Automated Responses | Support Driven Development
In the 2nd post of the support-driven development series, I discuss how automated responses improve the troubleshooting process and give better customer support.
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Do you use automated responses?
If not, why not?
Automated Responses are not necessarily have anything to do with the development of a product but can be used in some ways to support your team that they are not commonly used for. It can also reduce a lot of back and forth between the development/support teams and the customer if the information they’ll need is gathered at the beginning.
In a lot of companies, the main use given to automated responses is very basic – let a customer know the email has hit an attended mailbox while also giving them a ticket reference and contact details should they need to follow up. This also helps so that multiple tickets don’t get created in their ticketing system. While these are valid uses of automated responses, there are a lot of different ways you can structure your responses to get you and give your customers more information at the same time.
68% of consumers say it increases their perception of a brand when companies send them proactive customer service notifications.Microsoft
What if I don’t have a big fancy ticketing system? How am I supposed to send automated responses?
Not to worry! Almost every email service that is anyway half decent has automated responses or the ability to send pre-prepared templates. Here’s a quick run-through on how you can go about it in Gmail.
Setting up Automated Responses
- Go to your Settings and go to the Advanced tab. Here you have the option to turn on Templates. Enable that and click save.
- You can create your template simply by typing it up as a new email. You can create a bunch of different templates depending on your use case and the customers that you are reaching out to. Here’s an example of a standard response I might use for my website.
- Once you have the email written out, you can save it as a new template as I’ve shown in the screenshot above. Click the three dots beside the trash icon -> Templates -> Save draft as a template.
- Next, go back into Settings -> Filters and blocked addresses and create a new filter.
- One handy trick here, as you can see above I have used a subject line that rarely would come into your queue as an initial ticket while also telling the customer to reply to the same email. This will leave your subject line intact and also means you can use this line in the “Doesn’t have” section to make sure your automated responses don’t get sent for follow-up emails.
- After you click the create a filter, on the next screen you’ll be given some more options. You can choose your template here, as well as label the emails or put them into a category. This is all personal preference. Click Create Filter.
- That’s pretty much it! You’ve now legitimized your support team and made your customers have a positive initial reaction, rather than having to wait and see if the mailbox is attended.
Know Your Audience
Before I move onto some of the other things you can put into these responses, I want to touch on one of the most important things you do need to know when you are creating automated responses, and that is your audience.
You need to have a think about what kind of email suits your audience best before you create any templates and start sending emails from your system.
Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself before penning emails from your platform. This list should be considered in most emails and isn’t limited to automated responses.
- Is your email going to be formal?
This could depend on your platform type – the tone of support for a computer game company could be very different from that of a bank or financial institution.
- What kind of people are going to be using your software? What is their average age?
This could influence some of the choices of words you can use, and whether you should use “new” words that may be unfamiliar to older generations. Can you make assumptions to their computer literacy? Certain users may be less computer literate and will need more in-depth instructions. Instead of “Open the task manager” you would say “Hit the CTRL, ALT and DELETE button simultaneously and click Task Manager on the next screen”
- Will they all be natural speakers of the language your email is sent in?
Is your platform global or local? If you are going to have customers who are unfamiliar with the language your email will be sent in, you probably should avoid slang/colloquialisms that may be difficult for foreign speakers.
One handy tip for this – put your text into google translate and translate it to some different language then take that translation and translate it back to English. If it still makes sense, then you should be ok!
- Can you use humor?
This is similar to the type of platform you are on. If you are an investment bank, you would be less likely to use humor than a youth hostel would be. If your customers won’t be offended or put off by the use of humor, it can help to make them feel more at ease and familiar when the wording is less formal.
- Should you use humor?
This one may be a bit harsh, but there is always a chance your humor falls flat and may come across as brash or even offensive in some cases. Best get someone to review if you are going to attempt to use humor.
- Are you a We or I?
If you are running the company on your own – and people know this – then you can use the first person, but if you are trying to give off the sense of a large support team, it's best to use plural pronouns when responding to support tickets.
How to Use Automated Responses
Now that we have the basics out of the way and you have your automated responses set up to send to your customers, what are some other uses for automated responses? How can you make them work better for you and your development team and get some of that information your customers have that you need?
Share Instructional Videos
Do you constantly ask customers for the same information? Do you have to send the same thorough steps each time?
An example of this one for me is when the development team asks for the HAR file from the developer logs in the browser to get the identifier for the error the customer is having. Almost all of the time there is a browser or web-related issue, this file – when captured correctly – is useful and can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes for your team to get to the bottom of an issue.
This HAR file can be hard to locate – especially for someone who has never looked at the dev tools in a browser, so an instructional video can be extremely helpful. These videos are easy to make and there are plenty of available tools out there for trimming the video and adding descriptive text. Snagit is the one I use the most, as the videos are pretty low in size and quick to make.
If you have other instructional videos, you could create a YouTube channel and host them all in one place. You could have new product announcements and other guides on the same channel, and link the content within YouTube itself.
Ask for Reproduction Steps
Most of the time a ticket gets escalated to development, the dev team will ask for reproduction steps. It then makes perfect sense to try to get these off the customer before the ticket is even picked up. If you do end up asking for reproduction steps, I find it best to give the customer a template to fill in. This will get all the basic info that will avoid back and forth down the line. Something like this could be used:
Please fill out how you can reproduce the issue by filling out the below information
Date issue first found:
- <Step 1>
- <Step 2>
- <Step 3>
Customer Enhancement Requests
One of the most beneficial things you can get from customers is enhancement requests. While a lot of them may not be possible or too much work under your current workload, having a way for your customers to request features can be hugely beneficial. At the end of the day, they are people actively using your platform and their requests may end up being something that will improve the user experience for everyone.
You can add a footnote to every automated response pointing someone to a simple Google Form or Survey Monkey survey as a place where they can lodge feature and enhancement requests. Make sure that this is brief and you don’t make them fill out too many fields, or you will lose their interest.
Tracking these requests to who made them is a good idea, as when the feature is developed, you could reach out to the customer to let them know. They will have a super positive reaction to this, and their opinion of your product and customer service will be very positive.
Alternative Support Contact Methods
This one may seem obvious, but the final bit of advice I have on this is that if you do allow people to contact you via phone or chat, you should provide these details in the email footer. You should also provide the working hours of those methods so that someone doesn’t waste time ringing a phone number only to get an unattended phone line.
If you also have Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media links you should have those as clickable icons at the bottom as well. Growing your following is important for business growth, but it also gives customers peace of mind knowing that these methods of contact are available should things go awry in the future.
Published at DZone with permission of John Conneely. See the original article here.
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