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Creating layers of customer support

Riley Cullen's Layout avatar

Shrek taught us that ogres are like onions, but what he forgot to mention is that your customer support strategy is also a lot like an onion: there should be layers. That is to say, there should be steps your customers can take to help themselves before you have to get involved. 

In a small or solo team setting, providing lots of support sounds like putting in lots of extra hours, but supporting your customers doesn’t have to mean giving up your personal time.

Setting boundaries for yourself within your customer support strategy is helpful in the long run for both you and your customers. For your clients, putting a support process in place provides them with clear steps they can take so they never feel forgotten when they’re at their most vulnerable—aka, when a site is down. 

For freelancers and small agencies, creating reasonable boundaries between yourself and your clients’ requests protects you from endless calls and questions that interrupt your day and cause undue stress. 

So, take some time to peel back the layers of your own customer support onion. If you find there are fewer layers of support than you’d like, try creating more cushion for customers in need with these five ideas.

Provide a help doc

When you start a new relationship with a client or launch a new site, prep your clients for the complications of site ownership with a help doc that shows them how to navigate the back end of their site and make small changes without your team’s intervention. This first layer of your customer support can put an end to the onslaught of “quick question” emails and calls you’d otherwise receive after handing off a site to its new owner.

If possible, set up a training session with your client to walk them through some of the important features they’ll use on the site as well. This hands-on experience will boost the client’s confidence in their own abilities, and they’re more likely to try fixing minor issues if they’re already familiar with the site. If anything, it will give clients the tools they need to put a band-aid on most issues until you can figure out how to fix them. 

Refine your auto responses 

New clients who you haven’t built a personal relationship with yet may not feel as comfortable contacting you for a small issue as a client you’ve worked with for a while. When this happens, some clients will turn to social media or a chat bot for “quick” responses—but then they get left on read, or worse, they get stuck answering endless questions from  a chatbot without getting the help they need. Make sure you’re checking your inbox on the platforms you use regularly so that important messages don’t go unnoticed, and if you haven’t recently, test what it’s like to actually interact with your auto responses.

Bots and auto responses are a great way to reassure your clients that you’ll respond in a timely manner, but be careful not to rely on them too much. Instead of setting up a bot that asks multiple (and often impersonal) questions for clients to answer, use auto-response features to assure your clients that their message has been received and provide a timeframe for when they can expect a response

Create separation between work and home

Individual freelance professionals and members of small teams often rely on their personal phone for work and life. This can lead to undue stress, increased burnout, and an inability to “shut off” the work day. 

You probably already have separate work and personal email accounts, so why not take the same approach with your phone? Instead of allowing your clients unfettered access to your personal time, get a specific phone and number for your work-related endeavors if possible. This will allow you to firmly set boundaries between your work and personal time

Tell clients when you’re unreachable

We all have lives outside of work—your clients understand this more than you may think. If you’re going on vacation, welcoming a new child, dealing with an emergency, or taking more than a few days off for any reason, tell your clients you’ll be unavailable.

When possible, give clients a heads up before you’re OOO (although it’s not always possible to do so). Keep your message simple, provide clients with a short-term point of contact, and try to give a realistic timeframe for when you’ll be back. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you’ll be gone, but part of client management is making sure your work integrates seamlessly with your clients’— and that’s not possible if they can’t reach you.

Check in regularly

If the only times you’re talking with a client are when they’re experiencing a problem, you’re not providing all the layers of support your customers need. Plus, preemptively reaching out and keeping an open line of communication means you’re less likely to receive panicked calls late at night about a site issue.

Tools like Growth Suite can automate client reports that look and feel like they’ve come straight from your business—but the content takes minutes, not hours, to compile. Sending regular client reports lets your clients know you’re thinking about their success online, even when they’re busy taking care of their business. 

Communication begets trust (and return customers)

By making sure your clients feel cared for when they’re dealing with the most frustrating parts of site ownership, you can ensure you’re the person they return to for new projects in the future. 

To start making the most of your communication strategy now, talk with our team about the ways Growth Suite can automate important touch points between you and your customers, so they feel heard all the time—not just when they’re in trouble.

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