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Four Quick Lessons About Customer Service I've Learned From the Frontlines

by Allen Weiss  |  
December 12, 2012

I didn't plan on getting into the service business, but I was pushed into it because I made a WordPress plug-in. Like many of you, I've had my fill of bad service, especially from software companies who often seem to disappear after they've sold or given you something. You might contact them on Twitter (as I have when I have a problem). Some companies actually respond, but many others are still languishing in my Twitter feed.

So, what does it really take to give good service? I could talk about principles and such but thought instead I'd relate what I've learned myself.

First, let me give you some background to the lessons.

I created a WordPress plug-in to solve a real problem of taking a large number of RSS feeds and make them show on a site in a nice way. The more people found out about my plug-in, the more emails I received (many about bugs and such, and eventually about new features). At this point, more than 26,000 people have downloaded the plug-in, so service needs have started to kick in.

Now, let's be clear. I have other things to do besides spending my time doing customer support, so I'm telling you things from the perspective of someone who doesn't do this for a living.

In the process of reacting to users, I've learned the following.

1. People Love Folks Getting Back to Them Quickly

Your customers will be so happy just to know someone responded to their inquiry. The response doesn't need to be a whole dissertation, just an acknowledgement that someone is home. In our online world, people have become accustomed to sending requests into the ether, but it's actually very easy to respond. I respond on my desktop email and my iPhone when I'm away. I also use a discussion board where people ask questions (and I'm notified by email).

I make it a point to respond immediately. Often, I just say I'll get back to them soon about their problem. I can't tell you how often people come back with a sincere "thank you" because I responded quickly.

Here are three typical responses after I get back to customers.

  • "Wow! Thanks for the fast reply!"

  • "Thanks, Allen, for the quick response."

  • "Thanks for your swift reply!"

So, you probably think I solved all of their problems. Well, read on.

2. Show Them; Don't Tell Them

Nowadays, it's easier to show people what to do rather than write folks a long email explaining how to do something. I use Jing and make small movies (60 seconds or less) of how to do stuff. Then when someone asks me how to do something, instead of writing out a long email (well, I use TextExpander to make even that easy), I send them a short movie.

People love this. Here's a response I got today: "So... I did what you said and the short video was AWESOME."

What short movies can you make that would answer any of the typical problems your customers face?

3. You Don't Have to Fix Every Problem... but You Can Try

Remember that people may want you to fix a problem they're having with your product, but just trying to solve the problem will go a long way. I can't do what all my users want, but I can sure think about it, explain why I may not do it, etc.---and that is what's important.

Now, did I solve the problems of those people who wrote such glowing remarks above ?I did not. (In fact, I could not solve two of the four problems.) But people just love it that I respond quickly and that I tried.

4. Create a FAQ Page

It doesn't take long to figure out that most customers ask the same question. If you have a vibrant community, you could, of course, just encourage people to answer each other's questions.

What I've done is simply notice when I get the same question asked again, and then I immediately turn that into an FAQ and push users to those FAQs. You can see my attempt here. That appears to solve many service problems and empowers people to solve their own problems.

I think every company can do great service, but my sense is that a company can get caught up in complicated systems, protocols, business models, and other things that make many users feel lost. In this world, it's easy to stand out by doing a few things right.

I leave with a comment I just got from someone while I'm writing this...

"Fell in love with this plug-in right away, ran into a little snag regarding related to mobile devices, and got unbelievable support from Allen. The support was BY FAR the best ever!"

The total time it took me to satisfy that user was just a few minutes. But those comments going in the review section on the WordPress site is priceless.

So, what lessons have you learned about providing great service? Are there any technologies you can share to others to make this easy?

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Allen Weiss is the founder and publisher of He can be reached at

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  • by Esther Weiss Wed Dec 12, 2012 via blog

    Great article, don't know what you were talking about, but liked it. Just kidding. The article itself I understood, it's the plugin part.

  • by Steve Byrne Fri Dec 14, 2012 via blog

    Very useful post Allen. Having spent decades talking with the clients of law firms, I can confirm a quick reply is the exception, and is very much appreciated by the clients.

  • by Allen Weiss Fri Dec 14, 2012 via blog

    Thanks Steve

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