When Laurel Sittig joined photography site Photojojo.com, the company was tiny. At that point, founder Amit Gupta and his mom had been manning support requests for the online store and community. Laurel, a fan of the site, got her dream job with the company as a blog contributor and photographer.
Photojojo may have been small, but its photo-buff fan base was loyal and loud about the cool photography finds. Fans actively shared their love for the brand on social networks. Gupta said Photojojo’s strongest proponents were existing subscribers and customers.
Then, the company had a breakout hit — mugs shaped like camera lenses. Requests went from 20 to hundreds per day.
“Things got busy — and quick, they had to come up with ways to stay organized,” says Sittig who jumped in to do customer support when keeping on top of requests got too hectic. At that point, customer support was handled through a shared Gmail inbox. This was a workable solution when business was light and only one or two people checked the queue. As soon as volume spiked, it was clear that staying organized and taking care of customers would be challenging. “At first it was agent names on the Gmail label, but that was chaotic,” says Sittig, “Employees sometimes wondered, ‘should we answer?’”
With the holiday season, volume grew even more.
“We had four to 10 people sharing the email inbox that was used for customer support.” says Ms. Sittig, “Amit, the blog editor, everyone was sharing the inbox.”
We talked with Laurel about the transition, taking customer support from Gmail to Desk.com for our ebook, “Evolving From a Shared Email Inbox to a Social Help Desk.” Read a part of the Q&A below and check out the ebook for more customer stories and best practices for knowing when you need a more robust customer support tool, and how to move off of a shared email inbox to Desk.com.
Desk.com: Why did you initially begin using Gmail as a customer-support tool? Were there any benefits you initially saw?
Laurel: Initially, we used Gmail because that’s what we were using for our photojojo.com email accounts. We had one inbox for customer support questions, and it worked great because we got so few emails that one person could pretty much handle all of the emails were were receiving.
Desk.com: What were some of the specific problems you faced using an email inbox as a customer-support tool?
Laurel: We found work-arounds for many of the drawbacks to using Gmail, and it and held on to it for a long time. During our first unexpectedly busy holiday season we had up to 10 people logging into our shop inbox! Our volume of emails grew to the point where we needed a way for more than one person to be working answering emails at the same time without stepping on each other’s metaphorical toes.
One other issue that drove us into our helpdesk search was our need to better keep track of our customers. We had so many, it was becoming harder to track who had been talking with which customers.
Desk.com: How did you decide to adopt a customer-support solution to alleviate these problems you were facing?
Laurel: When we first went looking for a solution to our single-inbox-woes we turned to our pals who deal with customer support and got a feel for what other people were using. We gathered up a few top recommendations, made a list of features we were hoping to find compared to the top contenders and reached out to them to learn more about what they had to offer. Ulitmately we landed on Desk.com [called Assistly at the time].
Desk.com: What were the key benefits of turning to a solution such as Desk.com?
Desk solved both our overcrowded-inbox and customer-tracking problems. We love using filters to simplify which emails we see when they sit down to support our customers. We don’t have to weed through other people’s conversations anymore. Setting up rules that sort our cases by the email address that they’re coming from we can get a clearer picture of our history with them right away.
Another benefit is the simple tracking of email volume and response times. We can easily track how many emails are coming and which of our customer supporters are answering emails the most quickly. (Then we ask those CSers to share their efficiency tips with the rest of the team).
One giant benefit for me (I was running the customer support team at the time that we switched over to Desk.com) is that Desk.com had excellent customer support for its customers. Any time I had a question with the initial set-up or just tweaking things over time to make our agent portals as useful as possible, I knew I could always find a solution in Desk’s help center, or from our pal Jake at Desk, who is always just an email away.