Today I interview Sarah Hatter and we talk about creating an excellent customer support experience for your SaaS product.
Sarah is the founder and CEO of CoSupport, a business that has helped over 200 companies create excellent customer support experiences since 2011.
She’s also the organizer of the ElevateCX conference AND the best-selling author of The Customer Support Handbook.
The importance of customer support in the SaaS industry
Around 2008, the typical advice that was given to bootstrapped SaaS founders was that they should handle support by themselves. This advice ended up undermining the idea of a support professional. During that time, the idea of doing customer support full time as a career wasn’t a real thing like it is today.
You will eventually need to hire a product person and a marketer for your product, SaaS founders need to think about support in the same way. SaaS founders need to stop thinking that they have to be in control of everything as there are now people who are willing to work in support and answer customer emails as a career.
The lowest hanging fruit related to support for most SaaS companies
Most people put off working on their products knowledgebase. They store various pieces of information in their brains, slack channel and even app release notes for the app store.
The helpdesk systems out there such as Intercom, Zendesk and Helpscout all have beautiful knowledgebases built in with loads of powerful features.
The first thing you need to do when you are thinking about customer support professionally is to get all your information, knowledge and put it somewhere accessible for all your customers.
Problems like reset my password, apps not refreshing and other minor issues should be completely handled without a human being involved so that you can have the time and energy to really focus on bugs, refund requests and other things that need a lot of attention.
If you do not have the resources to really focus on customer support right now but you know that it is something you really need to focus on, you can outsource it to several companies that will write it for you.
Every time you get an email or a question you have answered more than once, there is a reason for that. It is because you lacked putting that out there where someone can find it and answer the question themselves.
How to get customers to use your knowledgebase
A lot of features that we needed to build by ourselves back in 2010-2015 are now standard features in a lot of help desk knowledgebase programs. With predictive searching you can type a term such as cancel and it will bring up a list of things that are either tagged with that word or have similar resources in that article.
Your contact form should have lots of dropdowns for your customers to self-categorize so that when they specify their problems, they can be directed towards documented resources that address them.
Most customers don’t really want to talk to you when they have a problem, they don’t want to email you and wait for your reply, they just want answer to their problem as quickly as possible.
It all goes back to documentation because it educates users, it allows users to get engaged and feel empowered with your product.
How to hire a support person
It begins with making sure that the person wants to do support. Most SaaS people would hire their cousin’s son who has a degree but he is not sure what he wants to do with it in support. They would not turn their marketing or drip campaigns to someone who isn’t enthusiastic about it and would not be around in six months.
To hire great support you can go to communities such as Elevate CX which features an awesome jobs board.
If you cannot support a full time support lead, then you should consider hiring someone part time, make sure you are very explicit in defining their roles and expectations in the job.
You need someone who is going to be proactive, who thrives on educating customers, who is comfortable explaining technically complex details to people who might not necessarily be technical.
In your job description or ad for a support person, ask for writing samples. If you have a product that is out to market, that people can research or find information about, ask them to answer a question that an actual customer has sent in and see how the person actually finds the information, sees it in your documentation and download the demo to figure it out themselves.
It is also important to look at other companies you love and lean on other communities out there such as MicroConf community. Try to mimic the language of the companies you admire because that will draw in the right kind of candidates.
The number one thing you need to do is look for someone who is going to be in that role and thrive in that role long term, SaaS founders need to stop with the hire an intern or your cousin’s best friend’s college room–mates daughter because these people churn out and employee churn is very expensive. When it comes to building a fantastic customer experience, consistency is really key.
Key customer support metrics SaaS companies need to track
The key metrics you need to examine from a customer experience standpoint include time to first touch, this is different from resolution time.
The first touch time is very important because the first response that your customers get from someone in customer experience sets the tone for all their experiences.
Your autoresponder should include links to your knowledgebase. Your contact form should include a running ticker that informs your customers about your average response time and your business hours.
Your back and forth touch time is also important, it allows you to know if the person who is answering is giving good information that is closing the ticket. It tells you how useful your knowledgebase is and it also allows you to know if the people who are replying to customer questions are providing useful answers.
You also need to take note of the reasons people contact you, if it is for billing issues or missing features then these are serious problems you need to address.
There is no reason to use report and metrics if you are not going to do anything with it, think about what really matters to your team and to product development.
How to deal with high volume of support tickets
It is advisable to have a paid support tier. When she was working in customer support at a software company 10-15 years ago, she had a customer who wrote her 2.5 emails every day for a year and he ended the emails with please advise. He was the type of personality that thrived in education, he thrived in being told you are doing right and this is how you should use it, customers like him will benefit a lot from documentation and educational videos.
If you are getting a lot of emails from the same person, you can tell them to include all their questions in one email, so that you can minimize the back and forth.
The current state of customer experience
It is a really precarious state right now as there is an increase in angry rage filled customers. This is very difficult for founders who have poured their heart and soul into the product to deal with.
CoSupport – Excellent customer support help by people who love people
Elevate CX – Get a little help for your CX team
MicroConf – The world’s most trusted community for non-venture track SaaS founders
Intercom – Conversational Relationship Platform
Zendesk – The shortcut to happy customers
HelpScout – Simple customer service software and education
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