Many founders and product managers underestimate the importance of customer support. They’re eager to delegate it as soon as possible and treat it as a cost to manage.
For me, support has always been one of my favorite parts of the job. One of my fondest memories from my first startup, Timeful, is responding to 2000+ support emails in the 48 hours after we launched. But beyond the adrenaline of seeing that people actually care about the thing you’ve built, I’ve found customer support to be one of the most valuable places for me to spend my time for a few reasons:
- It keeps me on the pulse of where users are struggling with your product and makes you intimately familiar with every bug and usability issue.
- It gives me the opportunity to build deeper personal relationships with users to better understand their motivation, use cases, and true opinion of the product.
- It lets me delight customers by being dramatically more responsive and helpful than other support teams they’ve interacted with, which can build loyalty and deepen product usage.
Here are a couple of tips to give customers an amazing experience:
- Get back to them FAST: Users typically email support when they’re frustrated about something in the product right now that’s stopping them from making progress. If you can get them an answer or start a conversation before they switch contexts to another task, it could make days of difference in getting them one step further in the product. And when I say fast, I don’t mean 24 hour email turnaround, I mean replying over Slack or email, or offering to jump on a call within 3-5 minutes.
- Understand what their actual problem is: The most frustrating support interactions are ones in which the agent seems eager to send you whatever piece of documentation seems to kind of match the problem you’re having and consider their jobs done. Support interactions are an incredible opportunity to more deeply understand what people are trying to accomplish and why they’re struggling. Often you can do much more to help than just pointing them to a particular setting they want to configure. Ask clarification questions, brainstorm ideas, and take advantage of the conversation!
- Close the loop with the user: If they file a bug or feature request, tell them when you’ve fixed it or built it! It’s so common to hear “thanks for your report” and then nothing else, but getting a reply a week or a month later that they actually took the time to fix what you reported is a pleasant surprise that often leads to re-engagement with the product.
As nice as these ideas sound, it’s a ton of effort to put them into practice. Here are a few practical tips of where automation tools like Relay can help save you time and increase the consistency and quality of your support.
- Get the feedback to where the person handling support “lives” as soon as possible. If you have a dedicated support team that lives in Intercom, Zendesk, or Front, this should happen automatically, but if it’s a founder or engineer that lives in Slack or their email inbox, set up an automation to get all new incoming support messages in there immediately.
- Determine who will be responsible for the feedback, either a person or a team. To avoid clashing replies and to ensure accountability, assign a person to the message immediately. Pro tip: If you use Relay, you can do this with a simple form that comes to you directly in Slack.
- Categorize the feedback as a bug, feature request, or a request for help with something that’s already possible to make sure it’s filed correctly. Pro tip: If you use Relay, you can automatically create tickets (when appropriate) in whatever issue tracker you use like Linear, Jira, Asana, etc.
- Use message templates for each case to make it fast to follow up, but make sure that the email is also personalized because that helps make sure you’re understanding the user’s real problem and taking the opportunity to deepen the relationship. Pro tip: If you use Relay, you can set up a “human in the loop” automation to create templated replies for common cases, ask AI to write a draft for you, and have a person customize it before it goes to the customer.
- Follow up with the customer once action has been taken. Pro tip: Use Relay to automatically follow the filed bug or feature request and confirm with the customer when it’s fixed or built.