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Make it easy | Support Hacks

Make it easy | Support Hacks
By Sorin Alupoaie • Issue #13 • View online

Two weeks ago I had some items missing from my grocery order, no refund given. I emailed Customer Service, told them my problem, they apologised and sent me the refund. The following week, I got a box of chocolates and an apology note for the inconvenience, which was very nice of them.
The only thing is: this has happened before. Not once, but a few times. Now every week after I receive the grocery order, I need to review and compare the list of items in the order with what I got. This is to spot any missing items. It’s not easy, given that there are usually over 50 products in an order.
So yes, the box of chocolates is a nice gesture, but I don’t need it. What I need is a reliable service that makes it easy for me to order and receive my weekly grocery. No headaches.
Whether you work in product development, customer support or marketing, there is one thing you should constantly aiming for: make it easy for your customers.
If at any stage of the customers’ journey you make it hard for them, that should be a red flag. Something to be corrected right away.
Unfortunately, detecting and fixing such friction is not as easy as it sounds. It requires a culture of customer empathy and alignment within the organization. In this issue, I will look at this challenge from many angles, across multiple functions of a business: product, marketing, sales and support.
A few years ago, when mobile apps were still a fancy thing, BMW launched a new app that would allow customers to control their car remotely. For example, you could unlock your car straight from your iPhone without even having to reach out to your car key. Amazing, right?
Let’s take a closer look. With a car key you can unlock a car in three steps: walk to the car, reach out for the car key, press the unlock button. With the mobile app, there are 13 steps in total according to this article: walk to the car, pull out the phone, unlock the phone, find the app, open the app etc. Is this an improvement? Of course not.
Sometimes we build features and products just because there is a new piece of exciting technology coming out and we want to be on top of it. Or because we have our inward perspective of what a customer needs based on other products or features we’ve seen. Without thinking for a second about the job or task we’re supposed to help our customers with. Without getting into their shoes, seeing through their lenses.
I’ve done this mistake too many times. We think we’re visionary, that we know. But we’re not. We’re simple people lying to ourselves that what we want to build is important.
So what to do? There is no silver bullet, framework or set of rules. It is a change of mindset. Of how you do things.
Spend time understanding your customers better than they understand themselves.
Talk with them as often as you can. Take a close look at the job or task customers need to do. How many steps are needed? For how long? How much money do they spend? Are they frustrated? Take the time, it will be your best investment in the new product or feature.
You can use a framework such as Jobs to be done or design thinking but you don’t need to as long as you always start and stop with the customer.
Marketing & Sales
Have you ever came across a company’s website and, after browsing for 1-2 minutes, you still don’t get what they do? How do they help their customers? It happens to me all the time, especially in the B2B space.
Brands spend significant resources and time building fancy websites with modern design and colourful themes. But when people try to read and understand how to benefit from a product (or service), they struggle.
Nobody has time to read through paragraphs of text and ambiguous words. In a world full of noise and clutter, your messaging should be as sharp as a knife.
Another example. A few weeks ago, I wanted to buy a new sofa. Like many people these days, I started online. After hours of browsing, I was (unpleasantly) surprised to find that over half of the products I checked out were missing simple dimensions such as width, depth or height.
In most cases, I simply browsed away to the next offer, but some sofas looked nice. So I had to: open the contact us page, find the phone number, pick up the phone, enter the phone number, call the number, wait for somebody to answer, talk with the rep on phone, hang up the phone. That was 8 steps and over 10 minutes wasted for me. Not to mention the cost of the call to the business. For a piece of information that I should get in 2-3 seconds.
Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Walk back the customer journey from the moment they read your ad or first find out about you and your product. Where do they struggle? Is it any friction along the way?
If you can’t have an educated guess, talk with them, ask them. As often as you need to. Again, the time spent doing this will be the best investment in your brand.
Customer Support
In an ideal world, your product would be perfect, so you wouldn’t need an entire team to support it. But that’s never the case. Things will fall through: bugs, complex product, poor product UX, incomplete product, wrong expectations and more. How you handle these things counts. They can easily break a hard-earned relationship with a customer.
Some customer service teams go above and beyond to delight their customers. Exceed their expectations. Send out small gifts such as chocolates or candies as an apology for any problem. These are nice but… there is a big assumption. Customers want to be delighted by brands. 
I’m putting my customer hat now on and thinking about the times I was “delighted” with a gift after a customer support interaction. Like the example above. It was a nice gesture but, to be honest, I don’t care much about it. I prefer not needing to be delighted. What I want and care about is an effortless experience. To work with brands and businesses that make it easy for me so I can go on with my life.
The best interactions with Customer Service are those that I can’t even remember. Or those I didn’t have because I didn’t need to.
Aim for an effortless experience. Don’t try to delight, just make it super-easy for your customers. Focus on things that matter: quick resolution, self-serviceproactive support.
Find and fix the root cause of a customer support interaction when there is one, so customers don’t have to contact you again about the same issue. Instead of spending your energy and resources “delighting” customers, you’d better resolve the reason you needed to “delight” them in the first place.
It's the experience
I’ve seen this in every company I worked with: thinking and acting in silos. Each department has its own priorities and ways of measuring success. Web visits, conversion rates, closed deals, features developed, code commits, number of bugs, resolution time, response time, etc.
These are all valid. The only problem: they are measured and tracked in a “box. The box of Engineering, Marketing or Customer Support. But at a closer look many influence each other. For example, a increased number of bugs for a new feature causes a increase in open tickets and average resolution time.
Solution: get them outside the box and pin them to the journey of a customer. With cause and effect. And have all teams aligned to work towards one goal: making it easier for the customer.
Remember, what you are selling is not the product. It’s always the experience, from start to finish and all the way back.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Sorin Alupoaie

This is not your regular vendor newsletter. I write about new tech and proven methodologies applied to Customer Support. From Design Thinking to AI and everything in between.
An engineering twist on how to better and more efficiently serve customers.

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