So I got to thinking the other day...... "What would I do if my sales doubled?"
If this happened, I'd be screwed. Why? Because my customer support infrastructure (people, tools, etc...) is only designed to handle the amount of customer support requests we get right now. We serve anywhere from three to ten customers a day, and average one or two support issues a day. That's not a very high level, but I sell expensive lessons, so I'm able to make a living providing a high level of service to a relatively small customer base.
The support "team" is two people: Kevin and me. Kevin handles all requests first, delegating them to me if necessary. But Kevin is not my employee, he is a contractor. Support is not his fulltime job. Therefore it is impossible for me to provide customers with 24/7 support.
At our current support load, this is a non-issue. 99% of the time we are able to help people within 24 hours and most people are extremely happy.
But what if the number of customers we serve doubled or tripled in a period of weeks?
I certainly don't need that to happen, we're doing just fine the way things are, but honestly, what would happen if a huge amount of exposure led to a dramatic increase in sales?
I'd be a fool not to prepare for that. possibility. If I'm not prepared to deal with 20 or 30 support issues a day, I will lose the opportunity to win 20 or 30 repeat customers a day. The time to prepare for that is before it happens, not after.
So today I sat down with Kevin and we talked about our approach to customer support. As we talked, I realized that what I really want is for my support system to be as important as any of my lesson products. I want the experience of finding and getting help with my site, store, or lessons to be as smooth an experience as possible.
We started listing all the things that we could document, every issue that has come up more than once. From first time visitors to repeat customers, we listed everything we could think of that would make their experience "nicer".
As I looked at this huge list of potential topics it hit me: this is not rocket science, this is just writing down what we already know. This is not complex work. This is information that we'll have to tell people anyway, but right now we have no way for people to know this stuff without contacting us. This means they have to wait longer to find out something that we could have written down for them to use before they even needed our help.
Creating all this support material will take time and thousands of dollars. As the number of customers increases, these materials increase in value in two ways.
- Reduced Support Requests - more people solving their own problems before or after they contact us.
- Reduced Support Complexity - these support materials will make it easier for anyone who's serving as a support agent to help more customers in less time. Sometimes it will be as simple as pointing them to the correct guide. Other times it will be using information from a guide to customize a response. In all cases, having the support material available will make support more consistent and more efficient.
Customer support is one of those things that doesn't just "happen". I'm passionate about new lessons. That's the directions my thoughts lean when I'm not working on anything else. But how many times have I had to stop working on lessons to answer a support request with information that I've provided to 100 other people before?
More times than I'd like to admit :-(
Creating a truly remarkable library of customer support resources is not sexy, and not fun. At least not for the same reasons that creating lessons is fun. But it is an investment in my future time. It is an investment in the customer experience. And it is an investment in my ability to serve a much larger base of customers in the future.