2 August 2012

by Aria Rajasa Masna

[Simply Business] Should You Do Your Own Customer Service? Yes

I've been running Tees.co.id for two weeks now and like most new startups, it's a consecutive hectic day after day and I'm loving it. There's a lot of things that I do differently from my previous startup but the one thing that's clearly different is the way we do customer service. We are very open from the start, we give our visitors our email addresses, phone numbers, and BBM (I hate it but I just have to..) and also available in Twitter as well. We have emails for all sorts of things just to classify interests but every email, SMS, phone call, Twitter DM and mentions and BBM goes directly to one person: ME.

Doing customer service myself made me realize a lot of things, it gives me direct insight from the customers on what their pain points are, what problems they are facing and what features they wanted.

On the other side, it also helps to humanize your company and make it more horizontal. It's really important for startup to be humble and make your users feel that we're one of them. I want the community to affect Tees.co.id growth and development directly so that the company would stay relevant to them, give them a sense of belonging and hopefully become our loyal customers.

There's also a lot more benefits that you can take from this, you as a founder have the power to give freebies if needed, promise a feature be developed soon and give a sense of trust that the top  management knows about the problem the user is facing and will fix it soon. Basically things that a normal customer service cannot give nor have the power to do.

It is not all bells and whistle though, it comes with a price. I do recall getting a phone call at 2 AM asking why nobody replied his email that was sent at 9 PM the day before or numerous SMS asking for status orders on your (supposedly) calm weekends and the hundreds of emails asking pretty much the same thing. It's quite a hassle really.

But I've streamlined everything to make it easier for me. I got myself a dedicated BlackBerry phone for all support purpose, I installed Dropbox for Blackberry and saved a FAQs file in .txt format (including all the links needed) so I can just copy paste any questions from that note. I installed the canned response gmail plugin so I can just click a template answer on common questions. You would still need to answer a lot of messages that have unique problems but at least you can semi-automate the majority of messages.

I've been doing this for quite a while and started to get the hang of things. I'm not planning on doing this forever and I've started to write a working standards of procedure for customer service management and such but I'll still be doing this for about 2-3 more months because It truly is beneficial to talk directly to customers. The best reward for doing this is probably the encouragement you get from people, telling you that you're doing something right and motivates you to do better. As I said before, doing your own customer service is cumbersome and tiring, but nothing beats hearing the words of encouragement directly from your paying customers.

Aria Rajasa is the CEO of gantibaju.com, a clothing startup backed by a very strong designer community. His passion in entrepreneurship has gotten him to establish a number of companies in technology and design industries since leaving university.


[Banner image by Vippman]