How to offer amazing customer support without a large team

August 9, 2017| Chris Mooney

Does the thought of checking your support email or ticket system fill you with dread?

Receiving support requests is good because it means you actually have customers…but unless you have the budget for a dedicated support team, every second that you spend on support is time that you can’t spend improving your product or reaching new customers.

Providing outstanding support for your customers is essential, though. It’s definitely not something you can skimp on.

So…what can you do?

The answer is to offer the same delightful support you’ve been giving, but in a manner that saves you time and effort. To help with that, I’m going to share some tips from our own experiences, as well as the experiences of others, to help you offer high-quality support in as little time as possible.

Here’s how we do it…

Always Manage Customer Expectations for Support

Have you ever tried to get a table at a restaurant that’s full up? If you’re like most people, the first question you pose to the host is, “how long is the wait?”

There’s a reason for that – waiting “15 minutes” for a table is a lot more palatable than waiting an undetermined amount of time for a table…even if the end result is the same. That to say, expectations affect reality (which is one of the reasons it always feels faster on the return leg of a trip!).

It’s no different with your customers. They don’t want to sit around wondering when they’ll get a response (or if their email has even been received).

But here’s the thing:

Most of your customers don’t actually mind waiting a short time for a response…as long as they know when they can expect the response. That’s great if you’re running a small team and can’t commit to under 10-minute response times like some companies.

So…don’t make your support processes a mystery. Always keep customers in the loop and manage their expectations. Beyond defining support timelines on your website, one easy way to do that is with a simple autoresponder:

auto responder

Look at that example above. It does two things:

  • Confirms that my email didn’t disappear into a black hole
  • Tells them what to provide to get a quicker response

It’s Not Just About Response Times

Beyond setting time expectations, it’s also important to manage customer expectations when it comes to the scope of the support that you offer.

I doubt you need me to tell you that – sometimes it feels like customers are one step away from asking you for help remodeling their kitchen…

Don’t make your support scope a guessing game – lay it out clearly so customers can know exactly what you’ll help with. This is one thing we try to do with our support policy page:

Of course, it should go without saying that once you’ve set your customer’s expectations for time and scope, it’s imperative that you actually deliver on your end of the bargain.

Here’s how to help make sure you’re able to do that…

Build a Clear Support Funnel To Save Time and Effort

Ever see those huge companies that offer support via phone, ticket, live chat, email, carrier pigeon, and more? That works if you have the associated huge budget. But managing a number of different support channels as a small team is a quick way to spread yourself too thin and over complicate things.

A better alternative is to provide one clear point of contact and funnel all of your customers there. Not only do you save time on support by centralising everything into the same interface, you also eliminate potential confusion among your customers by making it crystal clear how to get in contact with you.

For example, at Hero Themes everything is centralised into their Support page:

Support Website

Though we do have a pre-sales contact form, we push all other support traffic towards that single area of our site.

Make Your Funnel Eliminate As Much Work As Possible

If you’re like 99.99% of businesses out there, most of your support requests address the same questions over and over (and over!). Sure, you’ll always get the occasional oddball question…but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

So unless you’re the outlier, people are asking the same questions over and over. What can you actually do about it?

Create a Knowledge Base That Stops Common Questions in Their Tracks

The easiest way to save time on answering support queries is to eliminate those queries in the first place. And the way to do that is to set up a helpful knowledge base (and push your customers towards it).

A knowledge base is a user friendly way to help your customers help themselves which, according to research from Loudhouse, is what the majority of people want to do (especially among younger generations). 53% of respondents thought “it is important for them to resolve their own product / service problems rather than rely on customer service representatives”, with that number rising to 60% for those aged 18-34.

Additionally, 91% of those surveyed by Coleman Parkes say that “they would use a single, online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.”

There is definitely an upfront investment to creating a knowledge base in the form of…well, all that content. But once you set up your knowledge base content plan, sludge through writing some quality knowledge base articles, and develop a good knowledge base analytics strategy, you’ll be able to head off many redundant support requests before they ever reach a human.

Companies like Banggood and ourselves for Zero BS CRM have realised noticeable reductions in simple support requests just from implementing a knowledge base.

But no matter how well you structure your knowledge base, the fact remains that you’re still going to get people who:

  • Aren’t able to find the article that they need (even if it does exist)
  • Have a question outside the scope of your knowledge base

And those people are going to want to talk to a human…

Develop Canned Responses to Handle Queries That Fall Through the Cracks

While your knowledge base should eliminate a good deal of the redundant requests, you’ll still get common questions towards your human support channels.

In that case, canned responses are your life saver whenever possible. If you run your email through something like G Suite (or anything else using the Gmail interface), Streak is a great tool that can help you both manage your customer relationships and create canned responses to help with support.

Any quality ticket system should also give you the ability to create canned responses.

Make Sure Your Canned Responses Nudge People Back to Your Knowledge Base

It’s rude to flat out tell your customers “use our knowledge base instead of contacting us.” But that doesn’t mean you can’t plant the same idea with a little more tact.

Instead of fully answering a customer’s questions in the body of your email or chat response, direct them back to your knowledge base articles whenever possible.

Not only does this save you time and give your customers more thorough answers to their questions, it also subtly prods them to dig into your knowledge base before contacting support in the future. That’s a win-win-win!

How the Funnel Comes Together

Preventing someone from reaching out for support in the first place is the best customer service possible. If someone is reaching out for a human, that means they already have an unsolved problem (and may even be unhappy).

Put it all together and your first step should be to push customers towards your knowledge base whenever possible. Make your knowledge easy to find and highlight it in welcome emails so customers definitely know that it exists.

We even give our customers a quick reminder about our knowledge base on our ticket creation page:

We absolutely want to make our customers feel cared for, though. So if they can’t find what they need in our knowledge base, we make it easy for them to talk to a human (and track when this happens via analytics so that we can go back and improve our knowledge base to stop it from occurring in the future):

In the end, moving towards automating your customer support process with a funnel built on comprehensive, easily searchable documentation is the key to reducing the number of support emails that you’re receiving, while still providing amazing support to your customers.

While there is an upfront time investment required to create a knowledge base, all of the tips above are easily achievable for a solopreneur or small team. Give them a shot and let me know how they worked for you!

Categories: Epic Plugins

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