Why early stage startup founders should be the help desk

By Shaun Symm, October 21, 2020
Woman typing on a laptop in the office

One of our recent startup projects has been to develop and launch a video greeting card startup called Joycards.

It's early days, but so far user growth has been incredible and what started out as a test (we started extremely lean to test assumptions) is on its way to becoming a validated idea.

I've personally been involved in customer support for this startup and while I've done this many times before it has been a great reminder of the importance of the founders being the help desk in the early stages of their startup.

Why should founders work in customer support

The feedback you get from users is invaluable.

As an early stage startup founder you'll probably have to triage help desk tickets out of necessity as you might not have a team. Thus, you'll have to be the customer support person.

Even if you've raised a large round of funding and can afford to hire a help desk team, you should still spend time each week taking support queries.

It's a role you should embrace and look forward to as you'll get to hear about all sorts of issues, and ideas, including:

  • The reporting of bugs.
    This is an obvious one for any customer support person, but having the founder understand what the bugs are and being able to triage them in order of priority is key to keeping your early customers. Plus it's your product, you conceived it, and so you're the most qualified person in the world to help users through their challenges.
  • User experience (UX) issues.
    These UX issues usually get you thinking either 'why didn't we think of that' or 'that is bizarre, why would they do it that way'. The amazing thing is that sometimes the 'that is bizarre, why would they do it that way' UX issues get reported by multiple users and so while you thought it was bizarre and that no user would ever do that you probably need to make changes.
  • Feature requests.
    Early users often ask questions like 'how do I do X' when that particular feature doesn't exist. On Joycards we've found many people asking this question about features that haven't been developed yet. The feedback means we can add this to the product roadmap (if it isn't on there already) and we can order the priority based on the importance of the feature to users.

Getting closer to your users, and engaging with them, is key for any business. If you've conducted customer research before launching your product you'll already know why.

Continuing the conversation with your initial customers not only shows you care but sets you up for a better chance at success.

Help desk software

We've recently been using help desk software called Helpcrunch. It enables us to add a chat widget to the application so that logged in users can reach out for help or to report issues.

We can respond to them within the chat widget or via email. Plus, the software offers a knowledge base tool so that users can self serve.

There are many tools like this on the market. We chose Helpcrunch as pricing was competitive, the product appeared to be widely used and it had the features we needed.

Other options include Intercom, Elev.io, Helpscout, Freshdesk, Olark, Zendesk and many more.


I've realised I have 2 major take aways from working on support tickets for an MVP stage startup over the past few months.

The first is empathy. Communicating directly with users helps you understand their pain points and ensures you 'walk a mile' in their shoes.

The second is to expect the unexpected. Fielding questions that we hadn't conceived of, and thought would never be asked, means that we've uncovered new feature ideas, questions to add to our FAQs and an understanding that not all users are the same.

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