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Hello? Is Someone There? Why Customer Support Matters.

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One of the best quotes from tech-firm entrepreneur Steve Blank is “Get the heck out of the building!” He wanted entrepreneurs to get out of the office in order to talk to their customers and learn, firsthand, how they could improve their business.

With this in mind, wouldn’t it be great if customers came to your place of business and gave you advice on what they would like to see done differently? This actually happens at nearly all consumer-facing businesses under the guise of  customer support or service.

Related: 8 Keys to Award Winning Startup Customer Service

Entrepreneurs often rank customer support below engineering, sales or marketing when it is really of the upmost importance for any growing business or brand. Through your customer-support channel, clients are actively telling you how they want your product to work or where you could improve your business.

At our company, Phone Halo, one of our technology’s newest and most revolutionary features is Crowd GPS, a way for users to retrieve lost items after that item goes missing. The idea didn’t come from an executive whiteboard session but from a customer-support email. Now, our entire product road map is almost 100 percent  dictated to us by customer requests, with many coming from the support department.

While many entrepreneurs see the benefit in talking to customers, they refrain from implementing a complete-support system due to what they perceive to be a complex and high cost. It is now easier than ever, however, to implement a lean customer-support system that will collect the data you need to improve your product or service and leave your customers happy.

Related: When the Self-Service Customer Smiles

1, You have mail!  Start with only email. Adding voice communication too soon will not only increase the time needed to resolve each customer-support request but can also complicate the process. By sticking to only email, your support team can manage the average time needed per support ticket while maintaining the quality of each customer interaction.

2. Use a customer-support system. There are many customer support systems such as Desk and Zendesk that are easy to implement and use. Both have awesome starter plans that start at just $1 a month. Our company's team uses Zendesk because it keeps everyone organized and shows prior conversations with a particular customer, ensuring that we are giving the best and most up-to-date information.

3, Hire part-time employees. By relying on part-time employees, you can easily and very quickly scale their hours depending on your need. Our company is constantly hiring University of California, Santa Barbara college students to join our support team part-time and we’ve seen great results.

Related: 4 Common Customer-Service Obstacles (And How to Fix Them)

4. Fix the problem. Take a step back and look to find the underlying cause of your customer-support ticket requests. By resolving the root issue of your service or product, you can reduce the number of tickets per week, which will reduce the number of hours dedicated to customer support.

For example, last fall we received an overwhelming number of customer complaints about our product’s setup process. We reached out to users and discovered that battery installation was the most difficult part of the process. We now include extra documentation and have reduced the number of customer-support tickets nearly 50 percent.

5. Determine your key metrics. By defining the key metrics for your support team, you can easily monitor how efficiently and effectively your team is working. Our team found that measuring the average time per ticket not only makes sure that we are maximizing our support team’s efficiency but encourages staff to find smarter ways to solve customers’ problems and improve the product.

Customer support is key to creating a thriving business and we now personally believe that support is just as important, if not more important, than engineering, sales and marketing. Many entrepreneurs and launchers of Kickstarter projects forget this crucial part of the business. But don’t fret, it’s easy to setup a customer support system: Start accepting emails and begin listening to your customers.

Related: The Ultimate Test: Turning Your Cool Idea Into a Great Product

Chris Herbert and Christian Smith

Written By

Chris Herbert and Christian Smith are the co-founders of Phone Halo, based in Santa Barbara, Calif. Their product, TrackR, provides a solution for the time-consuming task of finding misplaced and lost items, including keys, wallets and bikes.