How you manage your email inbox can be a reflection of how organized and focused you are with your business.
My inbox represents clutter and distraction.
Confession: I have every single email (business and personal combined) in the same place—in one inbox.
I’ll let that sink in for a minute.
I have many email addresses. I have one personal email, two business emails, and a variety of business aliases. Every single one of those forwards to the same inbox (my personal email).
That means, whenever I open my email, I see personal and business emails muddled together. What a mess!!!
Having all these emails in one place encouraged me to do business outside of business hours.
I’d check my email on a weekend, see a new support ticket, and feel inclined to answer it right away (even if the customer had marked it as low priority).
Having those emails right in front of me at all times made me want to act immediately.
I’m finally taking steps to separate my personal life from my business life. Starting with support emails.
I’ve moved from a custom ticket-based support platform to HelpScout.
I provide support for my WordPress plugins and themes. If a customer needs help, they get in touch and I do my best to assist them.
Previously I was using a ticketing system I coded myself. The flow would work like this:
- Customer creates an account during checkout.
- When they want to fill out a support ticket, they login to that account (required).
- The customer fills out a form to submit a ticket.
- They can see their ticket on the page, along with a list of their old tickets.
- We both reply to the ticket on the ticket page (much like comments on a blog post).
On my end, the main thing that happens is I would get an email every time a new ticket was submitted and every time the customer posted a new reply. These emails got fed into my personal email inbox (resulting in the problem I described before!).
This system worked extremely well for me for several years. Every now and then there would be a hiccup though. A customer would message me on Twitter or via my contact form saying they were having trouble logging into their account or forgot their password, etc. (despite the clear “I forgot my password” link *cough*). This would result in frustration for the customer, and more work for me (or awkwardly trying to help via social media).
That’s why I decided to try HelpScout.
HelpScout is email support for the customer but ticket support for me.
Let’s look at support from two different perspectives: the customer and the support agent.
For the customer, email-based support is usually the simplest.
The customer doesn’t have to juggle with membership, accounts, passwords, etc. They just fill out a form or send an email, then they can reply to ticket responses directly via email. Simple, right?
But for the support agent, email support is messy!
You don’t have access to customer records or previous conversations with that same customer, etc. It’s inconvenient. Ticket-based support is easier so you can easily see customer data on the same page as the conversation and you can link all the customer’s tickets together.
HelpScout combines the best of both worlds.
My new workflow looks like this:
- Customer fills out a form to submit their ticket (including their email).
- The form gets emailed to my support email address.
- HelpScout takes that email and pulls it into their ticket interface.
- Using the HelpScout API, I can get the customer’s email, query my shop site, and pull out the customer’s records. (All done automatically.)
- The customer’s order history gets displayed next to their ticket.
The biggest difference between this new workflow and my old one is that I never get an email.
I mean, yes, the form does get emailed to my support email address. But the point is, I no longer have to actually check that email account since HelpScout pulls it all out.
I’m no longer forcing myself into a position where I’ll feel obligated to respond out of business hours.
Since I never get an email (that I actually read) I get to pick and choose when I’m ready to handle support tickets. When I am, I login to HelpScout to check the submissions. Nothing is being forwarded to my personal email account.
Stage 1 is complete: separating out support emails.
Now I’ve separated out my support emails and inquiries from my main inbox. This is step one of my “clean up your business and get organized” plan.
The next stage of my plan is moving all my product documentation into HelpScout as well (yes, they have an awesome documentation feature). This might be a task for the new year. 🙂