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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 e-commerce 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 insights on building a customer experience 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 ––still with no social media–– as high school students, and within a year, 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 for the first time, emails, customer complaints, and customer service calls from paying teachers came flooding in.

Without a dedicated customer support team, we couldn't provide good customer service because we were all students in college. We would get calls in class and while studying at the library. Often we'd delay responding because we simply had homework. By then, we had too many unhappy customers and many threatened to unsubscribe or ask for a refund.

The bottom line: 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 acknowledge our customers' problems. When we started doing that, we saw churn dramatically decline, and more importantly, customer feedback was more positive. Looking back, we wish we had solutions like Chatdesk that would have allowed us to quickly manage our users expectations easily.

2. Tell a story and be authentic

Once a user called because he was locked out of his 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 support team, 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. That's how we began to improve our customer relationships, customer retention and increase customer loyalty.

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 customer. I remember getting on a follow up 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. Excellent 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.

Here are some other customer service skills for your customer service reps to provide the best customer service:

4. Automate the simple stuff

Soon we began realizing we were responding to many of the same inquiries and basically solving similar customer issues. For example, "How do I cancel a subscription?" Hundreds of users were waiting in our queue that our customer service representatives didn’t have the resources to improve our response time.

We began investing in our overall customer journey, through building a knowledge base help desk 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 customer service agents to write self-service FAQs articles for common inquiries, scaling our ability to solve problems for our users.

5. Nothing beats a human touch

Nowadays, many companies employ chatbots and automated email touchpoints to maintain a great customer experience. However, while automation for straightforward issues is often a no-brainer, it may negatively impact your customer service experience. We quickly 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 understood the importance of having happy customers. Our customer satisfaction scores were higher when users spoke to our customer service 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 going the extra mile by setting up quick responses to users, while also creating self-help tools. Our support reps are 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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