How Easily Can I Work With You?

When you look at my resume on LinkedIn, you’ll see that I spent some time working in Customer Support at a SaaS Company.
Looking back, it has been a transformative experience. When I got on the job, I had to learn quickly. Before, I was focused on Tech. Now, I entered this new and fascinating world of customer service.

It became increasingly important to communicate effectively and find out where customers had problems to reduce support volume and overall customer effort.

This morning, while drinking my morning coffee, I read this article on the Help Scout blog about Customer Effort. It brought back a lot of memories, as well as thoughts about service and support.

Here’s an interesting quote I absolutely can relate to:

Have you ever had a customer who, by all accounts, seemed satisfied — but then canceled their subscription out of the blue? They may have responded positively to customer satisfaction surveys and accomplished their goals with your product, but that’s not always what matters when it comes to customer loyalty.

Even if you’re not in the SaaS business, this still applies. The underlying question is this: How easy is it to work with you and your product or service?
How much effort do I need to invest in getting my work done with you? I’d like to talk about two strategies here.
While you should read the article for detailed and hands-on tips, here are two takeaways from my point of view.

Having a customer contact you should be as easy as possible. That means they can either easily find a contact email address on your website or use something like a live chat to get in touch.
In general, it is already an effort to get in touch with you, no matter if it’s email or live chat.
Therefore, make the conversation as effortless as possible. A great example from the blog:

Customer Carl: I really need to upload this picture to your site, but I’m getting an error message.
Support Agent Hannah: Ah yes, I can see that the image isn’t the right format. I’ve converted it to a JPG and attached it to this email so you can go ahead and get it uploaded now.

The support agent found out what the problem is and went ahead to make it as easy as possible for the customer to move on. This approach eliminated uncertainty and reduced the actual effort for Carl. Carl only needs to paste in the picture and can continue working.

You can also use this approach for questions in emails like “I tried X, then saw this error. What am I doing wrong?”

It might be likely that you need additional information for the final diagnoses and recommended steps. Often, however, you might already be able to narrow down the possible causes and, therefore, solutions. Instead of just replying by asking for more context, you can directly go ahead and ask for context and provide possible solutions. For instance, you could say:

“Thank you for letting us know. Could you let me know this and that for some additional context?
Also, could you try to do this? Here is a link with the specific steps. This often occurs when X is not met.
If that doesn’t work, also consider trying Y and Z, with specific steps here and there.”

You make it easy for the customer to immediately try something and possibly help them solve the problem. If it doesn’t work, they can still get back to you with the additional context you asked for initially.

Another exciting thing in customer service:

While working as a support engineer at Travis CI, I noticed many repeat questions in our support inbox, asking for specific maintenance commands or “my builds are not starting.”
I remember that one of the customers wrote something like this:

“Hey, so we had this problem again where the system consumed too much memory. Could you get me these commands again to clear the queues? Then I can add that to our internal run-book, so we can solve this on our own the next time this occurs.”

I sent over the commands. But then, I realized, what if we could provide them with our own run-book that already has all of these commands and troubleshooting strategies, so they can use that as a template?
It would help them gain more independence when it comes to maintaining the system, and we’d have fewer support cases because specific strategies are already explained in the run-book.

We published the first version of our own operations manual not too long after. Indeed, the number of support requests asking for maintenance commands and citing common problems reduced significantly.

Now it is your turn. What can you do to reduce your customers’ effort working with you and your products or services?