This week-end, I participated in a Hackathon organised by the Metropolitan Police. It was an interesting challenge; I’m not much of a coder, and they don’t usually let me near any of the felt-tip pens, but I figured I could use what I know about the police (I am a Special Constable), and about the methodologies of running a small business, to contribute in my own way.
The Met is a great organisation, but it has a few challenges around technology. The key one, in my mind, is that they are spending a staggering amount of money for old tech – again and again – so I decided to demonstrate the concept of a rapidly iterating Minimum Viable Product. Read more »
Sat slightly off-centre, slouched in a plastic chair in a room that emanates a time when people could still smoke in government buildings, a young man with an unwieldy beard and slightly poorly fitting hipster glasses gets up.
“Hello, I’m Haje,” he says, and clears his throat. “And I’m a nerd”
“Hello, Haje”, the crowd says, in disinterested unison.
Okay, so I’ve never quite been in that situation, but I have tinkered with technologies – and especially online tech – ever since I mysteriously got my first modem to work, and so one of my Frequently Asked Questions, is related to which tools start-ups should be using when they are first starting out.
So, without further rambling… The top tools for start-ups! Read more »
So, you have a well-oiled customer support machinery, where you’ve picked the tools that work for your business, you’ve trained your support crew to get the responses right, you’ve decided to get rid of the canned responses that infuriate your customers, and everything is going well, right?
Good. Congratulations. There’s just one more little thing I’d like to mention: Empowerment.
I have recently been Tweeting back and forth with a large internet provider, which turned out to be an infuriating exercise in futility. This particular internet provider is very good at community management – in other words, they try to contain any infuriated customers, and they reply surprisingly quickly. However, as far as I can tell, the army of twitter-enabled drones don’t even have access to the regular customer support tools – and they certainly don’t have the power to actually help. Read more »
A lot of organisations embrace ‘macros’, also called pre-written or ‘canned’ responses, in their customer support workflow. In theory, that could work very well: If you have a number of questions that come up again and again, having to type up the same answer several times per day is incredibly inefficient.
The unavoidable truth is that even though a question looks as if it is ‘the same’, it will never be identical. The tone of the question might be slightly different, for example, or you may find that one question is subtly different, or asks for information about a different aspect of the same thing. Read more »
When you run a business-to-customer company, you’ll very quickly find yourself receiving customer support requests. The exact nature of the requests depends on your business, of course – people may need help setting up software, they may not understand how to use a particular feature, they may have found a problem or bug in your website, or they may be asking where their parcel is.
What is universal, however, is that there’s an oddly unintuitive dark art related to doing good customer support.
This article could serve as a checklist, to ensure that your support requests are dealt with in the best possible way.
What is customer support?
To take a quick step back for a moment, it’s worth keeping in mind what the purpose of customer support is. The best way to determine that, is to think about why companies do support at all.
It doesn’t really matter what type of organisation you are, the key purpose of support is to take a confused, disgruntled, or unhappy customer, and inform, re-gruntle, or happi-fy them. The key to making this happen is all about empathy, and being able to grok what a customer needs, and how you can fulfill this need. Read more »
At Triggertrap, we used to do a lot of selling via Amazon.com, with the orders being fulfilled from a warehouse in Hong Kong.
The way Amazon is structured, it means you don’t get to pick your shipping lead times yourself, it is set by Amazon, and based on country. So, if you are based in Aldergrove in Canada, your shipping time is estimated as 5-10 business days. If you happen to be a 10-minute drive further south, in Lynden, Washington, USA, the estimated shipping time is 18-26 business days.
Now, I’m sure Amazon have legitimate reasons for having a 21-day span between deliveries to locations that are a lazy stone’s lob away from each other, but that doesn’t help us… Read more »
In our day-to-day lives, we rather frequently run into situations where something doesn’t work – whether it’s your car, a piece of software, or your boiler at home. Reporting an error is often a haphazard affair – but if you’re working in any industry, you can make the process a lot more effective if you create a well-crafted bug report.
So… How? It’s actually not very hard, and there’s some simple rules you can follow to make the techies’ jobs as easy as possible. Why would you bother making their lives easier? Well, it’s not because they’re lazy (although some are, I’m sure), but because the easier you make it, the quicker the problem can get solved.
Remember that a good bug report does one thing: It enables an engineer to understand why something is a problem, and then ideally gives them enough information to be able to reproduce the problem on their own system. Read more »
You’ve probably been there; Late one night in the pub, after a few too many beers, you have a bloody fantastic idea. A revolutionary idea. An idea that’s going to change the world. The chances are that come the morning you’ll realise that your beer-addled brain had slightly overstated your own awesomeness, but sometimes (just sometimes!) the spark is there. The sparks of my idea began to fly about five years ago before, eventually, they caught light. Today, I’m waiting for a factory in China to start manufacturing something I invented — the Triggertrap, an Arduino-based open-source universal camera trigger.
In 2005, I was living in Liverpool, tinkering with photography gadgets, and building some of my own photography equipment. I kept writing articles about them, and occasionally, people read them. Then I wrote an article that made the server that was hosting my blog melt several times over (it was Slashdotted; Digg-dotted; featured on Engadget, and just generally received a metric crap-tonne of traffic). After I managed to nurse my server back to life for the nine-hundredth time, I was approached by a publisher. Soon after, I was commissioned to write my very first book. It was all rather unreal. Read more »
Today, I came across a curious thing that was bobbing gently around on the somewhat polluted lake that is Facebook. It was a heart-felt appeal that seemed to say something about feeding hungry children (hungry children bad. Feeding children good.), and the bonuses paid to bankers.
Now, we’ve been through a few year of tumultuous relationships with the wealth distribution community, and I’d say that bonuses for bankers is a pretty easy target – so putting them against each other is an elegant way to drum up support, right?
Well, possibly, but it depends on how you do it… Read more »
It ain’t easy being a start-up: For every little issue you solve, six others crop up. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the earliest phases of spooling up a new venture.
At Triggertrap, our company was sparked into life after an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign which reached 300% funding, back in the early days of Kickstarter. As with most Kickstarter campaigns, I suppose, we had a lot of setbacks in the early days.
We’ve come a long way since then, but one thing we learned early on, is that even – perhaps especially – if everything goes horribly wrong, the communication you have with your customers is absolutely paramount. Read more »