TechCrunch Disrupt Investigation: What Happened to Customer Support?

October 4, 2010

I love pretending that I’m some sort of Magnum P.I. for the customer service world. Although I have neither a mustache, nor a rug for chest hair, when the opportunity presents itself, I don my best not-working-for-a-help-desk-software look and start asking questions.

Last week, for instance, I was fortunate enough to go along to TechCrunch Disrupt, and while I found the talks extremely entertaining, I gained more value from seeing the startups that had shown up to showcase their wares. There is nothing quite so inspiring as seeing individuals truly impassioned in what they believe will be the next best thing, and I was extremely surprised by the caliber of startup visions coming out of Disrupt.

It was also surprising how evident it was that supporting customers continues to be an afterthought for many startups. Customer service is without a doubt the most important aspect of modern day business, particularly when you’re an online web application or service. As a user of online software, you rarely have a phone number to call, let alone a store to visit, if you have a question, problem, or complaint. So why aren’t those fresh startups learning from the lessons of their forefathers?

The answers I got were scary. Responses ranged from “We’ve been focusing on making the product amazing,” and “It’s so easy to use you shouldn’t need any help,” to the standard, “Oh, we have an email address.” C’mon guys, neither of these truly support your customers. Where can they go to read the knowledge base, ask the community some questions, or make suggestions on making it an amazing product?

Just imagine what would happen if you get that TechCrunch article, resulting in a sudden surge of traffic and signups that your servers can barely handle, only to lose a huge conversion opportunity because you were too busy trying to handle multiple support requests in Outlook. And then your customers couldn’t even find any documentation on your non-existent knowledge base, so they vented on Twitter about it instead (which, coincidentally, is another customer engagement and support channel you forgot about because you keep thinking it’s only for marketing).

Seriously, when you start up a company, ensure you have a customer service strategy in place while you’re busy designing the product. It’s really that important. Your business success will completely depend on it.

A huge shout out to our Zendesk startup customers on Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt – keep teaching your fellow startups the unmistakable value in customer service.