For many designers, developers and agencies, customer service can be a burden, slowing down the day, stifling the creative process. It doesn’t have to be – here are five things to try today to turn support from your enemy to an ally.
1. Make Support Flow
If support is frustrating, consider the perspective of the customer. They’re in touch because something has gone wrong and can’t find the answer to their query. Ensure you have the steps in place to handle this and avoid cranky customer support.
Like your sales funnel, channelling customers to a make a purchase, support needs to be thought of as a funnel, directing customers to the right place to find relevant answers to their queries. For example, if you’re fielding support queries from email, Twitter, Facebook, contact forms… STOP. Direct all queries to a central support location, a single contact point that customers can find answers or reach out directly if needed.
Sketch out your support process flow, identify key pinch points – where customers are getting lost. Place as much documentation online as you can, ideally before any email or ticketing systems, and help customers to help themselves.
2. Choose the Right Tools
Email is great for one-to-one communication, but how good is at tracking persistent queries, analyzing time spent on support and delegating issues to the appropriate personnel? Ticketing systems tackle these points, but introduce their own nuances – who wants to log into a separate ticketing system just to see the status of their support request or post a reply?
Some try using a forum to offer support, but experience dictates otherwise. While it can be great for a community project, for a paid-for product, customers will have little tolerance for the digressions and thread hijacks that appear to be par-for-the-course with forums. Managing the community and keeping discussion on topic is not conducive for good support.
Tools such as HelpScout offer the best of both worlds – support tickets can be created from emails or a web form. They can then be handled like any other tickets – delegated, tagged, notes added. Crucially however, it’s all transparent to the customer, the response is sent directly to their inbox and they can just hit reply to follow up on a query.
To minimize support queries hitting your ticketing system in the first place try using a dedicated support center such as our WordPress Knowledge Base products, which centralises documentation and support topics, acting as a gatekeeper to your support request form or email. We use it ourselves and it has helped customers resolve issues themselves without needing to wait for a response from our support team.
Useful support tools to check out today:
- HelpScout ticketing software.
- KnowAll knowledge base theme for WordPress, documentation and support hub.
- Trello for making notes on ongoing issues, project planning and delegation.
- Bitbucket for tracking issues and effective software version control with git.
- Slack for the day-to-day discussions, replace instant messenger apps, incredibly useful integrations for keeping the finger on the pulse of support and sales.
3. Listen to Feedback
Though the customer may not always be right, they usually have a point. When tickets are closed, a follow up is great way to find out what went well and what could have gone better. This can be used to improve the support process flow.
Documentation feedback is great for gauging how well a guide or walkthrough is hitting the mark. At the end of the articles in our knowledge base we have voting buttons for visitors to rate article usefulness. Once they’ve voted they can submit comments which are reviewed by the support team to help refine the article and improve the helpfulness metric.
Feedback should be quick and easy for the customer. Review feedback on an aggregate basis, one irate customer may be an exception, but persistent similar comments are a sign that further action should be taken and regular review of customer feedback is a good starting point for refining the overall support process.
Write down your top ten comments from customer support and devise an action plan for each, the plan could be to do nothing, but by being aware of issues and tracking them effectively can help you better manage support in the long run.
4. Use Support as Your Brand
Great support is what we offer at HeroThemes, both by selling the products which help our customers deliver it and leading by example. It’s an ongoing process, but support can become the cornerstone of your brand by inspiring confidence and allowing potential customers to discover your products and services with SEO rich, accessible documentation, testimonials from well serviced customers and clear guides explaining your products.
This approach justifies the time and cost spent on support – no longer a time sink, support can be a marketing tool and a customer acquisition strategy in itself. Good and bad, people will talk about the experiences they have with your support team, so a proactive attitude is more crucial than ever. Invest in the right tools and people for the job, good documentation can not only reduce repetitive support emails but lead to increased sales.
Each aspect of the support process can be tailored to match your branding, the right balance of friendly and professional is key. Set expectations in the documentation to help reduce over-demanding requests, demonstrating any limitations of your products and pre-empting questions that could arise. Link to relevant third party documentation or further reading material to create jump off points if visitors get stuck.
Create a support branding document for your business that outlines standard responses and policies, try to avoid canned responses, instead use it as a framework for providing consistently great support.
5. Don’t Take it Personally
Support is like any relationship that can have good and bad days. The key is not to take it personally and understand that support is a process that is there to be crafted, worked on, improved, and with the right tools and people, should become an asset.
You need to remember that customers are reaching out for support from a position of confusion or frustration, something has gone wrong- see the opportunity to turn that customer into an advocate. For whatever reason, this may not always go right, but the learning potential from each interaction is there to build better support processes and flows. Don’t take issues to heart, but do take the time to understand what went wrong and where things can be improved.
Support is seen as a dreaded demon, a drain on resources. But it need not be, try the suggestions from each of these five tips to see how they can improve your business today.
Focus on building support that flows, with the right tools to match your customer base and service expectations. Listen to feedback from your customers and leverage support contact points to enhance your brand. Finally, don’t take it personally, treat it as any other process in your business, to be nurtured over time.
P.S. If you’re looking for an all-in-one knowledge base solution, consider the HeroThemes KnowAll theme, quickly create a brand-able and customizable support site that works with a range of ticketing and email systems.
What support hacks do you use to get through the day? Let us know in the comments below.