I’ve talked a bit about customer service folks being agents of change. However, if I’m going to be really honest with myself, most of the metrics I use to judge the success of our team are reactive. I love CSAT (customer satisfaction), first reply time, and the other usual suspects, but I haven’t quite captured the fact that our support team rallies troops to solve customer pain points. I hate to think of myself as an official “pesterer” but alas, I’m coming to terms with it.

Your support team may be friendly, sure, but when a customer has to contact you, you’ve already failed in a sense. There is SO much value in having conversations with people that use your product, but ideally, you want to make it so that certain non-productive emails NEVER HIT YOUR INBOX. Particular kinds of conversations (help me reset my password) offer zero value to your team and they are annoying for the customer. Aim to make them go away and free up your team to do better things.

First, you have to read this blog post from Intercom about having the right kinds of conversations with your customers. Scaling support is all about prioritization and to create an all-star experience, you need to get rid of “irritating contact” time sucks. These are the types of emails the customer hates asking (they shouldn’t have to email you), and that Support is tired of answering (why is this still a problem?!)

Eliminating dumb contacts - by Intercom
Eliminating dumb contacts – by Intercom
Actions per contact type - by Intercom
Actions per contact type – by Intercom

To be clear, I don’t really find any kind of contact “irritating” but I do believe that it is support’s duty to move beyond answering the same question over and over, and coordinate a fix for the root cause– or at least proudly say you tried. When you have answered the same point of confusion 50 times, it’s REALLY time to nip it in the bud, talk to product, marketing, operations, or whoever it takes to make that question go away.

pablo (2)

You may not be able to fix it yourself, or you would have done it ages ago, but as the official connector between clients and the rest of the team, you need to try, or at least understand why and how tradeoffs are made.

This quarter, we’ve decided to work backwards and list our top “irritating” topic types on a Google Doc. These are pain points throughout the whole experience, from going on our website, picking your size, placing the order, downloading our app, paring your hardware, to using the product as part of your gym routine. Some of the actual “product” pains are longer-term goals but a few pain points (sizing, shipping, packaging) can be easily remedied with better website copy, emails, and post-purchase communications.

Our Google Doc outlines the “irritating questions” with a clear owner and suggestions. Some ideas are more ambitious than others, but we’re tackling the low-hanging fruit this quarter, and some of the loftier ones for the end of year. Here is a peek at what this might look like:

“An “irritating” question is one that the customer hates asking, and that Support is tired of answering.

Let’s try and reduce the number of “irritating” questions we receive by updating our Help Center, website, and app to make the product as clear as possible. Below is a list of some of the top “irritating” questions we receive on a regular basis, as well as some suggestions for how to eliminate these questions.”

How should this fit? This feels tight; I want to size up!

Owner: Customer Advocacy Team is owner, but dependent on guidance from Apparel team

Ideas: New help center articles on what to do if stuck in between sizes, info on the “fit” and “breaking in” experience, suggestions on how to measure your body appropriately. What about adding a“fit info” footer on the website, or in the cart? See Skinz sizing guide for inspiration.

Do you ship internationally? Why don’t you ship internationally? Can you make an exception?

Owner: Customer Advocacy team but dependent on Marketing and Front End

Ideas: Add “shipping info” to site footer. Add banner to the top nav bar *if* we detect IP outside the U.S. Link to FAQ. What about a team blog post to explain the complexities of shipping abroad; can we be open, honest about the fact we’d love to but aren’t ready yet? Example of a really transparent reply to “why we don’t ship abroad” by Glossier.

These are just a few of our (least) favorite questions but they all lead to heavy ticket volume that we’d love to deflect.

Everyone would be better off if these were communicated up front so we can focus on those meaningful conversations. To keep it simple, we are aiming to get rid of 3 “irritating contacts” this quarter and eventually, I’d love to actually spearhead some customer-driven product changes.

Are any other support folks trying to eliminate the “root cause” of customer problems? How do you measure your success?

If you are a support leader and looking to get something like this rolling, build your list from your perspective but then get other non-support teammates involved in the ideation and prioritization process. None of your “irritating” issues are going to be fixed in a silo, or you would have done it already. Get all of your dependencies involved and make them feel part of the entire flow, eager, and on your side!

Outside of support? Get excited about the direction that team is headed and chat with them about the many changes you can make (some small, some major) but all working towards a happier, more loyal customer.