Story of My Support: How Reply Provides OSSOM Customer Service
Hello everyone! My name is Eugenia and I’m the Head of Support at Reply. Personally, this sounds a bit like sitting amongst a circle of chairs surrounded by people with the same addiction as mine: ‘Hello, my name is Eugenia and I’m an alcoholic’ or something like that :)
Well, I won’t lie to you - I do have an addiction and it’s pretty strong. I’m addicted to my job!
Supporting and helping people to achieve success in anything has always been my mission and greatest pleasure. And, as far as I’ve been working in IT for several years, I've figured out that customer support is the perfect thing for me to do (I do other things... but mainly support).
When I came on Reply’s board for the first time in October 2015, there was literally no support department - Oleg Campbell, our founder, and Lucy Literado, our VP of Marketing, were responding to customers’ emails over Gmail and struggling: solving users’ issues was taking too much time and they didn’t have enough time for their other major tasks. That was irritating and led to the creation of the Customer Support/Success manager position at Reply.
This was definitely not the case for me at the time. When I started as a support agent there was nobody to hold my hand and teach me the ins and outs of the system. I was provided with a demo of the app as if I was a client, I had support section with basic setting instructions by my side and the help of the team in case I needed clarifications.
One day, a user emailed Reply support with an issue, I went into his account, located the 'concern' and thought “yes, this is most definitely a bug!”, pinged all of my colleagues that were online and showed them the ‘obvious bug’ I had found, absolutely pleased with myself. "I helped the team track down this bug and when they fix it, the app will be better than yesterday” - I thought to myself, right before Max, our CTO, shut my excitement down with a screenshot offering the simplest explanation of this supposed “bug”, which was not a bug at all, of course. Such a shame.
I understood that distracting my colleagues from their work was the last thing I was hired for.
Spending hours working on users’ issues helped me eventually feel comfortable to reply on common use cases faster and faster each day. When I started literally waiting for support emails in Gmail I thought that it was time to take my communication live. Thus, we introduced Intercom into our support process - more on that later :)
Offline and Online Customer Support
In cases when customer needs any help or seeks answers to any questions, there are two avenues of support provided by Reply: offline and online.
Online support is when they contact our support team via email or live chat.
who needs them). I was not only resolving technical issues coming from users by email, but also following them up and keeping them posted while the investigation was in progress, so the user could feel that the Reply team cared about him or her and was always doing our best to resolve their issue as fast as we could. My communication with everyone was all about care and it remains so. Now, that includes the entire Support Team.
We try and help our users find immediate solutions by providing detailed answers with step by step instructions and screenshots enabling them to know exactly where to go and what to do. In some cases, users overwhelmed or confused at the sudden influx of information. In those instances, I ask them to add me on Skype for a quick call, screen share, or tutorial so I can further guide them and walk through the actions together. This style of customer service makes people feel much better about our product and the people working here - they feel our support. I've even had situations where customers just want to chat - If we have time, why not?!
Most Customer service representatives usually stick strictly to either email, chat or phone calls. I can't recall any support service so willing to hop on Skype to grant a demo or even video chat to help troubleshoot customers' issues. This openness allows us to get closer to our users and build lasting customer/vendor relationships. This is the way I’ve envisioned Reply's support mentality - be as close and user-friendly as possible, because there's no reason not to do so.
Lastly, I'd like to talk about our live chat. We have an integration with the Intercom, a Live Chat service provider. Intercom helps us to find detailed information about any user that has ever signed up for an account at Reply - their email address, full name, social media accounts if provided, Reply account activity log (when signed up, when last seen, their plan state, etc) and even their OS and browser data. These details help a lot when escalating issues to the QA team for replicating bugs, where OS and browser info is a must. Plus, we don’t have to confuse our users or waste time by asking them to provide us with this information.
For internal purposes Intercom is awesome for assigning chats to anyone from the team, if, for example, technical issues are resolved and a user has questions to Sales representatives. The whole team can leave internal notes and communicate with each other in one chat so the user could receive the most competent assistance. It’s also possible to add and use shortcuts, which helps a lot to respond faster on common use cases. From a user’s side it’s great that you can reopen any chat which was closed previously and continue communication with our support team. And they also receive an email with the conversation history, which they always can reply to from their email and we’ll receive their message in Intercom.
You may not believe me, but I really do love people. I understand them and I can empathize with every customer that contacts support. I can feel when a person is frustrated with our platform or when they’re in a good mood and understand that bugs are a normal part of online services. In any of these cases I adapt to a person’s current mood and either provide support in a formal serious way or in a friendly and informal talk. In both cases I do my best to cheer the client up and make him/her smile. Because we’re all humans and have our ups and downs, and my mission is to help them not only to resolve their issues with our app, but also to make them feel happy.
Fairy Godmother or "How to Easily Make People Happy"
One day a client contacted me via Live Chat with a problem: his subscription implied 1000 unique contacts per month and he reached this number one week before the month ended, and he needed more people to contact till the next plan renewal. I wanted to make him happy that evening and simply increased the limits for him. This is the story of how I became the Fairy Godmother ;)
Thanks to Intercom our chats can be much more personal by including emojis and gifs.
I adore using pictures and gifs while communicating with people. Even if a person seems grumpy and too serious for these fiddlesticks, I never forget that we all are humans! And a little humour is never bad. Am I right? High five!
Customer Support and Success Reply Team
A month after I started working at Reply, another customer support agent came on board - Ann. We started working back to back, helping each other in everything we had concerns about. We never met each other until March 2016, living in different countries and working remotely, but we became Reply sisters :)
We understood that working together we could achieve better reply rates, respond faster and be a better overall support staff for everyone. We’re both living in the CET time zone, which means that we cannot cover Pacific Time for the USA, Canada and Australia users if we’re both working the same hours. Which is why we divided our schedules - Ann works mainly during CET business hours while I work evenings till late at night so users who try to reach us at their business hours can receive a prompt response.
This worked for one main reason - we don't outsource our support, we are an integral part of the Reply team, and we love our product. This philosophy of “We are the best support in the world” gives me the energy to answer any Intercom notification, even if it's at 3am and half of my face is already drooping in exhaustion. I open the app and reply to the users who need our help in the moment, because our goal at Reply is to provide best support ever. Even if I cannot help right away (checking technical issues always takes time), I can still respond to a user and ensure that this will be the first thing I’ll check with the dev team when I'm back on the job.
But technical support is not the only way of supporting our users. That’s why 3 more customer success and support representatives joined our Reply Family in April 2016 - Farrah, Stefanie and Joshua.
Farrah is the Business Development Specialist and Stefanie is the Customer Success Manager, who help our users to achieve their goals and grow their business with through our app and partnered services. Joshua is a customer support manager, who doubles as an editor helping the whole marketing department with articles and content.
The three of them are very talented and I’m honoured to know them.
With Joshua coming onboard our average response time decreased to 3 minutes. I’d love to share some of our Intercom statistics below:
There are 2 reasons explaining how we achieved these numbers:
1. Three support managers working in different time zones;
2. Intercom app installed on the phone, which helps to notice every single chat initiated by a user.
Not that big of a mystery, huh?
Supporting via Skype
As I said above, every Reply user can add me on Skype and get my personal assistance whenever they need. I already have lots of our clients added and we remain in contact almost daily. These conversations are not only formal, we make personal contact with each other, I even know the names of some of their children, and have seen them during video calls. We don't ever push for personal information, but if a conversation leads to topics of family life, we aren't going to stop talking. Some of our clients have even made social plans for If I happen to visit their city (I do love travelling) and we potentially meet (and discuss Reply!). You can't forge a more real connection than that, can you? Have you ever met a support representative of any service in real life before? Well, now you have a good chance to meet me!
The most precious thing about our support is that every single user can contact everyone on our team - our CEO and founder Oleg, our co-founder and Head of Sales Lee, our CTO Max, our VP of Marketing Lucy, our Product Owner Anatol. We all are open to anyone if they need us, because we’re a big family, friendly and caring, not only about each other inside the team, but about everyone who has ever been using Reply and potentially will.
One day a user contacted us via Intercom asking for assistance. I helped him and had real fun reading his version of English words. He wasn't a native English speaker, but he gave us the perfect word for everything which is even better than just AWESOME!
Now we use it on a daily basis within our team and try to drive everything we do to this level of OSSOMNESS!
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