Why it’s a good idea to spend time in customer support

Published 2015-09-18, updated 2023-03-21

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Summary - There is no better way to find out what your customers think than by spending some time in customer support. Your customers express their true feelings there. You can head off both short-term and long-term problems by listening carefully, diagnosing the real issues and taking preventative or restorative actions.

Since we started Klipfolio, both Peter Matthews (my co-founder and CXO) and I have made a point to monitor all customer support requests. I don’t have the luxury of answering them anymore, but I still read them all.

Customer support requests give you a good idea of how your product, your documentation and your processes are performing. By reflecting on the actual words used - both bad and good - you develop a keen sense about how your customers are feeling at any point in time.

Normally, we get 30 to 60 support requests a day, which is not bad when you consider the number of active accounts we have. As a matter of fact, we’re encouraging our customers to engage with our support team. Our most successful accounts engage with support roughly two times as frequently as our “at risk” accounts.

On occasion, we might get a flurry of three or four dozen requests in a 20-minute period. For us, that is a Code Red: There’s a serious problem that has to be fixed quickly!

So the customer support desk acts as a key nerve centre for our organization, working closely with our DevOps team during a crisis.

As we have grown as a company and taken more people on board, we have started a new process where our new sales reps first spend a couple of weeks working on the customer support desk.

We have found this to be very positive. They acquire more sophisticated product knowledge by direct interaction with our customers and they develop more confidence because their initial focus is on helping rather than selling.

They quickly learn our customers’ most common questions, such as “How do I connect to my various data sources ?” or “How can I visualize a particular KPI my company needs to track?”

Our results to date have been so successful that I want to expand the customer support experience to everyone in our organization.

One model I may emulate is the one used by Zapier, a software integration company that bootstrapped itself from zero to 600,000 users in only three years.

Realizing that customer support was critical to its business, Zapier made customer support skills part of the package they looked for when making new hires.

As Zapier CEO Wade Foster says: “Anyone can provide awesome customer service. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to just be nice and be helpful.”

So at Zapier, every company engineer spends one week in 10 in customer support on a rotating basis. People in other roles, such as marketing, spend a four-hour shift each week doing customer support.

While it represents a considerable expenditure of time and talent, I consider it to be an important business investment.

At Klipfolio, our future success depends on knowing and understanding the customer experience, finding the problems and bottlenecks - in other words, taking the customers’ pulse- so that we can diagnose what is wrong and take appropriate action.

It may not look like the most glamourous function, but customer support is a real eye-opener, and is central to the health and success of your organization.

Allan Wille is a Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Klipfolio. He’s also a designer, a cyclist, a father and a resolute optimist.

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