Busy people notice delays the most. This has never been more clear to me than when I’m trying to negotiate the busy London Underground system, rushing between meetings and appointments. The tourists beside me seem to stroll at a snail’s pace, unaffected by the people blocking their path ahead. Whereas every wasted second and every lost step makes me grind my teeth with irritation.
Providing support to busy people provides just as many opportunities for frustration. It’s essential to provide an effortless experience to move them from ‘ARGH’ to ‘ahhhh’ as quickly as possible. As both a busy person and a helper of busy people, I’ve compiled 5 tips for helping the busiest of the bees.
1. Stick to the same channel
Channel – the method by which your customer initiates contact with your organization.
People’s first instinct is to choose the channel that they are most comfortable in. Mine is Twitter almost 100% of the time, as I always have my phone with me and can reply easily to follow up questions. Many of my clients prefer phone, and will call for the simplest answers (I would never think to do this…). Still, the biggest percentage of business people prefer to correspond by email.
Whichever channel your busy client reaches out to you on, stick to that channel. Don’t tell a caller to email you, don’t send your tweeters to a 1-800 number and force them to restate the problem multiple times. Keep it simple, and reply back in the same format – they usually will find this easiest to check during their busy day. Changing channels increases the “effort” to use your product successfully, and all support should be reaching for an effortless experience.
(There is an exception to this rule, and that’s for when a quick phone call can easily replace a long, long text explanation. In that case, reach for the phone, and follow up with an email to resolve any remaining questions).
For example, check out this response from GetFeedback – it’s simple, to the point, and I don’t have to leave my preferred channel to get my answer. Love!
@sarahleeyoga we only count completed responses. However, in the excel/csv report you can optionally see partially completed responses.
— GetFeedback (@getfeedback) February 3, 2015
2. Structure your emails
As a self-diagnosed busy person, I barely read half the words in any email I’m sent (#sorrynotsorry). If the email does not have a clear structure and is easy to read, I’ll miss important parts. Also, if the email looks too bulky and wordy, I might “file it for later” which probably means I’ll never get back to it. A few tips for structuring support replies:
- Use ordered lists or bullet points when needed.
- Bold important parts and underline essentials.
- Don’t be afraid to summarize at the top, and link out to more detailed explanations.
- If the customer posed many questions in their email, copy the list and write your answer underneath each in a different color.
- Use white space to your advantage by adding an extra line between paragraphs, and segmenting your email to make it easier to skim.
Take a quick scan of your email response once you’re done. Do the main points stand out? If not, try playing with paragraph structure until it looks right.
Guilt them into it Set guidelines
Yes, that’s right- use some good old-fashioned guilt to coerce your customers into letting you help them. This only works for the genuinely very busy.
I’m sure everyone has had an experience with automated ticketing systems doing this. Two days after a support agent replied to your help desk ticket, you get an automated reply stating that since they haven’t heard back from you, they will consider your issue resolved. More often than not, I just haven’t had time to try their suggestion!
The secret to this trick is clear, consistent and expected check-in sessions. Often in support, you’ll need your client to try something out, or get more information for you in order to close the support case. Set clear guidelines for when you’ll next be in touch, and stick to them. When you gently check back in to see how everything is going, clients will recognize that you’ve done everything you can to help, and that you are just waiting for them to help themselves. This will initiate a response on their side so that they are no longer the ones holding up the support process.
Help me help you.
4. Be available
There are a few different ways this manifests, depending on the level of personalized support your company provides. As a Customer Success Manager, being available means answering my phone whenever and wherever I can.
Because we only have the one office, I have clients in different timezones that depend on me for quick replies. Fortunately, this means I get some flex time based on being available outside of normal working hours. This might be something to consider for your organization.
If you work in a support team, being available is more difficult and depends on good scheduling. It might not be feasible to have agents scheduled 24/7 – if this is the case, make it clear to your clients at what times you ARE available to help and where they can go to get assistance while you’re offline.
This can be voicemails that state hours of operation, or auto-response emails with links to popular help desk articles. Which leads me to…
5. Have a great support center
I have a client who insists on working at midnight on Sundays, and I get an email from her almost every week at this time. Fortunately, I usually get a follow up email shortly after saying she found the answer in our helpdesk.
Because we’re not available 24/7, our customers need a way to help themselves. Investing some solid time and effort into making your helpdesk amazing is important. This means they can self-serve, reducing the friction they have with your product, decreasing support tickets and making everyone much happier.
Taking the example above, the client doesn’t have to wait until Monday morning for a response from me (at which time she wouldn’t have time to try it out anyway) and instead can crack on with our product, being effective and efficient any time of the week.
Those are just a few of the things I’ve found useful. Any busy people or busy helpers out there? What are your thoughts?