(I know, I’m like nine years late on the uptake).
It’s a quick but rousing read, and one of the points that struck me was about sharing what you’ve learned on the job.
Think no one will care? Think again. Even seemingly boring jobs can be fascinating when presented right. What could be more boring than commercial fishing and trucking? Yet the Discovery Channel and History Channel have turned these professions into highly rated shows: Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers.REWORK, Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
I’m not likening answering support queries to catching Alaska king crab, but I’m sure there are some people out there who would be curious to know things like:
- How we share support duty between team members
- How many queries we get a day and what our average response time is
- What queries we get most frequently
- How we handle feedback, both positive and negative
So here it is: an in-depth, behind the scenes look at how we do customer support at Tito.
Who’s responsible for support?
When Tito first started out, it was just Doc and Paul, our two co-founders, and they knew pretty much every customer personally. They responded to all queries and comments themselves. Later, as we grew and our first full-time engineer Cillian joined the team, he stepped in to help with support.
We’re now a team of ten, with one person (me) triaging support requests most days, though not full time. I tend to spend on average a few hours on support each day, depending on how busy it is and what other projects I’m working on. Our three engineers (Cillian, Murray and Bill) take it in turns to be the “duty support engineer” for a week at a time.
This means our engineers get two weeks in between support shifts to work solidly on product stuff, but I always have someone to go to for help with the gnarlier issues and any technical bugs. We also have an internal #support Slack channel to bounce ideas around when we get stuck on a question. Often it’s still Doc and Paul who know the answers.
Everyone in the team can see every support query that comes in. We think this visibility is key in understanding our customers’ needs and pain-points, and makes all of us better at our jobs.
How busy are we?
At the moment, the default support plan we offer to all Tito accounts is via email and chat. We aim to reply to everyone within a day, Monday-Friday. As you’ll see below, our average response time is currently under 2 hours.
For high-volume accounts who require even quicker response times or phone support, we also offer paid support packages. (You can get in touch to find out more if that’s something you’re interested in).
We use Intercom as our messaging platform. Their system provides handy reports for how many queries we get and what our average response times are.
Here’s the last 4 weeks of activity at the time of writing, which is pretty typical of our performance:
Some high-level statistics:
- We tend to receive around 15-20 inbound messages per day — most of these between Monday and Friday.
- Around 75% of these messages require replies and become threaded conversations with multiple messages — the others are usually either spam or out of office replies.
- On average we send an initial reply within around 2 hours — either answering the question right away, or seeking more information if we don’t know enough to help yet.
- On average we resolve a query within around 4.5 hours — this means we answer their original question, check whether the customer needs anything else and if not, we close the thread.
I don’t know how this compares to your company, but this feels like a reasonable level of busyness for the number of customers we have. Many of our customers never contact support at all, finding all the answers they need in our documentation.
Our response times feel fairly respectable too. Of course there’s room for improvement as the whole team is currently located in Ireland or the UK. That means we’re often slower to respond to the queries we receive from customers outside Europe (although still usually within a day).
As we grow the Customer Experience (CX) team, I’d like to hire people working remotely from other locations so we have more coverage across different timezones.
What do people ask us?
In a recent post, I shared our top ten most common FAQs. But I must be honest; I didn’t compile this list scientifically. So I want to make amends in this post.
I went through the last 200 support conversations (15 days’ worth) and categorised them to give you an overview of the types of messages we receive.
These numbers reflect threads (conversations) rather than individual messages. Here’s a key explaining what each category includes and how we handle these enquiries:
- Customer — These are messages from Tito customers asking how to do something in Tito, or requesting that we build a new feature, or (occasionally) reporting a bug. Myself or one of the duty engineers will respond to answer their question, or ask for more information if we don’t have enough details to go on.
- Prospect — These are enquiries from people who are not yet customers, but who want to know about our product or pricing. Myself or our Commercial Director, Karl, will respond to answer their questions or arrange a sales call. Sidenote: most of our customers create an account without talking to us first, and then some get in touch with us once they’ve already tried us out.
- Attendee — These are messages from our customers’ customers, i.e. event attendees. Usually they’re getting in touch to ask how to retrieve their ticket or about refunds. If they’re looking for their ticket or an invoice, we direct them to our Lookup Tool. Otherwise we put them in touch with the organiser directly.
- No response — These are usually spam emails, automated or transactional messages, out of office auto-replies, or conversations we’re copied into but which don’t require our input. We archive these without replying to them.
- Other — This is a catch-all for press enquiries, speaking opportunities, messages from suppliers, and anything else that requires a response but isn’t from a customer, prospect or attendee. We don’t receive many of these as they usually contact us individually. But, when we do, we tend to archive these in Intercom and reply to them directly by email instead.
I grouped all the enquiries into further sub-categories based on the nature of the enquiry, which is what the colour-coding in the chart indicates. For this post I want to dive into the most relevant category: Customer.
Of the total 98 threads with customers over this two week period, we had:
- 70 questions — How do I do X in Tito?
- 11 feature requests — Suggestions for features or options we could add to Tito.
- 7 account enquiries — Questions about paying invoices, fees etc.
- 7 requests to enable Messages – To prevent spam, we ask customers to contact us if they’d like our Messages feature enabled.
- 3 bug reports — Which our duty support engineers were able to squash. ?
Note: I categorised each conversation based on the first question or comment it contained. However, many of these threads covered multiple questions and topics across lots of messages.
The feature requests we had in this time period included offering payment plans so attendees can pay for tickets in instalments, and introducing conditional questions. They’re great suggestions, and we added them to our backlog for discussion and prioritisation.
How do we handle feedback?
People rarely get in touch with support when everything is fine (why would they?!), so usually we’re hearing from the people who are either stuck because they don’t know how to do something, or they’re experiencing an issue.
This can make it seem like the product has tons of problems when, in reality, the vast majority of our customers are using it day to day with no problems at all. We just never hear from those people.
We have quite a few beta features that haven’t been through our full testing process yet but which we enable for customers on request if we think they might solve a specific problem. Of course this often results in bug reports, which we welcome, but which can be overwhelming and disheartening if a bunch come in at once.
I say all this because burnout can be a problem when you spend a lot of your time working on support. I think it would be disingenuous to leave that part out of a post like this.
We recently started using a Net Promoter Score (NPS) tool called Delighted to seek ratings and feedback from our customers. This has been a very interesting (and positive) exercise and, while I was originally planning to write about it here, I think it’s actually worth pulling out into its own post. So stay tuned for that!
In the meantime, how do we deal with support when it gets stressful? Well, we have a few approaches:
We share the load
Pretty much everyone in the team has responded to support queries at some point in their time at Tito. The great thing about this (apart from the deeper understanding we gain about our customers) is that if you need to take a break, there’s always someone to cover you.
As I mentioned, the engineers rotate with one week on and two weeks off. I’m usually on support duty for a portion of every day but I personally find it very satisfying and rewarding (that’s why I took this job). But it’s good to know that if I need to take a personal day or if I’m off for three weeks—as I was recently for my honeymoon—I don’t need to worry about support because I know the team has it covered.
We don’t take things personally
The vast majority of our customers are absolutely delightful to deal with. But of course we get some messages from people who are stressed and irritable, especially around event times. But we know it’s not really about us.
I used to work in events, and we’ve organised events as a team (including a conference), so we appreciate that it can be a really high-pressure environment. And how easy it is to become snappy. We wouldn’t stand for outright abuse of course, but we don’t get riled up if someone’s tone is a bit off.
Usually when we respond with empathy and a warm tone, we get the same back even from people who initially seemed angry or upset.
We see it as a learning opportunity
If we keep getting the same questions again and again, it’s a sign that the feature or relating documentation may not be an intuitive and user-friendly as it should be. And that’s on us.
So we pay attention to patterns and try to introduce changes that help our customers (and result in fewer support queries relating to that particular topic).
We share in our customers’ successes
When a customer comes to us with a problem and we’re able to solve it, that’s awesome! We celebrate these victories. And when we get lovely feedback from people we’ve helped, it reminds us of the positive impact we’re making when we’re on support duty.
What improvements could we make?
OK, before we get too self-congratulatory, it’s important to be honest about where we could do better.
Support coverage around the clock
As I mentioned earlier, our team is currently based in Ireland or the UK, and we’re online during office hours. But we have customers all over the world. So if someone in San Francisco messages us at 11am (their time) there’s a chance we might not see it until 9am (our time) — 11 hours later! ? While we still reply to these messages within 24 hours, I’d love our average response time to be as low as possible.
We’ll soon be looking to hire another person in the CX team. I’m particularly interested in interviewing remote candidates to see if we can hire someone to cover different timezones. Eventually the ideal would be a small distributed team of Customer Success Specialists providing 24 hour coverage.
More effective onboarding
This is something we’re actually working on improving right now, and I plan to write a dedicated post about it. But ultimately our goal with onboarding is two-fold:
- Reduce friction in signing up to Tito
- Maximise opportunities for new customers to learn how Tito works
The plan includes things like:
- Introducing an interactive product tour so new users can get to know what each section of Tito does and how to use it.
- Triggering context-specific messages at appropriate times, like “Congratulations on publishing your first event! Did you know you can embed the checkout on your own site? Here’s the link to our Widget documentation”.
- More use of video tutorials, like the one we recently published for our Activities feature.
By improving the onboarding experience, we hope to empower new customers to feel more confident in using Tito and less reliant on contacting support in the first place (though of course we’ll always continue to be available to anyone who needs us).
Document things internally
There’s a ton of knowledge in the team, but we’re not always the best at making sure it’s recorded and shared. We have documentation for our customers, but we haven’t always written things down for internal use, like how a particular feature is supposed to work for instance.
If one of us ends up spending time figuring out how to do something or how something works, the goal should be to record this information somewhere centrally so that the next person facing this issue can refer to it. This saves time and allows us to provide a consistently high level of support to our customers.
We’ve made a start. A few months ago we started using Notion as a company Wiki, and this is already helping. We just need to make sure we keep it up!
Providing customer support is both rewarding and challenging, and no two days or customers are the same. It may not be quite as exciting as Deadliest Catch, but I hope you found this an interesting insight into how we do customer support at Tito. If you have any questions or ideas you can drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime I’ll leave you with a few useful customer resources:
- Lookup Tool — Share with customers to help them retrieve their tickets and invoices
- Tito Documentation — Step by step guides to Tito’s features
- Tito YouTube Channel — Video tutorials and talks from Tito events
- Tito Blog — You’re on it right now! Posts about our product and company, plus insights from our customers and the events industry
Thanks for reading! ?