Here at Buffer, we strive to track our progress toward our vision of setting the bar for great customer support. And, since we probably have a lot of the same goals and challenges as other customer-facing teams out there, we’d love to share how we’re doing each month and what we’re trying next. It would be awesome to hear from you, too.

How Support Works at Buffer

Our current set-up includes three members of the Happiness team, some help from the rest of the Buffer team and the following tools, which help us support our amazing customers:

We use Help Scout to answer and archive incoming emails. We get emails from the following three sources:

  • Replies to our marketing or transactional emails
  • The “get in touch” form in our app, and of course:
  • New, fresh emails to hello@bufferapp.com

In Help Scout, we don’t “assign” conversations to a specific team member, so one customer can sometimes hear from multiple people throughout the conversation. Since we’re globally distributed and span multiple timezones, this allows us to solve problems faster.

We have chosen to provide free and paid users with the same support experience. The reason for this is that we aim to set the bar so high for all people using Buffer, that it wouldn’t make sense to try to set the bar even higher for paid customers. The side-effect of this from a team perspective is that it greatly simplifies our workflow, answering emails within a single inbox.

We use a tool called Hively to help us track how happy customers are at the end of each email exchange. Customers can vote “Happy,” “Satisfied” or “Unhappy.”

Hively

For Twitter, we use an app called TwitSpark. It’s a great product and allows us to answer questions rapidly with personalized signatures such as “-Colin” at the end of each Tweet. We’ll have more data on our Twitter support in the coming months.

 

How we did in July

We helped 3,068 customers this month in 3,599 conversations. We completed each conversation with an average of 1.71 replies from a Buffer Happiness Hero or other team member.

Happiness

These are the self-determined customer happiness levels from July after each email conversation, via Hively:

Total: 620
Happy: 589 (and 17 “Wow” experiences)
Satisfied: 20
Unhappy: 11
Percent who chose the happy face: 95%

Speed

Our response time, according to Help Scout:

Percentage of emails that got a reply under 1 hour: 47%
Percentage of emails that got a reply under 6 hours: 75%

July-2

We’ve hypothesized that customer happiness is implicitly tied to speed of response. We’re trying to pick up the pace a little, so next month we’ll see how any changes to speed affect our Hively stats.

A key question we’re asking ourselves (and you)

Is it a worthwhile goal to try to change the number of customers helped or replies per conversation?

For example, If we try to decrease the number of replies per conversation, it might mean that we’re answering the question more efficiently, which makes customers happier. Or, it may mean that people don’t feel warm and fuzzy enough to reply again, which isn’t good at all. It could also mean that we’re cutting off interesting conversations in which people ask about Buffer in general or how we work, which would also not be ideal.

We would love to hear from you on whether you set goals around these numbers (or if you even track them).

Changes we made in July

1. We brought a new team member on board (and we’re looking for one more!) This helps us cover more timezones and provide replies faster and with more care. It also gives us some room to experiment with new tools and channels.

2. We’re giving new attention to the FAQ. We originally placed a lot of value on a personal interaction via email, and recently started to shift our mindset to also help those who prefer to find the solution without reaching out.

3. We expanded the search terms that we monitor in TwitSpark. We especially noticed recently that some people mention Buffer without using our @handle, and we’re happy to now be able to help these people too.

4. Lastly, we moved some customer information out of the email subject line. Previously, we included the customer’s plan (i.e. free or paid) in the subject line when they used the support form within our app. This is helpful for us to troubleshoot questions since the plans have different features, but it could be confusing for customers to see this in the subject line. Since we still need this information, we moved it to the customer profile section within Help Scout.

Over to you now. We’d love to hear how support is going in your world, what questions you’re asking and what challenges you face! Also, we’re totally transparent, so if you have any questions about how we do things here, let us know!

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Written by Carolyn Kopprasch

Chief Customer Officer at Buffer. Tea, country music and happy customers make my world turn.

  • Shane W Watson

    The chart shows 620 emails for July, but I’m assuming that’s unique customer contacts? I’m also not sure if the chart is measuring initial response or resolution? I really like the idea of the FAQ. Providing self-help not only makes your job easier, but allows us to find solutions to the most common or easiest issues to fix.

  • Nick Francis

    Awesome stuff, Carolyn. :-)

    Regarding your question: Is it a worthwhile goal to try to change the number of customers helped or replies per conversation?

    In my opinion, those two metrics are too loaded to have a quantifiable goal. If you are summarizing what the month was like and how the team did overall, these metrics are part of the story, but they don’t stand on their own without additional context.

    As you guys know and execute brilliantly, it’s all about happy customers. If there’s one single metric that can stand on its own it’s the satisfaction numbers. Ironically, Help Scout doesn’t give you a lot of insight in that respect. We’re going to get better at it though.

    I love reading through this report. Keep up the awesome work!

  • Hey Carolyn,

    Great work in July and thanks for sharing the link on Twitspark.

    I’m guessing you guys have 24-hour support coverage with your distributed team but do you also have weekend support? That’s one problem we have with HelpScout reports: the stats are totally skewed because we don’t have weekend support.

  • Greg Weir

    Thanks for sharing, Buffer clearly “gets it.” It is all about transparency and customer service. I’d be interested to hear how you deal with language barriers in support.

  • I would love to hear more about how you use Help Scout. It seems like you have one central mailbox (hello@buffer.com) but you still have separate email boxes. The setup of how to handle this intrigues me.

  • Rina Fainstein

    Hi guys, remember me Rina from Israel – I love your work on happiness (thats my field also – HappierMe app), Carolyn, regarding your hypothesis that customer happiness is implicitly tied to speed of response, I wouldn’t be so sure – I your case it might also be related to content. What is sure that you have to stay at a minimum time (under 6 hours – and try to do better), but I believe happiness is not only time dependent but also content1
    And regarding your question, Is it a worthwhile goal to try to change the number of customers helped or replies per conversation? I agree with Nick, in my opinion one thing is your work efficiency and the other is customers happiness. Its not easy to balance the two!!!

  • mssmith1

    Nice article. Your support is excellent – prompt, friendly and feels personal. As well as a great product, it makes me happy to pay for the service every month. Keep up the good work.

  • Pavithra

    Hey Carolyn, that was a great post. I would love to join the Buffer team as a Happiness Hero :-) I followed the link on your jobs page and emailed you with my background as a blogger. I would love to hear from you and looking forward to a good conversation :-)

  • Pingback: Ep #10: Powerful Customer Experience Improvements with Greg Ciotti | eCommerceFuel()

  • Thanks for letting us know about Help Scout! Exacle what we were looking for.

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