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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.

At some companies, everyone takes a turn on customer support. It’s called all-hands support, and it’s one of the best things we’ve done building a business here at StatusPage.

All-hands support means everyone — from the CEO to the engineers the newest junior employees — take turns answering questions for customers.

A lot of companies like us practice all-hands. For a small, growing company, it’s the kind of thing you start doing out of necessity and keep around after your team grows.

For this month’s edition of Startup Roundtable, we were joined by Cat Le, Head of Support at Olark. Not only does Olark practice all-hands support, they build a live chat tool that companies like us use to talk to our customers.

One great experience can turn a customer into an evangelist.

Do a quick search for “Zappos support stories” and you’ll find dozens of great stories the company going above and beyond for customers.

There was the bouquet of flowers sent to a customer whose mother was ill.

The time a support agent stayed on the phone with a chatty customer for 10 hours and 29 minutes.

The agent who helped a late-night caller find information on nearby pizza places.

It all comes back to Zappos core value No. 1: “Deliver WOW Through Service.”

Remarkable service experiences for your customers have compounding positive benefits for your business. Zappos was acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion.

We wanted to know more about what makes for a remarkable support experience. So we asked some founders in the startup community to share the best support experience they ever received.

Here’s what they had to say.

Since launching three years ago, we’ve managed to grow from zero paying customers to more than 2,000. It’s a milestone we never could have imagined when we started out.

And one we could have never reached alone.

Not only have we been fortunate enough to bring some great people to our team since launching, we’ve gotten to work with some amazing companies and products.

We wanted to celebrate the occasion by listing the various services, tools and apps that we’ve used to build and run StatusPage.io.

A lot of the tools we get the pleasure of using are on the cutting edge of business solutions. Many of the companies innovating the way work is done are turning to tech startups, like us, to find success with their products first. So we get to take a crack at some awesome business apps that might not be in the mainstream yet.

It’s not always easy, but we’ve been willing to pay for great tools. Why bang our heads against the wall and try to build our own expense tracking service? That’s not who we are. Paying other great companies for tools and apps has helped us work on what we’re here to work on.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but these are some of the most used and most valued tools in our kit.

How long does take to get a new user to get to that “wow” moment?

And when did doing your taxes become so damn fun?

These were few of the questions tackled in the latest episode of Startup Roundtable. We were joined this week by Jackson Noel, Co-Founder of Appcues. Appcues offers a great set of tools to help businesses dissect and improve the onboarding experience.

For a couple reasons, building a support team is pretty hard. It’s hard because there are no shortcuts to finding and training the right person. There are a lot more mediocre and poor support advocates out there than there are excellent ones. And the excellent ones are probably pretty happy where they are.

It’s also hard on an emotional level. This company is your baby. Your customers are precious to you. Talking to customers, and fixing their problems, means a lot to you. Building a support team can feel like letting go of that. That’s hard.

It’s a good problem to have, however. Because you can’t be everywhere at once. As much as founders would like to do all the support (and engineering, and product planning and … you get it) it’s simply not possible. If things go the way you’d like, you’re probably going to be hiring a support advocate someday. Maybe a whole team.

Better do it right.

Note: This is a guest post from Susanna James at Kayako.

Your customer support team sits smack bang in between your customers and your product. They have to deal with the best of both and the worst of both, and for this reason it can be a job of highs one minute and like lows the next.

Combine this with feeling undervalued by their employers, demotivated by their roles, and generally overworked, and burnout sets in.

If you don’t tackle employee burnout right away, you risk ending up with an unhappy support team. They’ll be dissatisfied, exhausted, and ready to quit.

Customer service emails have a way of being pretty terrible.

As a company, if you don’t make a solid effort to build good systems around your email customer service, it’s going to be a drag.

It got us thinking about how we do email support here at StatusPage.io. We’ve noticed a lot of great companies have a handy auto-reply locked and loaded to go out whenever a request comes in. It lets customers know the message was received and the support team will be in touch.

We don’t use an auto-reply here at StatusPage.io. We’ve tried to keep our support personal and timely enough to not warrant one. But as we celebrate 2,000 customers and growing, we’re wondering if an auto-reply is necessary.

There is some documentation out there online about setting up auto-replies — Helpscout, for example, does a great job making this a feature on their product.

We wanted to see how other companies answered these questions. So we launched an experiment.

Let’s file a bunch of support tickets to see what kind of auto-replies we get. Let’s file 100 of them. Here’s how it went.

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