Why Everyone Should Read Support Emails

Published on
March 8th, 2019
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You should spend at least 30 minutes per week reading emails from your customers, no matter what your position is in the company.
At Stuff we do not have a bunch of principles and structures — except for one very important one.
Everyone in the company is reading our incoming support emails.
The past 20 years as a Project Manager, Product Owner, Digital Product Developer, Head of Blah Blah and Founder has taught me the importance of everyone spending time on support emails. No matter if you if are a two-man band, settled startup co-Founder, Head of Product or corporate CxO you should spend at least 30 minutes per week reading real emails from your customers.
KPIs, MAU/DAU, CAC and CLV are some of the well established metrics in most startups and established corporations.
A/B testing is touted as the current methodology for valuable insights and improvements. Startups have been tweaked and strategies changed based on an extensive aggregation of numbers in spreadsheets and dashboards.
I love my numbers, and I love my spreadsheets, but the heart and soul of all the great people using your product are too often buried somewhere in a soulless column in your beloved spreadsheets.
Valuable insights, information and data are too often ignored and forgotten.
I have always spent much more time on incoming support emails than internal reports and numbers. Here are six good reasons why you should do it as well:

News you can use

Support emails are fresh off the press. It is your current state of service, product or company. It is not some week or month old aggregated data point related to a discontinued feature or product.
Getting to know what is happening in you business right now (!) makes it easier to react before shit really hits the fan.

A great conversation starter

Support emails, no matter how aggressive the initial email was, can provide insightful information through conversations with your customer. Insights which cannot be put into numbers and tables.
Customers writing you regarding support issues are more than often willing to engage in conversations, which can give you a much better understanding of how your company and product is perceived in reality.

You probably don’t have enough data

Too many entrepreneurs and startup founders are hooked on data dashboards, A/B testing and funnel optimization too early in the process of building their venture — long before having a significant sample size on their data. Instead of seeing data points fluctuating 10 to 40 percentage points, you should spend time writing or talking with people who have spent the time writing you an email.

A nuanced overview of your business

Dashboards and spreadsheets will never ever provide a nuanced overview of who your customers are, how they feel, what their intentions are and how happy they are.
Browsing through support emails will give everyone in the company a much better understanding of the current condition of your product.
Also, your colleagues will form a more personal understanding on the state of your business from support emails, which can then be used internally.

Support emails are loaded with emotions

Numbers are just numbers. And often aggregated into totals and averages.
Which gives you nothing but a total or an average. No background. No story.
Support emails on the other hand are full of emotions:
“Hi Company. Thank you for nothing. You made my daughter cry for 30 minutes yesterday, because we couldn’t login to stream Dora The Explorer. Switched browser, which seemed to solve half of the issues :-(”.
Unless you are a soulless robot, the above statement will probably trigger more emotions and requirements for actions than:
“Week 27 — Users experiencing issues on service: 57%”
Seeing real customers having real relatable issues provides a much better understanding of the current state of your company. Emotional statements from real people also contributes much better in internal discussions and in pitch decks.
Downgrading a group of people to “57% of users…” in a spreadsheet is just disrespectful.

Increased Responsibility

My experience when everyone at a company reads support emails: everyone feels an increased responsibility and a sense of urgency to eliminate whatever emails hit your support inbox.
Seeing real problems trigger actions and priorities much faster than just seeing numbers in a spreadsheet. And it makes it much easier to prioritize for better customer experiences.
I won’t claim that you should completely ditch your spreadsheets and numbers on customer acquisition, funnels and all sorts of support interactions overview. But you should spend more time on real insights.
And the monthly slide on “what customers said” just doesn’t do it.
Reading real support emails provides an up-to-date overview, triggers emotions and increases responsibility while providing conversation starters externally and internally. For everyone in the company.
So grab your morning coffee and take a look at all those valuable insights from real people who have something to say about your product.
Comments (3)
Ryan Hoover
Founder of Product Hunt & Weekend Fund
Related to this, I wrote about why "no reply" email addresses are bad business back in 2012.
Marc Brodeur
consumer product entrepreneur
Reading my customer emails are one of my favorite parts of the business.
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Hi Simon! Thanks for sharing your story! I agree, especially with the part that reading support emails can help you keep you up to date with what's happening in the company. I was wondering what you're planning to do when the company will grow and you'll get more and more supporting emails? How to keep the idea but not disturb people with tones of emails? BTW In my company (@livechat ) every new employee goes for support training and then work as a Support Hero for a week. Everybody - even HR people who don't have to be very close to the product. It seems annoying at the beginning because it takes time AND it's stressful as you chatting live, but it really pays off.