Customer Support for Bootstrappers

Customer Support for Bootstrappers: Before you Launch your Product

This post is the first instalment in our Customer Support for Bootstrappers blog series, intended to answer the question “I’ve got a great product. Now how do I support my customers?”


Customer support is not a hard concept. Someone has a question or a problem and it’s your job to fix it and make them happy. When done right, it can set you apart from your competition. An app that does something can be recreated easily. A rocking support experience is much harder to copy. When customers know they’re going to get great support, they’ll usually choose you over the competitor.

But if you do it wrong, it can undo everything that you’ve worked so hard on with your company. Customers will start leaving you behind as they find a company that can provide that support experience they’re looking for.

I’ve split this into three parts – before you launch your product, after you launch, and scaling your team as your product grows. So let’s not take up any more of your time and just dive right in.

What should a good help site look like?

Don’t get cutesy with names. Call this part of your site the help site. Put it at yoursite.com/help. Then make sure to point yoursite.com/support , yoursite.com/faq , and yoursite.com/questions all to that /help URL.

We’re keeping things simple so let’s include at least these areas:

  • Top FAQs that customers ask.
  • Search page so that they can search for answers.
  • Contact page so they can ask for help if they can’t find the answer.

What should a good help page look like?

When customers are on your help site, they’re already confused and in need of help. Don’t make it worse with a complicated page. Focus on three things:

1) Clean and simple

Keep the page design clean and simple. Make sure to include screenshots to illustrate what a customer should do. A complicated help page just makes things worse for a confused customer.

2) Short and sweet

Keep paragraphs short and sweet. Lengthy answers should be broken up in easy-to-read sections. Making something more clear does not mean adding more text to the page.

3) Headers and formatting

Use headers and text formatting to make it easier to read. Bolding the right word helps the customer find the answer faster.

What faqs should I put on there?

Routine and repetitive questions are best handled through self-service. The customer should be able to update their card, change their email address, and things along those lines on their own when they need to. Empowering the customer to do these simple tasks lets them have immediate answers any time day or night.

Beyond that, show the app to a few friends and family members. Right down the questions they have and put those on the site. That’ll be enough
to launch with. Once you launch your product, you’ll quickly see what other questions needs to make their way onto the help site.

What does a good screenshot look like?

Seems like a no-brainer right? Take a screenshot of what you want to show and throw it up on your help page. Easy.

No.

You’ve taken care to craft every word on that page. Take the same pride and professionalism in your screenshots.

1) Frame and context

Make the object you’re calling attention to obvious. But remember to include it in the context of the page itself. If you focus on just one tiny part, a customer might get confused trying to figure out where on the page you took that screenshot.

2) Use arrows, callouts, etc.

Use them sparingly. A dozen arrows in one screenshot is a tad too much. Highlight one to two things that you want the customer to see.

3) Don’t forget the alt text tag

You’re going to have people that rely on that alt text tag to “see” the screenshots. Screen-reading software needs the alt text to relay that information to a customer. It’ll take a few moments to describe the screenshot but the customer that needs it will love you for it.

Help customers find the info first

You’ve got to have a solid search tool. No matter how organized things are or how clear cut your FAQs are, customers search for things first. We live in the days of Google search, not a book’s index.

Put the search box prominently on the page. Customers should find it as soon as they land on the help site. If it’s not readily there, they’ll go ahead and send you a support case so you can do the heavy lifting and answer their question. By having the search box first, they’ll use it first and find their answer without ever emailing you.

When all else fails, the contact form

If the help site doesn’t have their answer, the customer needs a way to get in touch. A simple contact form will do the trick. You need their name, email address, and what they need to ask you. Go ahead and have them pick a category as well. Something along the lines of “I can’t login”, “I have a billing question”, “I have a feature request”, etc. Those will come in handy after the launch when you have lots of support cases coming in.

Have that form send you an email to your support email address. And that’ll wrap up everything you need for the help site right now.

Examples of great support sites

http://help.campaignmonitor.com/support
http://basecamp.com/help
http://wistia.com/doc
http://bufferapp.com/faq

Now that the help site is up, let’s focus on customers that need to get in touch with you if their question isn’t answered. Your help site has a contact link that’s easy to find so that avenue is covered. But watch out for customers that send to generic email addresses like [email protected], [email protected], etc. Have email, support, help, questions, etc all redirect to that one support inbox.

You don’t need a fancy app to run support. A shared email inbox will do the trick just fine. Gmail’s a popular option since it’s free but you can use any email tool as long as it has the option for labels and filters with it.

When a customer emails you for help, replying to them is the obvious step. Use labels if you have time. Labels are great for grouping together feature requests, bugs, or any other natural groupings that you come across.

You also want to set up a snippet tool. Personally, I use Text Expander. It’s easy to use and really affordable. Text Expander allows you to create “Snippets”, which are bits of text you can insert into an email with only a few keystrokes. It’s easy to organize snippets into folders and extend them for all sorts of use cases.

Your snippets aren’t locked into your support app so you can always take them with you if you change. You can go with other apps if you’d like but for this one, we’ll be focusing on Text Expander.

How much you use the snippet tool is up to you. I use it for any phrase that might be repeated. For instance, here’s the ones I’ve got set up and use on almost every email:

Hi {{name}}!

This one’s for opening the email. People have a name – use it. It goes a long way in showing that you know who they are and that you’re there to help them personally.

If you have any other questions, just let me know and I’ll be happy to help. And have an awesome {{today}}!

-Mitch

This one’s for closing the email. Short and sweet but it lets your customer know you’re always there for them. *Queue that song from Friends.*

Those two snippets alone will save you a ton of time. You can add to them as you need to.

The last thing I’ll mention is to watch the wording you use. Don’t use corporate buzzwords or other lingo when talking with customers. Two big email types you’ll probably see from customers are bugs and feature requests.

Product launches always turn up a few bugs and other troubles. If they run into a bug, just say you’re sorry like this:

I’m so sorry for that trouble! I found that bug and just went live with a fix for it. It should be good to go.

For feature requests, you’ll want to be nice but make sure to not promise anything.

Thanks for sharing that idea! I can definitely see where that would help out. I can’t make any promises that it’ll make it into the app but I’ll keep it in mind.

Combine those bug and feature request emails with the opening and closing from before to have a solid email reply.

More Customer Support for Bootstrappers


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