User research

A guide for startups: giving your users the customer support they deserve

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The way your customer support is delivered is playing an increasingly important role in determining how quickly your product can grow and scale. Why? For two simple reasons:

  • Improving your customer support makes your users happier – resulting in reduced churn and a higher LTV. Your customers are less likely to stop using your product if you constantly deliver excellent support. If you reduce churn, you grow faster and more sustainably.
  • It’s useless offering incredible support if you need one support agent per customer. Your product simply cannot scale. You need to be able to use your resources effectively by offering great support to those who need it and creating the framework needed to reduce the amount of support needed in the first place.

This can be especially challenging for new startups that have very few resources and limited budgets. How do you provide the support your users expect? To help us answer this question, we asked some startups in the customer support market how they thought customer support has evolved over the past few years and what startups need to do to keep up.

Users expect multi-channel support that’s easy to use

When users seek support, they may expect to find it in different ways: some might start by looking on your social media channels, some might prefer doing live chat straight away. Users who don't find what they need straight away might not be willing to look further.

Jack Plantin from SupportYourApp.com highlighted that there are now multiple channels we need to use to be successful at customer support:

Offering as many channels as possible shows your users that you care enough about them to accommodate their preferred method of communication. You need to make it clear that you're willing to go the extra mile to help.

It’s pointless having a customer support solution if your users struggle to contact you. Your users should be able to speak to you effortlessly.

Users want fast and honest feedback

Social media has seen a meteoric rise in the last few years. And with that rise, online users have become accustomed to receiving almost real-time responses. Giving timely support is important because it lets your users know you are actively listening to them and willing to help.

Jack Plantin from SupportYourApp believes that the best way to get word-of-mouth recommendations is by offering immediate help.

And of course, support tools are also evolving to make this easier. You're no longer restricted to offering help from your desktop device. Most customer support tools are now multi-platform - making it possible to speak to your customers on the go.

It's good to be aware that even if your product is having issues, few users will actually bother contacting you - more than 9 out of 10 people won't let you know if they're having troubles (Chris Duell, 2016). It's important to be appreciative of the fact that they are taking time out of their day to communicate with you.

Honesty is also incredibly important. Don’t fall into the trap of making promises you cannot keep. If an issue they mentioned won't be fixed, tell them - be upfront and transparent about everything.

Be honest - but also show users you are doing as much as you can do to fix their problem.

Users expect a personalized experience

Users don’t want to feel like they are one of many. The best customer support experience is one in which your users feel they can communicate with a human on the other end who genuinely cares about their concerns. Ranee Bhutani from Frontapp believes it’s important to build empathy with customers:

Making the effort to make every interaction thoughtful, personal, and creative can help you earn life-long customers. There's an interesting story by Jack Plantin from SupportYourApp that demonstrates this:

At Hotjar there are a few simple rules we follow which help us provide the personalized and honest customer support we believe our users deserve:

  1. Always say thanks. Few things feel more gratifying than gratitude – and few services express gratitude as much as they should.
  2. Manage expectations. Be honest. Don’t over promise.
  3. Never say ‘Impossible’. Show them you are listening and take the time to understand.
  4. We are guilty – until proven innocent. Do not be defensive. Always apologize in advance.
  5. It’s ALWAYS our fault. Since we built it – it’s always our fault.
  6. Mind your language. Nothing makes you look more unprofessional than stupid spelling mistakes.
  7. Answer quick – update often. Don’t wait to find a solution… reply as quickly as possible.
  8. Always be reading – learning. Reading helps you improve your language, communication, and personal skills.

Personalization is not just about giving your customers a personal touch. It’s about becoming proactive and understanding how your users are interacting with your app.

By focusing on offering contextual help and figuring out what your users’ pain points are, you can actually reduce the amount of customer support required. Chris Duell, from Elev.io, believes it’s important to understand what help your users need:

Giving great customer support on a tight budget

Giving excellent customer support is becoming a great way for new startups to stand-out from their competition. Unfortunately, most new startups have very limited resources and budgets. What can they do to use those resources effectively and still meet their customers' expectations?

Ranee Bhutani from Frontapp says there’s no need to use an expensive tool:

Having a great knowledge base and focusing initially on the channels that your customers are most likely to use, also makes a big difference.

Miha Ambroz from SupportYard thinks it’s never a bad idea to invest as much as possible into your customer support team:

Chris Duell (Elev.io) stresses the importance of providing contextual guidance to avoid needing too much support in the first place.

Ultimately, your startup cannot afford not to give great customer support. It's what your users will remember. If your users have a great experience when asking for support, they will remember your company fondly. And because of that, customer support reflects heavily on the rest of your business. Give your users bad support and it will be easy for them to think you offer bad products. However, give your users great support and they could easily turn into life-time customers. It's time to start caring!


Special thanks to the startups who were part of this research:

Frontapp: Front’s platform transforms your email into a help desk solution. You get the look and feel of email with the tools you need to reduce response time and measure agent productivity - all without relying on impersonal auto-responses and ticket numbers. Front lets you respond to all of your customers from the same place, regardless of whether the conversation is happening over email, text, Facebook, or Twitter. Front also provides detailed analytics that measure performance metrics, including first response time, average response time, and handle times.

Elev.io: Elevio has a simple premise, let users access the exact help they need, where and when they need it. It's timely, it's contextual, and it's awesome to use. Providing on-site access to your entire knowledge base, support system and more, rather than needing to go looking for help offsite, results in a measurable improvement in user engagement and education. We let your users help themselves, so you can get back to working on your business, rather than in it.

SupportYourApp: Based in Ukraine, SupportYourApp brings a fresh European face and voice to replace entrenched stereotypes of Indian call centers. We are the first startup to provide customer support solutions exclusively for Mac, Windows, Saas and IoT apps.

SupportYard: SupportYard is perfect for entrepreneurs and small business who can't keep up with all the customer emails they receive. Now you can keep all emails in one place and assign your team members to answer from the shared email account.

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