By web developers actually using SupportBee
A few weeks ago I was staring at my inbox and noticing that it was completely out of control. For some people that’s thousands of unread messages. For me that’s a handful of messages that haven’t been replied to.
We’re a web and marketing shop. We do design work for clients, we develop websites, and we manage questions and requests from clients. Most of the holdup in getting things done is just me being a bottleneck. If I’m leaving for a meeting at 9 a.m. and you send an email at 9:05, not much is going to happen with that until I get back at noon. Despite the fact there are perfectly capable people available that could get started or handle that request.
So we started looking at how to fix that. We reviewed shared inboxes, support desks, software like ZoHo and ZenDesk, and elaborate auto-forwarding email rules. What we needed was something not entirely like a customer support desk, but something more like a shared inbox. Where messages from clients get dumped in, comments and assignments can be made, and most importantly: something that our clients never have to figure out. Under no circumstance was a “special support page” or “create a ticket” page going to cut it. The best system would be the one that no one noticed.
Oh, and it had to be affordable. Because, you know, we’re young and all.
Starting at $29 a month, SupportBee was cheaper, often by a lot, than most any other service we looked at. It offers a way for us to manage emails as a team, but with a few caveats we’re working around. Here’s how I’d like it to work:
- A client sends me an email (all our clients send me emails directly).
- Someone deals with it.
Here’s how it actually works:
- A client sends me an email.
- I need to forward it into SupportBee, so I have to redirect the message. Using “forward” never seems to work (I use AirMail for OS X). I open Mail.app and hit “redirect” and send it on to our forwarding address.
- The message is added and I get another copy of the message saying it was added. This duplicates email in my own inbox.
- I can assign or otherwise deal with the tickets.
Some of this SupportBee reasonably can’t deal with in our workflow. The “solution” is to have clients email our special support email address by default. But telling clients to manage their address book or remember to send to an email for one thing and not another is too cumbersome for them. What if a client wants to tell me something just to me, like a, “Hey, I’m out today, but I’ll get you that document tomorrow.” What email does that go to?
This wouldn’t be a problem if we were something like an app offering support to a lot of people we don’t really know and everyone came through our website.
What I’ve started doing is setting up mail forwarding rules on the server. So any emails from existing clients just get copied and forwarded on to SupportBee through a mail forwarding address I setup. This has some upsides and downsides.
The client never has to do anything differently. Their emails can get forwarded to SupportBee for our team to see immediately. But this also means all their emails — even the “ok thanks!” and “I’ll get with you this afternoon!” emails — get forwarded to SupportBee. This artificially inflates our ticket count and messes with SupportBee’s analytics. It also means if I delete a message in my inbox, I have to go deal with it in SupportBee a second time.
Like I mentioned earlier, there’s some bug where my simply forwarding an email doesn’t work either. The email just vanishes, it never goes anywhere (I’ve had some success in removing the “FWD:” in the subject line, but that’s a pain on a phone and hard to remember to do). Plus, it’d just make all the tickets appear to be from me, and I’d rather the original go into SupportBee so if Natasha fixes some bug, she can just shoot back a reply herself. If forwarded, the email she sent would just come to me, and the client would get no response.
SupportBee works 90% of the time like we need it to
I recognize we’re shoehorning a ticketing system into a shared inbox-meets-project manager. SupportBee works well, it’s affordable, and I’d recommend it.
The only thing I had to tell clients was they shouldn’t be confused if they see emails from our team, or if they happen to see a random looking firstname.lastname@example.org email address. For our customers, it works perfectly because there’s nothing for them to do. It’s a little bit of a time saver and a time waster for me as the person receiving most of the emails, but it keeps the rest of the team more apprised of things.
SupportBee doesn’t deal with ticket states (though we use labels for some things, like “In Progress”), and it doesn’t flood our clients inboxes with SupportBee-branded “A new ticket has been created for you!” emails, which would just confuse them, annoy them, or both. And we can reply to comments or tickets in our individual email inboxes by replying to notification messages. Which is nice, but I have to remember to go archive or trash tickets at some point.
One major struggle we’re working with is how to use SupportBee in conjunction with our “larger projects” task list. SupportBee can integrate with other project management apps like Asana or Basecamp, but we use our own setup so clients can see what tasks are outstanding on their projects. It requires us to think about things as “quick tasks in SupportBee” or “immediate needs in SupportBee” and “larger, longer-term projects elsewhere”. It’s not a terrible solution for us, but sometimes things sit in a gray area. I ask myself a lot,“Is that request for a new widget an immediate need, or a long term project? It’ll take a few hours to do.”
But that’s why places need editors and task masters.
Try it out and use our referral code
It’s $29 a month, they offer a free 7 day trial and you can use this link to signup:
Then we’ll get a little referral discount. Which would be super nice of you.