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Designing better customer support

Gavin Elliott on how he built the customer support system at Obox

A happy and passionate customer base is vital to any business that has one or more products. At Obox we take pride in our customer support, knowing that if we support our existing user base it will aid its growth in the future. 

We're in a competitive market and we know it; more and more premium WordPress themes are becoming available each day. Our themes are some of the best on the market and we care greatly to be the only WordPress theme company which cares about customer experience. We also know that many of our customers will purchase a product from us purely because they will receive support as part of that purchase. We can directly correlate our designed customer support experience with growth and sales.

It wasn't always this way though. Just five months ago our support system was disjointed. As we tried our best to do great support we were overcomplicating the process with different login forms and access methods.

With a large customer base and various types of products we needed to realign the structure and support flow to make sure that our customers and potential customers could get support quickly and easily. Not only that, we also wanted them to be able to find the answers they were looking for simply enough so that we didn't have to get involved at all.

When we sat down to redesign our customer support we looked at the Obox website and the full customer support experience.

We have three types of support which people have easy access too:

  • Pre-Sales
  • Technical (forum)
  • Documentation

On top of that we have products on Tumblr, WordPress.com, ThemeForest and Obox. All of these places require those three types of support and it's best that they are kept in the same place (apart from WordPress.com as the support for those themes has to take place within the forums on WordPress.com - their rules, not ours).

At Obox we fully appreciate that whilst we put every effort into creating incredible products, there will be customers who need support. Providing support gives us great insights into how people are using our products and this impacts our next product release.

Where did we start?

We looked into the likes of Zendesk and Uservoice et al but these products didn't fit with Obox. Whilst customers might be accustomed to tickets and case numbers at other theme companies, we've managed to remove this impersonal nature of communication in favor of being very personal. We love chatting to our customers and we didn't want a product that disjointed that by making our customers 'ticket numbers' instead of human beings.

We started with what we had, and looked at how to make it better. As with all things it started with a discussion which resulted in the production of a user-flow to visualise how we wanted things to work. Even for user flow veterans it is easy to forget that they often help you to see things you hadn't noticed before. The smaller top section of this flow is what we ended up with. The new flow created the direct access routes for our customers to get what they needed.

What did we end up with?

Creating the flow helped us change all of the navigational routes from around the Obox website, of which there were many, into two links. One being the contact page where people can send us a mail, navigate to the support forum and link to our documentation. The other is the support page whereby if a user is logged in they'll be able to access the support forums directly, and if the user is logged out they can log in or sign up for a free account.

We introduced Olark, a nifty little live chat tool which you can add to your website. This enables our customers to speak directly with David or myself if they have any questions about our products prior to purchase. A lot of our customers can’t believe that it works let alone that we’re there live to answer their queries.

These changes have positively affected the way we provide customer support at Obox. Here's an example of what we can now achieve with the new support structure:

  • Support is now consistent - the tone across our website is now clear. All pre-sales communications come to myself directly and are generally dealt with immediately. None of our users has to wait longer than 30 minutes for a personal reply whether that be their answer or my acknowledging I'm investigating their request.
  • The tone is casual and honest and answers are given with the least amount of text possible.
  • With any product, things at times can and will go wrong. We've got a dashboard and alert system to immediately deliver us information which we'll need to contact individual users to make sure they get access to their purchased items as quickly as possible. This is our way of being proactive with some intermittent challenges that we can face. We regularly drop in with our customers, partners and affiliates to see how they're doing and if there is anything we can do to help or see if there is anything we need.

We've proven that great support makes people far happier and grows our customer base quicker than anything else. We could have the best products in the world but if the support was inadequate customers would proactively talk about their bad experience. With great support, our customers actively publicise the service they've received from our team. It's these little acts of kindness that makes everything worthwhile. 

Designing your customer support experience in its entirety is good for business, whether that be your website navigation or the tone of voice you use in an email - every little bit helps.

A well-designed customer support experience gives you great insights into how your business is doing especially when you can communicate with potential, current and past customers on a daily basis.

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