It goes without saying that offering great customer support for a product or service is absolutely essential to any business. Without great support, you’re leaving your customers to fend for themselves, which is not something you really want.
This particular subject is something really close to the heart for me. The reason for this is because I have been involved in that sector for the last 10 years. I’ve been meaning to share my thoughts on what is great customer support, and how you do it for sometime now.
Since this is the first major piece of members-only content that is going up, I want this to be great and I hope you will at least take something useful away from this.
There are several approaches to handling customer support, including the many tools and processes you can implement to help you and your customers. Before I get ahead of myself, I’ll leave tools until later. First we need to get cracking on your approach and the processes you need in place to offer great support to your customers.
Part 1 — Be available
As both a consumer and content creator, I have been on both ends of the spectrum and have seen a lot of different approaches to how companies of all sizes handle support (both good and bad)
- Fast response times are a major key to your customers getting their issues answered promptly. I can’t tell you how many times I have received great feedback from people when their issues are heard and/or resolved quickly. How am I defining quickly? For starters aim for the gold standard, which should be 24 hours or less.
Don’t obscure your contact information to the point where your customers are sifting through pages of information before they can get in touch. Remember, your customers are asking you to throw them a lifesaver because they have a problem. People will come to you with a varying degree of frustration, so the less barriers to entry there are, the less stress you create for them.
Always been transparent with your customers when it comes to your business. Let them know publicly when there will be support downtime. Regardless if you need to close your support department because of a statutory holiday or because of a company meeting, your customers will appreciate the notice that their issues will be handled and taken care of to the best of your abilities when normal service resumes.
Provide an in-depth knowledge base
You really do need a great customer-facing support portal webpage with great content. I highly suggest making sure you have extremely well written FAQs, articles, and how-tos. It’s one thing to provide excellent support to your customers when they reach out and contact you, but it’s another thing all together to have great content so that they can find solutions to their own problems as well. This will help keep your customers happy, but will also reduce your support load (which is a good thing).
- Design a great customer support site with excellent help materials. This should include FAQs, articles, how-tos, and videos.
Make the content of your knowledge base searchable.
There is a plethora of great tools available to help you build and maintain a great customer support portal. You absolutely do not need to build one from scratch if you don’t want to, and I highly recommend you look at some of the popular solutions available right now. Let’s jump into a few suggestions.
Ticketing systems/knowledge base
- Assistly http://assistly.com
- Zendesk http://zendesk.com
- Tender http://tenderapp.com
These are all really great SaaS solutions that I have personally tried myself. My personal favourite though is Assistly, but any one of these three choices should work well for you.
These three solutions provide both customer-facing knowledge base/ticket support portals. They are all super easy to use and don’t require much setup at all.
A lot of people are not sure of what kind of channels they should provide to their customers as far as how they can get in touch with you to get help.
Here are your options that you can choose from:
- Tickets (which involve email)
- User-to-user forums
- Live chat
The first thing I want to tackle here, which I think is a major mistake a lot of companies in varying sizes make is phone support. To be blunt, phone support is a very difficult thing to do. To offer that kind of option, you need to have a properly staffed department full of great people who have exquisite phone etiquette. Also, phone support is really expensive to do. You have to hire more people to handle it, implement phone systems, pay for a phone number, and generally be super available to pick up when someone calls.
I think that this just doesn’t work for many businesses. In fact, there are already too many businesses that out-source their call centres to another country because A) it’s much cheaper and B) they don’t need to hire and train people. This really does not do your customers any favours, and can only hurt your reputation. So don’t do it!
Another thing I have found in my experience is that if you do it right, you can provide legendary support to your customers without offering phone assistance. In order to do this, you first need to hire great people. Secondly, you need great support tools. Lastly, you need to be available and provide super prompt response times to your customers.
Previously I mentioned the gold standard of response times is 24 hours, however, if you can I would try and aim to answer all issues within 4-6 hours if possible. Depending on the support volumes you have and staff available, this may or may not be possible.
I strongly urge indie devs to do their own support, at least at first. Of course most of you will want to spend time coding and further improving your product, but by handling your own customers you can really get a good understanding on what issues they have with your product. This is a great learning experience for anyone, so I highly recommend it.
Understanding your customer
Last thing on the agenda is how you can be a support hero when your customers contact you.
Answering support email/tickets can definitely be challenge. Many times you will be dealing with people who just aren’t as technically proficient as you are. Someone who deals with customers needs to have the following qualities:
- Excellent analytical skills
- An expert on the product they’re supporting
Some general rules I like to follow, and so should you
- Don’t be a dick. Genuinely try to help your customer and don’t assume that they know anything because it seems like it “should be obvious”.
Inject a bit of humour. Something that has always worked for me is injecting a tiny amount of humour in my responses to customer issues. You can be funny, yet still professional. You have to strike the right balance, and it can take a bit of practice.
Always invite your customers to contact you again should they feel unsure of absolutely anything. This really does make people more comfortable to contact you. Believe it or not, many people don’t feel comfortable contacting support personnel. Many times, this stems from bad past experiences where someones demeanour made them feel intimidated.
This is a small sliver of suggestions, but I hope you will find this guideline useful and at least be able to walk away with something new that can help take your support experience to the next level.