How do people handle customer support at the beginning?

How do people handle customer support in the first few months? I'm a solo founder and I'm thinking about just keeping it simple and just doing customer support using gmail. For example, having a webform that sends customer support requests via email to [email protected] (which is a g-suite gmail account), and then just responding directly from gmail.

But I'm wondering if this is a bad idea and whether I should look into help desk software. What do you recommend?

  1. 7

    I'd keep it simple. There's nothing better than having direct conversations and coming across as human with support in the early days.

    The option of an email and a web form would be sufficient, I think.

    1. 2

      Thanks for the advice, Rosie! 👍

  2. 2

    We keep it simple at Plausible Analytics too. We do have a contact page on our site at https://plausible.io/contact where we explain few things such as that we have a Documentation site where you can find answers to frequently asked questions but otherwise we list an email address people can reach out to.

    No live chat, no help desk involved, not even a contact form as we used to have it but seems to attract a lot of spam. All emails go directly into our email inbox, and we respond directly from there from our personal email addresses. In general, the feedback we get is great and people love that we respond to them directly and that we do it very quickly, so I see nothing wrong with this approach especially in the early days while it's still possible to handle the load.

    1. 2

      Sounds like a good approach, thanks for sharing your experience Marko!

      1. 1

        you're welcome Steven!

  3. 2

    I'm using Zoho Desk for free and it's been working out pretty good so far. Definitely willing to pay for it in the future!

    1. 1

      Cool, I'll check it out. Thanks!

  4. 2

    In the early days the best thing we did was move to a Helpdesk solution, we went with Zendesk originally as it gave 6 months credit.

    Too many things were getting missed in the inbox and some simple automation helped us.

    1. 1

      Interesting, I never realized that help desk solutions had automation. I'll have to look into that, thanks!

      1. 1

        Yep – so you can automate workflows, created canned responses, tag to keep track of feature requests, track your reply times. All very useful!

  5. 1

    We installed the Tawk chatbot which worked really well for us (until it started interfering with our SEO) and just had the app on our phones to always be available. Customer support is really important to build relationships and many of our visitors and users were thrilled that they could reach us so easily and speak to us in person.

    1. 1

      Thanks Emelie! Question for you – how many hours a day were you (and/or your team) available on chat? I'm worried that (1) I won't be available enough and it will be frustrating for customers, and (2) being available on chat during the day will be interruptive to my work. What was your experience with either of these two things?

      1. 1

        We were always online, but obv didn't answer when we were asleep (if we woke up from a message though, we would most likely join the chat, haha). It was never really an issue for us and we really enjoyed it - but, we got perhaps one to three chat requests per week. After uninstalling the chatbot I really miss that interaction with our clients and pilots. It made us more human to them and we got a better understanding of our audience.

        Maybe just add something funny to your "welcome message" saying that "you're only one person, and if you don't reply immediately it's because you're held up by something. But please add your email so I can get back to you". People are a lot more understanding than you might imagine :) At least if they know you're a small business.

        1. 1

          Thanks for your perspective Emelie. Perhaps I will give chat a try and see if I enjoy it; I think that would be an important factor. Thanks!

          1. 1

            Yeah I'd really recommend that. We learnt so much about our customers behaviour and expectations through chatting with them.

            Most apps will have the option to chose when you're online as well. Good luck!

            1. 1

              Thanks. Good luck to you too!

  6. 1

    Crisp works fine for me.
    You can set-up the chat widget for your website, and it is linked to your email so you can reply to a conversation by sending an email.
    And it's free forever if you want so that's a good point.

    1. 1

      I hadn't heard of Crisp before, thanks for sharing!

  7. 1

    our team has made lots of research on customer support, and there's one point I am 1000% sure of:
    there's nothing better that a live conversation via live chat.

    when a confused user/customer is facing an issue, and they get an almost instant solution from a live chat agent - gosh, that service builds loyalty and increases LTV.

    plus, you can get quite many insights via live chat :) that helps a lot when you are just starting out.

    btw, here are more findings from our team: https://www.dashly.io/blog/category/support/

    1. 1

      Hi Valerie, thanks for your perspective. Your advice makes sense, but as a solo founder I'm worried that (1) I won't be available enough and it will be frustrating for customers, and (2) being available on chat during the day will be interruptive to my work. Any thoughts on these two issues? Thanks!

      1. 1

        sounds pretty reasonable.

        just the very first thing that comes to my mind - a routing bot. the one that can either automatically give the answer, and in case the support of a live person is needed - it will redirect the conversation to you.

        while you can keep a mobile app for a quick chat.

        how does it sound?

        1. 1

          As a user, I've never enjoyed bots – most of the time they are frustrating to me. I think if I'm going to do chat, I'm going to have to be live and do it myself. I appreciate your feedback though, it's good to think about these things. Thanks!

  8. 1

    Starting out with just an email is fine until you get a lot of emails, then it can be worth thinking about a help desk tool that allows you to automate a lot of stuff.

    We have our own support widget that has our changelog, help articles, a contact form and feature voting all-in-one on noorahq.com.

    Whatever you do, don't add live chat. We get far more emails from people with a form. People can see you are a small startup and live chat doesn't work when no-one is online!

    1. 1

      Hi Glenn, thanks for your perspective. I do share your worries about live chat. Hadn't heard of Noora before, looks like a nice polished product!

  9. 1

    I agree with @rosiesherry keep it simple in the beginning.

    • email that gets put into a folder you check frequently
    • phone number / skype
    • chat
    1. 1

      Thanks Sean! By the way, remember me? I used to go to your mastermind groups. How are things going?

      1. 1

        Steve I remember you very well. You are a talented writer and a serious entrepreneur with a strong financial background and a deeply analytical mind. You gave a great briefing on Cal Newport's "Deep Work" on Oct-28-2016 at a Bootstrapper Breakfast that we titled Steven Kim on "Deep Work for Bootstrappers: How To Double Your Productivity" (see https://www.meetup.com/Bootstrappers-Breakfast-SV/events/fbcsglyvnblc/ )

        Both mastermind groups, consulting and product, are still meeting--although they have moved online. You are welcome back any time, even for a visit (and the commute via Zoom is much shorter) when it's a fit with your schedule and interests.

        1. 1

          Sounds good, would love to drop in for a visit (Zoom or otherwise) at some point. Right now, I have my hands full trying to launch a new product while managing three kids zoom-schooling from home. Wife is also working from home. Everyone is bouncing off the walls. Crazy times! Hope everyone over there is safe and healthy!

  10. 1

    I agree with the general sentiment here, do it yourself, do it manually. I have my mobile number and email in the iOS app and website. I'd have it printed on the hardware too if it was easy to update in future 😅 Good time to read "Do Things That Don't Scale" by PG.

    1. 1

      Good advice, thanks Andrew!

      1. 1

        No worries! I'm working on a productivity product too (hardware though), would love to hear what you're working on. What's your email etc?

  11. 1

    Hey Steven! My advice is to limit the number of avenues a user can reach out to you. I have an email ([email protected]) as well as an in-app feedback form that formats an email and sends it to [email protected] Over time, I've optimized my support workflow as I'm also a company of one and support can easily take up hours of my day sometimes. I wrote about it a bit here if you're interested (under "Optimizing customer support") https://lunchbag.ca/company-of-one

    1. 1

      Hi Jen, thanks for your advice, much appreciated! I just read your article (actually re-read... I remember reading this a while ago when you did your IH interview) and it was very helpful (again). I do worry a bit about the support workload, but I guess it just comes with the territory. I like your gmail filters/tags, that seems like a great idea. Thanks again and I hope Lunch Money is still crushing it!

  12. 1

    You can definitely start with direct email but it does get difficult to track various messages/threads from different clients. That is of course a good problem to have since that means you have more than 1 customer.

    I would suggest to start with direct email but if helpdesk solutions like helpscout (love them) not only help you categorize better but the customer still sees them as direct email. Also, good helpdesk software will allow you to add canned responses, frequently asked questions etc directly as well. But again, until you have more than 5 customers, you may not need any helpdesk software.

    1. 2

      Makes sense, thanks Yash!

  13. 1

    I'm using drift + a company email which works pretty well. Drift is free to start with but with the paid version there are a number of automation that you can build in.

  14. 1

    Do it however you like until it gets too much, then look at implementing a different system that lessens the workload. We started with just [email protected] being an alias for my personal email, then we set up a shared G-Suite inbox with that address that 2 of us could take care of, then we upgraded to a Helpdesk system that the team can work with.

    The address stayed the same, but the mechanisms behind it changed.

    For perspective, Somewhere, deep in my email archives of 12+ years ago, I have support email replies directly from DHH and Jason Fried from Basecamp which came back from something like '[email protected]'!

    1. 1

      That sounds like a sensible approach. Thanks Devan!

  15. 1

    Zoho desk works well. It's easy to setup and use and is free to use for up to 3 people which will cover your solo setup: https://www.zoho.com/desk/

    1. 1

      Cool, I didn't know Zoho had a help desk offering. Thanks!

  16. 1

    I'm in the same boat - like most things, I think it's probably better to handle this in the simplest, free-est way possible until it's clear that you've outgrown that solution.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the advice, Griffin! 👍

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