Who gives support to customer support teams? CoSupport.
By: Administrator 05/06/2013
Once upon a time, I used wireless DSL for my business Internet. For two months, I watched the connection light on my modem switch from green to red. Green: good. Red: dead. I eventually called customer support and they ran a remote line diagnostic and walked me through the modem reset. No dice. Two months of spotty coverage and multiple frustrating phone calls later, they finally sent a tech to inspect it in person. Turns out the modem was fried and $130 to replace. I switched providers.
Everyone has their customer support war stories and will gladly share them. I chatted with Sarah Hatter, founder and CEO of CoSupport. She’s been in the customer service/support industry for almost 20 years. I talked with her about registering her company at 4 a.m., profitability on day one and why customer support in the tech industry, in particular, is imperative today.
Why did you start CoSupport?
I was working for 37Signals and was asked to speak and consult for other companies. I couldn’t do because I was tied to my job, so at 4 a.m. one morning, I just decided to start my business because I believed in it and saw a future in it. I launched in January 2011 and it’s been a whirlwind since then.
Why is customer support so important?
I think the consumer is king and can make or break an app or company. I watch social media meltdowns all day long over little things like ketchup packets and TVs not recording. Those are historical records that muddy the brand.
People today are very demanding and have super high expectations. Companies have to present themselves as human beings, the experience has to be amazing and they have to communicate with us. The more digital we get, the more human we want to be.
We basically teach companies and their employees, especially engineers (recently spoke to 1200 people at a global tech company), how we can sound more human, sincere and interested in helping people with support. Most of it is tweaking language. People don’t want to talk to a robot, they want a real human being, they want real answers.
Can you give me an example?
Let’s say I’m going to have a $1.99 app in the app store. People have spent a year working on app. But what happens if when they launch it, it’s hard to use, or crashes, or you don’t know what it’s used for, and within the first two weeks you have a bunch of bad reviews. No one will use it and you don’t make any money. We’re trying to eliminate that by being up front with the right language, the help section, walking people through the app and getting their feedback to determine how the average user uses it and what challenges they’re experiencing.
What does CoSupport do?
CoSupport teaches and trains web and mobile companies how to better support their customers.
Our job working with apps is to eliminate the need for a full time customer support person. If you can eliminate that need by having great development, a really thorough help section and great language on how to use it, you’re golden.
Walk me through some of the key points of your company.
Outsourced Customer Support
Hiring someone part time from our company that does excellent customer support – either setting up your support system and actually do the hands on email or chat or even sometimes Twitter and Facebook support.
This is especially helpful for companies launching new products because they don’t know their initial customer volume. We also work with several one-development-person companies and they can’t do design and work with Apple/Android and answer 200 customer emails. We typically do that on a limited basis for three to six months until the company ramps up or hires in house or we hire someone for you.
UX tear down
It’s a complete user experience view of an app. We walk through it with our experts and anticipate customer questions and work with developers to eliminate pain points. We have customers use apps with zero information about it and we have them write down every button they press/question they ask and bring it back to developers. It’s mind blowing for them sometimes. Our goal is the development team to search for those pain points and code around them to eliminate it because it’s much cheaper than putting it into the app store and getting terrible reviews, no one liking it and having to retrace steps.
Technical writing for apps
I think the best customer support is educational and not reactive, so we try to get as much information about a product on a product website that’s searchable, that’s clear that includes great screen shots or videos demonstrating things before you launch so when you have customers coming in, they’re clicking that help page and getting the help need without having to contact a support person.
What has been your biggest disaster story?
Typically we come in when something’s broken and the company is having a major PR nightmare. We were hired a couple months ago to work on a very high level app. They launched and had 1600 unread emails that they didn’t have time to respond to. We come in during crisis mode and clean up, teach people what to do and then get out of their way.
What has been your greatest success story?
I never thought I’d own a business and I’m a single, unmarried female in her 30’s running a hugely profitable national company. I launched the company in a month and made 30K day one, so I don’t consider us a startup because we’ve always been profitable. We’ve had exponential growth over the past 2.5 years. I don’t know of any other consulting companies that hired nine employees in two years.
What about UserConf?
Rich White, the owner of UserVoice, a help desk software, and I created our own conference because there wasn’t anything like it and we wanted to offer really good customer support training for community managers, support managers, people working in social media.
The first was in San Francisco and 250 people attended. It was great education with really great high-level speakers, so we decided to do another one in New York on May 3rd in Manhattan.
How is the industry changing?
First, people are starting to understand it’s a real job and real career. It’s not just a part time job for a college intern.
Second, salaries have doubled over the past five years. Customer support people are getting paid $85k on average in San Francisco.
What’s next for CoSupport?
Continue to do conferences and speak all over the place. Big goal is to work with larger scale tech companies.
In the next year or two, I’ll start investing in more Chicago companies. I already invested in Vinyl Me, Please, a vinyl subscription service.
I’ll speak and advise people on how to get businesses off the ground with very little money. I’m against taking funding and going in debt.
What keeps you up at night?
First, keeping up the momentum. Every time my doorbell rings, I feel like I’m in the Truman show.
Second, what I’m going to do when everyone gets what I’m selling.
Third, when am I going to have leisure time and how do I stay grounded? I’m focused on self-development and staying grounded. I speak about taking care of yourself and staying sane and healthy as an entrepreneur and I’m surrounding myself with people that aren’t flattering me or impressed with what I do.
My other dream is starting a bakery or moving to Italy to be a sommelier.
Why did you choose Chicago to grow?
Chicago is more about building people up and building business. We don’t do anything half assed. We know everything about our subject, we’re going to be experts, and it’s a great city to go all out. Get me a hot dog and a beer and let’s roll. That’s why we’re so productive at building stuff.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
If I were starting up a business, I would ask every advisor who their attorney or their account is. It’s the most important thing and it’s always the most overlooked thing entrepreneurs do. What are the resources do I absolutely need to have on retainer?
Any suggestions for Sarah? For the entrepreneurs out there, how do you stay grounded?