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We’re half way through 2016. It’s hard to believe. We wanted to mark the occasion by celebrating the best reads we’ve seen this year so far. Today we’re looking at the best writing on startups and entrepreneurship. Enjoy.

We’re half way through 2016. It’s hard to believe. We wanted to mark the occasion by celebrating the best reads we’ve seen this year so far. Today we’re looking at the best writing on customer support. Enjoy.

Let’s meet at 8 a.m.

8 AM?

That OK?

Yes, that’s Okay.

Inconsistency stinks.

With writing, it’s the one thing that’s not debatable. Especially when you’re writing on behalf of an organization.

There's been a lot of focus on “self service” in customer support over the last several years. Support teams are seeing fewer “easy” support questions and more complicated problems because customers are solving the easy stuff on their own.

I have a few thoughts on why this might be. For one, design and product teams continue to improve their craft. Products are simply better than they used to be. Navigation paths are more clear, experiences are more intuitive. Secondly, the users are more sophisticated and skilled at interacting with technology tools. People are spending a lot more time with software and interfaces than ever before. Our brains are drawing connections between all the different apps we use every day.

Designers call these UX patterns. The idea being that most software users have come to recognize and expect an interface to behave certain ways. So even brand new users have some subconscious familiarity with your product.

In other words: most people can figure out how to change their password.

They’ll lock eyes on your booth. They’ll have lanyards and fists full of swag.

“So,” they’ll say. “Whaddya you guys do?”

This is a learning moment. They’ll learn about your company, you’ll learn about yourself.

It should be an easy task. This is the company you work for every day, maybe the one you helped build. Here you are, sitting at a conference, ready to show the world (or at least a few hundred people) what you do. What you’re made of.

You should nail this. You won’t.

So you’re going to launch a product. Maybe even a whole company.

There are a lot of schools of thought on product launches. It pays to do your research, pick the right channel, and tailor your strategy according to that channel. A lot of founders take the "spray and pray" approach, simply blasting their new product out to every website and social network they can think of.

It might work. But it probably won't. And even if it does work, you won't know why. You won't know what to replicate when you need to launch a new feature, grow, or scrap everything and start over. It's better to go in with a solid plan, and to build your launch strategy according to the outlet you're targeting.

We dove in to some of the different channels for launching and put together some case studies of launches that worked.

Hiring is one of the most time-intensive and critical things we do.

We’ve added nine people to the team in the last year, four of them software engineers. We’re currently hiring for three more engineering positions.

We plan to be adding even more than that in the next few years.

This means time is precious. We can’t waste any on interviewing or hiring the wrong people. That’s why every engineering candidate we talk to goes through a set of coding challenges.

We know there are different schools of thought on this (and some pretty passionate opinions) but it works for us.

If someone is going to get weeded out of the hiring process, best to weed them out early. It seems to be better for everyone involved.

We’ve been through several iterations of coding challenges to get where we are now. It’s definitely still a work in progress. But this is what’s working for us right now.

Here’s the problem with your customer support team’s policies and guidelines. They are policies and guidelines.

Policies and guidelines look great on paper. They make for a nice slide deck for management. In a perfect world, everyone on your team will default to policy-driven actions in all situations.

Too bad that doesn’t happen.

At some point, someone will not have the time or energy to run according to the rules. Habit takes over.

Habit always wins.

This article comes excerpted from Hiten Shah’s SaaS DNA Project: The Anatomy of a SaaS Marketing Site, a 30,000+ word research study on how users actually browse and experience SaaS marketing sites.

Hiten Shah has built products on the web for over 10 years, including Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics, and now Quick Sprout. He breaks down everything he's learned about building companies in his weekly email newsletter here.

Your homepage serves as the welcome mat for your SaaS business. Therefore, its clarity can make the difference between taking a new user through your sign up process to conversion, and having them abandon the site, never to come back. A good homepage introduces users to your site, your brand, and your product. A bad one just tells them to leave.

Just as with any interaction with a customer, prospective or established, communication is key.

Getting the right language and design to show this clarity is a major challenge for any SaaS company. You need to be informative, explaining what your company does (which could be complex) but still put it in clear, concise language that any new user can understand in the few moments they have your attention when they first land on your site.

We were always told in school we would need good writing skills in almost any job.

Here’s what we weren’t told: We will have no time to write slowly. The most critical writing we’ll have to do will not be in a calm, take-your-time situation. It will be in some oh-shit-time-crunch-hurry-up-and-send-this type situation.

Consider how many of the following are sent every day:

  • Urgent memo to the entire company.
  • Status update because a server crashed.
  • Offer letter to a job candidate who might sign with a competitor.
  • Email to a customer asking they please, dear God, don’t click that link that was the wrong link.

All high-stakes situations. All the kind of hurried written communication people’s jobs depend on. Writing well is important. Writing well when you’re in a hurry is a lot more important.

Thankfully, just like writing well, writing fast is a skill that can be practiced and improved.

Here are some tips, exercises and apps that can get you there.

StatusPage.io helps companies better communicate with customers and internal teams around downtime.