In my presentation about technical support, and in my chapter for the upcoming Smashing Book, I talk about support and the systems and methods we use at Perch to support our customers. In both the presentation and the chapter I suggest that people who are launching a product set up some sort of system from the outset rather than relying on email. While it can seem the most straightforward thing to do, share an IMAP mailbox or forward requests to the whole team, it is very difficult to manage a lot of email especially where more than one person is answering it.
At Perch we are very proud of our rapid support, and try to get people helped as quickly as possible. We use a system called Helpspot for both ticketed support and public forums and are generally very happy with that. Pre-sales queries however were another story. These tended to still come through email, into a mailbox that both Drew and I access. Typically we would each think the other was dealing with a message and it would get forgotten, or would both reply at the same time. We had the same problem with pre-sales emails as I advise people to avoid with their support!
We didn’t want to try and force pre-sales via our helpdesk. It seemed an overly formal interaction for people just dropping us a line. We also wanted to be clear as to what was pre-sales and what was a customer with a problem as it enabled us to help them in a suitable way. A pre-sales query for example isn’t coming from someone with a license who we can talk through how to do something – it might be they should sign up for a demo to try something out instead. Wherever they came from we did want to make sure that these questions were answered quickly and with the same care that we take over answering customer questions.
Conveniently our problem was solved by Userscape, the company who develop our main helpdesk solution. UserScape were developing a second product called Snappy, and in trying out the beta I realised that it could work alongside Helpspot purely to help us manage our pre-sales and the other queries that come into the email@example.com email address.
Snappy is a hosted Software as a Service app. To get started you set up an account, point or forward an email address to Snappy and emails will then become tickets on your dashboard and can be answered by anyone with access. The customer just gets replies via email, and can reply to you using email. They don’t need to log in anywhere, however you and your whole team can see the ongoing queries. There is reporting. You can configure canned responses, respond to tickets in batches and easily tag posts and add private replies for other team members. It has most of the useful features of a helpdesk, and nothing extra to wade through.
One useful feature is that you can see all of the queries in Waiting status. These are queries that have been responded to and the customer has now responded. This means if I was in the middle of discussing something, and then am out of the office for the day, Drew can see that someone was left hanging and pick up that conversation.
While we are using Snappy just for part of our support solution, I think it would be a great solution for many newly launched products. It enables your customers to use email, rather than needing to learn your support system, and for you to also respond via email if needed. However it gives just enough of a layer of organisation, canned responses and structure to ensure queries don’t get left without a response.
I think Snappy would be a really great fit not just for products, but also for a small agency receiving a lot of email to an info@ or sales@ mailbox. Quite often companies have a mailbox already accessed by a number of people, or that copies the emails to several people in the team. By diverting that address to Snappy you can prevent multiple people spending time answering the same email – or no-one replying as they assume someone else will.
Outside of the technical benefits and enhanced response time of using Snappy, something I have found quite interesting is the way in which using it changes my relationship with those emails. Rather than them being “yet more email” into already overflowing mailboxes, these are potential customers to be treated as a priority. The messages haven’t changed but by filtering those out and into a place better suited to dealing with them my thinking about them has changed.
There is a free trial for Snappy, so you can try it out and see if it fits your needs. It is the system I am recommending to people most often now, as for the majority of apps – particularly SaaS apps, e-books and so on with fairly simple question and answer type support, it is an ideal and inexpensive solution.