sxswSouth by Southwest is coming up in a few weeks (did we mention that we’re speaking at it?) and it’s about to get crazy in the tech sphere. SXSW is arguably the party of the year, and everybody and their brother will be there, drinking and networking and making deals.

Unfortunately, diving head-first into SXSW can end up leaving your customers with a bad customer service experience, especially if you’re still a small company. It might seem like it, but not everyone in the whole world is at SXSW…and they still deserve good service while you’re swigging free cocktails.

Here are our tips for preparing your customer service for SXSW, or any other big event:

Set up email notifications
You won’t be at a computer all day, so make sure your customer service tool is routing tickets to your email as well. (Here’s how to do this in UserVoice Helpdesk.) You wouldn’t want to miss a critical issue just because you were in a party bus. If you’re using Gmail, set up a filter to label and archive these so you have them handy, but they don’t crowd your inbox.

Set up shifts
If most or all of your customer service team is at SXSW, make sure to set up shifts so someone is always monitoring messages and (relatively) sober enough to respond. Also good for the liver.

Expecting extra traffic? Make sure everyone can do support
If you’re launching at SXSW or trying to make a big splash, don’t let it backfire on you in the form of an overwhelmed customer service team. Train your whole team to use your customer service tools, so they can help out if you (fingers crossed) explode at SXSW.

drink up sxsw coaster

Update your office hours
If you really can’t avoid some unavailability at SXSW, be clear about it. Update your support hours on your site and in your support auto-responses. (Here’s how to do this in UserVoice Helpdesk.) People are upset when their expectations are broken, so set those expectations low ahead of time.

man with sparks and a sxsw badgeGet some wireless cards
Something is going to break, and your customers aren’t going to want to wait while your developer takes a taxi back to his hotel. Invest in some wireless cards so they can crack open their laptop and fix things from the comfort of the party they’re at. Your mobile provider likely sells these already.

Don’t fly all at once!
Every time we’ve taken the whole company to SXSW, something has broken terribly…right while we’re all on a plane, without Wifi. Make sure you have at least one developer on the ground at all times.

Done? Congrats, you can now enjoy SXSW without a guilty conscience. See you there!

SXSW sign photo courtesy of Josh Clark.
Coaster photo courtesy of martymadrid.
Sparks photo courtesy of Bryan Bruchman