Propeller Hardware Success 101: How We’re Bridging the Gap Between Development and Support

A quick note on this initiative:

As a global company, Propeller succeeds because we thrive at working remotely. Whether it’s troubleshooting hardware issues in real time, training workers on how best to use our platform, or advocating for customers’ needs from the other side of the planet, we’re committed to providing the best service possible from a distance.

This is one in a series of posts highlighting our remote support capabilities and the individuals powering that support system. 

In this post, we spoke to Taylor Wilson about his new role as Propeller’s first hardware success engineer, and how his work will help set customers up for success.

Describe this new hardware success position and what gap it’s filling at Propeller.

As the hardware success engineer, I’m bridging the gap between our Sydney-based Hardware Development and Project Management teams and the US-based customer-facing teams. 

In one direction, I’m bringing information from the hardware development team—like feature changes, release notes, progress updates, and upgrades—to the support team, and then I’m bringing positive and negative feedback from the support teams to the hardware teams, which will help drive their development.

It’s all about increasing transparency and bringing those teams together to ensure that Propeller produces and supports our high-quality products. 

What does your average day in this role look like?

I’m juggling a lot of simultaneous projects, most of them surrounding the development of new hardware technologies, like our real-time progress data tracking tool DirtMate, and projects supporting existing technologies such as our AeroPoints

Construction workers installing Dirtmate

One of the biggest parts of my job will be working with customers enrolled in our beta projects. Once it’s safe to go on site again, I’ll be going out, meeting the folks who’ll be responsible for the beta testing, and actually getting them set up so they feel comfortable and knowledgeable about the product. 

When I’m not on site, I’ll regularly communicate with those customers over email and on the phone in order to provide the real-time support they need to make their projects a success.

Can you think of an on-site visit that’s been particularly enlightening?

When I first started doing the DirtMate beta-testing last year, I hadn’t really been on site very much. I had a lot of technical, theoretical experience, but as far as real-world job site experience, I didn’t really have any.

The thing that’s struck me most after being on so many sites now is how paramount safety is to their operations. It can get really dangerous out there when you’re operating heavy machinery, when you’re moving around a lot of material every day. 

Dirtmate on top of machine

The care, the knowledge, the techniques and processes that go into ensuring these folks on construction sites or mining sites or in waste management are operating safely and can go home to their loved ones at night was really eye-opening.

A lot of things can go wrong and they do everything they can to minimize that. It gave me an entirely new respect for the people in those jobs. 

What did you do at Propeller before taking on this role?

I started as a sales development representative. In April 2019 I moved into the Tech Support team, providing hardware support, and really helped shape that team. After doing that for about a year, I moved into this new hardware success role. 

How will your work coincide with the rest of our support teams?

By managing the support for all hardware betas that we do, I’ll be taking a lot of the burden off the Customer Success team. Any question a customer might have about these new products, they’ll come to me first. 

I will still leverage the customer success engineers (CSE), because they have very good, established relationships with the customers, but if a customer in a beta comes to them with any hardware questions, they’ll redirect them to me.

Internally, I’m communicating in a meaningful, reasonable way the release notes and changes that are happening to our hardware products, so the CSEs can feel knowledgeable and more easily support their customers.  

For example, when we release new firmware, I’ll translate that into plain text so they can stay informed without having to read the very technical release notes that our development team produces.

What do you think Propeller is doing better today than when you started?

When I started at Propeller, we only had two customer success engineers. That was a year and a half ago. Now we have roughly 20 members on the Customer Success team. That’s a huge amount of growth in such a short amount of time.

I’d say that’s been our biggest change: our investment of the Customer Success team. Doing that enabled our customers to get more out of our products and understand them better.

How do you think Propeller is better at providing remote support than other tech companies?

I think the challenge when it comes to remote support is transparency among support team members.  

When I was on the Tech Support team, we would take half an hour, twice a day, and connect on all the support cases that day. That way, if I was on a phone call with a customer in the morning, and then that same customer called back but was connected to someone else, that team member would be up to speed on all the details. 

AeroPoint on construction site

We’ve really adopted a mantra of overcommunication, and I think that’s where we’re going to come in clutch, especially right now. We’re communicating so well while all working from home, that we’re supporting customers just as well as when we were sitting next to each other in the office.

Is there a standout interaction with a customer that has shaped how you approach your work now?

Back in the first month of my Tech Support role, I was helping one customer troubleshoot an issue they had uploading their data from their AeroPoints. They were really frustrated that they were spending a lot of time in the field collecting data and then effectively not getting any return from that. 

It took a little longer to correct than most issues—it turned out to be a problem with his hotspot—but they were really happy with the support I was able to provide in the end and thanked me for sticking with them.

That really stuck with me. These people really care about their jobs, and they want to do them well. When we’re able to help them, to enable them to do their jobs better with Propeller products, it really does seem to brighten their days. 

Are there any changes that were made at Propeller that came out of interactions with a customer?

In addition to the growth of our Customer Success team, our Tech Support team has grown a lot because all the feature requests and small fixes that our customers have brought to us. 

Propeller takes customer feedback very seriously. When it comes to something like our AeroPoints, it’s still a pretty revolutionary technology. Very few people understood the purpose of smart ground control points before we started selling them. 

PPK drone on top of AeroPoint

Now that they’ve been around for a little while, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback. We’re using all our customers’ questions and concerns and actively developing them into newer AeroPoint solutions. 

How have you seen the industries we work with change since you’ve been at Propeller?

The construction industry is really starting to latch onto this technology. When I started, things like drone mapping and our PPK workflow were still new, almost bleeding-edge, technology. There wasn’t this crazy desire to adopt like there is now.

Now, I think drone mapping, this type of data processing, and the desire for more real-time progress data has really been embraced by the industry. It’s not just a pipe dream like it was in 2018.

Many customers feel like they need this to stay competitive in their bids and remain an efficient, relevant company. Our tech went from something that was kind of nice to have to something they need to have.

Reach out today to harness the power of Propeller’s support systems and get your drone program off the ground!

How to start a drone surveying program on your site

Recommended Resources:

A Deep Dive into Propeller Support: How We Support Drone Programs Remotely

Propeller Tech Support 101: How We Provide Remote Hardware Support

Propeller Data Success 101: How We Provide Remote Processing Support

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