3 Ways To Scale Without Losing Savvy Customer Service

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By Natalia Oberti Noguera (Founder & CEO, Pipeline Fellowship)

How can a low-tech, high-touch startup scale to a high-tech one without losing users? I asked several tech startup founders, community managers, and users for any lessons learned on how startups can successfully transition their early adopters, who are used to feeling like VIPs, to technology that reduces hand-holding.

Here are three principles they work by as their startups continue to scale from high-touch to high-tech:

  1. Canned answers can be a good thing – According to Danae Ringelmann, IndieGoGo co-founder and COO, “canned answers get a bad rap because they often don’t answer the questions asked; hence the execution is poor, not the concept.” If canned answers address the questions that people are asking, Ringelmann reckons that they will not be considered impersonal.Sumazi‘s founder, Sumaya Kazi, goes one step further, “[We] have more time to be more accessible and helpful to our users now that so many of the processes are automatic.”
  2. More users don’t necessarily mean more work – As Producteev‘s community manager, Judi Huck has a two-pronged approach for scaling customer support: a) optimize product messaging, and, b) strengthen relationships with customers. For Huck, a transition from low-tech to high-tech should include a strategy to leverage user-to-user support along the way, whether it’s naming a few super-users go-to brand ambassadors, or crowdsourcing the FAQ page.
  3. Treat a user’s feedback as the tip of the iceberg – Mike Kai, Lifeyo founder, believes that overlooking one user’s question can potentially have amplified effects. “For every person who reports a bug or needs help with an issue, we imagine a hundred other people having the same experience but without the time to write in.”

Initially, I wanted to find out how high-tech startups could reduce hand-holding without losing the VIP experience. I thought high-touch was good, although hard to scale, and that newly high-tech startups needed to make sure to be high-touch enough to keep users happy.

IndieGoGo’s Ringelmann changed my mind. In her view, “One might even go so far as to say the goal of customer happiness [IndieGoGo's take on customer service] is to make itself obsolete (kind of like the women’s movement :)).”

It turns out, scaling high-touch is not the goal.

As long as a high-tech startup provides relevant customer service, creates a culture that engages users, and treats individual feedback as community feedback, its users will continue to feel like VIPs.

This post was originally posted at HBR Blog Network.

About the guest blogger: Natalia Oberti Noguera is Founder & CEO of Pipeline Fellowship, which trains women philanthropists to become angel investors through education, mentoring, and practice. She was named to the Forbes list “Top 20 Women for Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter” and was selected as a Readers’ Pick for HuffPost Tech’s “27 Women in Tech You Need to Follow on Twitter.” Follow her on Twitter at @nakisnakis and the Pipeline Fund at @pipelinefund.