Stacking Up Support

This is my fourth post for the 6 week Support Driven writing challenge. For this post, the topic is “What mediums does your team do support through? What are the pros and cons to each of these mediums?”

At Wildbit, our support stack is mundane, and that’s good. It means we’re not overwhelmed, and we can deliver exceptional support while being a small team.

We have the channels of email, live chat, Twitter, and are testing phone support. Along with help docs and guides.

Email

I love email support. To me, this is the bread and butter of helping customers.

Pros:

You can assume every customer has an email address. There are no extra accounts for them to learn and services to learn to interact with you.

Each customer is unique. Email support allows you time to make a response specific to the customers unique needs. For a tricky case, you can spend 10 minutes researching, and the customer doesn’t know the difference. In live chat, they’d be asking “are you there?”.

For the tricky cases, you can spend 10 minutes researching, and the customer doesn’t know the difference. In live chat, they’d be asking “are you there?”.

Cons:

For the customer, it can be difficult. If they’re coming to you, that means they have a problem. If you can’t get back to them quickly, it becomes a little terrifying with comments like:

Is there a phone number I can call?

Do you need more information?

Did my email get lost?

Live Chat

We have live chat on our marketing pages and in-app. It can be fun as you’re going over pricing/features, and at the same time teaching someone Git.

Pros:

The immediacy cons of email are all resolved with live chat.

A human connection is easy to make with a customer over chat.

It’s easier to judge the tone of a conversation compared to email. It allows for a more enjoyable exchange with a customer.

Cons:

An immediate, non-transactional answer can be hard.

I support developers. Teaching someone complicated topics or working through complex errors over chat is often mentally draining.

Twitter

Pros:

Like email, the barrier for a customer to ask a question is low.

Cons:

I’m not a fan of Twitter support. Tying a Twitter handle to a customer is hard.

Replies are “cold” with only 140 characters available to a question that deserves 140 words.

Phone

This is an experimental feature two of my colleagues are starting this week.

In their email signatures, they include a Calendy link to schedule a phone call for phone support. We’re not sure how this will go, the best part is if it’s successful, it’s a win. If it’s not, we can remove the link from the signature and move on.

Pros:

The most human of all popular channels.

Cons:

In a twenty-minute phone call, you can only help one customer, with email or live chat in the same period you can assist 4-6 customers. Your team has to in a position to handle the volume or limit access.

Some answers are best answered over text.

Self-service (docs and guides)

We have two types of self-service content: Docs & Guides.

Docs are product specific information. Guides are product agnostic. i.e., in theory, a competitor could link to them as a great resource for information on a topic, and a guild should provide value even if you aren’t using one of our products.

Pros:

The difficult how-to you get often? Turn it into a doc, and it can help the next 5 customers with the same question.

If your support team isn’t 24/7, it offers something in off hours.

Best practices? If you’re living and breathing your product you probably have some best practices, share them as a guide!

Cons:

Docs can be a crutch.

Creating a help doc doesn’t solve all problems. The fewer help docs, the better. If you have customers reaching out to you frequently about the same problem, it can be a sign there needs to be improvements there. This isn’t to say help docs aren’t important but it is dangerous to fall into the trap of creating X amount of help docs a week.

Simon Ouderkirk and Carolyn Kopprasch have written great posts on the dangers of self-service docs.

A parting thought

A piece of advice I once heard: Never add a new channel until you’ve mastered one for 6 months. i.e., if you were starting a support team on day one, you wouldn’t have email, chat, and phone.

Pick one, master it, and add more later. If you can deliver an amazing customer experience in one channel, it’ll go much farther, than a bad experience on many channels.

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