As an indie maker, I don’t want to hire staff. Instead, I’m working with contractors, and have a lot of robots doing the work for me. All repetitive tasks can be automated, and customer service is an important one.
Being in a B2C market instead of B2B comes with a higher customer service load. It took me years to come to a point where I was ready to automate it.
I think it’s important for every startup founder to do the customer support manually the first couple of years. This is the ultimate way to get to know what the customer wants and what its problems are, and therefore a good time investment.
But one day, customers will run out of new questions. This is when you feel like you are answering the same things over and over again. That’s the moment you are ready to automate.
During the first year, you probably identified the biggest problems customers have, and tried to improve your product in order to prevent this problem to happen again.
There will always be things you can’t fix technically, and customers will always keep asking questions. Try to identify the four or five most common problems customer have (FAQs). If this doesn’t cover 95% percent of all support tickets, your product needs more improvement before you are ready to automate the customer service.
For Pasfoto.nu, I identified the four main problems:
- I didn’t receive my confirmation email.
- My shipping address is incorrect.
- My order hasn’t been delivered.
- My photos haven’t been accepted.
These four cover 97% of all questions. By giving answers proactively you can avoid getting customers to contact you.
How did I manage to do this?
- On the website, I created a customer service section that can be found in the main menu. All incoming questions are listed and answered here. Creating a new page for each question added a lot of SEO value to the website. Content is content, and customer service questions serve the long tail.
- In the customer service section, the four FAQs are highlighted and answered, before all other questions.
- In the order confirmation email, I added a link to the customer service section on the website. This single action reduced 90% of incoming support tickets.
- The next day, there is an autoresponder sent out to the customer, introducing the customer service again, and answering the four FAQs and linking to the service section on the website.
- When a customer sends an email, an autoreply is sent, answering answering the FAQs and linking to the service section on the website.
- In the customer service section, all answers that require action have a self service form where the customer can get its needs satisfied within minutes, after identifying with order number and email address.
If you want to make this work, helping the customer should be your main concern. Sending him to a self service environment facilitates a fast service I couldn’t possibly provide manually, and enables me to keep prices low.
It’s important to explain the customer why you work the way you do. I found out that almost everyone happily accepts this.
This all works based on confidence, as customers can even arrange their own refunds. I’m sure this will be abused every now and then, but that does not outweigh the benefits and time saved.
Now that I made this leap, I don’t have to answer the same questions on a daily basis anymore, and can focus on developing the concept without compromising service levels.