If you’re feeling the crush of an overloaded support inbox, use these tips to get fewer emails.
Getting emails from your customers is a very good thing.
Support emails help you improve your product, grow your business and build better relationships with your customers.
But if your team is getting crushed under the weight of too many incoming emails, then response times can suffer, and your business can end up paying dearly for delivering less-than-excellent customer service.
Fortunately, there are some tested, straightforward methods that you can use to reduce the number of support emails that your team gets.
1) Track Which Issues Are Filling Your Inbox
Typically, companies will have a small handful of issues that make up a disproportionate number of their incoming support requests.
What are yours?
The brutally honest truth is that if you’re not tracking, you’re guessing.
Setting up a system to track support issues doesn’t take very long; we use labels in Groove to categorize tickets by issue, which lets us see which issues are taking up most of our attention.
Most helpdesks offer similar functionality, and you can even use the labels feature in Gmail.
This is invaluable when it comes to considering what to focus on to reduce support tickets. You might find that by fixing a couple of particularly prevalent bugs, or by simply clarifying some copy within your product that’s confusing people, you can eliminate a lot of trouble tickets.
2) Build a Knowledge Base (Or Make Yours Easier to Use)
A self-serve knowledge base that contains answers to frequently asked customer questions is one of the most effective ways to quickly cut down on support tickets.
But simply having a knowledge base isn’t enough.
In a survey by Coleman Parkes of nearly 3,000 online consumers, an overwhelming 91% said they would use a single, online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.
Sounds great, right?
Well, here’s the problem: only 37 percent of respondents currently even bother trying to use self-service options, because they perceive them as inaccurate or incomplete.
It’s not enough for your knowledge base to be there. It has to be good.
To make sure that you have a knowledge base that customers actually want to use, make sure that you regularly:
- Update it with new features, and remove outdated info
- Add articles based on new questions that you’re seeing (again, labels to track tickets can be massively valuable here)
- Collect feedback from customers on whether your knowledge base articles are clear and easy to follow
3) Improve Your Onboarding
To your business, two of the most important milestones in the life of a customer are:
- The moment they sign up for your product, and…
- The moment they achieve their first “success” with your product
The purpose of onboarding is to take your customer from (1) to (2) as quickly and smoothly as possible.
If any step in your customer onboarding flow – whether it’s the design of your product or the emails you’re sending – isn’t clear, your customers will either abandon your business or crush your support inbox with confused questions.
How to improve your onboarding flow
- Get Lincoln Murphy’s Secret to Successful Customer Onboarding
- Read Tommy Walker’s onboarding tips for ConversionXL
- Check out the super helpful onboarding teardowns at User Onboarding
- Listen to this actionable, tactic-packed podcast on onboarding from Patrick McKenzie and Samuel Hulick
4) Offer On-page Support
On-page customer service – delivered on your website or in your app, wherever your customer is running into an issue – stops support emails right at the source.
The two most effective ways to deliver on-page support are with a help widget and with live chat.
A help widget is like a miniature knowledge base that follows your customer around as they use your product or website.
Whenever they have a question or need help, they can click on the widget (which will then expand) and then type in their question, or browse common topics.
At Groove, we’ve found our own help widget to get far higher customer usage than the main knowledge base.
Live chat has quickly become a preferred channel for online customers: in one Forrester survey, 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a site can offer.
5) Make First Contact Resolution a Goal
Another huge source of inbox clutter for many support teams is unnecessary back-and-forth with customers.
That’s where “first contact resolution” – solving your customer’s problem with a single response – becomes an even more important goal.
By lowering the average number of replies that get sent per ticket, you can dramatically reduce the load on your support mailbox.
One of the best ways to improve FCR is by improving the thoroughness and clarity of your customer support communication; here are 11 tips to get you started.
6) Ensure That Your Marketing Tells a True Story
If you’re setting the expectation, in your marketing, that your product is right for everyone, then you’re going to get a lot of unhappy and confused customers emailing you for help (and refunds).
That’s why it’s so important to ensure that it’s crystal clear exactly who should be doing business with you, exactly what product or pricing level they should choose, and exactly what they should expect once they become a customer.
When we found ourselves getting hundreds of emails asking about which features Groove offers, we took the time to create a thorough and easy to understand Features page on our site that lists (and shows screenshots of) all of Groove’s primary features.
As soon as we launched that page, the number of incoming tickets with feature questions dropped dramatically.
7) Keep Your Customers Updated
You’re constantly making changes to your product. This is especially true in software, where many companies (Groove included) make updates nearly every single day!
Many of these updates impact all of your customers, but too often, companies let customers discover product changes for themselves; a mistake that leads to confused users and, yes, more support emails.
As part of your product update checklist, make sure that if your customers will be affected by the change you’re making, that you let them know about it.
You don’t have to send an email about every minor change (this can, and does, annoy all of us), but there are two far-less-intrusive ways to keep your customers aware of what’s going on.
The first is with a regularly updated product blog that your customers know where to find, and the second is with in-app notifications.
We use Intercom to send minimally invasive in-app pop-up notifications whenever we make a change that we don’t want customers to be confused by.
If you want to take things a step further, be transparent about updates even before you make them, so that your customers aren’t surprised when they arrive (don’t tell anyone, but we’re working hard on a public product roadmap for Groove that we’ll be releasing in the coming weeks).
Dealing With Support Inbox Overload
There are three effective ways to deal with being overwhelmed by your support mailbox: you can choose help desk software that helps you manage your email better, you can work on becoming a more productive support team, and you can take steps to reduce the number of emails that come in.
All three are worth doing, and I hope that today’s post has given you the tools you need to ease the strain on your overloaded inbox.
What other email-reducing techniques have you tried? Let me know in the comments below.