Struggling to support SMB customers from your mailbox? Beware of “Death by Gmail”

I love my mailbox. In fact, that’s the first thing I check every morning, and the last thing I do before I get to bed. But every time I meet a small business entrepreneur who tells me they just use email for their customer support, I shudder.

Over and over again, I hear the same reasons why businesses which invest so much time and energy into marketing, sales and development leave out what is probably the most critical piece of that puzzle. And one way or the other, these same companies see their customers falling back, leaving them and joining their competitors. So I thought I’d make a quick list of the top 5 pro-email reasons I’ve heard, and why I think each one is bound to fail:

  1. Email is more Personal than a Helpdesk: Probably the biggest block I hear over and over is about how customers want to keep it personal and just talk to an individual, not a support mailbox. That’s got to be the biggest hogwash ever. Not having a specific place to shoot support queries just shows customers that you don’t even have the process in place. And, more importantly, a personality is what you make. Good customer support teams have processes in place to flow all emails into a common help desk solution. Personalizing responses and making sure they still have the human element is easy. 
  2. Email keeps things organized: Sure it does. For the things it was meant for. Email was meant for quick, short communication. Not taking down support requests, following up, checking the status of issues and resolving complaints. Even for startups (or rather, especially for startups), I recommend they include all the different ways customers try to get in touch with them, into their support stream. That includes phone, email, our website or even social media. The critical piece is to make sure, as far as possible, that customers get responded to through the same channel as well. Asking a customer screaming about you on Twitter to shoot you an email is an absolute No-No!
  3. We prefer having it “easy”: Email is easy, just like riding a tricycle is. It’s really great for starting off, but if you are training to ride across the country, you need something better. If you weigh in the complexities in just using email to communicate with your customers, little things like pulling out an existing solution from your knowledge base and sharing it with your customer, the troubles start getting out of hand. With a powerful solution built for customer support, you can take it even further and get the system to suggest the best solutions to you too!
  4. We’ll worry about systems when we grow: In the beginning,when it’s just one person talking to customers and handling support requests, email makes perfect sense. But soon, sharing information and just making sure each person doesn’t step on anyone else’s toes becomes a chore by itself. Multiple replies to the same emails, conversations lost during the multiple forwards, cc’s, replies and reminders, and a whole bunch of problems start cropping up with every conversation. A smart customer support solution is built to take care of these issues by letting you collaborate with your team, manage queries and know (in real-time) who else is working on the same issues as you are.
  5. Support tools cost just so darn much: At least they used to. The trouble is, a majority of businesses don’t really think about their customer support till its almost too late (and churn starts hitting their numbers presentations). The problem is when you are three guys beta testing v1 of your app from a garage, it’s tough to even make a $1 investment on a software. Even if you know it could change your life. Now, you can get a free trial of the best customer support solutions, and see which ones work for you best. And in some cases, you wouldn’t even have to loosen your purse strings if you are a small and growing business.


About Freshdesk

Freshdesk is an end-to-end customer support solution that lets businesses support customers through phone, email, their website, chat and even Twitter and Facebook from one place. With a freemium pricing model that offers up to 3 support agent licenses free forever on the Sprout Plan, Freshdesk is practically a free support software for startups and small businesses.

About Vikram Bhaskaran

Vikram is the Director of Marketing at Freshdesk, one of the fastest growing SaaS customer support solutions. When he isn’t talking, reading or writing about how businesses can deliver a great support experience, he is busy keeping his errant team in line and his dog off the furniture.

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Vikram is a passionate marketer with over 6 years of experience helping small businesses win, support and retain customers.

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