Long gone are the days of dial-up internet connections and that excruciating noise the modem made to announce your arrival to the worldwide web, as you sat there, patiently waiting for a JPEG to reveal itself one pixel at a time. Nowadays, we’re lucky enough to have a huge range of video and audio content available to us in shining HD quality on a variety of streaming services.
Applian has always been a customer-oriented software company. With a number of products that help people record video and audio off of the Internet, we’ve learned a thing or two about customer service over the years. With this in mind, we thought we’d share how we roll. And, we care so much about it that this one is a double volume post (stay tuned for part 2!).
You can’t please everyone… but try really hard!
Customers write in with all sorts of questions. Everything from “What’s my Activation Code?” to “Why can’t I record this video while my computer is off?” Some questions have easy answers; others require a bit of investigation. So how do we keep the conversation positive and helpful all the time?
1. We actually READ what you write. It’s important that we resist the urge to skim communications and jump to the answer. Yeah, yeah, we know it happens. But if you treat emails like a grocery list, you’ll likely miss something and provide bad or incomplete information.
2. We recognize that your time is valuable. Just like you, we aren’t glued to our inboxes (actually, that’s not really true – we’re pretty glued). Regardless, we want you to get back to the important stuff, like using our products. So we always try to get all the information needed with the least amount of back-and-forth communication possible.
3. Don’t be a jerk! That goes for both the support team and the customer. The anonymity of the Internet can often lead people to type things that they would never say to your face. Thankfully 99.9% of our customers are perfectly charming. Like, people we’d actually hang out with. Every once in a while a bad apple will drop into our inbox and be downright horrid. Our plan? Send it to Tom, our Chief Operations Officer, who has the uncanny ability to turn every scary monster into a cuddly kitten.
4. We’re armed with a team of humans. Our (awesome) software products are downloaded thousands of times per day. So, of course we want to be ready to answer any and all questions. We couldn’t do it without a staff of smart people. Really smart people. Robots are cool and all, but not really our thing.
5. The Special Sauce is important. When customers write in for help, the ticket is answered by the member of our support team that’s most knowledgeable about that particular product. If you need help with Replay Media Catcher, Shellie will be the one to sort it out for you. Cheryl will take all your Replay Music questions. And, Chad & Sheryl will help out with sales and ordering.
As a customer, what are some of the ways that a company can show you that they value your business? We hope we’re on your list of favorite companies. If not, let us know how we can do better!
As a company with multiple products, and leadership located all across the US, we’re committed to being a business that is not only in touch with our customers but with each other. As they say, teamwork makes the dream work, right?
A successful software company doesn’t always need to operate out of an office, and for us to have the talent that makes Applian what it is today, we can’t possibly have everyone in the same place at the same time every day. That being said, there are some tricks we’ve learned to make sure that our team stays productive, no matter where they have a desk.
Email. Email. Email.
Obviously, this is the main form of communication in any office — remote or cubicle — everyone needs an effective email client. Aside from that, we also have developed some tricks to get the most out of constructing and composing our inbox.
Voice recognition is great for any (ahem) “slow-typers” or for those moments when you, say, slip off your bike and break a wrist? Yeah, ouch. We like Windows 7 Voice Recognition software on PC.
Don’t underestimate bolding, bullet-ing, and highlighting. When you are dealing with a large quantity of email every day, it is important to compose email structure with intention. If you can’t make it short, then space it all out. And don’t be afraid to highlight call-to-action for those who need to know the important stuff. Email-skimming is real, people.
Virtual filing cabinets and whiteboards.
Organizing tasks and records is just as important in a virtual office environment as it is for a physical one. Not only is it helpful to be able to reach back and find past work or finances, but it’s important that everyone else who needs to can. Thank the stars for the cloud!
Everyone needs a basic, overall file storing space, and as a company we like the Dropbox experience as it can sync to desktop.
Basecamp works great for tracking and squishing bugs, especially so the whole Customer Service Team is on the same page and our Leadership Team can follow along and get super-impressed with their awesomeness.
Talk through it.
We’re huge fans of chatting it up. Whether it’s business-related or not (okay, so usually it is). There’s a ton of tools out there to get your whole team in on the conversation, literally.
Skype. Of course. Most of our calls are Video. Mostly so that we can all make fun of whatever might be happening in the background. Typically, we like to record the super-important meetings with our very own Replay Telecorder or Replay Video Capture to get all the good stuff and have it on file if we need to go back to important deliverables.
On occasion GoToMeeting is helpful for client or business development calls. It’s just healthy to simply get up and give someone a call on the phone… talking in-person really does get things done faster and will always have a more personal touch.
Keep outlets open for old school! We use Onebox for those now-and-then customers who want to call in and leave a message, and (believe it or not) we even get faxes sometimes, so we take advantage of eFax for those rare cases.
Real face time.
One of the most important factors is blocking out time to have work retreats and connect with our team one-on-one. These excursions provide the necessary blend of relaxation and company-bonding to make sure everyone feels a part of Applian as a whole. Being behind a computer screen can make you forget the big picture.
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.
We try to recognize that everyone has their own schedule. Some of us stay up late and code, others need a more 9 to 5 routine, and sometimes, our meetings might interfere with the whole life-work balance. It’s not too unusual for us to have a long Skype session with people dropping in and out to make an errand, attend an appointment, and (most likely) enjoy a good glass of wine. In fact, the latter tends to help when everything gets stressful and miscommunication is likely. On that note, we recommend Black Box Wines / BevMo as an alternative productivity resource and attitude refinement tool.
Whether you work from home, out of a coffee shop, or have your own corporate environment to adapt to, we know it can get tough to stay connected, productive, and inspired. Hopefully, some of those resources can help.
Have some we should know about it? Let us know in the comments below — we’d love to find out!
Welcome to another installment of From Our Desk to Yours. Applian Technologies has always been a customer-oriented software company. With a number of products that help people record video and audio off the Internet, we’ve learned a thing or two about customer service over the years so we thought we’d share how we roll. We care so much about it; this one is a double volume post. You can read Part 1 here￼ .
What We’ve Learned
Use tools, fools. Take advantage of the best services offered. We love Zendesk for managing every single ticket submitted by our customers. And Basecamp is great for tracking and reporting bugs to our developers. We’re always on the lookout for new services that make our service better. Got any others we should know about?
Sometimes people would rather fix it themselves. We offer lots of self-help options, like user guides, FAQ’s and an online troubleshooter. An online tool to find a lost activation code is really appreciated by our customers and cuts down the time our team has to spend searching for it. We appreciate those customers who (like us) love to troubleshoot and solve problems – even though we’re always here for that extra support.
Keep updates and upgrades simple. We try to avoid over-complicated language and processes so that you know exactly what you’re getting when our genius engineers come up with new releases or improvements. Here’s our upgrade and update policy.
A happy staff is a loyal hard-working staff. We allow them to work from home and provide them with the tools and equipment that they need to do their work efficiently. They are true team players and recognized as experts and professionals. Just like our customers, we would not exist without a stellar support staff.
Keep Developers out of Customer Service. Let’s face it: software developers are a breed all their own. Ours are diligent and brilliant coders that survive on caffeine and chocolate. And like most proud parents, they’re super-connected to the products they create. They can take criticism personally and get grumpy if not treated with the utmost care. So, we let our strategists and Level 2 support communicate any shortcomings and feature requests directly to them. We speak nerd so you don’t have to.
Make it easy to get in touch. Our customers really like the convenience of the self-help tools that we provide. And we’ve heard great things about our ticket-based help desk, which you can read for yourself here. We’re often asked why we don’t offer customer support by telephone. It’s a fair question and one we don’t mind explaining; telephone support is expensive. So much so that we’d need to charge for it, or increase our software prices. Neither option has ever seemed very appealing to our customers. So we stick to what works.
As a customer, what are some of the ways that a company can show you that they value your business? We hope we’re on your list of favorite companies. If not, let us know how we can do better.