#SeedStage Startup Advice

(VI) Don’t Be (Just) A Tool: Pick Up The Phone And Call Your Customers

Thu 30 Apr 2015
By Shan Lian



Millennial here; I get what you’re thinking. The phone? What year is this? I understand. I do. Phone calls can be awkward and difficult, but consider how awkward and difficult it is to shoot emails back and forth repeatedly when you’re just not getting any closer to solving a problem.

Here’s my rule: If a question can’t be fully answered or explained in less than three emails back and forth, call the customer.

If you’ve sent that many emails to your customer, odds are you know exactly how to address the issue they’re facing, you just aren’t explaining it in a way for them to fully understand. Or, if you’ve exchanged that many emails, you might actually owe them an over-the-phone apology or explanation. Either way, I think you’ll find customers are almost always pleasantly surprised to hear a human voice reaching out to them. And sometimes, what heretofore took three explanatory emails might actually only take three minutes to resolve on the phone. After all, on the phone, you’ll have the customer’s full attention. As I talked about in a previous post, one of our core values is friendliness and so it just makes sense and feels better to call a customer when email communication just doesn’t seem to be cutting it. In a day and age when we’re all about texting and automated messaging, it shows that extra touch of love when we call our customers directly just as we might only do for our grandparents these days.

People are typically better at expressing themselves verbally and, even when they’re not, that connection on the phone, and being able to hear the intonation in their voice, still yields much more context regarding how best to help that person. For example, on the rare occasion when we have a customer write in who is upset and emotional or when there seems to be some sort of misunderstanding, it’s always served us well to jump on the phone to iron things out in a personal manner.

A big bonus to getting a customer on the line is that our support team can log into a customer’s Shippo account and simultaneously walk them through the steps in a process, point out details in their billing, or simply ensure that both parties are on the same page as to how a certain issue occurred or question arose. For instance, we found ourselves on the phone quite frequently in the fall explaining to customers how to use our CSV upload process for importing their store orders into their Shippo account. We hadn’t quite solidified strong verbiage in the user interface around things like the exact data required in the CSV file and the most common uploading errors and how to resolve them. We were in a learning phase and so were our customers as they got to know our tool. Being able to speak to customers real-time, view the same screen in their account together, and listen as they walked you through how they were uploading their file ensured that we were able to address questions as fast as possible.

Our phone rule doesn’t exclusively apply to customer support emails, but it often makes the biggest impact in those cases. Getting on the phone to talk to someone makes matters simpler. It calms a frustrated customer down. It makes them feel appreciated, often, surprising them in a genuinely positive way. It also shows people that your company is not just a piece of software - a thing they access on their computer, but that you’re a team of human beings doing their best to help you get to where you want to be.

LBW, CEO & Co-Founder of Shippo

This is the sixth part of a series on customer support at Shippo. Read Part V here.

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May 04, 2015
Migration from Django to Ember

Previous posts

Apr 28, 2015
(V) Don’t Let Your Customers Wait

Apr 27, 2015
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