How to Articulate your Customer Service

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with the awesome team at Articulate for almost 10 years now.  Throughout that time, I’ve learned a lot about why Articulate wins award after award for its customer service.  It’s not a big secret…it simply boils down to common sense and treating people how you would want to be treated (just in the digital world).

1.  Internal Communication

If you’re only using email and instant messaging to communicate within your company, then you’re way behind the game.  We’ve been using Yammer for a few years now and it’s almost become an email-killer.  Anytime I need to contact our purchasing department, I simply Yammer a question and get a response within a few moments.  The awesome thing about Yammer is that the answer can come from anyone within the company that knows the answer instead of just the 3 people that I would have specified in an email.  With Yammer, all of the communication is archived and searchable….no more worrying about whether or not Outlook archived or deleted the information that I need.

2.  Set Expectations High and Overdeliver

When you submit a support case to Articulate, you’ll receive an emailed response stating that we’ve received your case.  Although this is very typical for companies, you’d be surprised at how many forget to email this type of confirmation.  Whether automated or not, sending a confirmation within minutes of the submission sets the customer at ease and removes any doubts as to whether the question or comment was received.

In the confirmation email, Articulate also states that you should receive a response within a single business day, but “note that you will likely receive a reply in the next couple of hours.”  With this single statement, Articulate is not only setting the bar really high, but also challenging itself to provide the best support possible.  How many confirmation emails do you receive stating that you should expect a response within 24 to 48 hours only to get an email a week later?  Challenge yourself to be awesome and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

3.  If you have official forums, then use them.

Official company forums are much more than just a place for your customers to discuss your products and help each other.  Rather, it should be treated like the front line of your support.  At Articulate, we have at least 1 person that is dedicated to browsing the technical forums and responding to inquiries.  If they don’t know the answer, then they find someone in the company that does & ask them to respond.  We also have community managers like Jeanette Brooks and David Anderson that browse the “Building Better Courses” section of the site.  Our goal is to ensure that there’s never a post that goes unread with 0 replies.  In some posts, that means that we ask the end-user to submit a feature request or simply submit a support case so that we can take a closer look at the issue.  If a support case is submitted, we’ll add a follow-up message in the forums in case anyone finds that post and has the same issue.  Keep in mind that your customers will likely try to Google their question before contacting you directly.  Thus, if they find a forum post with 0 replies, then they’ll likely ignore the problem or just assume that it’s an issue with your product.

4.  Social Media is fast and you should be, too.

If you use Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform to communicate with your customers, you should be able to respond within minutes (or at least within an hour) during typical business hours.  You should also respond to questions outside of regular hours when possible.  I use Tweetdeck on my iPhone throughout the day and evening to keep my eyes on any comments related to Articulate and respond appropriately.  Remember, social media platforms are a real-time feedback system that can make or break a purchase for a potential customer.  Make sure that any questions, comments, or feedback for your hashtags and searches have been replied to.  There’s nothing worse than a company that responds only to positive feedback and is unwilling to tackle negative comments.

5.  Outlook is not a case management system

I really shouldn’t have to bring this up, but I know that a lot of companies (big and small) use Outlook as their primary support tool.  While Outlook is great at sending and receiving emails, there’s no possible way to legitimately manage your customers using it.  How do you see the case history of a specific user?  How do you see the case history of their entire company?  How do you escalate the case to another person and verify that they responded to it?  Whether you choose to use Zendesk, Salesforce, or another support tool, it doesn’t matter to me…just don’t use Outlook.

6.  Humanize your cut and paste solutions

There’s nothing wrong with using cut and paste solutions as long as they’re tweaked to sound like a human response.  Don’t reply to a complicated question from your customers by just throwing a link to them.  Rather, use some of the same terminology that your customer uses to tweak your cut and paste solution.  You’ll also want to verify that you’re actually addressing every question that has been asked.  From a customer perspective, there’s nothing worse than getting a reply that requires another series of back-and-forth emails.

7.  Hack your own products

At Articulate, we actively invite our customers to hack our products via skins, Engage community interactions, the Presenter SDK, the Articulate Online API, and much more.  Some of my co-workers like David Fair and David Burton are always coming up with creative solutions that are considered unsupported. In fact, the main reason why I got the job at Articulate was due to my “Email Results with PHP” solution that I created when I was still an Articulate customer. Good things come to those that hack!

To check out some of David Burton’s hacks (like the infamous web object fix), click here.

8.  The right tools are great…the right people are better.

While its important to have the right tools in place, it’s more important to have the right people in place.  Every employee at Articulate is extremely passionate about the products that they support.  We believe that our products not only help make our customers’ jobs easier, but also make the world a better place.  If your co-workers don’t believe in your product, how do you expect your customers to become fanatics?


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