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5 Customer Success Tips Learned on the Job

Neal Taparia, founder Imagine Easy Solutions (IES), shared with us some of his key learnings about building a customer success program.
Neal Taparia, founder of Solitaired. Previously founded IES (acquired by Chegg)

We chatted with Neal Taparia, who founded his education technology company Imagine Easy Solutions (IES) when he was still in high school. He bootstrapped his business over 15 years and scaled it to reach over 30M students, eventually selling it to a public company called Chegg.

Imagine Easy would eventually go on to get NPS scores of over 65, but not without some hiccups along the way. Neal shared with us some of his key learnings about building a customer success program, along with pitfalls to avoid.

1. Treat customer service tickets like 911 calls. Your users need help!

Our first product, EasyBib, automated citations for students. We launched the service in 2001 as high school students and within a year, hundreds and thousands of students and teachers were using the site.

Pretty soon, teachers asked us for a school specific version of EasyBib, which we built. The MVP product had some bugs, and soon emails and customer service calls from paying teachers came flooding in.

Our problem was we were still in college. We would get calls in class and while studying at the library. Often we’d delay responding because we simply had homework. When we did, our customers were irate and threatened to cancel their subscription or ask for a refund.

Your customers trust you. When they have issues, it’s a breach of trust, and you have to treat it with urgency. We soon learned that at the very minimum we needed to immediately get back to our customers to acknowledge their problem. When we started doing that, we saw churn dramatically decline, and more importantly, our customers were happier. Looking back, we wish we had solutions like Chatdesk that would have allowed us to quickly manage our user expectations easily.

2. Tell a story and be authentic

Once a user called because he was locked out of her account. He was writing a 30 page paper, and had over 20 citations with notes stored in our system. Needless to say, with a paper due in 48 hours, he was freaking out.

When we explained that we were students ourselves operating the site, and that we were doing our best to fix the issue (which for us meant skipping classes), he calmed down and began to empathize. EasyBib was no longer a product, but a student oriented brand he could relate to.

3. Great customer service is great marketing

Despite putting that user in a bind, our transparency and ability to connect to our users made him a loyal fan. I remember getting on a call with him afterwards, and he told us he would tell all his friends about EasyBib despite the headaches we put him through!

It was tremendously insightful. Great customer service can turn a detractor into a promoter. Solutions like Chatdesk, as an example, go beyond customer support and help build your brand and audience.

4. Automate the simple stuff

Soon we began realizing we were getting and responding to many of the same inquiries. For example, how do I cancel a subscription? Hundreds of users were waiting in our queue that we didn’t have the resources to quickly respond to.

We began investing in a knowledge base where users could easily find instructions on various topics like how to cancel a subscription. Not only did we see our customer service inquiries decline by 18%, our NPS score improved by 7%. Win win!

We then trained our team to write self-service knowledge base articles for common inquiries, scaling our ability to help our customers.

5. Nothing beats a human touch

While automation for straightforward issues is often a no-brainer, we soon learned that some of our student and teacher users still wanted to connect with someone, even for simple issues explained in our knowledge base.

While a cost on our end, we had no issues with this. Our customer satisfaction scores were higher when users spoke to our team, and we knew that would help our brand and word of mouth.

Applying our learnings

We’re now working on a new initiative where we use classic games to improve cognitive skills. Our first game is a free version of solitaire called Solitaired. From the get go, we’re setting up processes to respond to our users quickly while also creating self-help tools. Our team is empowered to speak genuinely and transparently. As we scale and grow a community, we plan to use Chatdesk to deliver an experience that will wow our customers.

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