Does this sound familiar? The founder of your company was the one engaging with the customers. Now they’ve hired a team of ‘frontline’ agents to do nothing but ‘support’.
As some companies grow, it is easy to shift focus from remembering why they started, to simply chasing a number. And, unless NPS is one of your KPIs, ‘Customer Support’ is often easily forgotten. If this sounds like you, then you’ve stopped listening to your customers. No doubt you started with the customer in mind and you know how integral they are to your product. But if the ‘frontline’ of your business is only guiding them through a broken product and not listening, learning and, most importantly, understanding, then you’ve got a problem.
Your customers are THE MOST IMPORTANT source for innovation. You need to know what makes them tick. You need to come back to them throughout your company’s lifetime, else it will lead your business to an infinite stairwell of uneducated decisions and wasted opportunity to develop.
Below, you’ll find the main 3 things that we do to help our customers. Enjoy…
1. Always be available
The easiest thing to do, big or small, funded or not, is always be available.
This doesn’t mean you HAVE to hire a whole team and split across a day and night shift, or even open an office in another timezone… this simply means that your customer can follow a path from your website and be assured that they will speak to someone within a reasonable amount of time.
This should be split across an array of channels, usually: email, chat, phone & face to face. At Hubble, we use Olark for offering live chat support to our customers. With a bright purple chat banner at the bottom of our website, whether we’re online or offline, we’re available. If we’re online, they get through to one of our team immediately and if we’re offline, an email is sent to the team, ready to pick up shortly after. For email, we use Zendesk to pull any email sent to a Hubble ‘Help’ email address to one customer service platform, meaning a history of each customer’s enquiries and feedback is being built automatically.
I have a rule that when online, no customer waits more than 10 seconds before receiving a response on chat, and no more than an hour on email. Rather than advertising this to your customers and setting expectations, just get back to them. As you scale up, some customers will need a service-level agreement (SLA) to be assured that they’ll receive help exactly when they need it. But, before you get to that stage, set yourself internal SLAs and hold your team accountable to achieve them.
”every interaction should end with you knowing why they reached out in the first place.”
Regardless of how you offer a way for your customers to interact with you, every interaction should end with you knowing why they reached out in the first place. Better yet, have their interaction recorded in a CRM system. This way you can measure and learn why your customers are reaching out by linking the names to the questions, comments and feedback they give you.
We use Zendesk and Streak for this. This is important as you should be feeding back this information to the whole team, sorry, whole company. Not everyone can be on the frontline and it is the responsibility of the support team to feed back not only what the customer says but how they feel as well.
This leads me into point 2…
2. Everyone should work in support… EVERYONE
While you should have one person / team leading the processes for helping customers, every single person in the company should work in support regularly. They need to feel what the customer feels. Experience the same pain, annoyance, elation that they go through when they use your product. The reason for this is not only to keep the management in your company grounded, but to build a better product. Dev teams, marketing teams, all teams should do this. Most of them do not interact with customers on a daily basis, and so increasingly become more detached from understanding how important the product is to the people that need it.
”the great thing about getting engineers to do support is they tend to fix things immediately”
At Hubble, I run support, but we have one day a week, where we have a “guest star”. Like a bonus track on an album. Last week, we had a member of the Development team handle all customer enquiries for the day. Once the day was done, I asked him to give me feedback on how it all went. He spotted a problem with the UX that he knew would be a simple fix but had a big impact in the way our customers use our product. The fix was implemented and suddenly our product is better because of it. (If you hadn’t already guessed…the great thing about getting engineers to do support is they tend to fix things immediately, hehe.)
Slack are a perfect example of a company that made customer feedback the epicenter of their launch strategy, and by listening to customers day in day out, helped them build a company that is now worth $1billion within just two years.
By having different people from different teams understand the pain points that your customers are having, they’ll be able to take this feedback to their own teams and understand first hand where to prioritise.
3. Focus on the WHY
When you are serving and assisting customers who are having problems or needing guidance, you should be thinking about WHY the customer is needing help in the first place. If you do this, you’ll figure out exactly how to help in the fastest and most accommodating way.
”you should be thinking about WHY the customer is needing help in the first place”
I’ll use an example. It is time for a bit of role play with our imaginary Analytics company, Twixpanel…
Your reports DO NOT WORK!!
I’ve tried creating a report over and over again using YOUR instructions but it DOES NOT WORK. We are paying for this product so PLEASE HELP BY FIXING THIS IMMEDIATELY!
Question: What problem is Kerri is having here?
If your answer was that she could not create the report, think again, but this time think about who Kerri is before answering the question.
Answer: Kerri is a Marketing Assistant, and maybe she’s on a tight deadline to get the previous month’s data for the latest campaign to her Manager on time.
Now, this may seem ridiculous at first. But, this could explain why Kerri is clearly frustrated…
So, now you know what could be the real problem Kerri is facing. Let’s make this really interesting by pretending that Kerri’s problem is actually a product wide bug.
With steps 1 and 2 from above, you can easily deal with this. You’ve already got your channels to pro-actively let your other customers know that there is a problem (step 1!) and you’ve already created relationships with other teams in your company who can relate to how important this issue is (step 2!). Now, you need to respond to the customers who have already mentioned it:
Firstly, I’m sorry that you’re experiencing this and thank you for sending this email over, my name’s _ and it’s a pleasure to help today.
The reason why you cannot create this report is because we’re currently experiencing a product wide problem with this, which is affecting all users. Please know that our Development team are aware of the issue and are already working to get this resolved as soon as possible.
I’ll be keeping you in the loop as we progress with a fix, Kerri, but in the meantime, please let me know the date range for the data you need and as soon as the issue has been fixed, I’ll send the report straight to you or to a preferred email address.
Don’t hesitate to ask any further questions if you have them and sorry again for the inconvenience.
What you’ve gained with this response is the following:
- Trust that you understand that it’s more than just the problem with your product
- Credibility from the assurance that you are on it and will continue communication
- Respect that you’re willing to go the extra mile and actually finish off what she would have been able to do, had your product worked.
Understanding why your customers are feeling a certain way will amplify the possibilities of how you can really help them.
“Let’s not sugarcoat this, Customer Support can be a shitty job.”
The great thing about support is that the issues change daily. With that in mind, it is important to not just read this, go away, and never read it again. Your Support strategy needs to change as regularly as your product. Teams shouldn’t be doing one day of support a year but regular rotations so they are constantly reminded of who the customer is and why they care.
Let’s not sugarcoat this, Customer Support can be a shitty job. Nobody likes being told on a regular basis that the ‘product is crap’ or ‘it doesn’t work’. But, it is those insights that are so valuable in building a successful business, and it is those insights that lead to that one time you have a customer say “this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever used” and THAT is what keeps you going.