Sure, quizzes are great for marketing. But don’t forget how awesome customer support to grow your business through word of mouth recommendations. Boris and Mike share their secrets behind their ‘founders-first’ customer support culture – that has helped scale their quiz maker start up with zero paid marketing.
We have published a few articles on our approach to customer support. You can find them here:
- Become a better marketer through customer Support on Serialmarketer.net
- Customer Support – the Quiz Maker way on the Riddle Blog
- Want a radical thought? Replace your customer support team with your executives on Medium
Customer Support / Chat Tools
Hi there, welcome to this episode of The Quiz Makers! And in this episode, my co founder Boris and I, we’re going to talk about something a little different than our normal quiz maker topics. Because normally, The Quiz Makers are all about quizzes and marketing. But it’s also about how you grow and scale a startup.
So this talk kind of straddles both topics. And it’s about customer support – how important it is and how we do it. And we’ll pass long some lessons we’ve learned that might be useful to The Quiz Maker podcast community. So welcome, Boris.
Hey, thank you, Mike. And I’d like to add to that. You said we’re talking about startup growth and how to grow a company. If you’d asked me now, seven years since we launched riddle.com, what was our number one growth factor? I would probably say it was how we handle customer support. So it’s a really important topic, we found a lot of new business from referrals.
And you only get referrals if people totally love your software, but also if they feel they’ve treated really, really nicely. If you go to a nice restaurant that serves really good food, but the waiter was rude, you’re not going to tell your friends to go there.
Yes, that’s definitely true. Especially if you are treated as a human when you visit a site, and you don’t get a bot. You just get instant live human contact, you know? So let’s take a quick look how we got there.
We started our quiz maker Riddle about six, seven years ago… my, how time flies. And when we started, Boris, you and I had a chat about how we wanted to handle customer support…
As context, we had a bit of history. Right, we previously set up a very large European support team for one of the leading game companies in the world to handle all non-English speaking support.
It was a challenging exercise. And the mandate was a little different than what you would think – the mandate wasn’t ‘help people’. The mandate was keep people away from the engineers and discourage people from contacting customer support.
It’s probably what you experienced if you call your cable provider or your phone company. Most of the time, at least. So the support agents weren’t super motivated because they knew they couldn’t change anything.
I remember this one episode where there was a very common bug. A lot of players were super annoyed yet it seemed really easy to fix. We had one highly agent with a PhD in physics, who just wanted to get into the game industry. And he knew this bug was easy to fix.
So he contacted the engineer in charge of the this part of the game. And the response was simple. “I get paid for shipping new features, I don’t make money if I fix bugs. That’s what we have support for.”
That agent quit his job right afterwards. So we wanted to change that. That was one of the things we decided when we started Riddle – let’s start treating people right.
How do we do that? That’s not easy as you start to grow…
Well, this is one of those things we had as a challenge as a start up, we didn’t have a big marketing budget.
Yes, we had a good product. But you know, Boris and I, you and I were discussing this and I might have mentioned this after a couple of beers. My thinking was coming from an American used to a ‘customer-first’ culture – I said, “Let’s be really, really good at customer support.”
It helps that there are some really good chat software tools. And you’ve probably all seen them when you go to a website, the little chat window comes up and says, “Oh, hey, can I help?”
And as you know, because we were small, we knew would answer everyone super fast, and give them really, really good service. And that’s how we started.
We always decided, let’s do it without a bot while we’re awake. Of course, we can’t be up 24/7, we’re both in Europe (which makes it harder) but we try to be online from the time we wake up till we go to bed. So if you chat with us at night, you may get a reply from us at a pub actually.
Well, that segues nicely into growing a startup. We went from five customers to 10 customers, 50 customers, and so on – and we’re constantly talking with them. As an example, I actually got to meet this Danish customer of ours in real life. So I went in to meet them personally. And they said, “Oh, Mike, you’re a real person. We thought you were a bot because you’re so fast to respond!”
“No, no, this is me.”
We are giving personal replies all that time. But this level of support is really good for the business – although it distracts us as founders from doing other projects, we’re constantly learning what our customers need and want.
Are there bugs?
Are there features should we pivot the product to go and adjust for new trends?
So if you’re looking to grow your company, there is a bit of a distraction element to it. But the benefits are so, so powerful.
And you may think, how can I handle this when I grow to thousands of customers? I have to say that was my main worry and I constantly questioned Mike, like, “Do we really want to keep doing this?”
I think we found a really good way to scale, which essentially is – if you get the same question more than two or three times, the answer is not to write a bot or auto reply, the answer is to fix the underlying problem.
Yep. Although our business has grown tremendously, the number of customer queries has stayed relatively flat. That’s due to fixing bugs and improving the user interface to make things more understandable and intuitive. That solves the problem in a very pain free way.
And we also provide better help documentation and all that stuff. So all every time someone asks you a question, and if it keeps happening, it’s not the customers’ fault. It’s your product – and a perfect opportunity to improve things.
Also, this is a good suggestion. If your engineers are up for it, ask them to also help out in support. Because a lot of times, if they get a question they will answer but at the same time, they will think “How can I avoid being in customer support in the future?”
So they will come up with a fix – just to avoid having to talk to people. Of course, that’s not true for all engineers, obviously. But for some of them, it’s very true.
Well, we came across a really cool blog post by a company called Zapier. At Riddle we use Zapier to connect Riddle to Salesforce, Hubspot… all these different email marketing tools.
But Zapier has a policy where everyone – from senior managers to engineers to marketing people, they all spend 10% of their time handling customer support… so they get visibility into “What’s happening? What are people complaining about? And for engineers, can I just fix this?”
This is so much easier.
If you want to do this for your own company, you have to REALLY decide that you want to do it. And if you’re the founder or CEO, the best thing is you should start leading this exercise and doing it yourself.
And then you need the tools.
There are a couple of them. Whatever you pick, make sure it has a mobile app – it make answering from a pub or restaurant much easier.
And don’t be ashamed actually to tell customers “Hey, it’s 10 o’clock at night. I’d love to help but I’m only on my phone helping you from a pub. I need to get to my laptop to answer this question. Can I come back to you later tonight or tomorrow?”
Depending on the amount of alcohol you’re consuming, that may be better. Customers react super positively to that. We’ve never ever heard anyone say, “Oh, that’s very unprofessional.”
If they do, you could say, “Well, would you rather talk to an outsourced call center that can’t help you but acts professionally? Or talk to a founder?”
Trust me, we’ve never heard any kind of complaint about that level of honesty. On the contrary, people totally love it. They feel treated really, really well. And they happily wait for a day because they know a real person is on it.
Absolutely. As a grumpy customer, or a customer with just a question, they just want to be heard. They just want to hear us say “I’ve got it. I’m going to get back to you.”
We mentioned customer support helps growth; this is a great example. It was 10 o’clock my time – we had been working with a fairly large British broadcaster. They have a three letter acronym. So I think everyone can figure this one out.
But a British expatriate was living in Chicago working for a professional sports team there. And he contacted us on support. Again, it was 10 o’clock our time and I was about to go to bed. I answered it immediately and solved his question.
He said “Wow, you guys are up late!” He was really happy and started using Riddle.
But then the other teams in the same industry spotted him using it – and started using it. So company A got company B got sports organization C.
All those companies came about through customer support. So if you’re a small to medium company looking to grow, we cannot recommend the power of word of mouth marketing through really effective customer support highly enough.
And if you plan on doing this, look for a software that allows you to put a chat bot on the site. There’s tons of them.
Now, if you’re not concerned about GDPR and European privacy regulations, check out Intercom – that’s probably the most popular (intercom.io), we put the links in the show notes. We also recently found this cool European company from France called Crisp.chat. But they all are may or may not be GDPR-compliant, you’d have to ask your lawyers.
However, there’s another one that’s definitely compliant, because we had them extensively checked out – it’s called user.com. So maybe that’s a helpful tip.
Check them out. They’re super easy to install, super easy to use. They all have great mobile apps. And it will really acclerate your business if you’re committed doing this. That would be my advice for you as a founder or even as a CEO of a midsize to a large company.
Perfect. Well, one last question we often get… actually, I guess two questions. One is: Boris, as a CEO, do you feel like this is the most effective use of your time? That’s question one. And question two is, well, do you ever get grumpy grumpy customers? You know, isn’t that a lot of stress to add to your job?
It is hands-down the most effective use of my time.
Initially, I didn’t think so. But there’s nothing better than talking to customers when you want to grow a business, because I have a lot of ideas where I want to take riddle. And often, it turns out I’m completely wrong in my ideas after talking to customers in support.
After you chatted with someone and solved the issue, you get a chance to run an idea by them and say, “Hey, we’re planning this – what do you think?” And the reply often is, “Now, that’s really stupid.”
And you know, that’s good. So you can validate your ideas, listen to customers, I don’t know how to use your time better as a CEO. If you want to grow a company, it’s definitely better than being in meetings.
Grumpy customers… it definitely happens. Not very often but it happens. As you mentioned, you get a lot of grumpy people that think there’s a bug.
Now, of course we have bugs. But, the grumpiness often goes away the minute you answer within seconds or minutes, because that’s not what they expect. They expect the bot that they can be grumpy with. But as soon as they have a human, they become nice.
If they stay grumpy though (and that’s what I tell everyone in the company who goes on chat), you have the freedom to tell a customer to just go find another software.
Because life is too short. We try to be nice to everyone but if someone does not treat you nicely, just end the conversation.
It’s not worth it. It’s not worth the money. It’s not worth your business. We reserve the right to only work with nice people.
Yep, working with nice people is just generally the way to go. Boris, thank you very much for your time.
Of course, as always, thanks to everyone who’s been listening to our chat. And yeah, I hope this helps out if you are looking to tackle the next big challenge of customer support. Thank you and we will talk to you again next episode.
And I do challenge you to go to www.riddle.com – open the chat box and see if Mike or Boris answer first.
Whoever answers fastest at the end of the month has the most replies, owes the other one a beer. So let me win!