“Support is awesome—quick, personal and great. Multiple messages answering all questions asked with helpful hints. Not a form letter as with some apps I have seen. These guys know their app and take the time to support their users.”
—recent five-star review in the App Store

Nobody’s in a better position to provide this level of customer support than the product development team. But as a product grows, scaling support becomes a problem. If your development team is answering hundreds of mails a day, they’re not going to be doing much development.

At some point, companies hire support staff, and without the same insight the development team has, service can devolve into the land of boilerplate.

“Thanks so much for contacting us! We sincerely appreciate both your business, and your frustration! Have you tried restarting? I hope I’ve been of some help. Have a great weekend! Love, Your Friendly Support Agent.” (Please don’t reply directly to this email, as the account is not followed by humans.)

What can we do to avoid that fate—or at least avoid it for as long as possible? Design with empathy.

  • Keep the product as simple as possible.

  • Iterate on the user interface to eliminate usage friction (all those tiny little points of “what next?” or “what just happened?” confusion)

  • Anticipate those “first moment” needs — the first-time a person visits the various sections of the website, the first time a customer returns to the website after having bought the app, the first time the customer launches the app and all the blank-slate versions of every functional screen.

  • Carefully craft the copy of the site and its transactional emails. We grab friends, ask them to read it, and watch their reaction.

  • Continually observe how the customers use the product, and enhance the experience to address common problems. (In the case of RaceSplitter, we automatically monitor their published results, looking for likely cases of mis-typed timing entries, and automatically send them a small email when we suspect it happened, and tell them how to recover.)

  • Get out in the field and use the product ourselves. (In the case of RaceSplitter, you can’t simulate the pressure of a real race in the comforts of an office!)

All these things work to minimize the support requests — allowing us to grow our customer base, while still being able to provide personalized customer service in cases when they do reach out to us.