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Customer support is your advantage

By Drew Strojny on July 18, 2013

Are part-time employees handling your customer support? If so, you might be ignoring an important competitive advantage.

Let’s say you’re selling a product or service. You love the work, your customer base is growing, but support always seems to take up everyone’s valuable time.

All the popular business books say to outsource jobs you don’t like or aren’t very good at. This sounds logical, so you hire a part-time employee to start handling customer requests for twenty hours a week. Things start out really well, and after a few months the team is feeling more productive than ever. You haven’t had to deal with customers in a long time, and you’ve been completely engrossed in your product or service.

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Sounds perfect, right?

This reminds me of the woman who was too busy for her husband, so she hired someone to keep him company. When asked how it was working out, she said: “I now have plenty of time, but I no longer have a husband.”

If you’re not “on the ground” talking with customers and understanding their problems, you’ll be more disconnected with their experience of your product or service. You’ll miss lots of opportunities for small and subtle improvements that can take your work from good to great. You’ll miss those key interactions that will give you special insight into customer problems.

Here at The Theme Foundry, we’ve tried it both ways. When we started out, we hired part-time folks to help with support. I should make it clear, they did a fantastic job (thanks Yan and Jeremy!). But, it’s nearly impossible for a part-timer to serve effectively as that vital link between the development team and the customers. It just doesn’t work very well in practice. We now have a small team, and everyone helps out with support. It gives us really unique insight into how our themes are being used, and reveals problem areas quickly. Our customers love it because they get support directly from the team, and we love it because it helps us build better themes.

Customer support is an advantage, not an inconvenience. If you aren’t big enough to hire someone full-time to handle support, and you’re running an online business, you or your team should be handling it. It’s much too important to pass off to someone else.

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5 Comments

  1. Lance Willett

    Well said. These sentiments really hit home with me. Thanks for the reminder of how important it is to engage and listen to the people using your products. I’ve learned time and again that top-notch support can mean the difference between good and great, as you said. Paying attention, creating a conversation, empathizing, and acting on the important things.

  2. Drew Strojny

    Cem: You’re welcome!

    Lance: Thanks for stopping by! Glad to hear this helped. You’re right, there is no substitute for having those conversations and using them over and over again to help shape your products.

  3. John

    Absolutely true! You only weaken yourself by outsourcing I feel, I have seen it first hand and I can tell you, some outsourced workers will even do a worse job than your own staff! Just at a cheaper price!

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