One of the most important rules of successful consumer-facing companies is to offer a compelling customer experience. These companies are under pressure to develop products and services that add real value, adapt to changing consumer needs, and provide excellent customer service. While all of these areas present their own challenges, the final one--providing excellent customer service--can create a big obstacle for fast-growing companies. Why? Because they often only recognize the signs of lagging customer service after it becomes a problem.

At Move Loot, offering white glove furniture pickup and delivery means customer service, both in-person and via phone or email, is a core focus as we scale. When we launched our service in Los Angeles and New York City last summer, our demand spiked incredibly and, as a result, our average response time slipped from minutes to hours to days, and our backlog was becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with as we acquired new customers.

When you're dealing with a product like furniture--something people often need in and out immediately--the stressful environment a move creates can easily lead to more pronounced customer frustration. After that, our team went on a mission to eliminate customer frustrations entirely.

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Over the course of two months, we reduced our unanswered customer support tickets from over 2,000 tickets to zero tickets.

Our turnaround mission was a success and taught us several key lessons that should prove valuable to any startup working to drastically improve customer service and help build an experience people love.

  1. Track the right metrics. More metrics does not equal better metrics. Determine which numbers are most likely to drive the right results across your company and anchor on those. At Move Loot, we compile daily reports of "Average First Response Time", "Closes per Agent", "Customer Satisfaction," and "End of Day Backlog".
  2. Pick the right software. The software that works best for one company might not be a good fit for another. It's crucial to pick an approach that's right for your operations, your company size, and your budget. And more importantly, don't be afraid to make a change if what you have isn't serving you well. We've explored many a support solution, including Desk.com, Front, Olark, Ringcentral, and finally Zendesk. Zendesk has provided the most comprehensive solution and the best tracking for our team size and our willingness to pay. Get your systems in place (including key FAQs and macros) before any foreseen product change or customer ramp up.
  3. Systematize hiring and training. While you're growing quickly, you don't want to get caught with poor planning and onboarding for your support team. Not only will your customers suffer from poor service, but your employees will feel unequipped to be successful, hurting moral and deterring their enthusiasm. Instead, identify the number of active users you can manage with a single support agent and project hiring needs to meet future demand. Give yourself a one-month buffer to recruit, hire, and onboard a new employee. And be sure that responsibilities and expectations are clearly documented so effectiveness isn't bottlenecked at management.
  4. Acknowledge hard times and celebrate wins. If you're going through growing pains, you can bet that the rest of the team can feel it, too. During this time, we had all hands on deck taking 30 minutes to an hour in Zendesk to help clear the backlog of tickets. Our engineering team focused on streamlining admin tools for easier use and fixing the operational scaling issues at the root of the problem. When your team is working this hard to improve the customer experience, be sure to stop and celebrate the collective effort and accomplishments.

Our mission to dramatically reduce customer response time has led to long-term changes. We've seen a clear shift in consumer companies over the past few years to a greater emphasis on customer happiness throughout every aspect of business, from product to service. While recognizing and making these changes is never easy, committing your team to the above strategies can take your customer service obstacles from impossible to game-changing.