How We’re Using Live Chat to Deliver World Class Customer Support at ConvertKit

At ConvertKit our mission can be expressed in a single sentence: We exist to help creators earn a living.

For the Success Team, there is one word of that mission that stands out amongst the rest: Help. It’s our job to help our customers, to help them grow their businesses, navigate ConvertKit, and build a system that works for them.

We aim to help our customers in many different ways, including:

  • Migrations — did you know we offer free custom migrations for new ConvertKit customers with more than 5,000 email subscribers? Learn more here.
  • On-boarding — it takes a hot second to get up to date on the new terminology and functionality when you’re finally using an email marketing software that works the way it should. Our on-boarding makes it easy to get up and running.
  • Knowledge base — too many software knowledge bases are boring and dry. Why? We look at our knowledge base as one more way we can surprise and delight our customers every time they have a question about email marketing.
  • Coding — as an online creator, whether you’re a musician, podcaster, chef or investigative journalist, there are too many barriers between you and making $$ from your craft online. We remove one of those barriers by helping you code an email template or email form when you’re stuck.

And one thing every member of the Success Team does is deliver one-on-one support to our customers. We all spend time answering questions, solving problems, and offering advice based off our experience as creators ourselves and workings with thousands of creators every week.

The customer support standard is email

Since the beginning of ConvertKit, the majority of our customer interactions have come through email. ConvertKit customers can send us a message from within the app or email us directly at help@convertkit.com.

But the problem we faced with our initial setup was there was no immediacy. We can respond to an email, but the customer has to check their email and possibly respond back and so on.

Even though we’re real people answering emails, there was still a line of separation– mostly caused by time– that we sought to erase. After all, if you have to break your workflow while you wait on a response from us, then we’re not helping you do your best work.

So, as start-ups are known to do, we launched an experiment.

What if we could respond to customer questions in a matter of seconds rather than hours?

There were two iterations of trying to answer this question…

Experiment 1: Live phone calls [Spoiler: big failure]

Our first iteration of Live Chat came with phone calls. We creating a shared calendar for the Success Team and each team member took responsibility for a day, and we started accepting phone calls. And everything started out great:

  • Customers loved that they could get help when they needed it
  • They liked the assurance that they were speaking to a real person, not a highly intuitive bot of some sort.
  • They liked being able to talk through whatever issue they were facing.

One of the best things about our phone call calendar was how timely customers could get help. Our “book a call calendar” worked for awhile, but eventually, things started to break down.

It got to the point that we had to start telling customers that our phone call calendar was booked a month in advance– we knew things weren’t working at that point.

The problem was, there were only so many of us, and we could only help one person at a time. With seven full time Success Team members and over 14,000 active customers, the odds were not in our favor. We pulled the plug on our phone call calendar experiment when we lost what we valued most about it: the immediacy.

Experiment 2: Live chat [Spoiler: big success]

Back at the drawing board, there was another experiment that seemed like it could be exactly what we were looking for, and the last week of June 2017, we officially launched live chat.

Any new thing or idea is bound to be a little nerve-wracking, but with live chat we had some concerns.

Live chat is one of those things that if done well, is great, but if done poorly is very very very bad. The last thing we wanted to do was alienate our customers or deliver a negative experience.

Almost all of us could point to very specific negative chat experiences with other companies. These were times when we sought help in a manner that seemed convenient, but ended up wanting to tear our hair out. We needed to avoid that at all cost.

Our goals were simple: help customers when and how they needed it.

Live Chat Lesson 1: Set the bar high, but not too high

One of the things that made live chat so appealing was the ability to help multiple customers either at once, or very quickly back-to-back. The tool we use for live chat, Olark, allowed us to set a maximum number of chats per operator.

We very quickly realized that the number we set was too high. We never want to sacrifice quality for quantity, so we dropped our maximum chat number to three and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Once the dust settled and our brains became un-fried, we noticed that, hey, this might be working! But we had more lessons to learn.

Live Chat Lesson 2: Scheduling is hard

Besides the maximum chats at a time, the other lesson we learned was how to schedule ourselves for live chat. We use a simple Google spreadsheet for scheduling live chat, that hasn’t changed much, but in the beginning, we all selected 2 hour blocks throughout the week.

The problem was we offered live chat from 7am-6pm Pacific Monday-Friday– that’s a lot of 2 hour blocks! We constantly found ourselves stressed about getting coverage and flipping back and forth multiple times between email, chat, and whatever else was on the to-do list. It took some time, but once we knew live chat was here to stay, we made some changes to scheduling.

The biggest change we made was with people.

Instead of everyone doing everything, we wanted to give ourselves focus. Now, we have a group whose focus is live chat and a group whose focus is email. There’s obviously going to be some overlap, but it’s a huge relief to have areas of priority.

The second scheduling change went along with priorities. Since we no longer had to bounce back and forth as much, we switched from 2 hour blocks to 4 hour minimum blocks of time. That’s worked like a charm and made live chat much easier to schedule.

Our live chat experiment has been such a success that we now offer 24/7 live chat support!

We’re happy to be able to help customers with more immediacy, and most importantly, we’ve heard from our customers how much they appreciate having more options on how to reach us.

Live chat has been such a success that we already expanded our hours. We started with 7am-6pm US Pacific time Monday-Friday and we’reproud to say that we now offer 24/7 live chat coverage to better support our customers all over the world.

Want to support your customers better too? Try live chat support. But don’t make the same early mistake we did!