Karim Hamidou

3 Things I Learned as an Engineer Doing Customer Support

I work at Nylas as an engineer on the API team. We’re still pretty small, so engineers in my team also have to handle customer support duties. It’s great for customers because they get to talk directly to the person who wrote the API they’re using1.

With 2015 coming to an end, I decided to recap the most important things I learned about customer support.

1. Customer support is about people (I know, I know.)

Many engineers come to customer support with a problem-solving mindset. It’s very easy to start thinking of your support queue as a list of problems to solve instead of as a list of customers having problems. It’s also a great way to make your customer feel like another email on the way to Inbox zero.2

So, before jumping into troubleshooting mode, get back to your customers. A simple “I’m sorry you’re having this problem! We’re looking into it” goes a long way.

2. Follow up follow up follow up.

Solving problems is good — following up when things take time is better. Is there a bug on your side that will take more than two days to solve? Send an update email. Is a release getting delayed because something unexpected came up? Update your customers.

You get the gist — it’s better to overcommunicate than to solve problems silently.

3. You’re going to need a system, eventually.

In the early days of a startup nobody has a fixed role, so everyone does a little bit of customer support. Eventually — and this happens to every company — you’ll find yourself stretched out. You’ll start dropping emails, or not getting back to customers for days.

This can be very frustrating both to your customers and you. That’s when you’ll need to build a support system — either something off-the-shelf like Zendesk, or a bunch of scripts (like we do), to make sure that no email is falling through the cracks.

That’s all folks!

  1. Mostly — engineers can be pretty gruff. (I know I was!). 

  2. i.e: not much