Mike wrote an excellent post about a customer experience he had with Tumblr, a small (team size) and young startup. Mike closes off by opening an interesting and important discussion: how to best scale customer service for startups.
Scaling customer service is really, really hard. We have an internal rule that every e-mail sent to support AT blip is returned within 24 hours. That’s hard. But it’s really important. At blip we’re really lucky that our producer base is relatively small — we have a very high ratio of producers to viewers. I can’t imagine facing the challenge Tumblr faces — offering an excellent service experience at scale to so many people. But it’s one of the most important things that we can do as our services grow up.
I’ve written before that customer service can and should be an important marketing tool for any company and startups in particular and I’ve had thoughts for a while posting about this very topic. Thanks to Mike, for getting me to finally write this down.
At SoundCloud customer service is one of many areas anchored in our community management. In the month of June, we processed close to 2000 email threads (can be one email reply or more) and had around 200 interactions on our GetSatisfaction forums. These include feedback, questions, bug reports, feature requests, pre and post sales questions. We make sure every single one email gets answered by a member of the team within 24 hours. Response times for Premium users usually ranges between 1 minute and 12 hours.
We have five different contact channels, six if you include Twitter:
One email address for users with a basic plan, 2 separate emails for Premium users depending which plan they’re subscribed to, GetSatisfaction and Sales.
This is extremely hard work every single day, weekends included. The upside: happy and frequently stunned customers.
Here’s our customer service mantra which we’re able to apply to 99% of interactions:
1. Human: an answer from a human being, addressing you by your first name followed by a personal message to your query is one of the most powerful things in a customer-company relationship. With just a few words, you can turn a bad customer experience around and create a foundation for a positive relationship between you and the user.
2. Swift: the faster you are, the better. Nothing beats these shameless self-plugs:
3. Concise: There is nothing worse for a user than to experience a problem, take the time to find the support page, describe the issue and receive a half-baked answer back. We always try to assess the issue as a whole, try to repro the case and get back with either a solution or immediate feedback about our next steps (schedule fix, keep user in the loop at all times). The clearer your answer, the faster you get.
4. Take the extra effort: If you can, always add some magic to your response and provide links to useful resources (FAQs, How-To’s, Videos, blog posts etc) to inspire and motivate users on trying out new things.
5. Always appreciate: making clear that you appreciate any form of feedback - positive or negative - can move mountains. Trust me, it will.
Mike ends with this
I’d love to hear if anyone has ideas for how to do this well. We all face the same challenge, and we’re all trying to deal with it.
Let’s continue this important discussion. How can internal processes be optimized? Which tools help? Ramp up staff while maintaining the same quality of service and ‘human touch’ people learned to love? Reblog with your thoughts or post a comment.