How can you provide high quality support without being too expensive or disproportionately time consuming compared to the other parts of your small business? As a reminder, new startups have millions of things to do and support rarely warrants more than 5-10% of a founder’s focus.

Brian Cervino supports 4,000,000 users at Trello by himself. Wow – now that’s not just link bait but a fricking impressive number.

Trello logo

Here’s the baffling thing. His toolset includes Help Docs, Email Support, In-App Support and Google Analytics. For the most part these are basic tools and processes. No insult intended, it’s just that I’m guessing any startup that’s gone through their first firestorm knows about most of these.

How Does Brian Really Support 4 Million Users?

Here’s the key. About half way through the post he casually mentions,

I figure I get up to 300 cases a week via email…

Wait, what?!?

You have 4,000,000 users and only get 300 cases a week? Now that’s how you can support all your users.

It’s not time to response or time to resolution. Or even the number of replies per resolution. Regardless of the ratio of bugs to feature requests to questions you get, the most important metric is how many issues per users you have.

Your entire support approach is derived from this number. And by the way, Trello’s rate of only .0075% is ridiculously good.

The Math Behind Your Issues/Users Rate

The math is pretty straightforward.

Let’s say on average it takes Brian 5 minutes to respond to a case, and each case gets resolved in 1.5 responses.

So 300 cases –> 450 responses –> 2,250 minutes –> almost 40 hours a week spent handling emails.

While that’s a lot, let’s see what would happen if Trello’s rate went up an order of magnitude to .075% of users with issues each week. Well, that means you now see 3,000 cases a week, which results in about 375 hours of support.

You’ll now need to pay for 9 new employees to give your customers the same level of service! (assuming 40 hour work weeks) And your user base hasn’t changed so this is a direct hit to your profitability.

How to Keep Your Issues Low

I suppose this is where Brian’s post comes in handy. It’s not that all the tools he lays out help him respond faster or more accurately. Yes, tools like Desk help him work faster, but the real key is getting customers to solutions without even contacting Brian.

Your first goal when rolling out a new support mechanism should be to drastically reduce how often your customers even need help.

How do you do this?

  • Create help documentation that’s easily searchable with great content…
  • Build a stable app with only rare bugs popping up…
  • Design your app to be intuitive to use…

And you know what else happens when you do all of this? Not only does your product become cheaper and easier to support, but also more importantly you’ll have created a better overall experience for your 4,000,000 users.