Support is marketing investment - An interview with Dean Levitt from Mad Mimi

Mad Mimi launched in 2008 is a simple and powerful email marketing utility that helps users create branded, well-designed newsletters and promotions. Madmimi is impressive not just for their cool product but also for their awesome customer support that has drawn them an impressive list of passionate customers.

Dean

A few weeks back, I had an interesting conversation with Dean from Madmimi about their Support process and his philosophy on Support. Dean is one of the founders of Madmimi and currently takes care of Support and PR. Publishing some interesting excerpts from what he had to say.

"Support is marketing investment" Today it's hard to get excited about Customer Support because of the kind of experience you get when you call in an airline or a phone company. We offer great support because we care and we think of customer support as our marketing investment. We have grown with absolutely no ad spend. It's purely been Word of Mouth (WOM) marketing and we drive that by offering the best support.

"We offered 24hr Email Support within 6 months" When we started off we offered support from 9am to 6pm via Live chat, email and phone calls if people asked. And I could handle all of it. I could do the chats between answering mails and I actually had free time. After about 6 months we realised that we needed to start offering 24 hour email support. We grew pretty quick. I started working from 9am to 11pm. Gary, our CEO would cover from 6am to 9am. And I would wake up around 4 am to check email and answer anybody who wrote from midnight to say 4. We did this for around a year after which we had to hire somebody because it was tough to keep up.

"Customers respect the fact that the owner is involved in support" If the owner is involved in Support, we believe, it changes the entire tone of an interaction with the customer. It changes the way they view the company and their interaction for the rest of their relationship with the company. They respect the fact that the owner participated.

At the very least I recommend owners take an active role in Support for the first year. This helps them get a clear idea of what kind of questions are coming in, which in-turn helps them make necessary adjustments in their product.

"Early adopters help evolve your product" Early adopters are smart. They are the people that have tried every program out there. Hence it is imperative to heed their advice. In Madmimi we launched this super simple application with none of the features that we have today. We built every new feature based on request. We launched our product and evolved. customer retention is more important to us than customer acquisition.

"Support is to teach and train customers" Support is essentially teaching and training customers. For example some people don't now how to use an auto responder campaign in Madmimi. They don't even know they need it. I can teach them and train them to do what they are already doing easier. This helps them derive a real sense of value from having contacted Support.

"We pulled a lot of our Support team from customers" A lot of customers that were using us for their hobbies wrote in when they lost their jobs because of bad economy. Our customers already know how we offer support. They know that we respond fast. They know that we care. They know the culture. So it makes it very easy. And that's how we got most of our team. We advertised the last two times we hired and that has worked out pretty well too.

When we hire we generally look at the personality and if they can communicate in an informal confident way, we hire. I train the ones that we hire.

"We do about a 100hours of training for Support" We do about a 100 hours of training with anyone new on Support. And that's not training on the product, that is just training on the support. They need to learn the product but that's before we start training. It is a whole day of me just discussing why good customer support is really special and how it improves people's lives. I drum up this enthusiasm in them so that they understand they are the most important and valued people in the company and not people just filling a gap. They are not the barrier between angry customers and people making lots of money.

"We manage nearly 1000 Support emails a day" We are now 50,000 customers. It is definitely a lot and every one works hard. I would say we are doing near to a thousand emails a day. In 24 hours at least. And, we are quick with everyone. I would say 10 minutes is our average response time. Generally, if we have a wait of 20 minutes to a response, we all jump in. Our delivery person or one of our engineers will jump in and act like support. Since we have a reputation for giving fast responses, it encourages people to write in with every little question rather than figuring it out themselves.

"Phone Support can help convert more" We haven't officially brought in phone support. We only do phone support by appointment right now. So, if someone writes and says I want to talk, we call. We have not listed our direct number. One thought is that providing phone support will increase our conversion rates. We will have lot more new sign ups converting to paid members and staying with us. At the same time I believe that it can actually damage the level of support. I can help about 15 people in the space of time I help one customer. People respond to Email now like text messages. The way people view email has changed. I personally don't think we need phone support yet. It's something we definitely want to include in the future mostly to get these conversions.

We generally have one complaint every two weeks about not offering a direct call. But it's not as much a complaint since it is a case of one when you consider that 300-6,00,000 unique people visit our site each month. Also, it is a generational thing. People in their 40s and 50s want a phone number. Because some are not really computer literate and they don't trust online companies without a phone number. People younger than that don't care. They don't want to talk to anyone.

"We encourage people to contact us than use the knowledge database" We use the knowledge database as a resource for our support team rather than as a way to answer the questions for customers. Because, I would rather have a conversation with the customer than refer him to a document. So, we actually encourage people to not use our knowledge database but to contact us directly.



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Nithya Rajaram
Nithya Rajaram