E183: Why We Don’t Have Phone SupportSeptember in Ecom-Crew-Podcast
You may find this surprising, but Dave and I don’t have a dedicated phone support for our respective businesses.
Well, we used to.
Dave’s first ecommerce business had it for five days a week. I used to have 24/7 customer support via telephone for treadmill.com. We also had it for a while here on Terran until late last year. After the person who did this for us sent in his notice, we finally decided to remove it permanently in the last week of December 2017.
So, why did we turn the phone off? Mostly because it was just too much effort for very little money. In Terran’s case, we found that we were actually losing money. Dave sold his first ecommerce business in 2016. When he started another one, he consciously made the decision to do away with phone support altogether.
Is phone support useless?
That depends. There are businesses that benefit, even need, phone support to obtain leads that will convert into sales. However, for a transactional volume business like ours, it’s hard to justify in that vacuum.
Why we love email support
Turning off the phone allowed us to focus on other customer support methods. We think email is the best of the lot. It’s easy to outsource (i.e. our team in the Philippines answers customer emails, along with other tasks) so that brings the cost down. Unlike a ringing phone, it’s easier to resist the lure of the inbox.
Customer support alternatives
In addition to email, EcomCrew utilizes a few other channels to help out both students and non-students. We answer questions via Messenger and on the EcomCrew Premium Facebook group. We also host three webinars each month where participants can interact with us and ask questions. You can register for the next one using the link below.
EcomCrew Premium registration is open for a week! Be one of the first to have access to our new Facebook Messenger course.
Sign up here and get insights on how you can grow your business.
As always, thanks for listening to this episode! If you enjoyed listening and think this episode has been useful to you, please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Happy selling!
Full Audio Transcript
Intro: Hey guys. Before getting started with today’s podcast, I just want to take a second to read what might be my new favorite review over here on iTunes. It says, discovering Mike and Dave’s EcomCrew Podcast and premium courses, has been a game changer for my business. The strategies and tactics discussed in these podcasts have yielded immediate results. Sometimes I wish they were my own little secret, but I’m grateful they’re willing to share the secrets on what made them successful. These guys are the real deal. If you want to take your ecom business to the next level, hit subscribe.
I just want to thank you for saying that about our podcast and our premium courses. I thought it was a good time to read that because EcomCrew Premium is open for registration again through October 2nd. What David and I had to do is periodically close down premium, actually most of the — we’re only going to be opening up registrations a few times a year because when we take on new subscribers we get a pretty big influx of emails. As a part of EcomCrew Premium membership you get unlimited email access to Dave and I and we answer all those one on one with you.
We also give you four full length courses that you can take at your own pace. And our newest course Facebook Messenger for E-commerce is now out and live and a part of your premium subscription. And if that wasn’t enough, you also get twice monthly webinars. One of them is a Q&A webinar where you can ask us any questions you have about your business. And we also do an under the hood of our brands where you can see all the products we’re launching services and as we’re doing all kinds of things like that.
So go over to EcomCrew.com/premium to check that out today. Again, registration does close on October 2nd, and it probably will be closed throughout the rest of the year. So go check that out before it’s too late, EcomCrew.com/premium, and now on with the show.
Mike: This is Mike and welcome to episode number 183 of the EcomCrew Podcast. You can go to EcomCrew.com/183 to get to the show notes for this episode. And today I have Dave Bryant back on the show with me. We’re going to be talking about something that was kind of an interesting result for us that I was really concerned about doing at the beginning of the year, but we did it anyway, which was to turn off phone support.
So that conversation leads into a whole discussion about customer service, and how to deal with your customers and what is the most cost effective way. So we talk about obviously phone support, email support, Facebook Messenger, live chat, and a couple of other things. So on the other side of this break, we’re going to dig right into it with my buddy Dave, talk to you soon.
Mike: This is Mike.
Dave: This is Dave.
Mike: And welcome to this edition of the EcomCrew Podcast. How are you doing my friend?
Dave: I am doing swell. How about you Mike?
Mike: I’m hanging in there. It’s another day in paradise here in San Diego. It’s hard to complain about much of anything when it’s pretty much perfect out.
Dave: I know San Diego is just the perfect place to be in the world, isn’t it?
Mike: Yeah, about 10 and a half months a year.
Dave: Well, better than the six and a half up here.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. So, we wanted to do a podcast today about customer service and support. I thought it was an interesting topic because Dave and I were talking, I don’t know, maybe six weeks ago or something and we just finally got a chance to do this. But I had told him that we had turned off phone support, and he was like, what, really? He was kind of kind of shocked. And I thought it’d be cool to talk about why we did that, the Economics of it, how it’s affected our business and then expand upon support in general and kind of make this a full length podcast about that.
Dave: Yep, absolutely. And I think today we can have a little celebration that neither of us has phone support anymore.
Mike: Well, I haven’t for I think we turned it on — it was either I think it was the last week of December last year? Basically what we did is we recorded a message. Normally we record a message at the end of the year saying, we’re closed for the holidays for that last week of the year. And instead of doing that, I made a message saying we no longer offer phone support. That was it.
Dave: Well, in my previous company, we had phone support pretty much seven days — not seven days a week, five days a week, kind of nine to five. And I was never actually able to turn it off in the previous business because it was too addicting. It was, you get a few sales coming in through the phone every now and then, and it’s hard to turn off sales. When I sold that company and started this new company Offloading, I just made a decision from the get go not to have phone support because some of the things that we’ll talk about phone support sometimes it can be a pretty bad return on your money.
Mike: Yeah, so I think the best place to start here, let’s talk about why I made a decision and how I got to that point.
Mike: So at the end of at the end of 2017, we had an employee that had turned in his notice. He was the guy that was doing phone support for us, but he was doing a lot more than phone support. And he was the warehouse guy and he was setting up Amazon shipments. He was doing a bunch of other stuff. And his position had kind of evolved into that just because he had been with us for a pretty good length of time. And we knew that when we rehired somebody that it was going to be basically impossible to find someone that could do all these different things.
And it was also at a point already where he was already kind of working at like 110% kind of mood. This ends up happening a lot with a growing company. You end up in a situation where you need a part time accountant, a part time graphic designer, a part time programmer, a part time this and the other. And so you can’t afford to hire full time accountant, so you got to put that job someplace. You can’t afford necessarily to hire a full time graphic designer, so you have to put that job someplace. And he was this hodgepodge of those things like shipping stuff on the warehouse and taking phone calls, and etc, etc.
And anyway, so I mean, I knew when we rehired, we were already at a point where we had another job out, and ad out anyway. So we were looking to hire two people. And so, the question became, if we were going to be continuing to do phone support, what does that actually going to cost us? So it forced us to sit down and evaluate something that we knew probably wasn’t worthwhile anyway. But it’s very easy to just be like, oh well, there’s someone there doing it already, let’s just continue doing it. You know what I’m saying when it comes to stuff like that?
Dave: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s like I mentioned this, the addictive part about it, that you get stuck in the status quo and it’s hard to turn it off.
Mike: Yeah. And you, now who is taking phone calls, it’s like, the guys and we don’t have a big office. At the time it was like four of us here. So, anytime the phone rang, I’d hear him talking and in the back you hear like well, that’s a sale at least that we’re getting that we might not have gotten otherwise because of the phone support. So, it’s even more addicting when you hear it, when you have one of your senses is experiencing it all the time.
Dave: Yeah, I remember in my previous company, we’d have a great day on the phone because we get five sales, and the person handling phone support would say, we had a great day, we got five sales. But relative to all the online sales, we had easily 100 or 200 that day. That five was miniscule. But again, like you say, it’s so friend of mine, you hear them coming in, you’re talking to the customer and you over represented how proportional those sales are relative to your other sales.
Mike: Yeah. Okay. So what I did at that point was to just really start digging. We use phone.com. I’ve been really happy with them. There was no issue with it. But we ran some reports basically looking at the exact number of phone calls we got. And we looked at the amount of time, the average amount of time that we were spending taking phone calls. And then we looked at the average profit that we make per order from those calls. So we were going through, and we had to estimate the best we could here because we don’t tag a sale necessarily as a phone sale.
So we were looking at our website sales and making some pretty educated guesses. And the phone sales were about the same dollar volume as a general sale. That was one of the things we started looking at. We looked at a sample size of like 50 orders and compared that to our site, and it was basically an order that was coming through the phone was the same dollar transactional volume as it was as someone placed an order on the website. So then, we looked at the average profit on one of those orders, and our average order value, let’s say on something like ColorIt is just over $30.
And this is not really a surprise. This is why you set free shipping thresholds. We had looked at our average order value in the past on ColorIt and then raised the free shipping threshold to be higher to try to get our average order value up and put that that at a logical point. So our average order value is like 32 bucks. And if you look at just gross profit of an order like that, it’s something like let’s say $8. And if the guy is on the phone for 15 minutes taking a phone call to do that order, and stopping what he’s doing, it’s losing money.
I mean it’s certainly not making any money. I mean this is California; we don’t live in the middle of the country and in a wheat field in Kansas where labor is much, much cheaper. I mean, this is a situation where it’s much more expensive. And when you take in the cost of the employee and the insurance and the rent and the computer and everything else that goes into having an employee here, the actual wheel dollar cost per hour, and then you factor in the fact that like we’re not big enough to have a full time phone support person like that.
We don’t take enough phone calls to where a guy is sitting at a desk doing nothing but that. So it’s interrupting something else he’s doing. And unlike everything else that he would do in his daily tasks where he would do things in a delineated fashion, this is like, if he’s right in the middle of doing something else, he’s got to stop what he’s doing, take the phone call, and then wrap up the phone call and then go back to what he was doing. And the transition to that is not like a flick of a switch. So, the reality was that phone support just was not making us any money.
And the average phone call that we were taking was astronomically long. Most people that were calling in, it wasn’t just okay, let me take your order, and you’re done. It was them talking about their problems. There was a lot of bartender effect that was kind of going on. We were evaluating this as well. And again, if you look at the average length of the calls that we were taking, divided into all this, it just clearly wasn’t worth, like having to go out and then hire a full time person to do this.
And what it’s meant to our bottom line is about another 30 to $40,000 a year in a net profit, which means that you’d have to sell $400,000 or more in product just to make up for that and so extrapolating into the macro. It just wasn’t even close to mathematically correct. So we took it off.
Dave: Yeah and I think this kind of highlights a bigger macro trend with an e-commerce that in e-commerce margins are being pushed down. It’s a fact of life because more and more competition is coming through e-commerce. There’s more and more Amazon sellers, more and more e-commerce sellers. So margins are gradually coming down. And I kind of estimate that overall net margins and probably decreasing one to 2% a year. And so, if that’s the reality of the world that we live in, that our margins are going to constantly come down, this becomes a question now of how do you trim costs?
And unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, phone support is one of those lower hanging fruit in terms of costs that you can trip.
Mike: Yeah without a doubt. And the way that we did it again, I wouldn’t – I mean everyone is going to be in a different juncture. You’re probably either right now contemplating, do I add phone support? If you’re listening this podcast is it, am I missing out because I don’t have phone support. So, let’s talk about that just real quick because what I realize now, it’s been over nine months, or about nine months since we turned it almost to the day recording this podcast, our sales did not suffer one bit. We just did not — it wasn’t even the slightest of speed bumps in our growth, in our sales.
The only push back we had, there were a couple of fringe customers here and there that were just like, I am not going to place an order, you’ve lost my business if you don’t turn phone support back on. And we had to just basically tell them sorry. We wrote an email, I wrote the email that to have our support people sit down and explain why this was. And the reality was, is we lost like two or three people. It was so small and I mean it pains me to lose those customers, because I’m a people person and I want to make people happy. But the reality was, is that every time we took one of their orders, we were losing money, and a business can’t survive that way by doing that.
And so if you’re at a point where you think you’re missing out, you’re probably not. But I do think, the next thing I have on my list that I want to talk about and like kind of a good segue and we’ll come back to part two of this in a second, there definitely is a situation where you’re going to want to have phone support. And I think that that comes into you got to know your market, you got to know your customers, know your margins. But I think back to treadmill.com as a for instance, there’s no way that we could have run that business without phone support.
I mean, just it wouldn’t even be feasible because people have a certain level of comfort buying 20 and $30 widgets online. That comfort level erodes quickly when you’re talking about buying of $2,000 machine. And a lot of times they want to call just to make sure that you are real. And so, I mean, the reality was that looking back, I don’t have the statistics on this because we didn’t run them at the time. But taking an educated guess, probably 80% of our orders came through the phones and because of the phones. And that was our competitive advantage.
We were operating in a commoditized, a high price commoditized industry. It’s like a really weird niche where these $2,000 treadmills have basically become commoditized as you could buy them at a Sports Authority or a Wal-Mart or another big box store. And our competitive advantage was that we were there for you. If you wanted to actually pick up the phone and talk to somebody, we were there to help you. And I think that in those situations, you have to have phone support.
But if you’re running on a transactional volume business like we are today, where there is no one transaction that makes any amount of money that’s going to make any dent in our business, because it’s all 20, 30, $40 at a time, it’s pretty hard to justify phone support in that vacuum.
Dave: Yeah, and I would say a couple of things to what you mentioned here. Number one, treadmill.com I believe the last time you operated that was 2014. I do think people’s attitudes towards not having phone support have evolved quite a bit where people are more accepting to you not having phone support now. So in 2014, where somebody might not have bought a treadmill without talking to Mike Jackness on the phone, today, I think people are more open to it. And that’s where I think a lot of these old businesses who have always had phone support and they just have it ingrained in their mind that these customers need phone support.
Well, attitudes have changed a little bit. And yeah, sure, it’s a big shift for people when you eventually decide to turn off the phones, but I do think most people are pretty accepting of not having phone support now. People are now trained to know how to use email to interact with the brand, know how to use live chat to interact with the brand. So, I think if a business has been having phone support for a while, they might overestimate how easy it is to turn off and how accepting the customers will be, especially here today in 2018.
Mike: Yeah, and I like assuming on something like ColorIt, it was like two or three people maybe once every quarter now, something will come up where someone is like, I want to talk to a person and we just have to say, look, we just we don’t do it. We don’t make any exceptions. We’re not going to call back a customer because they’re upset about their gel pens, their $30 set of gel pens.
Dave: That’s an interesting segue. But that’s one of the challenges I have is a customer will say I need to talk to somebody. Here’s my phone number. Call me. What’s your tack that you take with those people? Do you simply tell them no?
Mike: Yeah, I mean we have a form reply that’s kind of the diplomatic way of doing it which basically says that we just simply do — we’re an online exclusive retailer; we simply just do not have phone support. We’re sorry to hear that you’re having an issue. Just because we don’t have phone support doesn’t mean that we don’t care about customer service and we’re happy to give you a complete refund or send you a new one, or whatever it takes to make you happy, but we just don’t offer phone support.
Dave: Wow, you’re so much colder than me Mike. I normally just give in and actually pick up the phone and call them.
Mike: No, because I’m the one who would have to do it. I mean, at this point it would be me having to make the phone call.
Dave: That’s the thing.
Mike: And I’m not going to call a customer over a set of $30 gel pens. I mean to have them complain that — because they’ll talk to you for 30 minutes. I mean we’ve been there, like I’ve been through this. And again it’s not that I don’t care about our customers, but I have to be realistic of how much of a time suck it is, and what the outcome is. And it’s just easier to give them a refund and just, I’m going to give your 30 bucks back. And that really ends up costing us more like 10 because our cogs are like about $10 or whatever.
And if someone is going to pay me $10 to be on the phone for 30 minutes, I will just tell them no. I mean, I’m not going to talk to anyone for 30 minutes for $10. I mean, it just it doesn’t make sense. There’s better things I can be doing in our business and I had to just look at it. It’s like the one thing that I maybe I’m a little cold on in our business more dollars and cents wise and anything else it’s dollars and cents wise in our business.
We’ll talk about how we handle the email support, but I mean our customer service agents are told unless someone has a pattern of taking advantage of us, and it’s clear that they’re scamming us, never tell them no, just always send them another item, give them a refund. Send them two of what they bought, do anything that you have to, to make them happy. But we won’t do phone support. It’s like I’ll do anything but not that.
Dave: Yeah, I think that’s a good kind of pivot into the types of support that are out there. And generally you have pre sale support questions and inquiries and you have post sale questions and inquiries. You can get rid of almost all post sale problems by simply having a generous return policy. I think Amazon has done this perfectly to a tee. They just no questions asked return policy, and that’s something that we’re doing in my new business now is to simply, yeah sure, you want to return it or whatever. Try to avoid that as much as possible through post sale email follow ups and also email support, but overall if they want to return it so be it.
Mike: The reason that we’ve — there’s a couple of reasons that we’ve gone with this return policy similar to what you have. Number one, it’s on our website and under returns, this is obviously off Amazon stuff right now. But under returns, this is the number one thing or one of three main things that people they won’t buy from an online retailer for their — return policy is one of those like three main things. And if you have a very generous return policy, we even make fun of this. We say on ColorIt it’s a 30 day return policy, no questions asked.
And no questions asked means literally no questions asked. You can buy — I forget exactly how we say this but we get funny with it. It’s like you can — if you buy a book for your girlfriend, but she breaks up with you and you want to return it, you color half of it and don’t want it anymore, you can return it. If zombies wipe their brains on it, you can return it. You drop it in a puddle of oil, we just like give all these like crazy circumstances because it’s really a no questions asked policy. If someone wants to return the item, we will take it back. We know that that helps our conversion rate. And we know that the reality is the repercussions of having a strict return policy like do way more harm than good.
Mike: It lowers your return rate, it pisses customers off, they’re never going to buy from you again like that’s period. And the end of the day, the customer has the ultimate power because they’re buying with a credit card and they can do a chargeback on you, and that costs you more money in the long run anyway. And we basically get no charge backs. The only charge backs we get on ColorIt maybe once a month, once every two months, something in that range is for fraud. Like someone says that they authorized the transaction but it’s never a chargeback because they want to take the item back or they want to give me a refund, whatever it is.
A lot of times we don’t even ask them to send the thing back, just like just keep it because it’s cheaper than paying for shipping. And at least at that point you prevent any like pissing match on social media which can get really out of hand and cost you a ton of money, you prevent charge backs, you prevent the customer from like never buying from you again because a lot of people legitimately just had a bad experience. And if you can make it better, it’s behooves you long term to have a post like that.
And again, [inaudible 00:21:59] people scamming us. We’ve had a couple of people, two people over the entire life of ColorIt now, which is almost four years that we had to put our foot down and stop. They were just, they were flat out, it was obviously they were taking advantage and scamming and we had to put an end to it. But the majority of people just aren’t like that. And it’s better to kind of kill them with kindness than to be stubborn and you let it affect you personally when they’re looking for a returning. You know they’re probably pushing the boundaries and taking advantage a little bit. Just let your ego step aside and deal with it.
Dave: Yeah, and don’t let your business be run by the exceptions to the rules rather than the rules.
Mike: Exactly, yeah.
Dave: So should we now kind of talk about what are the trends in customer service and I’ll kind of do a forecast for the next two or three years. And I think this is good for people that have businesses or people that are first starting their businesses and trying to determine how to best approach support and do it in a way that’s going to help your conversion rates. But at the same time, do it in a cost effective way and always have in the back of your mind that okay margins are probably going down, how do you keep your costs low?
Mike: Yeah, I think that the big trend that I see coming, and we haven’t actually put this in our business yet because it’s just a manpower issue, but we’re going to early next year for sure it’s already on our calendar for next year. And that’s Facebook Messenger like live chat. Effectively we’ve done Olark and other types of live chat before, but the thing about Facebook Messenger is it’s not quite live chat. It can be, you can use it as live chat, but it’s more a message that you can answer later.
And for those of you who have listened to us talk about Facebook Messenger, I think Facebook Messenger is the future. We actually just about the time that this podcast is going out, we just launched a Facebook Messenger course as a part of EcomCrew Premium subscription. Facebook Messenger is not going away. I look at how things are going in China with WeChat, and Facebook Messenger is going to be the platform of communicating with businesses, communicating with friends and family, paying people, buying things, ordering your Uber, or your food or whatever it might be. We’re just a couple of years behind Asia.
And the course that we put together doesn’t really talk about how to handle live chat, but it does talk about how to grow your Messenger subscriber list. And right now Facebook Messenger is still really cheap to acquire people to get them on your list. I think back to the early days of Google PPC where there wasn’t a lot of competition. You can just run the table with running PPC ads and the same thing with Facebook ads, when Facebook ads first came out. Facebook Messenger is at that at that juncture now, and customer support is just like another one of those angles that’s going to come in the Facebook Messenger.
So, I encourage you guys to check out EcomCrew Premium. You can go to EcomCrew.com/premium. At the time that this podcast is going out, Ecomcrew Premium signups are open again. We’ve been closing EcomCrew Premium just to try to deal with the volume. We’ve had a lot of success with it, we’ve been quite happy actually. One of the things we provide our EcomCrew Premium members is one on one email support. And we tend to get a flux of emails when we get a bunch of new sign ups because there’s a lot of questions people have when they first sign up. So we try to throttle that a bit.
So as of recording this, the EcomCrew premium is open. When are we closing it again Dave? What’s the date that it’s closing again?
Dave: I think it’s closing on Tuesday, October 2nd, and we should point out that you get one on one 24/7 email support. You cannot call me or Mike. So, only email support or through our webinars or through Facebook Messenger. No phone support, guys.
Mike: Yeah, no phone support. That’s really funny. In addition to the email support, we also have the two webinars. One is a Q&A webinar and the other is a behind the scenes of our brands, which is really cool. You get to see exact products we’re launching and ads we’re running, and things of that nature. And there’s also a couple of other courses, three in fact. One is launching a new number one bestseller on Amazon. The other is importing from China, then there is one on building a seven figure brand. So definitely check that out at EcomCrew.com/premium. But I digress. Go ahead. I’m sorry.
Dave: I was just going to add that I think our approach to trying to handle a lot of inquiries from students of EcomCrew Premium is also an approach that you can take with your e-commerce company. Yes, we do the one on one support but also through webinars. We’re trying to answer as many people’s questions and walk-ons and serve as many people as possible through one answer rather than necessarily doing a one on one answer only. And we do that but the webinars gives you an opportunity to answer one person’s question who probably 40 or 50 other people have the same question.
And that’s the same tack that you can take with your e-commerce company. And this is probably the best way to increase your conversions is if you get a question once, okay, maybe that’s just an oddball question. If you get it twice, chances are there’s a lot of people who have those questions. And so the best way, at least my experience to decrease your number of support inquiries is to preemptively answer any questions that people have. And you can do this in a number of ways. Of course, you do it through your bullet points and description and that’s how most people do it.
That’s probably a terrible way because as we all know, people don’t read. But a lot of times you can answer a lot of these questions preemptively through photographs and videos, especially now if you have EBC on Amazon. Everybody can include a video and you can preemptively answer a lot of these questions. So like one of the things that we do now with our recovery ropes is in our video, oh it works great for four by fours trucks, SUVs, cars, and all of a sudden you’ve now eliminated all those questions that people have? Well, hey, does this work for a car?
And when you can do that, what you’re doing is satisfying the 99% of people that won’t actually ask a question and at the same time eliminating a lot of support inquiries.
Mike: Yeah, and we actually do the same thing Dave. We go back and the things that we see happen over and over again through either through email support or the Q&A, if it’s specifically turned on Amazon, if the questions come up through Q&A a lot and or reviews, like people will leave a negative review about something where if you could just have communicated better, they wouldn’t have bought the thing to begin with, which, it’s counterintuitive. You would think, oh, like you’d never want to prevent sales, but the reality is you want to prevent someone from buying something that they’re going to be unhappy with and either leaving you a negative review or returning it anyway.
Dave: Yeah, yeah, completely. Yeah, and the other thing just on that note too, that’s another as we’re talking about different ways to offer phone support or not phone support, support general, I totally agree with you that Messenger that’s kind of the way of the future. Just download WeChat that is the way that Facebook is going. Right now Facebook and Messenger, and WhatsApp are kind of three disjointed platforms. Eventually Facebook is going to bring them together and figure out a way to serve it a little bit more cohesively. It’s great to get in on it right now though because that definitely is the trend.
But aside from Messenger especially for Amazon sellers, I think the Q&A that’s on every product listing kind of matter. A lot of people ignore those questions and answers that customers are actually posting on your product listings because I know me as a buyer, that’s one of the first places I turn to when I’m kind of on the fence about a product. I go through the Q&A and seeing the types of questions that other customers are asking and the answers to them.
Mike: Mm-hmm. So, one of the other forms of support that we kind of alluded to that we haven’t really dug into yet, which I do want to do is email support, which is basically our preferred method of support now. Just like you mentioned with EcomCrew Premium, same thing but the same thing goes for all of our other brands. And the thing I love about email support, unlike the phone where you got to stop what you’re doing as I was mentioning and take that call which also has — phone support is really, really difficult to have the right number of bodies for because there’s a lot of variance in the times that phone calls come in. It’s kind of the Murphy’s Law of like when it rains it pours.
So what happens if you have one phone support full time person but the phone you get three people calling you at one time which will happen? Someone is going to end up waiting on hold forever or just having a really negative experience because of that anyway. When you need to hire a second person, that’s going to be really inefficient, you’re going to have a second person before you really have the volume for two people. So, a lot of times you have people sitting around twiddling their thumbs.
And we went through this because we actually had a 24/7 call center in our last business believe it or not. And it was very, very difficult to staff completely efficiently. And then you have lunch breaks and holidays and vacation and all these other things, sick days and things to deal with that make it make it really, really difficult.
Dave: And what happens is normally it gets put on the owner’s shoulder.
Mike: Yes yeah. But email support is like this Nirvana that I mean we’ve always offered email support. But looking at it from a business efficiency standpoint, as long as you get back to people relatively quickly which we do, like we’re really adamant and do get back to people as quickly as possible, we say within one business day but it’s usually within hours. People are kind of trained and used to this now, but it’s super efficient. We can have our support person goes through for a couple of hours and answers email. I handle respond to EcomCrew members this exact way.
My day is busy, I can’t stop what I’m doing to take a phone call from somebody, and then at the end of day, I tell them how to put their labels on their product or something. But I’m more than happy; my routine is to do it in the evening after I have dinner. I sit down and typically that’s when I’m answering EcomCrew Premium members. And I do at a relaxed pace, at my leisure and typically have like the TV on the background or hanging out with my wife or something. And I can do that in that environment at my leisure, or when it’s best for me, versus when the phone call comes in.
And the same thing goes for our support team. And we also do that over in the Philippines which is another great for all of our other brands, not EcomCrew but for all of our other brands where our support is all pretty much 100% in the Philippines, which means that we can do it at a lower cost. I mean, the cost for an employee over there is significantly less than the US and they do an amazing job like just a completely amazing job. And they also can do other things.
So when they’re not doing support, when they’re done with the email support, they’re doing PPC optimization for us or doing social media something or other getting prepared for ColorIt live, viewing the slides for that or I mean there’s just like a zillion other tasks that they’re doing, but they can keep their day structured and organized and efficient versus phone support.
Dave: Yeah, absolutely. And one of the things that we’re doing in our company now that kind of blends email and phone support is offering tech support. So the way that we have it organized basically using a program called Twilio. It allows you to basically set it up so a customer can text you a question and you get that question through your email inbox. And especially if you have VAs it’s obviously a lot easier to handle a tech support question through email than having it go directly to somebody’s phone.
A lot of other services now are starting to offer this. I think grasshopper.com also offers a text messaging service and it kind of appeases the best of both worlds. You get people who are on mobile don’t necessarily feel like typing on an email in Gmail, but at the same time, you get the convenience of answering it through email and on your desktop computer, whether it’s you or your VAs.
Mike: Yeah, it’s definitely very cool. And I think you have the types of products that require that right? So I mean, unlike ColorIt, I don’t really think that it needs tech support or WildBaby you don’t really need tech support for a footy or a onesie. But for you, there’s definitely a lot of things that come up because you got like a camping product that requires assembly or attaching it to your vehicle or whatever, and things definitely come up.
Dave: Yeah, so you have very many issues and it’s a higher priced product where like you mentioned, people do want to speak to somebody, whether it’s through a cyber way through texting or email, but they want to speak to somebody in some form or fashion.
Mike: Mm-hmm. So I guess the last thing I want to close with here just to kind of recap on the formula of what kind of support you want to offer, I would look at it as like a sliding scale. You have the level of support you’re offering. So do you offer phone support or texting or live chat or whatever and the cost of that that’s going to incur for your business? And then the sliding other scale is going to be, well how many sales are you going to gain by offering those types of support and looking at it from that standpoint within your business.
And the reality is, is that unless you’re in particular niches; you can probably get away with what might seem like subpar support in a lot of people’s minds. Because if you’re more traditional, you’re going to think that you need to offer these types of support. But the reality is it’s a changing world. And that isn’t just it isn’t necessary. And at the end of the day, I would look at it from this perspective. One of things I’ve thought of is by not offering phone support and doing some of these things, we can now provide a better quality product. We can put our resources, that 40K a year that we saved into our cogs and make a better product.
We don’t necessarily want to just put that in our pocket. There’s other things you can do within your business that at the end of the day, you’re not getting the bang for your buck. You would never continue to run ads that are negative 300% ACOS, right? I mean those you would turn off completely immediately. And I would encourage you to think about support in the same fashion because once I had an opportunity to do that and rethink it, the reality was a lot different than the perception.
Dave: Yeah, absolutely. And like I always talk about, e-commerce is a game about revenue and it’s also a game about costs. So, always be looking at ways that you can save costs whenever possible and at the same time, especially if you can do it without killing your whole customer experience and your whole brand, it’s a win-win if you can do it without impacting that.
Mike: Yeah without a doubt. So cool man, any other closing thoughts on today’s episode?
Dave: No, I don’t think so. I think everybody can head over to EcomCrew and comment on the blog post where we do get back to people, another form of support. So yeah, I think it’s interesting the kind of the world that we’re in now, and I know my parents they still they still turn to the phone instinctively but they’re slowly – I’ve see my mom the other day texting a company to get their address, so minds are changing.
Mike: It’s fun. And the way that you can go comment on that blog post is by going to EcomCrew.com/183. And thank you guys for listening to the 183rd — it’s crazy Dave, 183 episodes of the EcomCrew Podcast marching ever closer to the 200, which we’re going to hit before the end of the year. And we’re well on our goal of doing two per week for the entire year.
Mike: I think the goal was 100 episodes of the podcast this year. And so, we were able to miss a couple here and there, but we’re definitely on pace.
Dave: I look forward to number 200, lucky 200.
Mike: We got to start planning that. And just a reminder again guys, EcomCrew Premium is open through October 2nd, so you can go to EcomCrew.com/premium. Thank you again Dave for joining today and until the next episode everybody, happy selling, and we’ll talk to you then.
Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.