"Customer service is hard. Anything that you can do to make it look really easy is the best advice I have."
In saturated markets, one of the most effective ways to win and keep customers is to provide them with a stellar support experience. That’s an approach that has worked well for iProv, a 20-year-old digital marketing agency that primarily serves healthcare-focused businesses.
When Chief Operating Officer Patrick Laughlin joined the Arkansas-based agency two years ago, one of his first orders of business was making sure customers were heard and that their concerns were resolved quickly. We spoke with Patrick to find out what customer service looks like in his line of work, why he chose SupportBee, and how his team uses it to stay on top of customer support tickets.
Tell me about what iProv does, your role with the company, and where it all ties into customer support.
We’re a full-service, digital-first marketing agency focused on healthcare and healthcare-adjacent organizations. That means we serve businesses that produce everything from durable medical equipment to healthcare services in rural areas. Our rural healthcare clients are some of our neediest customers. They have a ton of turn over and the doctors rotate and change territories often, so services and staff are constantly being refreshed.
iProv provides services like SEO-driven content marketing and ad buys for these businesses, as well as general consulting work that helps companies build out their vision and become more profitable. As COO, I am responsible for the day-to-day everything. Everything rolls uphill in my business. I oversee staff, forecasts, budgets, and account-based sales. And much of that overlaps with customer support.
We have ten full-time staff right now, but that number fluctuates. Our core staff is complemented by dozens of contractors. Our whole team uses SupportBee; we have a “heroes and housekeepers” rotation, meaning a new person is responsible for monitoring and answering tickets for the week.
How was iProv managing customer requests when you joined the team?
When I came on, we were using ConnectWise in our IT business because it’s the industry standard and IT runs on tickets. The problem was that our marketing team really struggled to decipher the software. The UX was horrible. Sure, it was an IT person’s dream but for everyone else, forget it.
We knew we wanted to use a new platform. We tried group emailing, but customers were using the web support email for non-technical requests, like trying to get in touch with a particular account manager. People would also use the email to sign up for services and newsletters, and before we knew it, support was getting a couple of hundred emails daily for requests they knew nothing about. Managing an inbox is hard enough, but it’s harder when the emails don't pertain to you. It’s the typical SMB challenge of “everybody is responsible so nobody is responsible”---nobody knew who was supposed to respond to which emails coming from clients.
What does customer support ticketing look like in a digital marketing agency?
On average we get about 62 tickets every month. Typical issues we see involve making a change to a client’s website, like adding a new hire’s bio, for example. Any back and forth on edits can be handled at an account coordinator level, and we have an escalation procedure if a client has a more sensitive issue, or emotions are running high.
We encourage clients to use our SupportBee portal for everything, and that’s a point we make during our kick-off meetings with new accounts. It’s a faster and easier way for them to get immediate responses.
When a client emails the help desk, our direct response usually involves a timeline to resolution and a ticket so that clients can follow its progression and status. They’ll also get a response when the task has been completed.
Since SupportBee integrates with Asana, the ticket also goes to our board there. This takes a lot of those little to-dos off the account manager’s plate, while also allowing the manager to track and show what was processed for the client at marketing report meetings.
Why did you go with SupportBee?
I wanted a new system that would make things more manageable for our help desk. We looked into the big players like Zendesk and Freshdesk, but ended up going with SupportBee because it easily integrated with Asana, which is how we run our business (as well as with Pipedrive, our CRM). Having something that connected those tools seamlessly was huge. And the price was good, too.
Because it’s a simple system, onboarding wasn’t overwhelming. We have a couple of training documents in our internal wiki that explain how to use SupportBee’s features (like snippets), but since it works like normal email, employees don’t really need a lot of instructions.
What do you like most about SupportBee?
I love the ticket forwarding. If a client sends me an email I can just forward it over to the help desk, which will respond directly to the client.
I’m busy and often in meetings, so SupportBee provides a way to give clients immediate attention and fast communication even if I’m in the middle of something else.
I see it pop up and I can just send it over and know it will get tasked and resolved. It basically takes a lot of what goes into a marketing agency out of the equation.
I also like the built-in Knowledge Base software. We have our own internal wiki that is built on WordPress so we haven’t taken advantage of it yet, but we have clients that want us to build something out for them. Knowledge Base would provide them with more value through SupportBee’s self-service model for their customers’ common questions. As we grow, it’s on the roadmap to expand SupportBee use to our clients so they can also use it.
What customer service advice do you have for others in the digital marketing industry?
Customer service is hard. Anything that you can do to make it look really easy is the best advice I have.
The truth is, people that gravitate toward businesses that are heavily involved in customer service generally like to please other people. That’s a dangerous trait because it makes every piece of communication you get both important and urgent. Most of the time they are neither.
SupportBee gives us some breathing room to sort out what is truly important and urgent. If everything is urgent then you’ll never really get to the important work. Most of the time, clients just want to get the task out of their brain and completed within a reasonable amount of time, and SupportBee lets us do that. We can say, at scale, “We got your request,” and then use pre-written snippets for different issues.
If a client’s request isn’t truly urgent, it’s still great for them to know it’s being worked on. If it is hugely important and urgent, we can quickly respond with an email letting them know we’re escalating the matter. At that point we know the world’s on fire and we have to address it, which lets my people be more proactive rather than reactive.
It takes a lot of time to set those boundaries, and you may lose some clients [in the process].
My advice is to find clients who want to work the same way you want to work.
It’s not just how you handle clients, but the type of clients you take on and how you train them when they come on board.
I try to live this advice everyday, and every day we’re making progress.