A Customer Support primer

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First, a disclaimer. What follows is not research, academic or otherwise. It is a quick list and ideas I picked up from my work with Fujitsu Services, the things I did for Fullsix and what I have picked up now and then on the web and conversations with people who do customer support or manage customer support teams.

Second, beliefs. I believe that over thinking and over engineering is a common pitfall for companies. Small companies with only a few ocassional support requests don’t need to apply all the ideas below. They simply need to focus on what matters most, understanding what is going on with the person on the other side and sharing with the team what is going on.

This being said, let’s move forward.

Internal Knowledge Base

Every company needs a central location to store its documents, and where people can search to find the information they need. This is also where anyone doing customer support can double check information and if possible query for the status of an order for example.

For more on this subject, I suggest you take a look at Knowman or if you can, check out Social Now.

Self Service tools and User Communities

This is more for the user’s side of things. The goal here is to let the user find what he needs and keep him from clicking that “send email” button. Digital Ocean is a great example on this.

They provide Virtual Private Servers, and it is not easy to configure those. So they publish several tutorials for the most common problems and configurations. When the tutorials are not enough, the user can also publish a post on the Digital Ocean Community. This is where users help each other get things done.

These user communities are where we can find real community managers, not on Facebook pages.

Want to step up a bit? Start writing a blog. A good example here is the Sublime Text blog. The blog features news about the new version of the software, with a walkthrough of the new features when it’s relevant.

To make it even better, then have a newsletter called “Sublime Text Tips” with tutorials and other useful information to make the best of this text editor. And if you take a look at their archives you will notice they manage it more like a blog than a newsletter.

Monitor and Respond

This one here is pretty straightforward. Even when you have a good user community people will complain on your facebook page or through twitter. So you are going to need a way to be alerted on new comments or mentions to your brand / service.

One thing to keep in mind, the person who answers customer support doesn’t have to be your community manager. In fact, I have seen some brands link their Customer Support team with their facebook page using things like Desk.com to help make the community manager’s life easier and of course, answer their users in a more effective and efficient way.

Tracking

How long do you take to answer a question and what can you do to make the process faster?

Back in Fujitsu I learned about the Lean Six Sigma methodology. The heart of it was quite simple, measure the process and its main indicators to find ways to improve, cutting down on wait time.

To do this you can categorize the questions asked, where people ask them (facebook, twitter, email) and what is done to give them a reply. This is going to help write “canned responses” improve the internal knowledge base or can even be added to the blog or newsletter to avoid further repetitive enquiries.

Of course, if there is only one person handling customer service, you will hardly need an elaborate set up.

Header photo by Stavos.

Stuck between management and operations

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I remember a conversation that went something on the lines of “You can’t do management and operational tasks at the same time.” Of course, I disagreed.

My argument was armed with the conviction that with hard work and perseverance you can push yourself to do both. All it takes is discipline, a good schedule, knowing how to keep yourself productive.

I was wrong. Well not 100% wrong, but wrong enough that I had to sit down and write this post.

When you are doing operational tasks you need to focus on details. If possible you should avoid multitasking. Things like reviewing copy, writing,  preparing a brief. These require a level of attention that doesn’t go well with multitasking.

Management is different. It requires a bird’s eye view of operational tasks, knowledge on the method each person uses and of course the business strategy.

There are two obstacles here. One is the loss of perspective when your daily, weekly or monthly plan is filled with tasks at an operational level. The other is that we forget to box-in time to focus only in top level tasks.

Most people I know, like me, pulled their weight from the operational level up. We know what needs to be done and how to do it with little or no supervision. This however has the reverse effect, we find it hard to break free from operational tasks.

Getting Involved

The solution is pretty straightforward, we do what we can to save time for top level analysis of what we are doing and how it contributes to business goals.

Next up, make sure everyone gets to participate. You never know what talent you are missing by not having everyone in the loop about what is going on.

There are a number of ways to do it. You can have daily or weekly meetings to give everyone an overview of what is going on. The important thing here is sharing information with everyone.

This however is not my field. Ana Silva blogs at “The art of life and work” and shares a great deal of knowledge and tips to make organisations more human and efficient.

Header Photo by Troy McCullough

How Joe bested Facebook

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Joe Best shared a post with his friends on Facebook saying:

Twitter in Portugal is going limp. Five years ago I would see 1000 per hour. Now I get 300/400 every 12 hours. Logic says I should get much more because five years ago I had 1000 followers and now I have 7000.

The blue bird’s magic flew… to Facebook!

You can try to click here https://www.facebook.com/JoeBest66/posts/10204873624022288 and if you are in his facebook network you will see it gathered over 1000 comments and 123+ likes.

This was published in his profile page. Where he is followed by 415 people and has 4160 facebook friends. If you look at the stream of photos and updates that he shares it is obvious that not a single one goes unnoticed.

Joe also has a Facebook Page called DaCozinha with 3900 likes and where he sparingly posts the occasional update and photo about his business.  Right now he hasn’t posted anything since October 15th.

That is enough background. I guess you got the picture by now.

What this means for Small Businesses

Joe proved that for a small business it does not make sense to invest time and content into a Facebook Page. Instead, tailoring your own profile page and personal brand until you reach the 5000 friends limit gives you more results.

Let’s avoid the technical differences between a Facebook Profile and a Facebook Page. What is important is the newsfeed algorithm and how it impacts them differently.

Content from profiles is clearly being favored, I see less and less content from brands in my newsfeed. This change became so visible that Facebook responded directly to the decline in page reach in the newsfeed.  After all, we rather interact with a real person than a brand, right?

All this said … Joe’s blog is well worth your time if you enjoy good cooking: http://dacozinha.net/

Header photo source

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