Guest post from Chris Savage, Wistia Co-Founder and CEO.

Chris Savage, CEO Wistia

Especially in the age of the Internet, there aren't a lot of chances for customers to interact with people when they're using products. Even when you need a company's help, you'll typically get customer “service” without ever seeing a face or connecting with someone else in a meaningful way. That's why you need to be on the lookout for every moment to put the humans of your company back in front of your customers.

Customer support is a prime candidate for where to do this. But putting human interaction back into customer service isn't always easy. There's a delicate and difficult balance to strike between closing support tickets and giving customers a personal touch. Worse, it's often hard to get all the information you need in order to give your customers personalized solutions to their issues with your product.

We've had to confront these problems at Wistia, the video marketing company I co-founded 10 years ago. We've found that, by changing to a model of proactive and personal customer service, you can reclaim customer service as a way of making business human again. This will give your customers a crucial opportunity to see your company as having a culture in which people care deeply about supporting their customers.

Proactively understand your customer's problems before they ask for help.

Even if you have the friendliest and most responsive customer support staff in the world, you won't be able to effectively help customers if it takes your team forever to figure out what each customer's problem really is. For example, a customer might send you a support request about your checkout process. There's a lot you'll need to figure out before you can identify her exact problem. For example:

  • What operating system is the customer using?
  • Is the customer on mobile or on a desktop?
  • What version of your A/B test is the customer seeing?

If you don't have all the information you need to solve your customer's problem, you can either: ask them many more questions in order to identify the exact problem, or direct them to a help page that covers the general topic area of their problem.

If you choose the first option, you'll end up demanding a lot more from the customer before you actually solve their problem, and each support request will also take up a lot of your team's time. If you choose the second option, your customer might not end up finding the exact solution to their problem, and they'll end up feeling alienated from your company.

We avoided this dilemma by changing how we think about customer service. We used to think about support as a way of helping customers once they came to us with issues. Now, we think of support as something that we constantly do so that customers can immediately get the help they need when something goes wrong.

We're always gathering context on how our customers interact with our site and our products. We record every customer's sessions on our site using FullStory, which lets us know exactly what the customer's problem was. We've integrated FullStory's session replay data with Zendesk to make it part of our overall customer support suite. Every time a customer submits a support ticket, our Customer Champions can use that ticket to find the session where the customer was using our product.

The result is that, through being able to see (through FullStory session replay) what the customer was doing before submitting the ticket, our Customer Champions are able to address customer problems immediately, instead of either guessing at the problem or asking the customer many, many more questions. This frees up the time and resources to give every customer a personal solution to their precise issue.

Give your customers a direct and personal solution.

It's hard to believe, but if you use a personal touch when you help customers, they will appreciate you even more than if there'd been no problem with your product in the first place! Lots of companies know about this wild service recovery paradox (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_recovery_paradox), but most try to provide quality customer service by paying for a better customer experience. Zappos, for example, advertises that they'll pay for all shipping costs when you return a pair of shoes to them.

But you can provide extremely personal and positive customer service without paying for things like free returns[1]. At Wistia, we try to use video as much as possible in order to make that personal connection between our Customer Champion team and our customers. One-on-one videos show our customers that there is a specific person dedicated to solving their specific issue.

Our Customer Champion Harper got a support request from a customer who was having CSS trouble when embedding his Wistia videos. Instead of pointing a customer to a help page, Harper quickly made up this video using our chrome plugin, Soapbox, to both engage the customer face-to-face and walk through the solution to his problem on the screen.

This kind of personal video fosters a real relationship between our support team and our customers—it makes customers feel like they really should follow up if they have further problems, which gives them more confidence in using the product.

Once your customer sees that your support staff treats them as part of a community built around your product, you've opened the door for even more dynamic support. At Wistia, we have a Slack channel where customers can communicate with us and each other about everything Wistia. This is part of how we've worked to turn support into a constant mindset, rather than just the closing of support tickets.

Get personal about support.

Customer support is a critical moment where your customers learn about your company and how much it really values helping people succeed with its products. When someone asks you for help, you have a chance to put authentic people in front of them and form a human connection. That's what will inspire them to continue trying to succeed with your product.

If you stop thinking of customer support as the mere task of filling tickets, you can re-imagine it as a continuous project of building a community. When you make customer service about personally connecting with your customers, they'll be eager to keep using your product, discovering new uses for it and making your company an even bigger part of their lives.


  1. Here are a few simple but effective customer service tips from Zendesk. ↩︎