When I started Wooassist and was looking at designing the customer service process, I decided that it would be more efficient to wait till we got our first customer, and deal with that customer myself, document how I handled that customer, and make that into a process the team could follow.
I estimated it was going to be a lot less time than creating a fictional client and creating processes around what might or might not happen. I also knew I would find it very hard to create a fictional character and do “mock” work as my heart would not be in it as I knew it was fictional. However, if I had a real live customer that had already paid me and I had real live tasks from them, then the motivation to impress our first client would propel me into a highly motivated state and I could achieve a lot more with less.
Wooassist’s First Customer
As it turned out I had a lot less. I was having breakfast in the international terminal at Denpasar (Bali) airport waiting for my connecting flight when I noticed they had free wi-fi. Flicking through my phone hap-hazardly checking my emails I noticed our first order from the Wooasssit site. “Cool we have our first Wooassist order”.
After a few seconds the excitement wore off and I realized that I had about 30 minutes online before my flight boarded and then I would be offline till the next morning.
Oh well, I had created this business with defined criteria to be able to be run without my input, see Creating a Business Model That Has Good Founder Fit.
It looks like that would be happening earlier than expected and I would be throwing my team in the deep end.
At least I had set up an email template to go out to the customer when they placed an order that would ask them to reply to that email with the tasks they had for us. The new client (I’ll call him Danny for the rest of this article) had not replied to that yet so I got on Skype with my project manager John and explained the situation, where I was, and that I would not be able to manage this client like I had hoped, and it was up to him.
In the next 30 minutes we sent back and forth a few email template examples for the client set-up process and then just 5 minutes before I was due to board Danny replied with the tasks he needed done. Basically, he had built the site himself and there were just a few items left that were too hard for him to figure out and he had sent them to us. They were highly technical and I wasn’t sure we could get a result for him.
Customer Service Process – Not as I Had Planned
This was not the business I had in mind when I built Wooassist. Our target market was online store owners that wanted to leverage their time by handing over the mundane and laborious tasks of their site management, not take on the most complex parts of their site that were too hard for them.
In any case, the last thing I wanted to do was tell our first customer that his tasks were just too hard for us.
I got in late that night and decided there was no point checking my mail and I was better of getting a good night sleep and having a look at this with fresh eyes the next day. I went to sleep at peace that either my team had been able to handle his requests or they hadn’t. If they hadn’t, I then had the difficult job of informing him that this is beyond the scope of the service we offer.
Resisting the urge to jump straight into my email the next morning I performed my Morning Routine and then in the correct sequence got to the correspondence between Danny and John. I was thrilled; John had been able to find solutions for everything Danny had asked.
“Phew!” What a relief. Although I was prepared for a “Sorry we don’t do that” scenario, I really wanted our first client to be a success. Over the next few days I refined the processes and email templates that we could use and had John proofread, update, and add to our wiki. We use dokuwiki for our processes.
Luckily Things Rarely Work out as Planned
So my minimum viable customer service process development turned out to be a lot more “minimum” than I had expected and now looking back, I couldn’t have hoped for a better scenario. The way things worked out empowered John to handle any future clients with much more confidence and gave me a renewed confidence in John and the team that we could handle just about anything.
The new customers we have had since then each brings their own challenges. For each new client we find we need to add or update something in the wiki as our customer service processes are an ever-evolving iterative journey.
One I would never have expected was people choosing not to use the $100 coupon for their first order. We offer $100 off store owners first order, so that they can get started on one our cheapest package for just $19, giving them 6 hours of our time with very little risk.
A few times our customers have chosen not to take up this option so we had to work out what to do, if anything. In the end we decided to offer them 2 hours complimentary as part of their account set-up.
We will continue to iterate to bring clients a better experience and better value by ultimately serving our mission of using our skills to leverage their time so they can better manage their business.
Starting a client business without processes in place and developing them on the fly, reckless or efficient? Let me know you thoughts.