Why so personal? - How mySugr communicates with you

1/16/2018 by Fredrik Debong

Wouldn’t it be cool if we felt like we’re friends talking about diabetes instead of feeling like we’re simply a bunch of “patients?” Wouldn't it be cool if healthcare professionals talked to us about our life first and our therapy second?

Those thoughts were with us when we manually wrote a personal email to the very first 700 mySugr users as they signed up. With over a million people using our services these days, we are no longer able to personally communicate with every single one of you, which I am very sad about. But as the company grew we needed to automate several processes, including how we engage with you, our users. In this post, I’d like to give you a glimpse behind the scenes of how we do this. And yes, we also answer why we ask for your name, your email address, and a bunch of other data. (Update May 2018: More about mySugr and GDPR)

First things first: The technical setup

The base to communicate properly is a decent infrastructure. Let’s take our servers: they are hosted with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Yep, that’s right, Amazon. Did you know that they not only deliver 80% of your holiday gifts but also manage more than a third of the internet? AWS is a so-called cloud computing provider, and tons of leading services - such as Airbnb or Netflix, just to name a few - rely on AWS for hosting and storage. Of course in our case we’re hosting medical data, so we need to make extra sure the data is not fiddled with and stays put. For more on that, please check out our blog post on data storage. For more details on Amazon’s efforts towards compliance for healthcare, please click on this link.
We also need to respect a ton of privacy guidelines such as the Austrian data privacy laws and the European GDPR (effective as of May 2018). Our dedicated legal, compliance and security experts here in the office just love getting stuck in the nitty-gritty details! Last but not least, we work with tools that keep all the delicate data safe and that sign dedicated contracts and agreements with us.

How to communicate with 1.4+ Million people and make every conversation count

We use a number of tools to be able to communicate in a nice and personal way, to be able to help people who are having trouble connecting their devices or have questions about the latest insights they received… Every one of those tools is under contract in order to keep all data safe, not to touch it and to give us absolute authority over it. We use Countly, which helps us figure out what’s going on in the app and drop you a line at the right time. This way we can continue to send you a warm welcome note - and more! The content will often vary depending on whether you live with type 1 or type 2. Because we all have different needs, right? In order to maintain a complex service like mySugr and make sure it runs smoothly, we need the help of a bunch of other tools: we use Zendesk for customer support to help us keep track of more than 80,000 support requests over the last few years; we use Adjust to measure how our marketing performs; we use Redshift on AWS to run anonymized data queries and keep a lookout if something goes wrong. All these tools (and others) help us to manage our product and thus help you to better manage your therapy. As a small company, it would be impossible for us to build up all these additional resources internally. Instead, we’d much rather focus on our core competency, namely making diabetes suck less!

Why we talk the way we do

Before each interaction, we ask ourselves a handful of questions. And mind you, we’re talking about quite a few interactions. Each day we send roughly 7000 automated emails, display up to 140,000 cards in the app or send 1000 push notifications.
  • Would we communicate this way with a friend? You have probably noticed that we like to call you by your first name - just as you would with a friend. That’s why we ask you for that information as you sign up for the app. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing it, that’s fine, you don’t have to!
  • What’s the best way to communicate? Some infos are so important that they should reach you right away via push notification. We rarely do this, as we know how busy y’all are and we don’t want to distract you from living your life. Instead, we prefer to send you all the not-so-urgent infos via in-app cards or email, which is why we also ask for your email address.
  • Does it make me smile AND help me do better? If the answer is no, we go back to the drawing board. Our mission is to make diabetes suck less, and humor plays a big part here.
  • Does this information provide value for me? We never want to send a message just for the sake of it. If we realize there’s not enough info in a message, we’ll ditch the whole thing.
  • Does it look or feel spammy, impersonal or sterile? We would rather remain silent than sending a message that doesn’t hit the mark. However, if you do feel like we spam you with emails, you can always unsubscribe! We won’t be mad. On the contrary: we’ll look into how we can make our communication even more thoughtful.
  • Do we speak diabetes? At mySugr, a third of the team lives with diabetes. Our product is designed for and by people with diabetes. And all the messages you receive stem from the pens of our “diabetes-natives”. We really hope you can feel the difference!

And now?

The way we, you, and I, speak about diabetes and therapy with family, friends, healthcare professionals and each other has a huge impact on how the world looks at diabetes. By communicating in a positive way, we believe that we can help others start doing the same. And if this helps just one person to feel better about their diabetes, we know we’re doing a good job! (Updated September 20, 2018)

Fredrik Debong