Software as a Service December 16, 2020

What's the best way to handle customer service as a small company or solo founder?

Beth Carter @bethkcarter

Hey,

Curious how everyone handles this? There's such a balance to find between providing really good customer service and having the time to do everything else...

  1. 5

    I used to reply to every chat message as soon as I could - after all, people are curious enough about your product that they're contacting you, talk to them! - but it quickly steals so much focus from the rest of what you need to be working on that you need a solution.

    My solution has been asynchronous communication and Great documentation™.

    Asynchronous communication - chat is not live. If someone has a payment issue, or a question that can be solved with a single sentence / link to documentation, I reply promptly. Otherwise I schedule an hour where I work through everything. This way support isn't stealing attention randomly throughout the day.

    Great documentation - as a solo founder, great docs is the next best thing to having a customer support team. They should be simple and visual - gifs and videos help. If more than one person contacts you asking about the same thing, that thing needs to be in the docs. Then link to those docs from the home page of your product. Over time the docs will answer most questions before you have to.

    It's a tough balance but I've found this helps.

    1. 3

      This is great advice!

    2. 2

      Thank you so much!

      I agree, finding that balance between not missing an opportunity to connect on live chat and having time is hard.

      I like the triage-like process you're doing with the quick-solved problems, vs long-solved problems...is that triage something you can automate or do you do it by manually checking?

  2. 3

    Customer support is hard work. It’s very easy to end up frazzled and exhausted just getting through the day’s support tickets, much less having energy in the tank to switch modes and work on the product. Answering a deluge of support questions can feel overwhelming and discouraging but having lots of customer enquiries is usually a good sign because it means lots of customers are interested in your product and you’re probably doing things right in terms of the product, building just enough to keep growing customers and iterating on the product.

    TextExpander could be a great solution if you’re having to repeat yourself a lot in the early days. If your onboarding is a bit complicated and requires a few paragraphs of text to explain the installation process then you can just stash them in the TextExpander shortcut and blast through your email inbox.

    You can also setup a simple WordPress install at help.yourapp.com and buy a “help desk” or “FAQ” theme. Help desk pages (blog posts) are a great way to stash marked-up screenshots and screencast walkthroughs. Save a 1-2 sentence explanation and link to the relevant blog posts as a TextExpander snippet and now you have a significant value of a help desk app (for one person) without any of the overhead.

  3. 3

    Hey Beth,

    Providing great customer service is super important early-stage especially since you need to learn about your users personally. I built an alternative to Intercom that you can use both for Customer Service and, to potentially land more sales of your SaaS.

    Take a look at atlasmic.com. It's similar to Intercom - has chat widget, some basic analytics. UVP is that it's more focused towards growth - it also has engaged view where you can actively message/sell to visitors who are currently on your pricing page or other high conversion pages. Simple and works just fine for small businesses/solopreneurs.

    I would be happy to get you on board with an extended 3 months trial if you'd like if you're willing to give us some indie hackers-style feedback.

    Send me an email to [email protected], and I'll send you the promo code.

  4. 2

    I'm a solo founder and I keep it simple and just use email and twitter. I get notifications for both on my phone so its easy to see when a customer needs help or has a question.

    You can try to integrate something like Intercom in your website if you want it built into the site and appear more seamless.

    Others have suggested good documentation. It's great advice and I would echo it. Empower your customers to help themselves :)

  5. 2

    Intercom is expensive so an alternative is Facebook Messenger. You can add it to your site just like you would Intercom, and have a bespoke link to open up from any app.

    Allows for easy instant communication while you work out what your detailed FAQs/documentation should be. When you have that, you can set it up as a chatbot to offer that info quickly and easily.

  6. 2

    I'm building something that might help - an all-in-one link you can put on your website for call/text/email/video call / book appointment. You can turn off "call" if desired to be asynch. Any questions or if you want to try, contact me here: https://app.contactlink.com/to/jesse.hercules

  7. 2

    Crisp is better for budget friendly startups.

  8. 1

    Outsource it, to a certain level.

  9. 1

    Intercom. It's important to provide great customer service in the early days and Intercom's product offerings give you enormous leverage to do that as a solo founder.

    1. 1

      What about the price?

      1. 1

        Startup plan is very reasonable, good for early stage things.
        Outside that still great value.

        Either way, the price is far outweighed by the value.
        1 customer lost (or gained) per month is a difference of $100 per month after a year with an $8 saas. Intercom achieves easily.
        An outsourced VA handling support, costs multiples of intercom.

        With both funded and bootstrapped startups I am involved with, intercom is the most valuable expense paid each month.

        If no budget, user.com works for free. But.... is that money saved or customers and money lost?

  10. 1

    Customer service becomes a problem only when you have a lot of customers.
    For the majority of people, a tool like zendesk or competitors can help for sure!
    I also recommend using an inbuilt email CRM like Streak!

  11. 1

    You can try crisp.chat if you are using multiple channels, they provide a generous free plan to start, and the pricing does not get crazy as you grow.

  12. 1

    I just have a [email protected] email address and use google workspace. It's been pretty manageable so far.

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