When we want to improve, we look for good examples.
And if you want to improve your customer service, it’s hard to find a better example than Buffer.
Want to learn from the best? See what they do, how they do it and what makes Buffer customer service so darn good.
What is Buffer
If you haven't had a chance to check out Buffer yet, it’s a social media scheduling platform that makes sharing stuff across several channels easy and time-efficient.
Buffer allows you to quickly plan the promotion of your content and then track its success.
According to Danny Mulcahy, a Customer Hero working at Buffer, the tool can be used by anyone interested in social media:
“Our customers could really be anyone. From individuals looking to have a greater social media presence, and saving time on how they post updates. To Social Media managers, marketers and companies looking for a tool to manage their whole social media across various team members or departments.”
The dream team setup
With such a wide range of potential customers, Buffer’s support team, or rather Happiness team as Dany calls it, has to be pretty organized to handle the support enquiries.
Right now, the team consists of eleven full time members. Ten of them work as Heroes, along with one Happiness Engineer taking care of the technical stuff (I love the names). Danny also mentioned that they have two additional heroes going through ‘Buffer Bootcamp’, but more on that in a minute.
All members work with ten core values in mind that “transcend through all aspects of the company and our personal lives,” Danny said. “We aim to bring our whole self to work, and through these values we really try to create happiness for our customers.”
The ten values are:
- Choose positivity.
- Default to transparency.
- Focus on self-improvement.
- Be a no-ego doer.
- Listen first, then listen more.
- Have a bias toward clarity.
- Make time to reflect.
- Live smarter, not harder.
- Show gratitude.
- Do the right thing.
I especially like the wording of the 7th value. Instead of taking up the time reserved for some other activities, we should make additional time to reflect on our work. It goes hand in hand with the “Live smarter, not harder” value.
The Happiness team is responsible for handling cases from several channels:
“Our main channel for customer support is via email. Typically we invite people to get in touch with us through firstname.lastname@example.org and use Helpscout (who rock) as our email system. We are also super active on Twitter, and the tool we use there is Sparkcentral.”
The team also found a way of using Slack for something other than speeding up internal communication. They’ve opened up a Slack channel where their users can join a community discussion about Buffer.
Buffer’s Heroes mainly take care of users who have run into some kind of bugs or browser glitches. Apart from that, they also provide more information for people who want to learn more about the app.
The final type of enquiries the Happiness team receives are simply users who want to express their support:
“We are super lucky to have lots of people get in touch with us saying how much they support us and also offer ideas on where they think we could improve and make Buffer better.”
Buffer customer service toolbox
To keep in touch with customers and with each other, the team uses several tools and apps. What’s interesting to note is that Buffer’s Happiness team works remotely, which means they need to use “any tools that help improve communication, efficiency and productivity,” Danny said.
Some of the tools they use on regular basis include:
- Sqwiggle – 1:1 video chats,
- Google Hangouts – group video chats,
- Zoom – large group chats,
- Helpscout – customer emails,
- Sparkcentral – Twitter,
- Gmail – team emails,
- Discourse – team announcements and news,
- Stripe – payment systems.
When it comes to scaling its support operations, Buffer had to quickly learn how to bring new people on board. Over the course of last six months, the team nearly doubled:
“We have grown from 30 team members to over 50, and we're looking to keep adding new members too for the foreseeable future so that we can push to improve Buffer.”
With growth, the company had to answer more and more enquiries from users and needed more Heroes to do that. According to Danny, currently they have “different team members specializing in different areas of the product.” However, this is not set in stone as everybody remains very flexible and everybody is encouraged to work with things that make them the most excited:
“We believe this will benefit both sides, our employees getting joy in their work and our customers having happy workers helping them.”
Buffer bootcamp with buddies
When a new hire joins the Happiness team, they go through the already mentioned ‘Buffer Bootcamp’. This is a period of 45 days set to “make sure that the Buffer way is a great ‘fit’ for both parties,” Danny said.
It’s not your run-of-the-mill trial period too. During this time, “bootcampers are set up with a Leader buddy, a Role buddy and a Culture buddy,” Danny said. The buddy system is in place to help and to “really make them feel at home within Buffer,” Danny said.
Introducing new agents to a support team so they don’t have to fend for themselves is already a pretty swell idea. Making sure that the hire feels at home right off the bat is even better!
Keeping track of the score
To make sure their support is spot on, Heroes check various metrics available in Helpscout and Sparkcentral. Some of the metrics they keep track of include:
- number of conversations,
- response time,
- handle time,
- customer happiness.
The team also uses a custom-built dashboard made by the Happiness Engineer. The dashboard shows the number of interactions where the response time was under 1 hour, under 6 hours and over 6 hours to provide additional information about the speed of response of the team.
Best customer service moment
No matter how good your support looks on paper, it all comes down to how it can react in crisis situations. Buffer’s Happiness team had a test like that a couple years ago when Buffer got hacked. They team stepped up to the challenge and was met with an amazing dose of support from the users:
“This was such a tough moment for Buffer and a distressing moment for our users too. Then something amazing happened. We announced we had been hacked and the response we got was phenomenal. Our entire community rallied round us and really surprised us with incredible feedback and understanding. Our whole team pulled together to try and get the best experience possible for our users, yet in the end it was definitely our users who gave us the most memorable experience!”
This, more than anything, shows that you really can’t go wrong with following Buffer’s advice on good customer service. When your customers have your back when everything seems to go off the rails, you’re definitely doing something right.
Want to have the same kind of moment with your customers? Try using some of the tools and methods Buffer uses and see where that takes you.