill on skyscraper

Watch Us Maximize Your Event Marketing on SmugMug

Hungry to learn more? Lucky for you Smuggers, we’ve got two more great webinars on our schedule geared towards one of our most powerful Business account features: Events.

Backlit window bride with glow by Brandon Busa
Photo by Photography by Busa

1) SmugMug Feature Spotlight: Event Marketing

May 21, 2013
5:00 – 6:30 PM Pacific Time
Register for this event!

In our monthly pro webinar, we’ll deep dive into Events, Favorites and all the great things it can do for your. You’ll be guided through every nook and cranny by our very own Sean Rogan, so bring your questions and get ready to unleash the power you probably never knew you had.

Wedding dip with palm trees by Brandon Busa
Photo by Photography by Busa

2) Increasing Your Bottom Line with Brandon Busa

May 28, 2013
5:00 – 6:30 PM Pacific Time
Register for this event!

Join San Francisco Bay Area photographer Brandon Busa of Photography By Busa and SmugMug’s own Rocky Bowles to learn how to maximize your potential and get more clients. This free webinar will teach you essential techniques designed to get the most out of your wedding and portrait events. Brandon will share his own polished workflow and show the best ways to use the marketing and event features built in to every SmugMug Business account.

We’ll cover:

  • How to get clients, families and guests of events to interact on YOUR website
  • Getting print sales from all guests from a wedding or even a portrait shoot
  • The importance of offering outstanding service

This webinar is perfect for portrait and wedding photographers, as well as anyone who wants to learn new ways to make money through photography.

UPDATE 6/17/2013: Miss the webinar? We’ve uploaded the recording (in two parts) to our video channel so you can tune in at any time. Watch Part 1. Watch Part 2.

Register and learn

It’s our mission to make you an expert in all things Smug… and to be sure that you’re making the happiest clients in the biz. Keep your bookmarks on our Events Calendar for all the great new podcasts and webinars we’re adding all the the time.

See you soon!

SmugMug’s Help Center: Helping You Take Charge of Your Website

At SmugMug, you get the keys to your own photographic kingdom. But sometimes it takes more than just a camera and an internet connection to set your dreams free.

Where do you go next?

SmugMug Help: Your Hub to All Things Photo

Our fabulous customer support team is comprised of living and breathing photographers with kids that grow up too fast, gear wish lists and weekend photo shoots to juggle. In short, they’re just like you.

They know that it’s tough to learn a brand-new website, so we’ve put our heads together on what you’d like most: One simple link to click for everything you need to know.

Meet the new, expanded Help Center. We’ve stripped down a previously-cluttered page to just an inviting search bar to type in your most burning questions, a Getting Started video (and one to introduce ourselves… we don’t bite!) and a few important links.

And as always, email and live chat are still available in case you can’t find the answers on your own.

All You Need to Succeed

If you’re thinking about getting paid for your photos and turning a hobby into a business, our new Business Resource Center is just what you need. Browse and read articles from seasoned SmugMug pros about how to plan, build and maintain a successful photo business and how to make more money.

We are always eager to hear what you think and how we can help you better. If there’s a topic you’re dying to see, tell us about it in the comments below! This is just the beginning and we’re hoping to learn right along with you.

Aiming for more light bulb moments per second,
The SmugMug Family

SmugMug Help Chat: Now Playing in a Browser Near You

Ever wish you could just talk to a Support Hero?

Now you can!

Our new chat system is perfect for getting quick questions answered fast! Got something more involved like a gnarly customizing problem? Don’t be afraid to send us an email like usual.

To get started, visit our help portal and look for the little tab in the bottom corner. Then just sign in and start chatting away.

Just one tip: In order to prevent a log jam, be sure to have all of your info ready to go: order numbers, links to your homepage or problem images, anything that will help us help you faster.

It’s really easy to use, so give it a try and let us know what you think.

See you soon!

Heroes You Love to Know: Josh

Support Hero Josh Lawson is our resident rock star. He leads a double (really, triple) life working for SmugMug, being a musician and acting as agent at our print labs. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s hear the man himself. You’ve probably met him if you’ve ever written to our help desk with an order problem, uploading issue, or pretty much anything else.

Spotlight on Josh

What’s your hiring story?

After college I started working for Kodak/Qualex doing tech support for one-hour photo machines, Kodak Picture Makers, and Kodak C-41 and RA-4 chemical process control.  In 2005, my girlfriend decided to go to graduate school out in Santa Cruz, so we packed up and headed west from North Carolina to California.

I ended up working customer service for Bay Photo for the years we were there.  In 2009 we decided to move back east, but I kept working remotely for Bay Photo part-time, just a few hours a week.

That winter, Bay asked me if I’d like to work the WPPI trade show with them. An all expenses paid trip to Vegas for a (mostly) unemployed guy?  I jumped on it.  And I’m so glad I did.

I met a bunch of Smuggers there at a party.  Larry from Bay Photo put in a good word for me, and Andy asked me if I was interested in being a hero. It sounded like an awesome job description! I started ringing Andy’s phone off the hook.

About a month later I got an interview and the rest is history.

How does music fit into your life?

During my stint in Santa Cruz, I decided to try a career change and did a trade program for luthiery (stringed instrument repair and construction). While I was working with Bay Photo I also landed a job at the Santa Cruz Guitar Company, building guitars.

Now I play drums for Wild Order and you’d have to pry my Korg MS-20 analog synthesizer out of my cold, dead hands.

Most Smuggers collect cameras and glass. I collect vintage drum machines and synthesizers, and that’s one of my faves.  A beaut from 1978.  It does sounds from hard techno to smooth 70’s fusion jazz to bizarre drones. Lots of knobs to twiddle, and endless sonic possibilities.

We affectionately call you the SmugMug Lab Rat. Why’s that?

I’m a great lab contact because I know first hand how a lab operates from the inside, how each product is physically created, and I know how to spot a potential issue when I run across one. I collect feedback from all the heroes (and thus our customers) and relay it to the labs so that we can keep the quality of our work top notch. I have phone meetings with each lab every week, and email various people at both labs daily in management, operations, and customer service.

I also do things like keep the flow of orders transmitting between both the labs. And lord knows that’s no small task, as there are thousands of orders sent to the labs every day. Communicating with the lab IT people, sometimes hacking up a bit of XML to get an order to process, repairing corrupt jpgs, etc. I keep a close eye on my order babies to make sure they get to the lab and process quickly. I keep track of orders that are late and do things like upgrade shipping when something is lagging behind.

Sometimes I feel like the Wizard or Oz pulling levers behind a curtain to keep the order machine well-oiled and finely tuned.

Shout one tip from the rooftops to SmugMuggers!

Proof & Retouch:  USE IT!  We make it easy to place orders, but it’s *always* helpful for Pros to review their clients’ orders before they’re sent to print.

Customers may not always crop their photos properly, so reviewing orders before they print is something I recommend to all Pros.  An ounce of prevention….

Check out these features Josh mentioned:

Heroes You Love to Know: Wendee

We’re so danged proud of our Support Heroes at SmugMug. They’re the hard-working, endlessly knowledgeable face of our company and they field orders, emergencies and panicked Pros 365 days a year. They’re the shoulder you cry on, the hand you hold… and they love turning that frown upside-down. Isn’t it time you met the person behind the screen?

Spotlight on Wendee

Meet Wendee Stevens from Utah. We love her because she comes ready with a happy smile and the perfect attitude to handle any crisis that comes her way. You probably know her from when she rescued your recently-submitted orders from print purgatory. No address? No problem. She’s our mistress of making sure orders get placed, printed and shipped without a hitch.

What’s your hiring story?

Before SmugMug I worked as a massage therapist at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and the Homestead in Virginia.  I never worked with any celebrities, but when Ocean’s 13 was filming in Vegas I did work with family members of one of the stars. 

I started heroing at SmugMug in November 2007, after almost a year of bugging Andy and Baldy. My computer and photography skills may not be as great as other Heroes, but I try to be awesome with customer service and I can solve nearly any order problem you give me.

Got any gossip about being a Support Hero?

The majority of my work is with order problems, particularly cropping problems. I feel so sad when a customer orders a 4×6 and 8×10 print of the same image, and they’re upset and confused when the 8×10 arrives cropped. “It fits perfectly on the 4×6, so why is it cropped on a bigger print!?” We hear that a lot. 😦

These days people are still not that familiar with different ratios and customers should know that almost no camera takes pictures in an 8×10 size.

Also, being painted as Mystique took quite a while, longer than an hour if I remember right. But getting that orange goop out of my hair definitely took longer than an hour!

What’s Wendee like when she’s not answering emails?

I’m learning to sew, and it’s something I really love. I’m horrible at reading patterns but I can wing it nicely. I especially love making Halloween costumes, it’s so much more satisfying than buying one. I’ve been encouraged by SmugMug’s annual Halloween costume contest, even though we haven’t won it’s so fun to have something to compete with! 🙂

My husband Samuel is also a SmugMug Support Hero and we have two kids: Vienne is 3 and Everett is 1. Our six-year-old dog is named Osker Mosh, and he’s some sort of mix between Lab and Vizsla.

I love fixing up furniture. It’s amazing what you can do with spray paint.

What’s the one SmugMug feature you can’t live without?

Since I’m all about sharing with family and friends, but I don’t want my photos super-public, my favorite SmugMug features are Owner Share and SmugIslands. I keep my SmugIslands set so Google and other search engines don’t find me, and I have the Share button removed for viewers. I want to be the only one that can share my photos, and I do, OFTEN, on my blog and on Facebook.

Finish strong. Give us one more juicy piece of Wendee trivia!

I had the opportunity to see Les Miserables in London, but I was so jet-lagged I slept through nearly the entire play. Someday I’m determined to see it again!

Check out these Smug-related features Wendee mentioned: