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What are some easy ways to instantly improve customer support?

Customer support/service is obviously vital to the success of every company. At a small startup where no one has free time or money, what can we do to improve our customer service without breaking the bank or spending hours on the phone with users?


12 Replies

Kate Hiscox
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Kate Hiscox Entrepreneur • Advisor
Boss at Venzee
Go with a solution that has a mobile app so you can support your customers
David Telleen-Lawton
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David Telleen-Lawton Entrepreneur
Using Customer Discovery to mold innovative Master of Technology Management degree
David:
Well, taking the ol' engineering approach, the first question that comes to mind is "Why is customer service even needed?" I mean that in the analytic way -- who's calling and why?

Assuming (to self: bad, bad...do not assume!) they are calling because they do not understand how to use the product (either because poorly documented or does not work as documented), then one of the most valuable things you can do is create more accurate documentation or a full product that does not break so often!

Now, if customer service time IS part of your business model, then obviously you do NOT want to minimize it.

Lastly, I hope the customer (user) contact is being used to understand how they heard of you, how they planned to use the product, how they do use it, how often, would they recommend it to a friend, what are their benefits, what changes would cause them to use it more often or get more value, etc., what do they compare it to that they also use (comparable, not replacement), and what purchase model is of interest to them...

Short answer: Something's wrong with the Product (in the whole sense) if you are spending too much on unwanted customer service time. Fix the product!
Jerome Pineau
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Jerome Pineau Advisor
Digital Transformation Consultant
Why not start by listening online to what your customers are saying about you product? Find out where the conversations are occurring and start learning - that's usually step #1.
Roy Sequeira
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Roy Sequeira Advisor
Rapid Reliable Results - Business & Management Consulting
The key to success in this area is designing service into or out of - depending on your perspective- your offering. During the design phase, actively search out any aspect that could cause a user to question or have a doubt as to what to do. Make every possible aspect as intuitively obvious as possible so customers and users do not need to call.

This seems like a trivial thing to do but many firms have entire groups doing nothing but that. I ought to know - I was one.
Patrina Mack
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Patrina Mack Advisor
Experts in global commercialization
Great comments already. I would reinforce the concept of UX research - get the product in front of customers where you can observe where they get stuck and focus your enhancements on usability. Also looking at your business policies and evaluate if your policies are customer unfriendly and make changes where possible. Lastly utilize your social media channels to understand what customers like and don't like about your product. Don't be afraid to say you're sorry if there's a major issue and invite customers to give you suggestions for how to make in better. Bottomline embrace your imperfections, own them and fix them as fast as possible.
Mark Wald
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Mark Wald Advisor
Managing Director at Supporting Strategies - Santa Monica

All great comments above. In addition to everything already mentioned, consider the following: web-based searchable knowledge base with user forum so users can help each other without requiring time & expense on your end, video tutorials, and links on your website to quick reference guides that walk users through the most common issues they'll face.

Also consider outsourcing other back-office functions such as accounting and HR to free up your skilled engineering and product resources to continue developing a more robust product and documentation library to help you scale.

Richard Harris
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Richard Harris Entrepreneur • Advisor
Top 25 Inside Sales Leader, Public Speaker, 40 Most Inspiring Leader, Sales Trainer, Start-Up Advisor, SalesHacker
Lots of great comments here I've worked with early stage start-ups and you are not alone.

Without more detail it's hard to give a specific answer. So I would follow David Lawton's comments which in really means just get some data first.

How many CS calls are coming in per day.
What are the topics?
Can you bucket them into specific categories?
Can you create a self-serve FAQ on your site?

Often times when you "see the data on paper" the answers become a bit easier.

Good luck
Edward M. Yang
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Edward M. Yang Entrepreneur
Managing Partner at Firecracker PR
Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you promise something, follow through. I've had a nightmarish experience in customer service with WooThemes. They are likely an example of how not to conduct CS.
Antonio Santos
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Antonio Santos Advisor
Coordinator of the ATOS UK & IE, Social Media Center of Analytics
Consider looking to the existing data, that you have about them...Complaints, suggestions.
Look to what your competitors are doing and try to understand if they have any competitive advantage that can put you at risk.
Dilip Samuel
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Dilip Samuel Entrepreneur
Webmaster & SEO at An online Luxury Boutique
I can only think from an online perspective that will keep your customers happy and also cut costs to the contact center

Step1:
Launch a support portal with basic FAQs
Install an internal search for that support portal using Google Search Appliance or SOLAR

Step2:
After the implementation of internal search wait for a month.

Step3:
Using internal search analytics, find out what your customers are desperately looking for help. Gather those keywords or keyphrases.

Step4:
If a keyphrase or keyword is a recurring search, let's say 100-500 searches in a month, then you write a support document on that.

Repeat, Step 3 and Step 4 every month.

Step 5:
Make sure those support documents are optimized for both External search engines and Internal search.

In fact, make the entire support portal search engine friendly.

This sort of activity complements what your agents will be doing and also gathering key information, your customers are looking for, when you don't have the solution at hand. Agents are humans and might not note down what the customer is actually looking for and why the customer called the contact center. But this method is a surefire way of diagnosing, why and for what the customer came to the support portal
I hope this helps!

I can go into ROI for support portal optimization and so on, but this is just for starters.

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