In episode #48, Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks answer the question:
“Hi, Gene and Elizabeth. I’m thinking of starting up an online cooking course as a business. I plan on having people sign up, it will be a subscription based service, and every week I will release a meal plan, and this meal plan will have a video tutorial showing how to cook the food. There will also be a grocery list. The food is catering to healthy people in their 30’s that are financially well-off, but not so well-off that they can afford a personal chef. What type of customer, technical support, should I offer? I’ve seen companies that have online instant message assistance, but I know nothing about that. How do I set that up? What are the prices? Should there be phone support? How could I minimize the time I need to spend answering customer questions?”
Interact with Us
- Sign up for the weekly newsletter so you never miss an episode.
- Do you have a question you’d like Elizabeth and Gene to answer? Submit your question to the Small Biz Ahead Podcast.
- Leave us a review on iTunes and we might read it on the show.
- How I Use My Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System to Run My Small Business
- Why Every Small Business (Yes, Even Yours) Needs a CRM System
- How to Write a Great Job Ad and Screen Resumes for Your Small Business
- Lucky Orange
- Pure Chat
- Zoho CRM
- Insightly CRM
- Sugar CRM
Download Our Free eBooks
- Ultimate Guide to Business Credit Cards: The Small Business Owner’s Handbook
- How to Keep Customers Coming Back for More – Customer Retention Strategies
- How to Safeguard Your Small Business from Data Breaches
- 21 Days to Be a More Productive Small Business Owner
- Opportunity Knocks: How to Find—and Pursue—a Business Idea that’s Right for You
- 99 New Small Business Ideas
Elizabeth: Today’s episode is all about customer support, and I want to tell you a story about my accountant.
Gene: Okay. Now you’re gonna get me riled up…
Elizabeth: But I don’t want you to go off on too much of a tear-
Gene: I don’t know if we should go there, but go ahead.
Elizabeth: I’ve been using this accountant for a couple years, and I have very simple taxes, but I just kind of got in the habit of using an accountant, and I just feel better about it.
Gene: Good. You should. Everybody should.
Elizabeth: I go to them.
Elizabeth: Usually I get on my documents. I’m very organized. I sent him an email and I say, “Okay, I’m going to send you my documents this week. I made copies.” Get them out to him in February, but this year I was traveling, I just had a lot going on, and I emailed him in late March. I said what I say every year, “I’m going to ship you my documents tomorrow. Here they are attached. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I’m sorry for the delay on this.” Because I know it’s his busy season. I don’t want to-
Gene: Of course. Well first of all, late March. Come on, Elizabeth, it is due April 15th, right?
Elizabeth: So that’s late right?
Gene: It’s pretty late, yeah. In his defense, right? That’s like… Okay. Alright, go ahead.
Elizabeth: He never responded to me.
Gene: He just didn’t even write you back at all?
Elizabeth: He just didn’t respond to me.
Gene: Didn’t re- Did you email him again?
Gene: Well you should email him again. Maybe it got caught in his spam filter. These things, you know, it’s just one email is… You can’t really judge nowadays to whether or not that was the case. But it’s irking you, right? It’s driving you nuts.
Elizabeth: It’s really irking me.
Gene: How long ago did you email him?
Elizabeth: Five days ago.
Gene: Five days ago. Oh, well clearly he should have yeah, responded. My advice to you is you should be emailing him. When we’re done with this show, send him a quick… Forward your last email, say, “Hey, not sure if you got this. Can you let me know?” Give it another day. One day. If you still don’t get a response, then go berserk. Okay. You can go completely nuclear, that’s completely fine.
Elizabeth: I mean the thing is it’s so easy to find another accountant. Especially to just do your personal taxes. Like if I was a business owner, I would need to shop around more, but-
Gene: Accountants are just terrible at customer service in general, and they honest to God, I knew so many accountants that are really smart people, but their responsiveness is horrible.
Elizabeth: We have a lot of accountants that are listeners, so what advice would you give them?
Gene: First of all, reply to your emails is number one, but it is communicating. Right now our taxes are going to be due in just a couple of weeks. We submitted all of our information to our accountant like month or two… I haven’t heard boo from our accountant yet, and I know it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen every year. It’s going to be like April 12th, he’s going to send us our returns, which are gonna need filing and payment, all that stuff, and it’s going to be like, “Uh.” Right? You know what I mean?
Elizabeth: Mad rush.
Gene: Yeah. It’s going to be a mad rush, whatever, and like nothing… You have to in 2017, you’re doing a service business, you have to be in communication with your clients. Just to give them an update. It’s like an airline when you’re running late, “Sorry, the incoming plane didn’t come in on time, we’re running about 20 minutes-” You know, that kind of thing. People just want to be the respect of getting an update, right.
Elizabeth: You know what they should use? You know those apps, like if you order food from SeamlessWeb, or UberEATS, it says like, “Your tax documents have been received. Your tax documents are being processed.”
Gene: Right. No, it’s true. Most accountants don’t invest in automated systems where you get the-
Elizabeth: Yeah, but then you wouldn’t even have to talk to your client.
Gene: Yeah. I agree, it’s not a bad idea. Having said that, you’re in a client service business. I think you should talk to your clients.
Elizabeth: Oh, definitely.
Gene: If you’re an accountant and you’re just so busy during busy seasons, you just can’t reply to you… You’re too slammed, you know? Then you’re not providing service to your clients, but your clients are not paying you to just turn out a tax return. They can get TurboTax to do that. They’re paying you for a service.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I want advice.
Gene: Yeah. That’s exactly right. It’s just a service.
Elizabeth: I like to get my little folder with my whole return in it and I feel like, “Oh, okay. This is worth my $250, $300 dollars.”
Gene: That’s correct. I realize that it’s easier said than done, but I just have to tell you, in today’s, 2017 world, we are used to getting some attention and feedback. That’s the service type of the world that we’re living in. If you’re not doing that as an accountant, you’re really putting yourself at risk of losing clients.
Elizabeth: Okay, we’re going to be back with our question, and this also is all about offering support to your customers.
QUESTION: How Much Tech Support Do I Need to Offer My Clients?
Elizabeth: And we’re back. Here is our question. This is another anonymous question, so we don’t know who it’s from.
Gene: What is with these anonymous people? They just don’t want to be known.
Elizabeth: Let’s call her Sally.
Elizabeth: Okay, so Sally writes: “Hi, Gene and Elizabeth. I’m thinking-” Very polite. “I’m thinking of starting up an online cooking course as a business. I plan on having people sign up, it will be a subscription based service,” That’s so smart. “and every week I will release a meal plan, and this meal plan will have a video tutorial showing how to cook the food. There will also be a grocery list. The food is catering to healthy people in their 30’s that are financially well-off, but not so well-off that they can afford a personal chef.”
Gene: By the way, what a great business.
Elizabeth: I know, it’s so smart.
Gene: Not only is it a great business, anybody can do this business in the sense that, like Sally… Sally. That’s not even her name, but we’re calling her Sally. You shouldn’t even be worried about… Now I know why she’s anonymous, she doesn’t want people to know. You don’t even have to worry about the competition for something like that, because if you’re good at what you do, and you make good meals, you’re going to build up a fan base regardless. People are going to be looking forward to your stuff.
Elizabeth: Huge. This is such a good idea.
Gene: I love that idea.
“The food is catering to healthy people in their 30’s that are financially well-off, but not so well-off that they can afford a personal chef. What type of customer, technical support, should I offer? I’ve seen companies that have online instant message assistance, but I know nothing about that. How do I set that up? What are the prices? Should there be phone support? How could I minimize the time I need to spend answering customer questions?”
As the type of person that would probably buy a service like this…
Gene: Yeah. What would you want, Elizabeth? What would you expect?
Elizabeth: I would say-
Gene: First of all, what kind of customer support? Let me ask you that. Like questions about the recipe we’re saying, or the ingredients, or how to make it. Like, “I didn’t understand this part of the video.” Is that what you’re thinking?
Elizabeth: It would be like, “I paid. I used a discount code, but it wasn’t applied.”
Elizabeth: Or, “I can’t get the video to play.”
Gene: Okay, so you think it’s like technical stuff?
Elizabeth: Yeah, or, “My grocery list didn’t include the leg of lamb that was in the list. You need to fix that.” Or, “I want to cancel.” Because if it’s subscription based service, which for some reason is very difficult for me to say, that’s always a brilliant way to keep people coming back.
Gene: Sure, sure.
Elizabeth: Catering to people in their 30’s, I will say, they don’t want to talk to someone on the phone.
Gene: That is correct.
Elizabeth: I love the idea of that, instant messaging for help. I was resistant to that for a long time, but I just used that with two different companies. The listeners that aren’t familiar with this, if you’re on a website it will say like, “Send chat for help.” Or something like that, and it’s great, because you send in your question, it pings someone in their customer service department, and it pops up, you type in your question. They usually try to push you to their knowledge base first, but for something like this that’s so simple, she probably doesn’t even need a knowledge base.
Gene: No, well you know what actually, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a knowledge base, per se-
Elizabeth: An FAQ.
Gene: Right. It’s an FAQ. If you want to take the time out, particularly if it’s technical questions like your video not running, or having a certain… generic, generalized questions, she should probably have an FAQ, a Frequently Asked Questions section where people can go through and ask what they are. There are a proliferation of website chat applications. LivePerson is one that comes to mind. Here’s other ones. I actually just thinking of Lucky Orange is another one. Pure Chat is another one. You can Google to look for website chat applications, and what’s great about these website chat applications is that you set them up, first of all, for hours that you’re accepting messages, because maybe you don’t want it three in the morning, and then they’ll automatically direct to your mobile device, so you know-
Elizabeth: So she could be answering the questions.
Gene: Yeah. If Sally is out in her… Sally. That’s not even her na- Sally. See this, we’re calling you Sally. We don’t know what you’re name is, but okay, Sally. If Sally is out and around, and she’s doing whatever she’s doing, but it’s her business and she wants… If this is your business Sally, you’re going to have to be on call, okay. You set up your chat software so if somebody has a question, that you immediately get that chat message. I don’t know if you have a mobile app on your phone. You’re responding back to that person with a quick answer, and then away they go. That’s something I think that would be very, very important for her to do.
Elizabeth: I’m going to guess though that most of the issues that people are going to have are going to be tech support, like having to do with her website. Let’s say she has a Shopify site. Could you connect people to Shopify tech support?
Gene: No. Shopify is not going to provide that kind of tech support. Not to your customers. They’ll provide it to you if you’ve got a problem configuring your site, or there’s an issue, but you would be responsible. You’re responsible for your own tech support on your own website.
Elizabeth: You would be able to possibly hire someone part-time that has some experience in Shopify to answer these questions?
Gene: You could do that. If you go to Upwork, or if you go to Guru, or even to Fiverr, which is F-I-V-E-R-R, those are all sites with technical people for hire on a contract basis. You can have them on a contract basis be available to answer tech support questions. What you have to do though, is if your site is very dependent on answering these tech support questions, you gotta make sure that you are responsive. Very, very quickly responsive to people or they’re going to get annoyed. It’s not just the cooking, it’s not just the food, it’s also the service that’s involved and getting more people signed up for it. The other thing is if you were paying an annual fee, you want to charge on a subscription basis, we have an expectation that we’re going to get what we’re paying for right away.
Elizabeth: Everything’s going to work perfectly every time.
Gene: Yeah, and we’re going to be annoyed if it’s not. We want an answer.
Elizabeth: Okay, so we’re looking for website chat applications. I will put those in the show notes.
Elizabeth: I think that will actually be helpful for a lot of different business because, do you have that on your website?
Gene: We do. Now we use on our CRM… We have an add-on for our CRM, we use Zoho CRM, and the add-on called CLIQ is a website chat. When people come on… We have at any given, just give our vibe, we have anywhere from 15 to 30 people on our site at any given time, okay so, little bit smaller than The Hartford’s sites, but that’s what it is. They’re potential buyers and prospects looking for projects, and if they ask the chat, one of us in our company takes ownership of the chat, depending on what the weeks is, or who’s available. We have a schedule.
Gene: We can be mobile. If somebody has to chat, you don’t have to be sitting at your desk waiting for that, you just get the chat message sent to them. It’s really good.
Elizabeth: That’s so cool. Okay, since you brought up CRM, would you recommend that Sally get a CRM for her new business?
Gene: Well first of all, look at me…
Elizabeth: Everyone should have one.
Gene: Everybody should have… We talked about this before maybe? Everybody should have a… Sally, the reason why you want to have a CRM is because if Elizabeth signs up for your service and she’s-
Elizabeth: Which I probably will.
Gene: Yeah, because it sounds really great. I bet you Elizabeth, you would also like to be hearing from Sally. By the way, it’s not her name, it’s just anonymous, but anyway. You would want to be hearing from Sally-
Elizabeth: You’re obsessed with this.
Gene: You’d want to be hearing from Sally. Maybe she has additional recipe ideas. Maybe she has a newsletter that she wants to send to stay in touch with you. You want to know… And then Sally, in your CRM database, you want to be keeping track about the kind of customer that Elizabeth is. Maybe she likes, you want to sell different types of subscriptions. Different types of recipe programs. Maybe Elizabeth likes Spanish food, you know what I mean? You want to track all of that in your CRM because then you could target those people with additional offerings and products and services.
Elizabeth: If you’re starting a new business like this, and I know we’re getting a little off-topic Sally, but Gene, when would you suggest she gets a CRM-
Gene: Immediately. Immediately.
Elizabeth: Okay. Just launch the business with a CRM.
Gene: Immediately. There are so many great ones out there that are so inexpensive-
Elizabeth: That can talk to your Shopify site, or your person.
Gene: That’ll talk right to your website, that’s exactly… They all integrate if they’re cloud based, so Insightly is fantastic. Zoho is fantastic. ProsperWorks is excellent. Sugar CRM. There’s many of them. I’m just hitting the tip of the iceberg. You want to start creating a database of people that are touching your business. That are inquiring, that are buying from you, or maybe have asked questions, didn’t buy from you, you want to know who those people are too, because they were asking. Maybe they’re not in the mood right now, but they’ll get in the mood six months from now.
Elizabeth: They will be, yeah, six months from now.
Elizabeth: Alright, we’ll be right back with our word of brilliance.
WORD OF BRILLIANCE: 86
Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.
Gene: It’s a number of brilliance today, and the number is 86, is the number.
Elizabeth: Okay. The year the Mets won the World Series.
Gene: That, let’s not even bring that up. I’m a Phillies fan. 86 is according to a research study done by a recruiting firm called… Or a recruiting application called Lever. 86, Elizabeth, is the number of applicants that the typical small business needs to see before they hire the right person. On average.
Elizabeth: See meaning they look at the resume, or see meaning they-
Gene: They look at their resume.
Elizabeth: Oh, okay. Do you think you get that many?
Gene: Yeah. 86 is the number, yeah. Corporations, larger companies, more than a hundred that they need to see. Sales people are the easiest people to hire. The reason why they came to this 86 applicants is because they drill down into the numbers more, and a certain percentage of those applicants that you even give offers to don’t necessarily accept. Sales people have the highest rate of acceptance when they get an offer, as opposed to engineers, who tend to turn people down more often than accept a job.
Elizabeth: Well engineers probably have more options, so.
Gene: They’re jerks, those engineers. My son’s an engineer. They’re all like with the details and the science. Who needs that, right? They’re too particular.
Elizabeth: Them and their STEM educations.
Gene: Yeah, but the sales people. Glasses half-full individuals we’re looking at. When you give them an offer, you’ve got a very, very good chance of them accepting it, but the lesson is that if you’re going to be looking for a new employee, expect to look at, to consider, 86 applicants on average before you find that perfect person.
Elizabeth: Now, you have a very detail orientated process for hiring people. I remember-
Elizabeth: Yes. You talked about, you screen the resumes into A, B, and C categories.
Gene: I do that, I do that, I do that. Actually right now, I’m actually in the process of looking for somebody to help out with some marketing stuff, and it’s not like a part time person. You’d be surprised. I placed an ad on Craigslist, and I’ve gotten… I just placed it yesterday, and I’ve gotten over 40 responses.
Gene: Yeah. It doesn’t surprise me to see that you could be getting 60, 80, those kinds of responses. The reason why I think it’s important to have that kind of process, and to also remember that you’re going to be seeing a lot of people before you find the right person, is that’s why hiring that right person is so important to a business, because when that person leaves it causes such disruption to a typical small business.
Elizabeth: When’s the last time someone left your company?
Gene: It’s been awhile, although… It’s been awhile.
Elizabeth: And it was extremely painful for you?
Gene: It was. It was about four years ago now, and she was a key person in my company and she left and took another job at a client, actually. It was all amicable. She did what she had to do, but it was very disruptive for a few months while we figured out what to do next.
Elizabeth: You really need to be, if you’re going to looking at 86 people, minimum, because that’s how many you need to look at to find the right person, so it couldn’t be more than that, you really need to be very efficient with looking at resumes.
Gene: Yes. You do.
Elizabeth: It’s all about weeding people out.
Gene: All about disqualifying people. It really is. It’s a hard job to do, because everybody seems to look fine. You know what I mean? There’s so many out there, you’re like, “Oh this person seems like he’d be a good person.” And you feel bad. It’s people’s lives, but you do have to be a little stone, cold-hearted about it.
Elizabeth: Alright. That’s it for this week.
Gene: Thanks for joining us.
Elizabeth: Time to go out there and be stone, cold-hearted until you hear from us again. Bye everyone.