Customer Support Is as Easy as 1, 2, 3 Resource-constrained startups short on cash can implement a lean response strategy that turns consumers into advocates.

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Pop! The team cracks open the champagne to celebrate shipping its first version of a product to customers. All the product manufacturing and testing are done. One critical piece of the puzzle is missing, though: customer support. It's easy to underestimate a business' need for a customer-support system.

After all, our company, Phone Halo, underestimated customer-service needs in July when it began shipping our Wallet TrackR devices.

We believed our product was easy enough to use that we would receive only a few support emails each week. After receiving hundred of emails from customers with questions ranging from battery installation to app downloads, we realized we needed to build a customer-support system.

Resource-constrained startups often lack the capital to implement a traditional customer-support system. But there are three easy ways to implement a lean customer-support system that will turn consumers into a company's biggest advocates.

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

Step 1: Set up a system. This goes beyond signing up for support systems from Zendesk or Get Satisfaction and calling it a day. It's crucial to create processes and rules for handling requests. Entrepreneurs need to create an algorithm for handling support requests similar to how they approach the software-user experience.

Begin by categorizing the types of questions asked by customers. The easiest way to determine these categories is to answer support requests yourself for a while. After you have an understanding of the types of questions asked the most, create simple flowcharts that detail how staffers should handle requests and what information is needed to resolve customers' concerns. From your flowcharts, you will be able to optimize the process by making all the key information readily available.

After our company shipped Wallet TrackR, customer information was scattered between shipping spreadsheets, PayPal data and special requests sent by email. We used a Google Drive to make the information easily available in a single folder. While far from a perfect solution, this method of organization served as the minimum viable product for our staff.

Related: Listen Up: How to Respond to Customer Complaints

Step 2: Build a support team. Once the algorithm is constructed, start implementing a system by testing it. We hold a weekly "customer support happy hour" and answer requests while eating pizza, drinking beer and rocking out to Pink Floyd. As a result, we have created a customer-focused culture. And we've started a critical feedback process whereby our whole team improves the overall customer-support system.

As your business grows, you'll eventually be able to hire someone to manage your system more consistently. With a clear system in place, new hires will have the tools to be productive from the start.

Related: Revive That Old-Fashioned Extra: Excellent Customer Service

Step 3: Are things getting better? When creating a customer-support system, think about how you want to define progress. What goals do you want your team to achieve and how will you measure improvement? The metrics for your organization may differ but we use the following three:

1. Average time per support request. The amount of time it takes for a support representative to handle a request is the most meaningful metric. It shows the support team's efficiency and if the available tools and systems are being used correctly to answer the various types of incoming questions.

2. Total number of incoming tickets per week. This is related to the effectiveness of the company's product-setup processes and instruction manuals, as well as the overall ease of use of the device.

3. Average response time for a ticket. If the time it takes before an incoming request is answered skyrockets, we know the support team is unable to handle the current volume of customer requests or something was miscommunicated to consumers.

Creating an effective customer support system is time-consuming and not always particularly fun. But we consider our support team a key asset to our business as it dramatically helps us in shaping our brand, speeding up our review of the product's engineering and guiding executive decisions on key changes to the device and strategy.

Related: Hello? Is Someone There? Why Customer Support Matters.

Chris Herbert and Christian Smith

Entrepreneur, Phone Halo CEO and Co-founder of TrackR

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. 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Science & Technology

These Are the Top 6 AI Threats to Your Business Right Now

The modern workforce is forever changed by artificial intelligence. If you fail to understand that we will all need to learn AI to some degree, you haven't been paying attention.

Social Media

How To Start a Youtube Channel: Step-by-Step Guide

YouTube can be a valuable way to grow your audience. If you're ready to create content, read more about starting a business YouTube Channel.

Business News

Here Are 3 Strategies Startup Founders Can Use to Approach High-Impact Disputes

The $7 billion "buy now, pay later" startup Klarna recently faced a public board spat. Here are three strategies to approach conflict within a business.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Vice Will No Longer Publish Content on Its Website, Lays Off Hundreds of Staffers

Vice Media CEO Bruce Dixon announced the news in an internal memo to employees on Thursday.

Business News

'This Can't Be True': Google Responds to Viral Hoax Claiming the Company Is Shutting Down Gmail

The fake news release started making its way around X on Thursday.