At Stuff we do not have a bunch of principles and structures — except for one very important one.
Everyone in the company is reading our incoming support emails.
The past 20 years as a Project Manager, Product Owner, Digital Product Developer, Head of Blah Blah and Founder has taught me the importance of everyone spending time on support emails. No matter if you if are a two-man band, settled startup co-Founder, Head of Product or corporate CxO you should spend at least 30 minutes per week reading real emails from your customers.
KPIs, MAU/DAU, CAC and CLV are some of the well established metrics in most startups and established corporations.
A/B testing is touted as the current methodology for valuable insights and improvements.
Continuously startups have been tweaked and strategies changed based on an extensive aggregation of numbers in spreadsheets and dashboards.
I love my numbers, and I love my spreadsheets, but heart and soul of all the great people using and being in contact with your service, product and company are too often buried somewhere in a soulless column in your beloved spreadsheets.
Valuable insights, information and data are too often ignored and forgotten.
I have always spent much more time on incoming support emails than internal reports and numbers. Here are six good reasons why you should do it as well:
Support emails are fresh off the press. It is your current state of service, product or company. It is not some week or month old aggregated information related to a discontinued feature or product.
Getting to know what is happening in you business right now (!) makes it easier to react before shit really hits the fan.
Support emails, no matter how aggressive the initial email has been, can provide insightful information through conversations with your customer. Insights which cannot be put into numbers and tables.
Customers writing you regarding support issues are more than often willing to engage in conversations, which can give you a much better understanding of how your company and product is perceived in reality.
Too many entrepreneurs and startup founders are hooked on data dashboards, A/B testing and funnel optimization too early in the process of building their venture — long before having a significant sample size on their data. Instead of seeing data points fluctuating 10 to 40 percentage points, you should spend time writing or talking with people who has spent the time writing you an email.
Dashboards and spreadsheets will never ever provide a nuanced overview of who your customers are, how they feel, what their intentions are and how happy they are.
Browsing through support emails will give everyone in the company a much better understanding of the current condition of your company and product.
Also, colleagues form a personal understanding of the state of business — which can be used internally in more varied conversations.
Numbers are just numbers. And often aggregated into totals and averages.
Which gives you nothing but a total or an average. No background. No story. No heart. No soul.
Support emails on the other hand are full of emotions:
“Hi Company. Thank you for nothing. You made my daughter cry for 30 minutes yesterday, because we couldn’t login to stream Dora The Explorer. Switched browser which seemed to solve half of the issues :-(”.
Unless you are a soulless robot, the above statement will probably trigger more emotions and requirements for actions than:
“Week 27 — Users experiencing issues on service: 57%”
Seeing real customers having real relatable issues provides a much better understanding of the current state of your company.
Emotional statements from real people also contributes much better in internal discussions and in pitch decks.
Downgrading a group of people to “57% of users…” in a spreadsheet is just disrespectful.
My experience with everyone reading support emails is, that everyone feel an increased responsibility and a sense of urgency to eliminate whatever emails hits your support inbox.
Seeing real problems trigger actions and priorities much faster than just seeing numbers in a spreadsheet. And it makes it much easier to prioritise for better customer experiences.
I won’t claim, that you should completely ditch your spreadsheets and numbers on customer acquisition, funnels and all sorts of support interactions overview. But you should spend more time on real insights.
And the monthly slide on “what customers said” just doesn’t do it.
Reading real support emails provides an up-to-date overview, triggers emotions and responsibility while providing conversation starters externally and internally. For everyone in the company.
So grab your morning coffee and wind through all those valuable insights from real people having something valuable on their mind…