Building an Ecommerce Business, Part 8: Client Support

Startups and experienced merchants alike can encounter hiccups with managing customer support. Is it better to get it done in-house or to outsource? If you hire somebody from the beginning?

This is episode eight in my series on building an ecommerce company from the bottom up. The preceding installments are:

For this guide, I talked with Cody McLain, CEO of SupportNinja, a customer service provider. We discussed the realities of operating a business in the Philippines, tips for business owners seeking to expand customer support functions, and much more.

What follows is my complete audio conversation with McLain along with a transcript, edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: Tell us about you and SupportNinja.

Cody McLain: I started my first company when I was 15. It was a web hosting firm. I have had four hosting companies since then. After my third or fourth, I outsourced customer service to India. I chose to take my Indian group of engineers and support representatives and offer those services to other hosting companies.

I saw a market for providing support for startups, so I established SupportNinja in 2015. Now we’ve got roughly 500 people. We work with companies like HotelTonight, Checkr, Uber, RVshare, and lots of more. We give their customer service from our office in the Philippines. We also have a small team based here in Austin, Texas.

Bandholz: I can not imagine managing 500 employees. Is it wild?

McLain: It’s. I don’t get used to my adventures in the Philippines. I see brokers I have never met. Employees are worried because I’m the big boss. Apparently, in the majority of outsourcing companies, the boss never speaks to some ground-level agent. I do that all the time across all levels of operations. Employees almost always think that they’re in trouble.

Bandholz: How long does it take a normal employee to learn regular customer services?

McLain: In the Philippines, it is no problem because it was a U.S. territory. They have adopted a lot of our culture, language, and society. They like a good deal of the exact things. They all speak English very well, and several work in call centers.

The brokers that we hire have a college diploma. They have almost all had some degree of expertise at a large call centre. We typically take those representatives and then train them for the requirements of a particular client.

Bandholz: When should an owner outsource or hire that first customer service person?

McLain: It comes back to how long you have. When you are first launching a company, you’re working virtually all of the time. If you do that forever, you are likely to burn . Eventually, you must set a value on your time.

However, it’s important to understand your customer care needs. When an owner does it himself he not only connects with clients, he can also see what areas of a company are problems, to repair. And it’s a fantastic idea to begin building the value and the knowledge in your own team to understand how to solve the majority of the customer queries.

So I wouldn’t hire an outsource company in the start because you are still learning your own processes. But there are companies that come to us, and they don’t have any clue what they are doing when it comes to supporting their clients.

1 area of customer service that’s underutilized is having FAQ answers that are indexed on Google. A good deal of people type in their query or concern on Google. If your response shows up in search results, it saves everyone time. However, it is still tremendously important to have somebody who will answer the telephone.

Bandholz: What service platform do the majority of your customers use?

McLain: Most use Zendesk. Freshdesk is near. You also have Desk.com by Salesforce. My favorite is Assist Scout. It’s relatively easy, and yet it’s most the characteristics of the large players. Additionally, it concentrates on having an FAQ knowledge base.

Millennials don’t wish to call. They don’t need to chat. They may send a text message. So reducing the amount of inquiries is a fantastic practice.

Bandholz: Actually, most customers are probably not going to reach out. They’re likely to get the information, or they are going to leave. A merchant is blessed if a person takes the time to reach out.

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McLain: If that individual calls you, it is an opportunity to become more private and supply a excellent experience.

Bandholz: An entrepreneur should go above and beyond what everybody else in the market is doing.

McLain: you need to train your workers to do what it requires. It’s fluid. By way of instance, they’re permitted to refund customers beyond the guarantee because in the end of the day it is about enhancing the customer experience, not holding onto that 1 dollar because the client filed a petition too late.

This was a big learning point for me, coaching my representatives to place the client first and be more proactive.

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