Sarah Hatter — "Do This, Not That: Creating an Exceptional Customer Support Experience from Day 1"

(This article is part of the MicroConf 2015 Recap. Want to explore more talks from the event? Go back to the Recap Hub)

Main Concept

Customer support is a habitual experience a customer has with your product!

Four Key Concepts

  • Have a searchable, accessible help section — Make this a BIG HUGE part that’s intuitive and available
  • Use the questions of friends, family, and early testers to create help articles and tutorials — be preemptive about what you think customers might have questions about
  • Don’t copy your competitors; they’re doing CRAP SUPPORT!
  • You have an obligation to respond to your customers as quickly as possible. 

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Talk Recap

Customer Service vs Customer Support

  • Transactional vs Relationship support
    • Transactional: ‘Help’ link in the bottom of the page, phone call
    • Relationship: Ways to keep customers engaged

Customer Support Myths

  • “I can do support by myself, them we’ll just hire an intern to do it” — Crazy! This is a huge part of your business.

Customer Support Requirements

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Kindness
  • Multitasking
  • Efficiency
  • Problem solving
  • Tenacious
  • Thick-skinned
  • Excellent writing skills

Customers Have Baggage

  • We need to think about the emotions that people have after they invest $49/mo into our program and then need to call support

When Hiring Customer Support…

  • Customer support is not a throw-away, low run, brainless, job

Before You Hire Customer Support

  • Have a searchable, accessible help section — Make this a BIG HUGE part that’s intuitive and available
  • Use the questions of friends, family, and early testers to create help articles and tutorials — be preemptive about what you think customers might have questions about
    • #1 question you should easily answer — how do I cancel?
  • Education should be as prominent as pricing — if you’re starting to use the product, know you can answer the product yourself
  • Consider ease of use and education a feature you can market

When To Hire Customer Support

  • You receive more than 20 emails per day
  • Your customer’s needs are outgrowing the time you have
  • You’re starting to see customer support as a burden during your day
  • Or, You hate people

How To Hire

  • It’s okay to outsource or contract cosupport work
  • Ask for writing samples and test with support scenarios
    • Be conversational. Be relational. “What will you write to customers if
    • They wrote to you with Scenario X
  • Great candidates are baristas, bartenders, librarians, hospitality alumni
  • Think of support hire as important as your next dev or designer
  • Give them title, influence, trust, and authority

Customer Support Myths

  • Don’t copy your competitors; they’re doing CRAP SUPPORT

Testing Customer Support

  • Wrote to 32 companies with a support email / feature request email (something you could
  • Got 15 responses
  • Average email?

Hello,

Think you for contacting our cs team. Unfortunately, we have no plans to add new features to our product at this time.

We appreciate your feedback and hope that you continue to enjoy out product…

Sincelerly,

The Product Team

In a continuing effort…

These are terrible words to write to people!

How Do You Do Better?

Hi Rob!

Thanks for the great idea! It’s one we’ve heard before, and we’re defintely going to consider it. It may not be something we’re able to add right away, and we always like to make sure before we add a new feature that it can benefit the majority of our users. DOn’t be too disappointed if we aren’t able to add this feature — it’s still awesome of you to suggest it!

Thanks again, and let meknow if you need anything else!

— Sarah

Product Help Team

  • This customer feels like you’re having a real life conversation
  • Language changes everything about how customers perceive you

Case Study: Airline

  • Read hundreds of thousands of reviews and customer support for an airline
  • Responses “Thanks for the stock answer”, “Thanks for the form reply”
  • Started there, went into their offices, did training
    • “You’re never allowed to use this phrase / word”
  • Customer satisfaction rating went from 34% to 89% in less than 60 days by only changing language

Words To Never Use

  • “Thank you for your feedback!” vs
    • “Thanks for telling me how you feel about this!”
    • Shares like a real human being!
  • Why is it so hard to transition language for customers?
  • “We apologize for the inconvenience” vs
    • “I am so sorry that happened!”

Customer Support Needs

  • If someone is paying you money and using your product and supporting your idea, you owe them properly planned and well executed support. 

Your Action Items

  1. Be sensitive to your customer’s baggage
  2. Be relational, not transactional
  3. Eliminate support with education
  4. Hire the right person for your customers
  5. Language changes everything
  6. Respond to everyone and everything, always

The rigt support for your product is specific to your customer’s needs, their expectations, and their individual endgame — Sarah

Questions & Answers

Question: How do I handle angry / abusive customers?

Set expectations in your TOS or communication. If they’re in the wrong, they’ll take it. But if you’re in the wrong, you need to take it too.

Question: Some companies (Buffer) don’t have a help section. Is that good?

Terrible idea. Buffer customers hate it. They’re lazy and doing it differently.

Most successful support experience is what your customers are asking for.

Question: Do you handle customer support differently for ‘influencers’?

Hande customer support the same for everyone no matter how influential.

Offer amazing support to everyone so they feel like a VIP person.

If you’re not meeting your customer’s expectations, that’s their baggage.

Question: How do you handle someone part-time for customer support?

Part-time is ~20 hours/week. That’s still a 24-hour turn-around. Starting out, if that’s your budget, 24-hour turnaround time would wow a lot of customers.

Question: You wake up with 200 angry support emails. Is it more important to reply to the emails or fix the bug?

Reply to folks first. Then, fix the bug. Then, reply back and tell them the bug is fixed.

Question: How do you scale really awesome customer support?

With experience. You scale it like you scale traffic and growth. You write email templates that don’t look like email support.

Over time, your time ends up splitting between Dev/Design and Customer Support.

You can eliminate 40% of your incoming support emails by having a help section. 

Question: How do you handle customer support for really technical products?

Your product isn’t highly technical! Hire for personality and invest the time to train them.

Question: I’m strong-arming support, but I try to do everything and get on the phone, do customer support, do customer development, instead of writing support documents.

Your customers don’t want to be talking to you on the phone. They want to get their work done. The best thing you can do is to get them answers to their questions before they need help.

If you need to be involved, do a follow-up.

As a single-founder, you should be reading every email that goes out from everyone on support in your company.

 

Question: We do email, phone, and live chat. We’ve noticed that our chat agents don’t answer the question before of the scripted responses.

Rewrite your templates to have more ‘fill in the blanks’ than ‘blanks to fill in’.

“Yes, you can totally do that. We wrote up this great step-by-step instructional document that will help you do that. Here’s the link: [link]”

Links to Speaker’s Websites

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(This article is part of the MicroConf 2015 Recap. Want to explore more talks from the event? Go back to the Recap Hub)