Customer Support tips for Startups: How to deal with common customer questions

Adam Maskell
Adam Maskell|

As a startup, customer support is crucial for our success. In this post, Adam (who leads our customer support and community team), shares some tips on dealing with your customers’ most frequently-asked questions in the best possible way.

How often do you respond to the same customer questions with the same response?

You can update your FAQ page as much as you want, or innovate the product to help prevent the question in the first place, but sometimes you’re just going to receive those questions from your customers.

This is when looking at and measuring (what support gurus call) ‘first contact resolution’, or FCR. This helps your support team learn how to respond to these questions in the fastest, but most effective way possible.

What is first contact resolution?

To put it simply, FCR means fully resolving a customer’s issue the first time they contact you.

This helps reduce customer effort and improves the customer experience all round. This is crucial, as a study by the CEB shows that 96% of customers who have high effort experiences report being disloyal customers.

FCR is commonly used as a KPI in organizations and often looked at as the most important metric to measure within a customer support model.

How is FCR measured?

Typically, FCR is measured by tracking the number of interactions on a support enquiry and calculating the number of enquiries that only took one response to solve the question.

The problem with this method is that it also adds up the questions that have had no response from the customer following the support member’s reply.

Instead, it’s better to simply ask the customer if their problem or question has been ‘solved’. This way, the help desk system you’re using will track their answer and match the “yes” responses with how many points of contact were made by the agent.

The problem with FCR and how to use it right

Often, support managers put too much focus on the number. They offer incentives to their team to try to increase this number, and end up forgetting about why they measure FCR in the first place.

Because of this, members of the team feel pressured to “solve” every issue, without correctly dealing with the customer’s question.

Sometimes, a customer’s question takes more than just one response to solve it.

Measuring FCR incorrectly and setting unrealistic targets can make your team focus too much on solving tickets rather than solving questions. This leads to customers feeling like they’re not being listened to properly.

But, when done right, FCR is a way to help get the most out of your support team and help increase your customer’s happiness.

Click to Tweet – Sometimes, a customer’s question takes more than just one response to solve it – @Adam_Maskell from @HubbleHQ 

Here’s how I like to do it:

Set responsible targets 

Everyone is motivated by targets, but with FCR, these targets (such as increasing the number of solved questions in a month), need to be focused on the most common questions you receive.

If you measure FCR on questions that are new to your team, it’s easy to miss the point of why the customer is reaching out in the first place, which is essential for developing your product.

So before you set your team’s targets, you need to identify which of the questions you receive are the most popular so you can tackle them efficiently.

To do this, have your team tag each and every question so you can easily identify trends. Once you’ve identified these, then you can set team targets.

An easy target to start with is increasing the number of popular questions solved with one response.

Cover all the bases 

In a previous blog post I wrote, I talked about a technique I use to encourage my team to think about how to cover all options when replying to a customer’s question.

This technique helps your team understand what FCR really means, by teaching them how to offer the customer an answer for each possible outcome within their first response.

Try running a session with your team to help them with this:

  1. Take one of the most common questions you receive and ask a member of your team to type out the follow-up question(s) they would normally ask the customer in order to gather the information they need to help further.

  2. Next, ask your team member to think about the possible responses they would get back for each of the follow-up questions they wrote in step 1, and ask them to type out the answers they would give the customer for each of these.

  3. Then, ask your team member to write a real response back to a real customer who’s already asked this original question, in the way they normally would.

  4. Finally, ask them to add the follow-up questions they wrote out (step 1) with the answers (step 2) into the response. Now, when they send this email back to the customer, they’ve pro-actively covered every outcome and offered a higher chance of answering the customer’s question within the very first response.

Stop rewarding rushed responses

I can’t stress this enough: If your team members stop focusing on the customer’s issue and put more attention into getting it out of the queue, you’re going to have sloppy responses and unhappy customers.

You need to be careful with introducing incentives and only offer them on the questions you know are common.

Once you’ve identified which team members are the best at one-touch responses on common questions, you can start to motivate the others by offering incentives.

This could be on the number of most common questions they’ve solved with their first response, or the increase in percentage each week since you introduced a target.

The point is to learn from the questions customers are asking and try preventing them from coming up in future.

You can do this by encouraging your team to communicate any trends in the questions they’re being asked. This will help your team feel valued and help you identify new common questions to add to your ‘FCR pot’.

Your team’s focus should be on identifying and reducing the number of questions you receive, but you’re always going to receive a certain set of questions no matter what, and that’s ok. It’s how your team handle them that’s key.

As your team members begin to pay more attention to the questions they’re being asked, they’ll be able to respond faster. Soon, this method will reduce the number of questions coming in, which will reduce the need to hire more staff to deal with volume of enquiries. This all adds up to a reduction of costs, which is crucial for the growth of a startup and any business!

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