Turning an in-house built software or a tool into a product that is available to other businesses is an involved and lengthy process. We met up with Dana Kasprzyk and Rob Lelukiewicz, Fubra’s customer support team, to discuss the bespoke CRM system which was built in-house in 2005 and is to become one of the key parts of Narrowcast. Dana joined Fubra in July 2006 and Rob half a year later, in January 2007, and both started using the support system from day one. They agreed to share their experience using the system and how it could benefit businesses of the same or similar scale to Fubra.
What is the most common type of support ticket you get?
Dana: It’s really difficult to say because we have so many different projects we are working on, quite an unusual list! I believe most companies have support teams and systems dealing with a very specific project that sells something, and their issues are mostly related to sales, refund requests or complaints from customers. Our list of projects features at least 30 that span across different sectors.
Rob: We get all kinds of tickets but I’d say the most common type is change of email or account password reset request. Support tickets are mostly requests, but some are in the form of a question, e.g. ‘Can you please use my new email address firstname.lastname@example.org from this point on?’ Taking this into account, I’d say roughly a fifth of all support tickets are questions.
If the same question is submitted by multiple customers (for example, a technical issue with a website they are all reporting on) what is the best way of dealing with it?
Rob: I’d say using the predefined replies feature we have in the support system. Each reply gets changed slightly if necessary, and the customer does not feel as if we’ve sent them a ‘standard reply’.
Dana: The system doesn’t allow replying to large groups of customers with the same response, in one go. You have to reply to each support issue individually. You can’t send a bulk reply through this system, which I think is a good thing. We try to make replies as personal as possible, by referring to the user by their first name, unless they specifically signed their email as Mr or Mrs so and so. For situations when we know we’ll receive a flood of similar queries we create a predefined reply on the spot, suitable for this particular purpose, and we go into each issue one by one and reply individually.
If a company using our support system had a major issue and wanted to email several hundred people, then it could be done using a different system that handles newsletter mailouts. The only problem with this I see as a customer support specialist is that people – even reporting the same problem – do have additional queries that may not exactly be the same for all, and then sending a bulk reply without checking if the customer had additional questions would be unprofessional and impersonal. Nobody wants to feel they’ve been sent a generic reply ignoring the specific points that were mentioned!
You can always do it quickly, one email after another, especially using the predefined replies, but personally I tend to stop and look into the issue a little bit deeper, so I am not necessarily the quickest user of the support system.
— Dana Kasprzyk
I think using the predefined reply takes very little time to tailor the responses, and has worked well for us.
Talk me through the Predefined Reply feature.
Dana: It allows you to set a predefined reply, or a template, for each project individually. There’s no limit to how many you can set per project, you can manage them in the admin section. When you view a new open issue and choose a predefined reply to deal with it, you can amend it to suit the query, tweak the name of the customer and so on. The predefined reply isn’t ‘stiff’ and lets us amend things as we go quite easily.
Even though the system can prefill the user’s name field and we don’t have to do it manually, in some cases if the user hasn’t provided a full name or it is nearly impossible to guess it from their email address, the prefilled name might lack accuracy.
Is there a way of differentiating various types of tickets on your system (such as Incident, Problem, Compliment etc.)?
Dana: Once you’ve opened a ticket you can type your reply or choose a predefined reply to respond to it. Upon sending your reply you have a dropdown list of Categories you can select from (i.e. Price Queries, Search queries, Unsubscribe messages), and this categorises your reply (and the ticket itself!). This is helpful when you have to run a search on all closed issues, as you can narrow them down by category, let’s say Login queries. Category names are very specific, to the point, and we can add new categories easily when needed.
This works well for a new system user who has just joined the company, as it gives great training opportunities and allows to check what other support team members said in their replies to any specific issue.
How long / involved are most incoming messages? How long does it take to deal with one support ticket on average?
Dana: Most of customer support issues are usually to the point and short, it depends if people email us from their inbox or using Contact Us online forms. These forms are quite small, and even though we don’t limit the amount of characters for the query, the space where you enter your message is quite small and as a user you probably wouldn’t write a whole essay.
Rob: It really depends on the nature of a request/question. It can sometimes take only a couple of minutes, e.g. change of email – provided we have a new and old email address in the ticket or are easily able to locate user’s details in the system. But some tickets can take much longer, especially when a developer gets involved and needs to fix/change some coding. So generally speaking, it can take an hour as well as a couple of days before we can actually get back to a customer with a reply.
Dana: You can always do it quickly, one email after another, especially using the predefined replies, but personally I tend to stop and look into the issue a little bit deeper, so I am not necessarily the quickest user of the support system. If you do have hundreds of emails to deal with then of course you deal with them quicker.
Do you ‘own’ the support issue once you’ve replied to it?
Dana: As support system users we don’t ‘own’ the issues. If I replied to a customer yesterday, and they got back asking for more information today, then it’s possible Rob will reply if he opens that issue before me. That happens if the issue is not assigned to anyone. If I don’t want anyone else other than me to reply to it, I’d assign the issue to myself. From that moment the issue that’s assigned to me will disappear from the list that Rob can see and it can only be seen by me.
For other businesses which get loads of staff working on shifts it might be useful to not assign the issues to any particular member, as the team would change all the time. On the other hand, it might only be possible to handle very specific technical issues by specific team members (such as developers), and assigning works well in those cases.