Expert Advice on How to 10x App Support

app support

You want every aspect of your app experience to be great for merchants, and 10X-ing support can make their app experience 10X better.

However, as your app grows in popularity, so does your queue of support requests. Especially for two and three person teams, juggling customer support along with product development and growth can be a challenging.

To find out how some of the most successful Shopify Apps evolved their support processesas their app businesses grew, Oren Harris — Merchant App Experience Lead at Shopify — gathered a panel of experts to share their tricks of the trade.

Members of this panel include:

    • app support rhianRhian Beutler

Rhian is the COO of Venntov, the creator of SEO Manager and Order Lookup She's passionate about small business success, and has utilized her background in SMB banking and retail operations to help merchants grow their business.

    • app support benBen Moore

Ben Moore is the CEO of Pixel Union.Since building their first Shopify Theme in 2011, Pixel Unionhas launched some of the platform's top selling themes, as well as the apps Pixelpop and Countdown Sales Timer .

    • app support aaronAaron Wadler

Aaron Wadler is co-founder and CEO of ShopPad, which offers custom enterprise services and Shopify App Store applications. Founded in 2012, ShopPad is a certified Shopify Plus Partner and their apps are used by over 60,000 brands and retailers worldwide.

    • app support andyAndy Cargill

Andy Cargill is the founder of Zapiet. His Store Pickup + Delivery app serves Shopify merchants worldwide.

Although this panel was set to hit the main stage at Unite, due to an unplanned power outage the group gathered post-Unite over a teleconference. Their discussion can be watched below.

Misplaced your headphones, or looking for a summary of their chat? We have you covered. Below are the main takeaways on how you can optimize your approach to app support.

Use automation to help surface and manage customer support needs

Don’t have the budget or bandwidth to manage additional support staff? Enabling automated processes can save time, keep you organized, and help you pro-actively stay on top of merchant actions that require support.

Rhiann shares that Venntov uses a bot to curate all app reviews (positive or negative) in a Slack channel. This approach can be great for small teams, like Venntov’s, who can review the comments in Slack and discuss who on the team would be the best person to respond.

Enabling automated processes can save time, keep you organized, and help you pro-actively stay on top of merchant actions that require support.

To guide merchants through lifecycle events, ShopPad uses triggered emails and connects to HelpScout to make sure no one falls through the cracks. When they notice that a merchant has completed one step, but failed to move on to step two or three, an automated email will go out. If there’s no response to the email, the merchant will be bumped back up to the top of the queue, and prompted with questions such as ”did you get our email? Did that advice work for you? Do you have any other questions?” ShopPad has found that this approach helps with app retention as well.

Ways to automate parts of your support process:

  • Set-up workflows within your customer service software.
  • Automate emails using triggers programmed with a service like Zapier.
  • Explore Slack bots that can improve your team’s communication and delegation of support tasks.

You might also like: How to Build an Effective and Friendly App Support Process.

Proactively prepare for support issues

Especially around major retail events, such as Black Friday/Cyber Monday, your app support queue can easily become flooded. To prepare for these influxes, you can take measures to nip issues in the bud ahead of time, and create canned-responses for common issues.

Andy at Zapiet stresses the importance of having quiet time to write-out clear and thoughtful email responses. When you’re under fire, it’s easy to rush your response and not communicate with the right tone and clarity. By writing thoughtful and thorough stock emails ahead of time, you’ll save time and ensure effective messaging.

When the support queue is small, this can also be a good time to proactively reach out to customers. At Venntov, they make sure to occasionally check-in with merchants, even if they don’t have any issues. This also helps Rihann and her team get a pulse on how merchants are enjoying the app.

Ways to proactively prepare for support:

  • Set-up text expanders with common support responses.
  • Pre-write email responses for common app issues.
  • Send check-in emails to merchants during quiet times.

Encourage self-support

Not only is self-support optimal for busy support teams, it’s often also a common avenue for merchants looking to solve issues. Customer service studies show that for 70 percent of consumers, a self-service option for handling questions or complaints is an expectation.

At Zapiet, every support request that comes in is catalogued in a Google document and organized by category. This helps in identifying which aspects of the app result in the most support. This also acts as a good guide in determining topics and categories for self-service document creation.

app support: faq
FAQ section on Zapiet’s website.
app support: pixel union
Support section with FAQ documents, on Pixel Union's website.

Ways to encourage self-support:

  • Create documentation that merchants can use to help navigate and solve their app issues.
  • Update copy and prompts within the app to help guide merchants through functions and steps that frequently result in support needs.

Have your support team adopt a product ownership model

For companies like Pixel Union, which serves merchants with multiple products, adopting a model of product ownership among their support team has been a key to their success. Each member of their eight-person support team has a product that they’re principally responsible for.

This involves being a product expert and attending all meetings related to their assigned product. In addition to encouraging deep knowledge among the support team, it also creates a sense of ownership in the product and its success.

Ways to implement product ownership among support staff:

  • As the team and app offerings grow, assign product support owners.
  • Include support staff in all meetings related to the app’s development and updates.
  • As support team expands, have them train others on that app’s features.

Always lead with empathy

Inevitably, you’ll experience support requests that are stated less than cordially. While hearing about a merchant’s dislike of an app you’ve built can be disheartening, it’s important to always lead your responses with an empathetic tone.

Aaron of ShopPad stresses how he always coaches his support team to treat harsh complaints as “water off a duck’s back.” It’s important to keep in mind that the merchant may be having a bad day, and that this may be a good opportunity to make their day better. Through this approach, some of the nastiest support email received have ended up resulting in some of the app company’s most loyal users. Merchants will understand that the app developer is here to help, and therefor can be trusted.

As well, it’s important to put yourselves in the merchant’s shoes to understand why their emails or reviews may be a bit curt. Especially for first-time support requests, the merchant may be unaware of the human(s) behind the app, and feel like their request is going into a dark void. For this reason, Ben from Pixel Union recommends responding to all support requests as soon as possible, to help mitigate merchant anxiety over getting a response.

While hearing about a merchant’s dislike of an app you’ve built can be disheartening, it’s important to always lead your responses with an empathetic tone.

Another strategy that Pixel Union employs, is having an assigned “manager” for “please transfer me to the manager” situations. For merchants, the feeling of being transferred to someone more senior can help them feel like they’re getting special treatment.

Ways to add more empathy to support responses:

  • Make response times a fast as possible to reduce merchant anxiety.
  • When unpleasantly stated requests come in, assume the merchant is having a bad day and that you can help make their day better through support.
  • Have a “manager” that you can transfer escalated issues to, as it helps merchants feel like their get a premium support treatment.

It’s about entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs

One thing merchants and app developers have in common, is the mutual goal of trying to grow a business through Shopify. Through support, and improving your app and app documentation based on merchant feedback, each interaction is an opportunity to grow together.

Have you found any automations that have helped improve your support process? Let us know in the comments below!

Grow your business with the Shopify Partner Program

Learn more