Scaling Customer Support for TinyPilot

Indie Hackers - January 28, 2022

Michael Lynch (@deliberatecoder)

In the beginning

I'm super available!

Soon after

  • I'm spending 4-5 hours per day responding to customer support emails
  • Many of the questions repeat
  • Answers aren't reusable

Founder's ideal

  • Minimize time on technical support
  • Customers submit clear steps to reproduce the issue
  • Customers read all of your available documentation
  • Customers assign fair, accurate priority levels to all requests

Customer's ideal

  • Solve their problem ASAP
  • Minimize time explaining the problem
  • Avoid:
    • Signing up for a new account
    • Learning a support ticket system
    • Digging through documentation

Support channels

Support channel For customer For founder
Live chat Great Terrible
Support email Good Bad
Ticketing system Bad Good
Help forum Okay Good
Documentation Okay Great
Incentivize customers to use better support channels

Customers will use the most obvious email

Restructure to present the better email

Build a FAQ

Create a help forum

  • I like TalkYard
    • Open-source
    • Indie developer
    • Managed hosting starts at $2/month

TinyPilot's help forum

TinyPilot's help forum

Benefits of help forum

  • Builds a public corpus of technical help
  • Useful way to search past error message
  • Users help each other

Shared inbox >>> private inbox

  • Even if you're the only person answering
    • Builds an archive of answers
    • Easy to scale up when you hire
  • Offers more support-friendly tools than regular email


HelpScout: Assigning threads

Surprises about customer support

Surprise 1

Customers can answer a maximum of two questions per email

Maximum of two questions

Me: Sorry to hear you're unable to see the remote screen on your TinyPilot!

  • Can you go to System > Logs > Get Shareable URL and share the URL with me?
  • Can you go hit the F12 key in Chrome and then click the “Console” tab? Does that show any errors?
  • Have you tried rebooting the device?

Maximum of two questions

Customer: I just tried rebooting the device. It didn't work.

Me: …

Surprise 2

Quick responses are bad

Quick responses are bad

  • Expectation: “Customers will love my lightning-fast replies!”
  • Reality: Customers stop being thoughtful when replies are fast

Why do fast responses make customers worse?

  • Low latency in replies
  • No incentive to capture all relevant information
    • Customer: “If I leave something out, the founder will just ask me for more details in a few minutes.”
Solution: Avoid responding in under 2 hours
  • Set expectations on support pages
  • Exceptions for legitimately urgent issues (e.g., incorrect shipping address)

Useful resources