My secret stash of tools to power up your customer support team

A round up of my favorite tools to better support your customers, plus tips and tricks on how to use them.

Like you, I’m always looking for ways to improve. To become more efficient, more effective. In that effort, I’ve tested a ton of tools. Probably an embarrassing amount of tools. No wait - definitely an embarrassing amount.

This is my shortlist.

This list has my 110% stamp of approval. Don’t ask questions - just use them.

They’ll help you do your job better.

Notes:
To make navigation a bit easier, I’ve structured this into the different jobs you’ll handle in support.
I’ve also purposely left out the larger “platforms” that we use to run our support operations like Intercom. I’ve covered them elsewhere + you may not have a choice in which help desk solution you’re using.

Explaining things to your users :movie_camera:

Your product or service helps your customers do cool things. The only problem is your customer doesn’t know how to do those cool things. It’s your job to explain it to them. These tools will help.

Soapbox by Wistia

What A webcam and screen recording Chrome extension that allows you quickly create and share video with your customers.
Price Free for basic account; Pro - $12.50 per user per month
Link -> Learn more about Soapbox

There’s a big reason I’ve given this one top billing.

Show + Tell = Win

Yeah I know…show and tell was a painful experience when you were 5.

But it’s a winning formula for supporting your customers.

And Soapbox makes it stupid easy to record screencasts and personal videos for your users.

Simply install the Chrome extension, fire up your webcam, and off you go. Your recordings are automatically uploaded to the cloud. You make a couple of quick edits. Then copy the link and send to your customer. Job well done!

Why I use Soapbox

Calls and one on one meetings with users don’t scale. :cry:

Talk about painfully obvious for my team.

When you’ve got a small team - you can’t stop to jump on a call with every customer to explain the fine details of how to create a quote in your software. It doesn’t work when you’ve got an inbox full of user emails to answer.

3 minutes with Soapbox and you’re right back to the inbox.

Taking screenshots and writing instructions takes a long ass time. :computer:

Step by step written instructions with annotated screenshots is a gold standard for support.

It always take me longer to write up a doc than put together a video. The reason? This might be the same for you but I’m usually trying to make every sentence perfect when writing. When making a screencast - I’m a little less self conscious and more focused on delivering the content.

For quick videos, my old way of doing screencasts was like watching paint dry.:hourglass:

Here’s my old steps of getting a screencast to a user. 1. Open Screenflow (also a great tool but in a different use case) 2. Adjust settings 3. Record my screencast 4. Make any edits 5. Export to .mp4 6. Upload to Google Drive 7. Wait for upload to finish 8. Go find video in Drive 9. Copy the link 10. Email the user

Here’s my new steps. 1. Click the Soapbox extension 2. Record my screencast 3. Make any edits 4. Copy the image and link 5. Email the user

Much better, much easier, much quicker.

How I use Soapbox to create support screencasts and videos

Initially, I struggled a bit when trying to figure out where Soapbox fit in the picture. Almost a year in - now I use it for all sorts of cases.

Here’s a few samples.

Quick training videos for specific customers

Quick updates about product for all customers

Tickets and bug reports for our engineering team

Onboarding new customers

Tips for using Soapbox to create support screencast and videos

Create a separate user for Chrome

I’ve always got a million tabs open. I use my bookmarks bar for quick links to all the different services we use to run shopVOX. When my customers are watching a video, I want them focused on the content. Not trying to figure out what all the little icons on Bryant’s bookmark bar do.

The easiest way to fix this is create a separate user in Chrome.

I set up a user called “Demos and Videos”. In that user profile, the bookmark bar is hidden.

(When I can remember to) I switch to that when recording screencasts - so there’s no distractions.

Develop your own naming structure

Add dates to the name.

In the Soapbox extension, videos are organized by the creation date, but unless you keep the date/time in the name it doesn’t show up anywhere else.

I’ve started adding the two digit month and two digit day to the front of all my Soapbox video names. Now I know just how old those videos are and if the content may still be relevant for another user.

Create your own shorthand codes.

At last count - I’ve got around 189 videos in my Soapbox account. Yeah it’s a lot. And Soapbox doesn’t have any categories or search functions built in.

To keep everything organized, I setup shorthand codes that I add right after the date. Then I use Cmd+F in the browser to search and find the video I’m looking for.

  • CUST (for videos I send to customers)
  • TEAM (for videos dealing with internal updates or training)
  • BUG (for videos demoing how to recreate a particular bug so our dev team can fix it)
  • TICKET (for videos explaining new features or enhancements requested by our users)

Use Google Slides for your intro image

If I’m making a quick how-to video for our documentation, I’ll often use Soapbox to do this. But I also like to add a title frame to them in case we use multiple videos in one article or users are browsing our videos page.

Soapbox doesn’t let you upload a custom thumbnail image or insert any kind of image into the video timeline.

So I created a generic Google Slides template to use during the first few seconds of the videos. I just pull it up - change the title - and use the Presenter view.

It’s easier than firing up Adobe or Keynote or Powerpoint to create a title slide. And when I’m ready to show our software I’ve got it ready in the next tab.


LiceCap

What Simple screen recording GIF creator that’s perfect for quick how-to video.
Price Free
Link -> Learn more about LiceCap

Does this tool have a sexy interface and tons of bells and whistles? Hell no.

Does it have a terrible name? Oh yes.

But does it work perfectly for the job? Hell yes.

I like LiceCap for showing users how to find a specific setting. Or to perform a specific action like saving a PDF within our software. Making a video for this would be overkill. And using LiceCap is actually much quicker and more helpful than writing out a list of instructions.

When to use LiceCap

  • Simple, task-based actions (how to find a feature, how to create a new project)
  • Doesn’t need audio or explanation
  • Task takes less than 5-7 seconds

Tips for using Licecap to record simple GIF screencasts

Record the whole screen

You might think it’s a good idea to zoom in and record only half the screen or the part where the action’s at. This way your user gets an up-close look.

But in a majority of cases - it’s better to record the whole screen. Users need that additional context to find what they’re looking for quicker.

Build up a library of GIFs that your team can search and use with a Google Drive or Dropbox folder.

I record all these GIFs to a separate folder on Google Drive. I can search through them later and save a little bit of time.

I also shared this folder with my team - so they don’t have to record the same ones over and over.

Make sure you’re using descriptive names to make it easier to search.

Combine LiceCap with the next tool on the list.

LiceCap has a few tools to add title screens and mouse animations. But the designer in me cringes when I see them. So I use LiceCap with Mouseposé to highlight where I’m at on the screen.


Mouseposé

What Mouse pointer spotlight thingy. Must-have if you’re doing any kind of remote training.
Price $9.99 from the Mac App Store
Link -> Learn more about Mouseposé 

Lots of people always ask me about this one.

I use this on just about every remote-training session I have with clients. I also use it on most of the training videos that I put together.

It’s simple to use and darks out the entire screen except for a little circle around your mouse cursor. Great for focusing the attention of your audience.

Tips for using Mouseposé

Setup a hotkey so you can turn it on and off easily.

This is done in the preferences menu. I’ve got mine set to “Ctrl + A”.


Meetings with users and teammates :date:

My entire team works remotely. Communication is the lifeblood of a remote environment. Coordinating and running meetings with our team and our customers used to be a hassle before we added the following tools.

Zoom

What Crystal-clear platform for online meetings, video conferences, screen sharing, and webinars.
Price Free plan available; Paid plans start at $14.99 per user per month.
Link -> Learn more about Zoom 

So, so, so glad we switched to Zoom from GoToMeeting. Zoom is a win on two levels for us. 1. the audio and video is so much clearer 2. it’s cheaper than GoToMeeting

We use Zoom for all of our internal team meetings and for all of our client meetings. If you run webinars to train your users - Zoom also has a Webinar add-on.

Tips for using Zoom for remote meetings

If you do a lot of meetings - get a headset or an external microphone.

The last thing your customers want to hear is some shitty audio when they are trying to get some help.

Here’s the microphone I use (and recommend). The Blue Yeti is USB powered. It pulls dual-duty for all my meetings plus any videos I’m recording.

Use the Personal Meeting link to get a static URL you can use with Calendly or other tools.

Zoom gives you a static URL for your meetings. You can use this URL in your Calendly events. So you don’t have to worry about which Zoom link you’re going to be meeting at.

Install the Zoom Chrome Extension for Google Calendar.

Zoom has a great extension for Google Calendar that creates meeting right from within Google Calendar. Get the Zoom Chrome Extension here.


Calendly

What Schedule your meetings with a calendar link that integrates with Google Calendar
Price Basic Plan - Free (limited to 1 event type); Pro Plan - at $12 per user per month
Link -> Learn more about Calendly 

One of those apps that makes your so much easier you wonder how you ever worked without it.

You know that back and forth “what time is good for you?” dance you do when trying to setup a meeting with a client or user. Yeah - f^&k that dance.

Just go sign up for Calendly. 

I usually meet with 12+ clients using Zoom during any given two week period. The rest of my team has a similar workload.

Trying to book and confirm meetings would be a nightmare for us without Calendly.

Now when I’m scheduling meetings with users - I simply send them my calendar link. They see open slots in their local time zone. The Google Calendar integration makes sure nothing is double-booked. They pick the one that works for them. Eazy peazy!

Tips for using Calendly to schedule your meetings

Use TextExpander snippets for your commonly used links.

I’ve got different events setup for our team members - so that we can control our schedules a little easier.

  • Kickoff call (usually a ~30-45 min Zoom call)
  • 15 min phone call
  • 30 min Zoom call
  • 45 min Zoom call

The Kickoff Call is hidden from my regular calendar and I use a TextExpander snippet to drop it into different emails or messages to clients.

Try their Chrome extension.

This one is pretty neat because it allows you to create one-off events where you can pick the times you’d like to offer to your teammate or client. Get the Calendly Chrome Extension here.


The Clock

What Time utility for Mac that shows the local time in several different time zones
Price $4.99 from the Mac App Store
Link -> Learn more about The Clock

I’ve got teammates across the globe. I’ve got customers around the globe.

This is a problem because I suck at time math. (or it could just be that I’m lazy.)

The Clock solves that problem for me. This little app makes it easy to check timezones across the globe to work out the best time to meet. Or to check if now’s a good time to reach a customer.

Once I got The Clock setup, I disabled the default Mac clock in the menu bar. It didn’t make much sense to have two.


Speeding up your everyday workflow :racehorse:

Little shortcuts can add up to a big chunk of time saved. These tools save me a little bit of time on the tasks that I do all day - every day.

TextExpander

What Save time by inserting and automatically expanding text snippets. Great for repetitive info like URLs, emails, and more.
Price $3.33 / month billed annually or stand-alone version for $44.95 one time.
Link -> Learn more about TextExpander 

While I don’t necessarily see the need for them to switch to a subscription model - this tool is one that I use everyday.

It’s handy for storing long URLs you don’t want to keep typing out. Or for email templates you use all the time. Or for inserting the date. There are literally hundreds of ways you can use it.

You type your abbreviation, and TextExpander expands (shocker there :wink:) it into your content.

Tips for using TextExpander

There’s not really a ton of tips I can give for using TextExpander beyond some examples of what I use it for. Here’s a few that might give you some ideas.

Zoom Link

;gt becomes https://zoom.us/j/xxxxxxxxxxx

Zoom Details

;got becomes Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/xxxxxxxxx Or iPhone one-tap : US: +16699006833,,xxxxxxxx# or +16465588656,,zzzzzzzzz# Or Telephone: US: +1 669 900 6833 or +1 646 558 8656 Meeting ID: xxx xxxx xxxx

Link to my Calendly URLs

;cal becomes https://calendly.com/your_name

Links to our Help Center

;doc becomes http://docs.shopvox.com

Company Hex Codes

;sbl becomes #223542


Alfred

What Productivity app to launch applications, search the web, find files, and more.
Price Free; Powerpack - £19 (~$27 USD)
Link -> Learn more about Alfred 

How I use Alfred for customer support

Aside from the obvious uses like searching the web or launching apps quickly, I’ve got a couple of specific uses for Alfred.

Custom search for our documentation.

Often I’m replying to clients I’m coaching from my own GMail inbox, instead of Intercom.

I modified an Alfred Workflow to create a custom search for our Help Center - so that I can quickly grab links to send to customers - regardless of what app I’m in.

Here’s a short Soapbox Video that explains it.

Here’s the link to workflow mentioned in the video.

And here’s the code to paste into the Script section from the video.

python search.py "site:add.your.siteURLhere {query}"

As as quick calculator.

Since shopVOX is a business management app for sign shops and print shops - part of my job includes troubleshooting pricing.

Instead of using the calculator app on Mac - I just use Alfred to quickly check any calculations I’m too slow to do in my head.

Tips for using Alfred

Download custom workflows from Packal.

One of the most powerful features in Alfred is the ability to create your own custom workflows.

Packal is a repository for Alfred Workflows created by other Alfred users.

You can find tons of custom workflows on Packal.


Divvy

What Mac window management tool.
Price $13.99 from the Mac App Store
Link -> Learn more about Divvy 

Thanks to a 27in external monitor I’ve got a lot of screen real estate on my office desk. Having all that space makes me feel more productive but can be a pain to keep my windows organized into something usable.

This quick little app makes it easy to perfectly resize browser, file, or app windows into a grid.

I’d recommend setting up some shortcuts for different sizes like half-screen left or quarter-screen top left.


Rocket

What Easily add Slack style emojis to emails and everywhere else.
Price Free; Paid version - $5
Link -> Learn more about Rocket 

I’m a huge fan of using emojis when communicating when clients via chat or email. When used appropriately they add personality to the conversation. And if you’re running a internet business - you definitely want your customers to feel like there’s a real person on the other end.

This awesome little Mac app adds lets you add emojis easily whether you’re composing a message in GMail or writing an article for your site.

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