How to be HAS (Helpful As Sh%t) and why your startup should care
12th Jan 2018
Updated: 08 March 2019
17 min read
Let me first start off by saying, welcome to 2018! OK, now that that is out of the way, let’s get back to making our empires as awesome as possible. Excuse the somewhat crude title to this article (hey, come on it’s not that bad, we all know you’ve seen worse) but let me introduce you to what I have dubbed the HAS Principle. In other words, HAS = Helpful As Shit.
Being helpful is more than just customer support in 2018, it’s being helpful in every aspect of running a business. What does that translate to in reality?
- Be HAS for prospects.
- Be HAS for existing customers.
- Be HAS for customers looking to churn. (Churn = not be customers anymore lol).
You’ve gotta be HAS for every step of the way. Phases 1 and 2 are probably quite obvious, but you’ve gotta be HAS even on their way out, because you never know when a customer may come crawling back to you for whatever reason.
How to go about being HAS in 2018
It’s actually a simple concept that is quite hard to execute. I was INBOUND 2017 in Boston last year, and HubSpot Co-Founder & CTO Dharmesh Shah summarized this in one sentence, that has been ringing in my head ever since.
“Help your customers how they want to be helped and when they want to be helped.”
Not to oversimplify things boys and girls, but that is the nitty gritty of what we have got to be doing nowadays. You’ve just gotta be there for people, and you’ve gotta make your product and team shine.
A random picture of myself and Sengi Marketing Manager, Chriso Klepke, with HubSpot CTO Dharmesh Shah at INBOUND 2017 because why not? ;)
What does helping customers when and how they want actually translate to?
Well, there’s is first and foremost the obvious correlation. If a customer has a problem, do what you can to fix it. However, times have changed and this essence itself has evolved. It was said that 40 years ago, if you didn’t have a telephone, your business could not survive. 20 years ago, it was said that if you didn’t have a website there was no way your business was going to make it. I think you know where I am going with this… If resources allow, there is a perfect setup to be HAS for your customers.
- Be available per Telephone
- Be available per Email
- Be available per Chat
- Be available per Social Media
Following this setup will make sure you satisfy the HOW your customer wants to receive help, and the WHEN your customer wants to receive help.
But first, a great example of how NOT to be HAS to put it all into perspective.
In Germany, there is a stark cultural difference in how customer service is perceived when compared to the United States. It’s not better or worse in one country than the other, it’s simply different (kinda like everything in life no?). That being said, there is some frustrations I have encountered here with customer service that I have never experienced in my life thus far. Allow me to elaborate.
In Germany, the basic rule is if you are working full time, you have health insurance. It’s mandated by Germany’s federal government to an extent, so there is basically no way around having health insurance. My former carrier, Techniker Krankenkasse (just known as “TK” in Germany) used to really drive me crazy with how they handled my customer inquiries. It basically all went like this:
- Naturally, I’d come up with a question that needed answering.
- I’d log into my super secure TK customer area, and send a secure message via Email to them, because ya know, what other purpose should a secure messaging service to my insurance carrier serve?
- I’d proceed to sit for days, weeks, sometimes even months wondering about my inquiry.
- Time would go by, and I’d actually forgot about the original inquiry.
- A post letter finally comes in the snail mail from TK, apologizing that they are not able to work on my inquiry via electronic messaging and that I should call in…
Seriously TK, WTF? Why even offer the option to send a secure message, if it is going to be completely useless. In this instance, TK failed in both options of satisfying the how’s and what’s of my problem.
Being a millennial, I’m primed for digital correspondence. I hate talking on the phone in general, and I especially hate it when I have to deal with frustrating customer service situations in my non-native language. My first choice will always be chat, this gives me the option to try to resolve my issue in real time. Plus seeing little dancing dots on the screen as the agent is typing is reassuring to me to let me know someone is actually there on the other side of the Internet. My second choice will typically be Email, but the problem with Emails or filling out forms is that there is that unnerving feeling that we have all felt, when we contact a company per Email, pretty much expecting to get no sort of response. Furthermore, I have absolutely no idea why TK chooses to respond to digital messages with a physical letter in the mail. Who are they to decide to waste paper in such capacities! Furthermore, I cannot even tell when is the last time I sent a physical letter to anyone of importance, so snail mail is 100% not my premier method of communication. So here, the How’s are clearly not satisfied in my situation.
I mean the when’s were kinda satisfied. I was able to log into my TK portal at any point in the time and submit a message. Though beyond that, everything else in this equation is a complete fail. Responding with a letter, responding way later, having me call in, just too much fail on the how part of the equation to make anything here worthwhile.
An example of how a company totally rocked at being HAS
I am the perfect definition of a hard prospect to convert, and that is likely because I am also partially weird, and a small hint of crazy when it comes to major purchases. I like to research ENDLESSLY and go back and forth between decisions, and typically when I make a final decision, I usually have some sort of buyer’s remorse and think about how things could have been different if I had chosen product X over product A. I. Hate. It. But as it turns out, this is both a curse and a gift that has been bestowed upon us in this day and age. In the developed world, information is simply readily available everywhere, and at any time. We don’t have to succumb to the will of salespeople anymore, and in face their role has also changed. Good salespeople should no longer be trying to convince people of how good their product is, they should be able to reinforce the positive opinions prospects have formulated on their own. This is smart selling, because nobody wants to be sold to anymore, they want to be educated.
“This is smart selling, because nobody wants to be sold to anymore, they want to be educated.”
So that aside, in the last quarter of 2017 I was in the market to buy a new bed mattress. A bed mattress is something that until this point, I had not really put a lot of thought or effort into. The experience always went something like this. Oh I need a bed. Let’s go to IKEA. Oh this bed looks nice, what mattress fits it? Oh this one fits, looks good! Done. While this wasn’t necessarily a bad experience, I mean, it was actually quite convenient, I felt the time had come in my adult life to really invest in a solid mattress. I mean, health is important right?!
So I started, and I went through the same painstaking phases of researching that I always do. There were so many options available, I was completely overwhelmed, but I had eventually settled on a UK-Based company, eve Mattress. There were a couple things that really attracted me to eve, in no particular hierarchy they were:
- Very competitive pricing. They were not the cheapest, but they were also not the most expensive. I liked that they fell comfortably in the middle.
- Readily available shipping. I was moving into a new apartment at the time, and I didn’t want to wait up to 10 business days as some of their other competitors I was considering could only offer.
- Overall flow and attitude of the website. Being a marketing and tech junkie, I’m heavily influenced by how good the overall flow of a company’s website.
- Weird sizes available. They offer a whole bunch of sizes, so you can really get the perfect fit beyond the 3 standard sizes normally offered at bigger carriers like IKEA.
- 100 Day trial period. Eve promises you can sleep on the bed for 100 nights to get a feel for it, and if you’re not satisfied you can get a full refund, with return shipping included.
So, after about a month of diligent research, I went ahead and ordered the eve. And to be completely honest, I was totally happy with the overall experience. I was sleeping like a dream, shipping was fast, and everything was going exactly as how I had planned it.
Then came my housewarming party…
Like any person excited to be in a new apartment, I decided to have my housewarming party in November of 2017. I had now been living in the apartment for about 2 months, and after about 19,138 visits to IKEA, I felt the apartment was finally ready to be shown off to the world (or at least to my friend circle in Leipzig). So I planned away, and then had my party which was a great success, had a ton of fun, but the resounding feedback I had gotten was that my bed was too small. What?
Now some additional background information on the apartment, it’s small. It’s only about 35 square meters (about 250 square feet) but I am fine with that. I live alone, and in my opinion, bigger apartment just means more crap to clean, so yeah. Based on this, I only ordered a 90x200cm mattress, a twin size for those unfamiliar with the metric system (myself included lol). For me, this was totally sufficient. I slept well, it saved space in my humble abode, and it saved money as naturally the costs of these mattresses scales as the size gets bigger.
But apparently everyone else though it was too small, and that by this point it life I should have a bigger bed for…various reasons….(lol).
So long story short, I was convinced that I should have a bigger bed size, but the question what was I to do now? Nothing was actually wrong with the mattress I had, it was simply no longer the proper size for me.
How eve stepped in and was totally HAS.
An update from March 8th, 2019. Sadly, eve has discontinued selling to the German market for reasons unknown to me, which is a complete shame. They’re still present in other EU Countries and in North America, but nonetheless, the principles here still apply!
So remember the 4 things we had talked about in the beginning? No? Well here they are again:
- Be available per Telephone
- Be available per Email
- Be available per Chat
- Be available per Social Media
Ok, now that we are all refreshed, let’s move on. I will first praise eve on the fact that they are indeed present on all 4 platforms. My chosen platform of choice is chat, as I mentioned, I like the real time effect of the service, plus I hate talking on the phone so this is the obvious choice for me.
eve’s chat system is outstanding. I actually went on to the website on a Sunday evening, and an agent was online chatting with me nearly instantly. This is already a feat of its own in Germany, as I would say a majority of companies will likely shut down their support operations by 6PM, but that’s during the week…to have support available late on a SUNDAY night? Nearly unheard of. So right away, they have satisfied the WHEN portion of being HAS with me. I could tell this was a real person on the other end, and someone who was actually trained. It wasn’t a bot (though bots are doing some cool things nowadays) and it wasn’t someone they picked up off of the street 3 days ago and handed them a script to read. The agent was engaging, and funny, and empathetic, and just an overall joy to deal with. Mind you, this is about 2 months into owning the mattress, and I am still within my 100 night try it out period, so I level with her. I’m honest, and I say honestly I love the mattress, but I would really love to just order a different size as I think I would really like something bigger.
She gave me absolutely 0 push back, she just happily stated that since I wasn’t satisfied within the 100 nights, she’d gladly setup pick up for the old mattress, and get the new mattress sent out immediately. She even applied an old promotion code I used on the first mattress so that the price difference would be the same as if I had purchased the bigger size in the first place. It was seriously one of the best online support experiences I had ever had. The entire process was handled in about 5 minutes, and everything was extremely efficient. My new mattress arrived in about 3 days, and the old one was picked up at my apartment about a week later. Done and Done.
The availability of the chat function, combined with the outstanding service actually provided by the agent, 100% satisfied my requirements for being HAS.
Breaking down eve’s U/X
Now this is clearly a success story, but therein does lie some dependency on how well your U/X is actually set up. Let’s take a quick look at how eve’s U/X looks.
Yes, this is a real conversation that I had with them in German. It’s nice to give a company good feedback sometimes (I really meant it) and plus I needed the screenshots haha.
I should also mention, all of this works perfectly fine on a mobile device as well. The story I had illustrated earlier was actually conducted on my iPhone SE.
So why is this all so important?
Well, because the old adage, ”Word of mouth is still the best form of marketing” still rings true. Even in 2018, people are still going to trust their personal network on product recommendations more than any website, social media platform, or salesmen they encounter. What exactly has eve done with me? They’ve turned me into that fancy E-Word, an EVANGELIST. What’s that mean in non-fancy talk? Basically an Evangelist is a person who will advocate for you on all accounts, think the most dedicated Apple Fan Boys you have ever met, or that in law who swears by a certain brand of kitchen appliances. Evangelists are the last phase in the customer journey, and ideally this is where you want to be driving all of your prospects for two distinct reasons:
- Evangelists have basically a 0% chance of ever churning.
- Evangelists do your best marketing for you!
Think about this. Even if an Evangelist has to churn for un-forseen reasons, maybe their business completely closed down or something, they are STILL going to do your marketing for you, even if they are no longer a customer. That is powerful, and lifelong, and this why it is so important to be HAS no matter what phase of the journey the prospect is in.
But I’m a startup, I don’t have the resources for this!
I know, believe me we’ve heard this many times in our startup accelerator, but that doesn’t mean you cannot start now. The more you embrace this mentality now, the more it will be ingrained into your culture as you scale. The more it will breathe in your employees as you expand, and the more success it will bring you.
The first step in the puzzle, is to develop your company’s customer support mantra. It should only be 2 – 3 sentences so it is easy to memorize and commit to heart. Print it, hang it up in your workspace, look at it and read it everyday. Believe it. Your customers come before everything else, the best product in the world doesn’t mean anything at all if no one is buying it.
Don’t have the resources to be on all 4 platforms? Then do the research on buyer personas and figure out which of the four they use the most, and own that platform now.
Don’t have the resources to be present 24/7? You don’t have to be, but you do have to be within reasonable limits. Having people wait a week for a response, and giving them an inadequate response is bad. There are tons of free scheduling tools and CRMs out there to help you out in the beginning. Download them, get familiar, and get your processes in order the best you possibly can.
I hope you enjoyed this read, if you’ve got any question, comments, concerns, or want to share your own HAS experiences, do let me know about all of them in the comments below!