How to Get Started Outsourcing Customer Support (E155)

  • Jim Coleman
  • Co-Founder of xFusion




Charles (00:00):

In this episode of the business. E-Commerce I talk with Jim Coleman about how to get started outsourcing customer support. This is the business of e-commerce episode, 155.

Charles (00:18):

Welcome to the Business of eCommerce. The show that helps e-commerce retailers to start, launch and grow their e-commerce business. I’m your host Charles Palleschi and I’m here today with Jim Coleman. Jim is a co-founder of X fusion where they provide outsourced customer support for e-commerce businesses. I asked him on the show today to talk about if you’re a founder and you’re thinking of hiring your first support person or outsourcing support, what are some of the do’s and don’ts and what are some things you should absolutely do to make your first support hire or outsource successful? You works with a lot of e-commerce retailers. So I think he brings some great advice to the table and has some great tips out. So let’s get into the show and if you have any questions, leave in the show notes and I can forward them over to Jim. So let’s get into this. So Hey Jim, how you doing today? Good, Charles, how are you? Good. Awesome. I have you on the show. I’m excited to dig into the topic of customer support and outsourcing. It’s very near and dear to my heart. So, so real quick, what do you, so you run an agency. Oh, so I was saying support essentially, right?

Jim (01:31):

We do. Yeah, it’s called X And we, we provide customer support customer success to founders. We started kind of scratching our own itch. My, my co-founder David and I are both business owners and we built out a team internally on, on each of our companies. And then wanted to bring that to the broader market so that we kicked off mid 2019. And it’s been growing since then.

Charles (01:54):

Okay. Yeah. So I feel like support is one of those things where everyone just want to, like the, it’s usually one of the first things you see, like you’re trying to word this correctly, the biggest time sink at the beginning, where you’re just spending a ton of back and forth. And a lot of founders want to kind of get it off their plate early, but I don’t think a lot know how or know the right way. Maybe they’re like running out of their inbox or just as no docs, just kind of doing everything out of their own head. What do you kind of see that? Do you folks usually come to you at the beginning when, Hey, you know, I’m a founder, I’m doing a hundred percent of support and I want to get this moving somewhere else. So [inaudible],

Jim (02:35):

Well, we have a really nice mix of both. So we have, we have solo founders that come to us and they’re just overwhelmed and swallowed up in support requests and other responsibilities. And then we also work with the existing teams to help them scale. I enjoy both, but I particularly enjoy working with, with founders because of the, the wins that we can help them achieve at the earlier level. And, and what I mean is just that we, we like to focus on helping founders get back to the highest and best use of their time. And I recognize that like everybody has to make the decision on like when is the right time to pull the trigger for them. And I recognize that, you know, we have to build up revenue before we have the, the, the bandwidth to be able to hire a team to handle support.

Jim (03:12):

But one thing I’d like to consider is like, if, if you’re at that place where you can afford to do so, and you don’t, then you’re spending a good chunk of time working on tasks that are not the highest and best use of your time. In other words, things that other people can effectively handle for you. And, and you’re not working on areas of the business that only you can handle. So what we’ve seen is that once once a founder will kind of take that jump and hire us to handle support, they really free up a lot of their time. And that allows them to move forward at a much faster pace than the other ways. So I just, I really enjoy talking to founders and, and, and just discussing their business with them and helping them get those early wins.

Charles (03:48):

What would you say if someone was kind of sitting there thinking about this because you have this obviously outsource, or do I hire someone a direct hire full-time if someone’s kind of way in that back and forth? Well, we do kind of tell them what they should, how they should be looking at that.

Jim (04:02):

Yeah. It’s interesting. Like w w we don’t compete with, or we’d like to think of ourselves as not competing with other outsource companies, but rather with the idea of hiring internal versus versus external. It, what I mean is like a lot of, a lot of outsource companies will provide a resource to answer tickets, for example, on a per response basis. So the idea is that one agent might be shared across, you know, five or seven clients, and they’ll sort of go into multiple different inboxes and it’s really hard to get high quality support. I’m just not a fan of that. It’s all of our agents are full-time dedicated. We really focus on the customer experience and we believe that if you deliver that next level of customer experience, that it will pay off in time and think like brands like Chick-fil-A, you know, there’s just something magical about what they do.

Jim (04:44):

Southwest airlines, Zappos. There’s a lot of these that they provide next level support in it. It creates the the culture in their brand and their brain’s reputation and really helps take them to the next level. So that’s the idea like we’re, we’re providing that level of service. So yeah, I mean, it just, it, it depends on, on, you know, the, the founder’s priorities and what they’re looking to do. There’s certainly pros and cons of each approach, but one of the pros, I guess, of, of outsourcing would be the, the built-in management as well. So we provide redundant agents to help cover the inbox. And then, you know, we also provide leadership and management over the inbox as well. So it really just depends on, on where the founders out and how much how involved they want to be in the process.

Charles (05:28):

Yeah. It’s nice to have the redundancy, right. Because even if it’s dedicated, that person is going to have like time off at some point, and I’ve done that before, back in the day, there was one support person here, and when they’re not here, you know, you have, the founder kind of has to step back into support and having a backup. That’s the biggest thing. When you go from one to two, then all of a sudden, like, all right, now there’s, but if you can’t do that, then yeah, it’s nice to have a backup when a founder is starting, how you, how do you get someone? Let’s say I’m doing it full time, right? Like I’m doing support myself as a founder. How do you get them to basically like, download their thought, process, their brain into something that someone else can pick up and run with? Like, what does that process look like?

Jim (06:12):

Really important. I think that if we broaden that out just a little bit wider and kind of look at a 30,000 foot perspective, I’m really a fan of, it’s kind of funny. It’s funny that this, this is related in my mind, but back in the day I was in law enforcement and I went through sort of the, the law enforcement pursuit driving course, and we’re blazing around the track. And they told me that smooth is fast and fastest smooth. And I I’ve, I’ve related that to the business world and saying that like, look, if, if we’re going too fast in our business where we don’t have time to document the process where we’re not building out process maps, and we’re sort of carefully documenting what we do and how we do it, then in my opinion, we’re moving too fast. It’s, it’s the idea of building a skyscraper on a sand sand foundation versus on concrete.

Jim (06:52):

So I really encourage founders to take the time to, to document the processes. So for example, if you answer a regular ticket or the same type of ticket on a regular basis, to just take a moment to document the process, to do that, and you’re basically creating training assets and also just like other processes in your business. One of the things we do is we provide back office support as well. So not just customer support, but back office tasks, things that are just kind of you know, fairly simple tasks that are, but they’re also time-consuming. So, and I also told the founders that we work with, like, you know, at first, this is going to be more painful than beneficial to you. And what I mean by that is you’re going to have to slow down your regular output and work with us to train the initial agent as to what, what you, what we want them to do, what their responsibilities are going to be, but then you’ll be able to accelerate after that person takes on other responsibilities you’ve got. And then from that point, we create training assets and also support assets. So internal and external support docs processes in the inbox, all of that. And then we handle the training of future agents as, as our, our clients scale. But yeah, I think it’s just important for the founder to take a moment and document those processes. And gosh, I’ve seen that payoff so many times, it’d be really beneficial as founders grow.

Charles (08:04):

This week’s episode is sponsored by Prisync. Prisync is a competitor price tracking and repricing tool that helps e-commerce companies make intelligent pricing decisions. Using the dashboard and daily Excel reports Online sellers can monitor price changes and immediately make pricing adjustments. Here’s some features that I love about Prisync. First is smart match. What smart match does is allows Prisync to search for our competitors and attach their prices right on your dashboard. So you can monitor their pricing changes against competitors. You already know about, they find competitors. You didn’t even know existed. Once you have that, you can configure your repricing rules. What this does is you can now set your prices to be based on the average price, the lowest price, the highest price of your competitors go up and down. And also you can say, don’t go lower than my cost by plus $5. Whatever you want to do, you can set these rules and pricing will automatically adjust your prices. Next is price change notifications. You can set rules to when prices change pricing will send you a notification alerting you of your competitors. Prisync changes last, but not least is a price history. You can then go in to the dashboard and look up all the pricing changes over time, the price, and because of monitoring that way, you know, just because it’s slower today, they might just be having a sale and it might come back tomorrow. You can see all your competitors on one charge. Super cool. I urge you to check it out. Thanks again for Prisync, for sponsoring this week’s episode. Now back to the show.

Charles (09:44):

Yeah. I think a lot of people get hung up thinking it has to be this like perfect thing from the beginning, right? Like it has to be this like golden document. That’s like a PDF and you can like send it to everyone.

Charles (09:54):

And what I’ve always tried to do, at least my approach here is like, if you’re getting the same question, even two or three times, just create like a KB article. It can be pretty basic. Like almost you basically just answer that person’s question, but now when a KB article and just send it to them, and then next time take that same KB article and just like add something or do something and just make it a little better. And at some point it becomes like, it becomes the document. It really is like the definitive guide to whatever. And you know, each time you send it to someone it’s going to get better and you’re going to refine it, but just be okay, be okay with the bad version. Like it’s, you know, like there’s no like police or they come after you like the doc, the PDF beliefs. It’s okay. I think that’s what people kind of get stuck on.

Jim (10:35):

Yeah. I’m glad you’re bringing that up because I think a healthy caveat to what I said was, or is that this idea that like analysis paralysis is not good. That’s not healthy, you know, doing these things at the absence or in the absence of taking action is not good. So it’s not a matter of having the perfect foundation. It’s a matter of just like documenting the steps and moving on. And then the idea is to save time in the future, not get bogged down in perfectionism. So that’s, that’s a really good point. I’m glad you brought that up. Yeah.

Charles (11:00):

Well, what else, what else do you kind of see people getting bogged down on, in their early stages other than just like analysis paralysis?

Jim (11:07):

Yeah, I, I think that that’s really important to consider, like from a 30,000 foot perspective, the type of customer support that you want to offer, like what you want your brand to be known for. We really prefer to work with clients that have an emphasis on providing amazing customer support. But not everybody does, but I think it’s important to decide like what, what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do that. Establishing expectations and KPIs. Like, Hey, we expect four chats to be answered within five minutes or less. We expect for emails to be answered within an hour or less. And then just looking at the higher level things of, of the type of experience that you want to deliver to your customers and the culture that you want to build out your company. So things like going above and beyond, we gotta remember when I was a teenager, I think it was like 18.

Jim (11:47):

I worked at home Depot and we used to get in trouble if we would point to it. Like if someone came up and said like, Hey know, we’re, we’re light switches. If we would point to where they are, it’s like, Oh, it’s 18. Like we would get in trouble for that. Like the expectation was that we would go above and beyond. We would walk them over there, even if it wasn’t our department. And we would show them you know, where the item is in a corollary now in, in the world of remote customer support is if a customer writes in and they ask you a question about X and you know that when they go down that path or they’re naturally going to have a question about, Y we’ll include that in your answer. If they ask you a question like, Hey, what would you recommend? Like, can, can your app do this? Or can, you know, do you guys sell this? If the answer is no, then make some suggestions. It’s the idea of going above and beyond to build that that brand culture in sort of yeah, just the, the culture of your brand and the way that you treat your customers,

Charles (12:38):

How do you train people to actually do that kind of above and beyond? Because I do love on home Depot when I asked, you know, where like these little tiny screws are and they’re like, Oh, let me come. Like, hold your hand and bring you down there. And like, I wonder if I’m on my own, like, but how do you, how do you actually train people to do that? Especially in a remote culture where you can’t see them pointing, like, you know, how do you get them to actually understand like lead the customer and go with them and help them without,

Jim (13:01):

Yeah, that’s a great question. The way we handle it is through vetting very early on. So we definitely provide training. We have an internal boot camp and I’ll, I’ll talk to that about that in a minute, but, but our focus is really from the beginning, we, we hire a 0.5% of the total number of people that apply. And we ask them a series of questions that are really designed to assess their interest in providing next level customer support. We want to find those people that naturally do that. So we have kind of like a little snippets built into questions that evaluate for that. So I really recommend when, when, when founders hire somebody, whether that’s outsourced or, or, you know, on their own team that they really evaluate that person’s personality and mindset from the very beginning in the way that they answer questions, both in written form.

Jim (13:41):

And then also excuse me, in, in interview, you know, during the interview process. And then after we, we hired them. So, like I said, it’s a very small percentage that we hire. We put them through an internal bootcamp where we go into really great detail. And by the way, like they they’ve already been hired with the expectation that they have excellent writing quality. We’ve already vetted all of that. And that they have a, an emphasis on empathy and really providing a high level of service to the customers they interact with. But from there, we provide a lot of training to them that really instills the idea of our brands. Like we are, we are, we deliver next level of customer support. Here are the ways that we do that. And we have discussions with that. So we have a full-time dedicated trainer that provides training to them and, and also writing coaching, et cetera.

Jim (14:24):

But it’s just, it’s setting the tone from the very beginning. And I find that like, in most cases, people really rise to those expectations. It’s just like, how is it that Chick-fil-A over and over provides this incredibly high level of service. And yet, like McDonald’s taco bell, some of these other ones just don’t like it has something to do with the culture and the expectations. And then we’re like, we’re like very much like the Netflix philosophy. We’re, we’re quick to let people go. If we have to, if they’re not meeting that it’s not without working with them and giving them a chance, but we just really focus on maintaining a culture of excellent customer experience and just been a real priority.

Charles (15:02):

What’s a quick example of a question you would ask to test for empathy. Like, you know, I’ve done a lot of interviews and testing for the hard skills, right? The technical skills. I got it. Like, can you do this? Like this, there’s a process of that, but testing for empathy, it’s definitely more of a, you know a soft skill. W what is, what is some questions you’d actually ask to find out, you know, like, are you a nice person? Like, how do you actually get that out of someone

Jim (15:28):

It’s theoretical scenario based questions? So for example, someone writes in and they are on a free trial of a Shopify app, and they ask for an extension, what do you do? Or like, we actually, we, we will give them, we will give them information. Like I own a small SAS business within the Shopify space. And I’ll literally say, okay, here, here’s the name of the business. Here’s what we do. Like, here’s basic foundational elements, and here’s the customer question. And I’ll literally like, quote you know, Hey, this is Bob. I’m really upset because of this, this, and this, and all evaluate how they, how they answer that. And then we have other questions, like I think one that we ask is you found out that your friend is, has been falsely accused and is in prison in a foreign country. What do you do?

Jim (16:09):

So like little things like that, it’s like, you know, yeah, it’s kind of goofy, but like, it’s amazing how, how we can vet people and just based on the way they answer that. And then also just getting a feel interviewing them, you know? And I just, I, I really think that that all of us, or certainly most of us have kind of a sixth sense about people and the way that they they connect on a call and the way they answer questions, et cetera. So it’s kind of a combination of all of those things.

Charles (16:33):

Yeah. It’s definitely, it’s a, it’s a tough position to hire for, right. Because yeah. You have to get on a call and you have to kind of really talk to someone like face to face. I know like the last support position we hired for here quite literally got hundreds of resumes and, you know, you bring those down to people. Okay. So let’s get a subset and now, okay, let’s get people on the phone and by the time you’re done with it, you’re like, I’ve just talked to a lot of people to find, you know, one hire. So

Jim (16:59):

Charles real quick, before we move on, I think it’s really important too, to consider that, like, if it has to start at the top, it has to start with the founder. If, if you, as a founder, don’t deeply, deeply believe in this. If you don’t deliver that level of support, you it’s like, I, I still answer, like we, we have a team of 20 20 staff, but for my, for my own small South, like I still provide all the customer support because I want to have an ear to the ground. Like I want to, to, to never forget what it’s like to provide that, that initial support. And that really helps me stay aligned. And it helps me continue that focus of, of excellent customer support. Like if it, like you can’t tell somebody to provide excellent customers for it, if you don’t believe in that yourself, or if you don’t provide that yourself. So I think a good first step is to deeply evaluate that and make sure that you’re really aligned with that. It’s not just something that you say, but it’s like really what you believe and you’re passionate about for your brand.

Charles (17:52):

Yeah. I’ve always thought of what that kind of just seeing when, when you see behind the scenes of founder, how they talked to the team internally about customers behind their back. If that makes sense. I’ve seen, like when you’re behind the scenes, you can tell the founders that kind of like, almost talk kind of like down about customers and users. And then you realize like, Oh, that’s how they, that’s how the team is talking to the public to the customers about that. But the founders internally, they’re like, I love my users. Like they like the biggest, like, they’re like the cheerleaders for the users. This, it just seems like it comes out in the support team. I don’t know, that’s at least what I’ve kind of, from my limited seeing inside enough companies, it’s almost how the founder talks about the users that influences how the support team will talk about the users.

Jim (18:39):

Yeah. It’s like, it’s the idea that the internal culture seeps out no matter what, and you can’t stop that. So I think that’s so critical. I mean, the way that we treat our team again starts there and like, we treat them like, they’re very valuable to us because they are. So in terms of like paying more, like providing better benefits and just autonomy, like I despise screen recording software. I hate it because like, I don’t want, like, I don’t want my screen to be monitored constant. I don’t want it to feel like I’m being monitored. Like we want to extend trust. It’s amazing how many people will rise to that level of trust. They really want to meet expectations. So the point is to like consider the internal culture of your company and make sure that’s locked on. And then the natural outflow of that is the way that the team is going to treat customers.

Charles (19:27):

Yeah. I like that. When you said you guys do an internal bootcamp, what does it, so someone kind of finally gets a job and then what are they actually kind of going? Like, how do you get someone trained up on someone else’s business? Like, what’s that look like?

Jim (19:40):

Yeah. Well th well, the internal bootcamp is an internal training before they’re ever client facing. So they go through several days of training. They’re working with a trainer, we have a lot of material as it relates to writing quality grammar, writing, structure, tone, empathy, like next level support, the way that we interact on our teams. So just healthy, remote communication. We work everybody’s remote and we, we, we use Slack. So just like all of our expectations in terms of the way we, we communicate all of that is handled initially in that bootcamp training. And then after that, they’re introduced to the client and that’s when the client training begins. So we ask our client to provide that initial training to their agent or agents as well as the team leader. So from the beginning, we have a, a backup with, with the team leader being trained concurrently. And then that process takes from sometimes as little as a few days to a week and sometimes multiple weeks, if it’s a really complicated technical product, but, but in the e-commerce commerce world, you know, one week on average and then we take it from there. Yeah.

Charles (20:40):

Yeah. It’s a nice part. It’s support for e-commerce. I feel like there’s a lot of level one, like where’s my, where’s my tracking number. Where’s my order. Or those kinds of does this fit, you know, that sort of thing. How do you guys handle when it actually is like a research question on I was just working with an automotive retailer, right? Where does this part fit in this Mustang or whatever. And people will call what those sort of are used to sell equipment for like kind of old machines and like, does this heat, our work, does this heating element work in this machine? And as a support person, you kind of have to go and like open PDFs and stuff, like looking around it’s do you guys do, do you guys train people to do all that? Is that like a knowledge database? Cause a lot, it would just be literally going to like a manufacturer’s website, digging in finding a part number. And it’s, it’s one of those things. It’s, there’s no like direct process. That’s more literally just Googling and doing a bunch of research. A lot of times

Jim (21:33):

It is our expectation that every member of our team goes above and beyond and provides a next level of customer support, including, you know, doing research and things like that. It’s also very important that they communicate really well. So for example, if an average ticket takes maybe five minutes to answer, depending on the client, if we have a team member that’s spending say 20 minutes or 30 minutes, and their output is lower because they’re really digging into a particular ticket. Like I mentioned, we don’t use screen recording software, but we instead ask them to prioritize really excellent communication. So we asked them to make an internal note say like on help scout or Intercom or whatever platform we’re using to say, Hey, you know, I spent about 20 minutes researching this ticket so I could provide an excellent answer to the, to the customer. And also it comes to like back to healthy expectations.

Jim (22:14):

Like when I have a conversation with a prospective client, I make sure that they know our focus on customer support. And I make sure it’s a good match. Not, not everybody is. And that’s okay. Like, like there are some people that, that really want to provide some sort of like super fast answers. They don’t want to go above and beyond. They want to run their business that way. And that’s fine, but we have a conversation up front to say like, Hey, this, this is our brand. This is the level of support we provide. And just to make sure it’s a good fit I guess like to play devil’s advocate, there’s there’s times when that can be too much or it becomes you know, unreasonable. So, you know, there’s, there’s a point where we need to have a conversation with the client and say like, Hey, like, this is how much time we’re finding that the, that the agent is spending, providing this level of support. Like, how’s that working for you? Are you, you know, are you good with that or whatever? There’s always a line. Right. And, and it’s rare, but you know, sometimes customers can kind of push that. So you know, to be reasonable as well.

Charles (23:06):

Yeah. I think there’s a, there’s a a match between the agent and what the business requires for that type of ticket. Right. I’ve done e-commerce support before where you should have, you should basically betaine between when you touch the ticket and when you close the ticket, it should be in the minutes, like, you know, sub five, right. But then what sparks shipping this, some tickets where I’d expect easily, someone could spend over an hour and particular tech cash totally normal. They might we talk about screen recording. You would have material apart from like a time tracker. Sometimes we do screen recordings, just literally someone support agents recording their screen to send to user, Oh, I’m a huge

Jim (23:46):

Fan of that. I love that. Yeah. Like send a little video. Totally. Oh man. That people are blown away by that. It’s funny because again, I use this all the time at at my small software business when I provide support. But like people like, so I, it would take me maybe 10 or 15 minutes to write out a fairly lengthy reply with screenshots, or I can make it two minute video and just show them what to do and even better yet do it for them if that’s appropriate and send them the video, people are just blown off their chairs. They’re going, they cannot believe that live. It’s funny because like, I just saved myself, you know, 10 or 12 minutes, like, but they’re just amazed by that. And it creates this like sort of a personal connection as well, because we’re so removed. Like this, the thing about that we have to fight against with remote communication is that, that distance between people, you know, but so I, when I record a loom video, I like to have my face in the bottom left corner or whatever. So I’m just making a connection with the customer and they know I’m a human and they know I’m specifically talking to them. They can see my screen I’m on their website or whatever. And it’s just very connective and really builds, builds brand loyalty, which is a great bonus.

Charles (24:51):

Yeah. I feel like that, like you said, they, you know, they’re talking to you, right? Like we’re a support issue the other day with eBay. And somebody had to reach out to them and contact them and you’ve read the response. And you’re like, is this, even to me, like, this could be literally to anyone. Like, I don’t even know, like you write this like one page on email and you get back, there’s like two lines. And like, they could have just copied them. This most likely is copy and pasted versus with alum. Like you said, if it’s appropriate that, like in your account, they’re basically doing the setup for you and there’s no confusion and then you can go back, replay it. And yeah, we, I love doing that. Any other kind of things like that, that you’ve kind of found work very, very good to like personalize.

Jim (25:30):

Yeah, exactly. And that’s what I wanted to speak to a little bit more, I think saved replies as a template or a great idea and necessary because the truth is like most businesses have redundant questions, but, but there’s, there’s no reason that the, the agent or the, or the founder, if they’re answering support tickets themselves, can’t personalize that, you know, so you can start with a snippet, you have the, the basic information that they need, but, you know, add some personalization, you know, the things that are even obviously personalized, like, Hey, happy Friday, you know, or good afternoon, like things like that. And then also restating their questions. So yeah, you’re going to provide a template to answer, but restating the question. So, so they know they, they were listened to, right. Like, I mean, we all desire to be listened to, and, and you can prove that you’ve listened to their, their, their question, but just sort of recapping that in a, in a quick sentence.

Jim (26:18):

Another thing that I ask our team to be really careful of is to make sure that, that they’re catching all of this sentence or all of the the questions within the customer query. So attention to detail. So as you know, customer right. Might write in and they have a question initially, and then a lot more information. And then there’s another little question buried at the end. So being really careful to, to, to grab those and make sure that you know, that they’re just paying really close attention and listening well to the customer. Yeah. That’s of those things. When you read

Charles (26:44):

Some users, when they send a support ticket, it’s like a two line support message where like, all right, two lines statement, question, got it. Let’s do this other times, you get this like wall of text and there’s like question, and you can see this like question marks peppered inside. And you’re like, all right, this is gonna, this is gonna, this is gonna take some time just to like untangle and like, all right, let’s read, pick out the questions, respond to each one. Cause people then will go, Oh, did you not respond to all my questions? You’re like, I don’t know what are six of them like that I missed. One was in a question. And like, so you need to really on some of them spend your time. And like this time of just like breaking it apart. Just so you can actually get in line.

Charles (27:22):

And I think what people, what people will miss and it helps to keep in mind is you spend all this time and effort and money acquiring customers, right? You spend ad dollars, you’re spending marketing dollars, all this stuff. And then to lose someone to drop the ball, it’s like, literally like you’re right there. You’re, you’re, you know, you’re almost in the end zone and you just dropped the ball on something that could have just been a nice experience. And that’s kinda, I feel like people need to frame support like that, that it’s, you’ve spent all this money and resource and time already. And now you’re just like, this is a finish line and you just need to, like, you just need to do a good job here.

Jim (28:03):

Yeah. I think all of us at different times as founders are guilty of overemphasizing sales and marketing at the expense of, you know, what would it be? Customer loyalty, longevity, reducing churn. I mean, it just hit you, right? I mean, it’s, it’s crazy to spend and I’m not throwing stones. I’ve totally been there, but like they spent so much money and effort acquiring a new customer only to lose them through, through an interaction that that could have been better, you know, or lack of checking in with them or whatever. I mean, it’s like just, just painful. In to that, in another thing that comes to mind, I think is really important is to, to like, whether you hire internally as a founder or you hire externally a support company to, to give your, your team permission to, to make decisions on behalf of the customer to extend trust to them, to, for example, refund requests, like what are the parameters that they can provide excellent service.

Jim (28:54):

Like they don’t have to come back to you. And also like it’s interruptive for them to go back to the founder, but also it provides a poor you know, poor, poor, poor level of support to sort of like, let me get back to you on this refund. So to extend trust and permissions to the agents, to be able to give refunds up to a certain dollar amount or effectively do whatever within reason it takes to please a client. I I’ve heard of famous brands like Ritz-Carlton that allow their staff. I don’t remember the dollar amount, but some obscene dollar amount that the staff can do. Whatever they think is necessary to provide the next level of customer support to their customers. So things like that, where you empower the team to, to be able to provide that, and they feel like they have a sense of autonomy and authority to provide that level of support.

Charles (29:38):

What do you say? Because I’ve seen a lot of founders get hung up on one where like refunds, something like that, where you just think the support agents are gonna like run a muck and give everyone a refund. And I see people get like really hung up on, like, it never happens, but like, I see people really get worried about this. What do you kind of tell people to, you know, like that’s, and I know it’s not realistic, but only from, you know, I’ve done it, but like before you’ve done it, how do you tell people, like, that’s not going to happen? Like, trust me, it just never happens.

Jim (30:07):

Yeah. That’s what I think is I think it’s good to, to have a conversation early on and just set really clear expectations. So it will be my job to talk to the founder to say, okay, you know, Joe, what, like, what are your things, what are you thinking in terms of like maximum dollar amount that we can extend permission to the team to refund. And just also having a bit of a philosophical conversation on you know, like, like, like scarcity mindset versus an abundance mindset. So like, not like I don’t want to go in and sort of like, act like I know everything about their business and kind of take over, but I think it’s fun and interesting to have a philosophical conversation and just sit and, you know, talk about things like that. It’s like, well, what do you generally feel about refunds?

Jim (30:44):

You know, because in my experience I’ve found that like, if we’re quick with refunds, even if we get taken advantage of on occasion and that sometimes happens, it’s better in the long run to have that more abundant mindset. And it’s better for the brand. Like I, you know, in the e-commerce world, like I’ll do almost anything to avoid a negative review within reason. But, but my point is I will even let people take advantage of me to a point to avoid that, that you know, negative impression on the business, it’s just not worth the damage to be. Right. You know, even when I know they’re, they’re taking advantage or that they’re in the wrong, it’s not worth it to win, you know, for me to be right at the expense of the business. So it’s thinking about things like that. But, but my point is, it’s just, it’s fun to have conversations with founders that are along those lines and just kind of see how they’re thinking about, about things like that.

Charles (31:29):

Yeah. That’s interesting to frame it like that with the abundance mindset on just like, and just understanding 99 point, whatever percent of these orders are just going through everything. It’s just like fine. It’s the, support’s really dealing with that. Like a 1%, like they’ve already, something has gone something where it has already happened. So now how you like solving that in like just what the other 99% do their thing. They probably went flawless, they got their tracking number. They got that product. They’re happy, but there’s a 1% like, how do we deal with that? And if, if we have to give refunds on some percentage of that, so be it right. It’s yeah. It’s part of it. And I think a lot of people going into it don’t realize this is just, this is part of it. You’re gonna have to there’s some percentage of revenue. I don’t know what that number looks like on average, but there’s some percentage of revenue that’s just assumed to be refunds. And I think once you just kind of get okay with that, it’s fine.

Jim (32:20):

Yeah. Yeah. It’s kind of a silly example, but I go back to Chick-fil-A again, I think like they’re an example of a company that has a really abundant mindset and you can use examples Southwest to be like, Chick-fil-A, I mean, they’ll give you a ton of sauces, like for no extra money. And then like, I’ve been through drive-throughs at other fast food places and they’re like, Oh, can I get some barbecue with my fries? Oh yeah, that’ll be 50 cents. Like, things like that. It’s like, you know, like I just, I really appreciate the brand more when there’s a level of abundance Southwest airlines with, with the free bags, you know, like little things like that. I just, I just, I don’t know. I think reciprocity comes in there. Like, I think that builds brand loyalty when, you know, a brand is willing to go above and beyond. It just has a an abundant mindset in general to just really build customer loyalty.

Charles (33:02):

And it probably depends on the type, the type of company you’re trying to build. Right. last week we were talking about just, there’s some folks that play in that like very low end, like a competing of a price. And that is a, that’s a way to do it. Right. That’s a business model. Amazon, Walmart, they’re not small companies. Right. so they’ve done. Okay. But like, as it’s almost as a smaller retailer, you can’t compete there. So you have to compete on these other ways of doing business like that brand loyalty going above and beyond because you can’t compete with Walmart. So like you’re not going to beat them at that game. And that’s different. They don’t need to, they don’t like Walmart doesn’t give great support. They don’t need to, they give the lowest prices, you know, when you’re going in, that’s what you got a gash and you can’t compete with their prices. Yeah. So, yeah, and it’s a match, but as a small retailer, you know, you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna compete with Walmart. You’re not compete with Amazon. So you need to compete on some other playing field. And this is an option when you talk about customer success. I think we talked about, we touched upon that earlier briefly. What’s the difference. And I always see people kind of use these terms interchangeably. How would you define one versus the other?

Jim (34:10):

Yeah, I really think they’re quite different. The way I look at it is customer support is almost completely reactive. So answering support tickets chats phone calls, et cetera, where customer success by design should be almost completely proactive. So that’s concierge level onboarding for a SAS product. So maybe a SAS product that supports e-commerce retailers. I used to work for one in customer success and we provided email automation. So we would do concierge level onboarding where a new client would sign up. We would walk them through the product, set it up for them. It’s also proactive outreach. So you know, relationship building. So in the e-commerce world, this may be people that, that byproducts on a recurring basis basis and sort of a larger scale. So to maintaining and growing relationships with, with people like that, it’s also looking out for churn. So the case of a SAS product that maybe supports e-commerce retailers you know, evaluating the customers that may be likely to churn based on certain metrics. So like, Hey, you know, they haven’t sent out an email in this many days et cetera. So it’s being just really, really proactive and deeply supporting the customer through, through a meaningful, personal relationship

Charles (35:17):

With e-commerce or are you actually a folks proactively reaching out like a high dollar, high dollar high order value order comes in? People like reaching out to them and saying like, Hey, you’ve spent X amount. Like, should we just talk about these are people who is at that level of customer success.

Jim (35:35):

Yep, totally. And I get like, this is not something, whether we’re talking about SAS or, or e-commerce not every SAS business and not every e-commerce company can afford customer success. It’s really the higher end products that generally can. So in the SAS world, you know, customers are paying 500 to $2,000 a month in the e-commerce world. I mean, I remember one of the customers we used to support at the, the email company I worked, I worked out was a company that sold like computer racks. So I mean, their, their clients would, would spend thousands of dollars and very much at the kind of enterprise type level or at least medium business enterprise type level. So in situations like that, like definitely there’s room to reach out to, to those, those folks and cultivate relationships get to understand them better, understand their needs.

Jim (36:17):

Like w when would they be likely to need to make a recurring per purchase? Like, what are, what are their goals you know, are they just trying out the, the computer racks in hopes to buy him for all, you know, 50 locations or whatever, like, just to understand the way they’re thinking and kind of you know, what their plans are, but I would argue that you can, you can automate some of that even for e-commerce businesses that have maybe a little bit more affordable product and send out a sort of automated emails, getting to know them, asking, you know, what their intent is, et cetera. Especially if it’s, you know, maybe on the wholesale side or something, that’s a little higher ticket price.

Charles (36:50):

Yeah. I was talking to a user hair and they sell it equipment to schools. So like average order values and thousands of dollars sort of thing. And there’s orders that are tens of thousands. So they call every order. They make it someone in there who’s making a phone call, Hey, let’s just review this order. Let’s talk about it. And someone’s going to site submitting a very large order and they just practically call them back every time and just talk through us. And some of is just like, right, the shipping it’s going to come on a loading dock, you have a, like a a floor Jack, like some of these, you know, at the higher dollar value. There’s some just real questions you have to ask on. Okay. Do you have a lift? Like, what’s that look like? Do we need a the ramp on the back of the truck? Like, versus like you said, some lower, you know, if you’re selling t-shirts or something, you’re probably not calling every user. It just doesn’t make sense. So I feel like success can fit into certain businesses, but not others. In that case, you mentioned, you mentioned automation where do you see that kind of fitting into support? Like, how do you, how do you pepper in just enough automation without being over automated and still have the human factor?

Jim (37:56):

Yeah, I mean, it depends on if you’re talking about, when you say automation, the first thing I think of two things like chatbots, and then the second would be inbox automation like help saved replies internal docs, external docs, et cetera. But I’m, it’s probably not a surprise. I’m not a fan of chat bots. And I, I recognize that in certain situations they may make sense, but I just, I love people and I love connecting. I love that human experience. And I just feel icky when I get to a chat bot. Like I, I do everything I can to sort of like trick the system to give me a real person to talk to you.

Charles (38:30):

You can use his hand if you ever read through the raw logs users. Like, yeah, everyone’s trying to just like figure out how to get around the chat bot as quick as possible.

Jim (38:40):

I, I am not a fan now that said, I recognize that in certain use cases, it may make sense. But what I am a fan of is, is automation in the inbox that, that makes support more efficient, not at the expense, like we talked about earlier, earlier of personalization, but, but there are ways that you can blend the two to provide a better level of service. For example, like chat responses. Those can be, you know, you can put in a sort of automated response and customize or personalize the bookends of the response and deliver something that’s, that’s really high quality. I just, I don’t, I don’t like automation where it’s obvious to the customer, that things are being automated. And I think it can lead to, to lazy work sometimes, you know, it can lead to an over-reliance on these automations. You’ve had that feeling with like, you’re talking to a human in a sort of a chat sequence or email sequence.

Jim (39:29):

And you know, that, that the answer they paste it in is totally just paste it in. And what I mean by that is like, it’s like, okay, the first paragraph was relevant, but the last two are really not. So that’s another thing is like, you can paste in an automated reply and the sort of edit out the irrelevant parts. And I was chatting in with, with Xfinity internet the other day. And it was like, it was very much that it’s like, ah, I know what you’re doing there. I was like, I don’t really like that so much. It just felt a little spammy, you know?

Charles (39:54):

Yeah. I’ve even used on automated replies sometimes just having a, like, here’s like the whole automated template and here’s different options inside of there and it’s made, so you want to go in and have to delete, you know, three out of the four of these and you pick the one you want. So it’s basically just like, Hey, they’re X. And then you fill that in, you know, best regards and may, and then there’s different things you could have in there. Hey, has the link to our pricing. Here’s a link to a demo, has linked to, you know, five different things. And then you’ll say, okay, let me remove the ones that don’t make any sense. And, you know, like I can, I can never send this as a it’s like I have to, I have to rework this. So it sets a certain expectation that like, I can still use it and get some value out of it and a more more editing than having to type. So it still gives you the best of both worlds. Yeah.

Jim (40:40):

You know, that reminds me Charles of another really important attribute you know a really good customer support agent or customer success. And that is high trait conscientiousness someone that, that really pays attention to detail. And we screen for that is like one example. You asked about example questions earlier. We’ll say something like in, in less than 75 words, tell us about a hobby of yours and why you enjoy it. So the point of the question, like, yeah, of course we want to get to know them a little bit better, but the, the main point of the question is to see if they follow directions and you’d be surprised at how many people will, we’ll go over that that limit it’s like, well, they clearly didn’t follow directions. So what, what a few of those built in, and if, if they miss so many points in that process, we just, we don’t further them in the application process because in my mind, if they’re missing that at that level, and you would imagine that when people are applying for a job, they should be paying really close attention and that sort of that process.

Jim (41:30):

So if they miss those things there, then I can, that they’re likely you know, likely to miss them in a, in a support interaction and not everybody is, is, you know, pays real close attention to detail as it was really conscientious. So I think it’s important to find those people for, for just that point. So they can craft responses that are, are quite detailed and you can expect them not to miss questions within a customer response, et cetera.

Charles (41:53):

Yeah. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed with the hiring you that, yeah, there’s a trick of just like, Hey, could you do me a favor and follow up, follow up with me tonight about this and send me, send me a a meeting request for next week. You pick the time, anytime I’m available, just send me a meeting request for next week by tonight. If the person can’t do that and you give them, you know, give them eight hours or whatever, give them a reasonable amount of time to do something. And if they can’t do that thing, you know, like where you’re not paying, like, did you not care? Like what happened here? And if there’s no, you know, Oh, I got really sick. My kid got sick, that’s fine. I get it. Things happen. But if someone can’t follow that, like a simple thing, like you said, some detailed set of instructions is just gonna get off the rails.

Jim (42:35):

Yeah. That’s a good point. And we try, I mean, w w you know, we try to recognize that, Hey, like none of us are perfect. We’re going to make mistakes. I mean, we, you know, we build in, build it into our system where we expect a certain sort of score when they go through that process. We’re not looking for perfection, but you can just get a read on people if they’re missing several questions like that and missing the details. It’s pretty you know, you can definitely expect that they’re going to be doing that when they actually get on the job

Charles (42:59):

Before I let you go. You mentioned the one last thing, and I see people get chew into this, or not enough, usually people fall one or the other, but you mentioned having some sort of like metrics and like KPIs and those sorts of things, what do you, what do you stand on that? And how do you balance going, like, you know, KPI crazy and like, Oh, we’re gonna, we’re gonna measure our, like the, how many minutes you’ve been in particulate to then there’s other folks that are just like, you know, KPIs, whatever. Like they just don’t measure anything. What do you kind of fall in Nash? Yeah.

Jim (43:27):

I, I’m not a fan of setting finite KPI expectations across the board like saying, Oh, it’s exactly this number of minutes. And then like, I can give you like a rough average, but it’s very client specific. So I think it’s important for, for each founder to really consider, you know, what is the level of service that they’re wanting to deliver? What is the cost of their product? How technically complexity is it, what what’s reasonable, I mean, should a chat, you know, take this long to, to to finish it should an email take as long to finish, et cetera. And, and then I’m a big fan of just really, really healthy communication. And I don’t, I don’t like setting like an overwhelming number of KPIs. I really liked the idea of boiling down the most important few and setting those expectations with the team and then also expecting them to communicate really, really well. And we’re a huge fan of using the notes section in like help scout, inner, calm, et cetera. So we get, so the agent can document like, Hey, this was a little bit of an edge case situation. Here’s what I did, et cetera. So the founder can see that, but I think that’s, it’s important to have KPIs, but not an overwhelming number where they just sorta like you know, everything’s a priority, then nothing’s a priority. It’s that sentiment. So I think it’s, it’s important to boil that down into just the most important view.

Charles (44:34):

Yeah. And a, any number you’d give someone, right. They’re going to push hard on that number and then kind of ignore the other numbers. And if you give them too many numbers, then they’re going to pick one and it might not be the one you’re looking for. So having, yeah, like you said, being very particular about which ones because those are the ones we’re going, gonna focus on. And if you give them too many, like you said, there’s no focus, so cool. I think that’s good place right there. Yeah. Thanks. That’s, that’s very helpful. People want to kind of check you out, check out what you’re working on. What can they do that where’s the best place?

Jim (45:05):

Yeah, probably the, probably the best place would be on our website. It’s X So it’s X, F U S I O My email is Jim. At that domain, you can find me on, on LinkedIn would be a good place. David and I met my co-founder. We, we love to talk to founders. We’d love to talk shop, and neither of us are salespeople. We don’t have a sales background. We love just connecting and, and you know, talking about founders businesses and getting to know them. So we’d love to have any, any conversations with any of your listeners and just talk shop.

Charles (45:33):

Awesome. I’ll drop a link to it in the show notes and yeah, definitely folks should reach out. So thanks a lot for coming on. Jim knows. Appreciate it.

Jim (45:41):

Yeah. Thanks Charles. Really appreciate you having me.

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