Finding signal in the noise: Best practices from Avenue on avoiding alert fatigue

Neeraj Periwal headshot
Neeraj Periwal
May 15, 2023

We recently asked some of our friends how they deal with “notification overload.” Here’s a screenshot of the results:

The most popular response to “what’s your strategy for dealing with notifications?” was simply “Ignore most of them.” Notification overload results in lots of balls dropped.

In the context of Avenue, an event monitoring and incident response tool built for ops teams, notification overload is synonymous with alert fatigue. One of the most important skills an operator needs to have is being able to find signal in the noise. Ops teams should not only be alerted when important incidents arise, but should also be able to take action on those alerts.

Read on to learn what alert fatigue is, how to make sure each alert captures ops teams’ attention, and how a few Avenue customers put these practices into action. 

“Keep information direct and actionable: alert fatigue comes with unclear ownership and information.” –Ali Salihoglu, Head of Data, Blank Street Coffee

What is alert fatigue?

Back in 1956, well before smartphones came into existence, American psychologist George Miller hypothesized that people could handle 7 ± 2 pieces of information in “the span of immediate memory and absolute judgment” (source). 

Today, we receive more notifications than ever before in our work and personal lives from emails, news apps, and messaging tools. The average Slack user receives 125 messages a day (source).

Keeping Miller’s law in mind, it’s not surprising that so many people just ignore most of their notifications, as evidenced in our poll. 

If you’re an operator, ignoring important notifications, such as inventory issues or system downtime, can put your business at risk. Ops leaders we recently surveyed noted they use 6 tools on average in their day-to-day workflows, underscoring how important it is to keep a pulse on the business. Avenue helps with this by serving as the ops team’s command center, helping you stay aware when urgent events occur and enabling you to act on them.

Ops leaders we recently surveyed noted they use 6 tools on average in their day-to-day workflows.

Best practices for setting up alerts in Avenue

To get the most out of business notifications using Avenue, follow the what, when, who, and how approach.

  • What events does your team need to be aware of? When there’s a fire drill situation, what causes it? Which things tend to fall through the cracks? What information does leadership need surfaced?

    • For example:

      • Blank Street Coffee monitors for broken coffee machines across their 60+ locations. 

      • A SaaS company like SpatialChat wants to know when a new customer signs up for its tool so the sales team can help onboard the customer.

      • Vitau, a prescription delivery service, needs to know when there are long phone wait times or suspicious order activity.

  • When: How often, and at what cadence, do people need to be alerted? As soon as issues occur? At certain times of the day or week? When a threshold drops below a certain amount?

    • There are two ways to be alerted in Avenue:

      • As the event happens (using SQL or a webhook) 

        • Send alert when a new customer has signed up and is ready to be onboarded

        • Send alert when a customer hasn’t logged in to their account in 10 days

      • On a set schedule

        • Surface all sales metrics to me every Friday

        • Last week’s revenue dipped 10%

        • These stores had 0 sales last week

  • Who: Which teams need to receive certain alerts and be held accountable for them? This will determine where you send alerts.

    • You can create teams within Avenue (e.g., customer success or product ops) and have alerts auto-assigned to one or more teams as needed.

    • Create segmented Slack channels so alerts only go to the people who really need to see them.

  • How should certain alerts be actioned? Avenue offers a variety of functionality to act on alerts as they come in, including advanced Slack integration, escalations, and Playbooks.

    • Alerts come in two forms: Notification-Only and Incident.

      • Notification-only alerts simply notify your subscribers and require no further action.

      • Incident alerts require action and are resolved on Avenue.

      • You can set up alert escalations to enable someone upstream of a DRI (directly responsible individual) to be notified.

    • Alerts should contain all the information necessary to act. Avenue’s Slack integration allows you to view and update signals in Avenue through Slack, react using emojis, edit signal statuses, and even build powerful workflows with Avenue webhook monitors.

    • With Avenue Playbooks, you can specify the next steps for a particular monitor, and track the progress made toward these steps right within Avenue.

How Avenue customers prevent alert fatigue

Many Avenue customers go beyond these best practices and leverage Avenue’s integrations to continue the conversation in other applications. This way, those who need to be involved with a certain alert can stay up-to-date, while others don’t have to deal with repeated pings.

Up&Up, a tech-enabled real estate platform, uses Asana as its primary task management tool, sending important alerts from Avenue there. The company has many different ops teams involved in different issues. For example, the financial operations team manages homes’ balance sheets, while another team communicates with renters when they sign or end leases. Avenue syncs to-do items with Asana so Up&Up teams can manage follow-up tasks in Asana, while still tracking progress within Avenue.

Fintech customers use Zendesk or Intercom to communicate with their customers. Their customer success teams live heavily in these two systems. Avenue’s Zendesk and Intercom integrations enable customer success teams to stay within the systems they’re used to while still staying connected to the underlying business events they care about.

Closing thoughts

When it comes to information overload, many people think of signals and noise. In order to remove noise from signal, you need to hone in on the information that matters and discard what’s irrelevant.

Avenue helps operations teams activate the data in their data warehouses. But to be effective in their jobs, ops teams need the most relevant data at the right time to the right people — or else they end up with alert fatigue.

Fortunately, Avenue helps companies combat alert fatigue by configuring monitors and alerts exactly as needed. The result: more proactivity and less firefighting.

Try Avenue out for yourself. Sign up for access here.

Neeraj Periwal headshot
Content Marketing Lead