If you’re not tracking your customers’ most common complaints and requests, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Telling people to “keep an eye out” on your status page, Twitter feed, or wherever it’s convenient for you to share news about your product puts the onus on them. Not exactly an effortless experience, is it?

Not to mention the business you lose when your customers switch to a competitor, because as far as they know, you still don’t have that feature you worked so hard to build, and you still haven’t fixed the bug that’s been driving them bonkers for months.

Chances are, you already have the tools at your disposal to help avoid this fate—and it takes less time than you think.

Squashed that bug for you, buddy

One or two bug reports about the same funky behavior? Could be a fluke. Once you start to see a handful, you know there’s an ugly bug in need of squashing.

Sure, you can reply to each new customer complaint: “Sorry, known issue, we’re working on it!” and leave it at that, but you’re passing up the opportunity to open a line of communication by proactively keeping customers informed.

After more than a couple Help Scout customers report the same issue, for example, we begin tagging those conversations as they come in. Once the fix is deployed, we create a workflow that allows us to send an email—customized with each customer’s name—letting them know that yucky bug is good and dead.

workflow The workflow we created after circumventing a Firefox update that made our text editor’s cursor do naughty things

Customers appreciate the follow-up, and many of them reply to let us know.

happy reply

Side note: Help Scout’s Plus plan lets you make “bug report” an option in a required custom field. That way, since you can sort those and tag conversations with their corresponding bugs, you’re extra-sure not to miss anyone.

Hi [customer name here], everything is back to normal!

While 100% uptime would be nice, I’m unaware of any site that honestly boasts it.

When customers can’t access the thing they pay you for, they will let you know.

Lots of them. Ideally, you’re aware of the issue before they are, and your support team has a process in place to head these inquiries off at the pass.

Yes, automating your status page and tweeting about the issue are best practices, as is sending a saved reply to everyone who writes in about it. Where you really have the chance to go above and beyond, however, is by following up after that initial message (which, by now you know should not consist of “keep an eye out on our status page for updates!”), once everything is hunky-dory.

Every help desk worth its salt will allow you to bulk reply in some fashion. If you use Help Scout, you can tag those downtime reports as they come in, then run a workflow (again, using first namesall the best practices!) to let your customers know the following:

  • the problem is cleared up
  • you’re sorry for the interruption to their work
  • what went wrong
  • the steps you’re taking to ensure this doesn’t reoccur

Customers will forgive these inevitable blips as long as you’re quick, communicative, and transparent. This level of follow-through is the difference between “That’s okay, folks!” versus “Ugh, what, again?”

That thing you wanted? We have it now

For a while, the most frequent feature request we received was for a mobile app. When we launched Help Scout for iPhone earlier this year (your time is coming, Android friends!), we figured we ought to tell folks who’d asked about it.

Fortunately, we’d been tagging those requests all along—as with bug reports, we start tagging once a handful of customers ask for the same thing. That tag allowed us to run a workflow notifying (and hopefully, tickling pink) the 417 people who had asked us about a mobile app.

But we didn’t stop there: we also emailed former customers who cited “no mobile app” in our cancelation survey as a reason for ending their trial or canceling their account. The email announced the new app and offered an extended trial to try Help Scout again. While not everyone jumped back on board, we saw 41 new trials as the result of that campaign.

For the little effort it took, even winning back one or two customers would be worth it.

What do you have to lose?

Following up with your customers when you have good news to share will only help you build trust. If crafting a delightful experience is what matters to you, that in itself should be adequate incentive.

But don’t ignore the hard gains to be made. If customers don’t hear about your latest improvement, you can’t assume they know it exists. It’s lazy to leave it up to your customers to figure out what you’re doing to help them, and you’re leaving too much on the table by failing to follow through. If you don’t make the effort to develop a solid relationship, you can hardly blame them when they start to develop a wandering eye.

Emily Triplett Lentz

About the author: Emily Triplett Lentz is on the Growth team at Help Scout, the invisible help desk that helps you build a company your customers love with more human, more helpful customer support tools.