For several months now, I've been delighted with the great content from the Help Scout blog. They've got some amazing insights into how to run a customer support operation. Their newest article,Why Support Stories Spread Like Wildfire, is a must read for all startups.

Unfortunately, it seems many tech startups and even major, Fortune 500 companies don't know how to handle customer support. I can't tell you how many times I've had some interaction like this:

Question : Hello, I'm having trouble with Widget X. When I click on the "Make Unicorns" button, I get elephants instead. Can someone help me with this please? Thanks,Justin

Answer : There was a bug. It's fixed.

I'm a developer and like to knock out support issues as quickly as possible too. However, answering support issues like that isn't going to win any customers over. Depending on the severity of the problem the customer faces, a terse, unhelpful answer like that is likely to lead to a Twitterstorm.

While supporting my messaging app for kids, I've developed three principles I call "The Three A's of Customer Support".


Customer's really like to know that you "get" their issue. They want to see you acknowledge the problem or their frustration. You can replace "Acknowledge" with "Admit". Admit there is a problem. Let them know you understand. Acknowledge them as a person, not as a generic user. Even give them a little credit for their discovery.

Hello Tom, Wow, thanks for pointing out that the the "Make Unicorns" button isn't working correctly. We hadn't noticed that we broke it!


Take time to actually explain what went wrong. Customers like to be in the loop.

I've had our lead developer look into this. He discovered that our last feature release accidentally replaced 'Unicorns' with 'Elephants'. We've fixed the mistake and will have it pushed out to customers during the maintenance window tonight. It should be fixed for you in the morning.


Your customer has gone to extra effort to let you know of the problem. They need to be assured that you not only appreciated their effort, but you also welcome any and all future input.

Thanks again for pointing this out. As always, if you have any other questions or issues, please don't hesitate to let us know. Thanks, Justin - XYZ Co. Support Team

That's it's. Acknowledge the problem. Answer is succintctly but openly. Ask if they need further assistance.

Have some support nightmares or successes to share? Let me know on Twitter. I'll post some fun one's here.