Value Add

This is a part of a continuing series that is also available as a downloadable book. We talked to 35 companies, including Stripe, Twilio, and Mailgun, to get a sense of what it takes to run a great customer support organization. While every company is different, there were some trends that we could identify as benchmarks for great customer support.

Natural Retention

One of the bigger themes of this book is to show you why customer support can be a positive revenue generator for any business. Our personal experiences have taught us to value customer interactions and conversations as much as possible because it’s not something that can be easily measured and quantified. And because it’s not easily measured, nor often proactively measured, customer support can be overlooked as a traction point and entry point for new sales, customer retention, building additional lifetime value, attracting feedback, and increasing customer satisfaction.

Courtney @ Eventbrite

"So much of the value in customer support can be seen in retention. We have the chance to make a strong connection with every client we talk to. We're actively listening to their feedback and making personalized recommendations based on their needs. By prioritizing the quality of these conversations, we're investing in the value of each interaction. If customers don’t feel the respect of their voice being heard, then they will look for alternatives. Collecting and closely tracking trends in the feedback customers provide offers us powerful leverage for inserting these ideas into the product roadmap. In short, having really great conversations is fun, optimizes our product, and can be a powerful enough driver to ensure a customer stays with you. Plus, people love to talk about experiences that are unexpectedly positive. Making a strong impression with the support we provide gives Eventbrite really viral traction via social media and word of mouth."

Jason @ Ideeli

"I know for a fact that customers who talk to our support team are more likely to return. If you give them a good experience then you’re capitalizing on your acquisition costs because you’re increasing retention. This isn’t a hard thing to find, you can measure this."

The Loyal Advocates

Great customer support isn’t only about answering questions or resolving technical issues. Great customer support gets customers excited about using your product/service, talking about your product/service, and most importantly, recommending your product/service to others. We’ve even had customers come to our defense when others talk poorly about some aspects of our product. The psychological need to defend something you love is natural and it’s your job to foster this mentality in your customers by becoming an integral part of not just their business but also of their lives.

Lauren @ Twice

"We have a really loyal fan base that shops with us frequently and continually raves about how simple we make things for them. Understanding the kind of customers you have plays a huge role in figuring out how to communicate with them effectively."

Michael @ Stripe

"Everything we've worked on here contributes to revenue; support is certainly no exception. If we don't support our product well, it's not going to succeed. At the same time, we use the feedback we receive from our support channel as a means to improve and drive Stripe forward. Many of our changes have come directly from our users telling us what they'd like to see, and it'd be a shame to not listen and let everyone take part in building Stripe."

When they’re excited about being associated you’re your brand, they make it a priority to share their excitement publicly. Customers who advocate for you are also more likely to be forgiving toward your mistakes and shortcomings, thereby making up-selling, retention, and re-engagement far more plausible and achievable. Getting customers to advocate for you can be achieved if you do it systematically:

  • Ask for their opinions, feedback, and input on a regular basis through customer support.
  • Ask if the solution and resolution you provided was sufficient. If not, ask them how they would handle it if a similar concern comes up in the future. Give them credit.
  • Reward customers for sharing their thoughts and feedback. Changing the way to act and respond to you will change how they feel about you. It becomes self-reinforcing.
  • Ask for testimonials on great support. Make them feel extra special if they’re willing to give one. Once they do, they’re far more likely to become advocates.

Brand Building

Customer support is a brand in itself. Having an outstanding product or service means nothing without the support that comes along with it. And just like any product differentiator, customer support is a differentiator that can sway customers one way or the other. Leveraging customer support as a main staple to your brand and business image means starting small and letting the details of your day-to-day operations permeate throughout your company.

The speed in which you reply to customers, the sincerity you express through your conversations, the care you show when resolving customer concerns, and the accessibility and flexibility to provide to customers all add up an inevitable transformation of customer support into marketing. Whether customers publicly complain about you or share praise about you to their friends, these sound bites become opportunities for you to either change an opinion or build upon an already great relationship. These are tangible items you can act and accrue real rewards on. Now when customers hear your name, it’s always associated to great people, great support, and most importantly, great culture.

Having customer support as the gateway to humanizing your business is probably one of the best ways to relate to customers and drive passion to your staff. Treat your brand as a summation of behaviors and attitudes. When you can systematically change behavior and attitudes by demonstrating your company values and culture, customers will flock to you without you having to spend a single advertising penny.

The Glue

Take pride in being the cultural hub and glue of the company. Now that every staff member has had a taste for customer support and its value, everyone is essentially a teammate. Keep the chemistry alive by actively partaking in culture-building within the company. Reinforce the “customers first” mentality and bring cohesion to everyone’s workflow.

Christie @ Outright

"Since everyone came from support, they become best friends with people from other teams. No matter which team they go back to, that connection and bond is always present. Every team benefits from that. Support is close to everyone’s hearts for that reason at Outright."

  • Collect and filter customer comments, feedback, concerns, and ideas and compile a small internal newsletter for everyone to consume. This is a great way to have customer support stay top of mind within a company.
  • Join other teams’ meetings regularly and learn about what they’re planning and building. If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to voice it.
  • Invite other teams to join your meetings and learn about new ways you’re dealing with customers.
  • Be actively involved in company get-togethers and events. Everyone should be comfortable with the customer support team because it’s a unifying identity regardless of role and department.
  • Invite loyal, fun, interesting, and important customers to visit and chat. Invite others to join in for a cup of coffee. This will do wonders for the identity and culture of a company.
  • equest to QA new features or services as a way to learn more about how to help potential customers. This is a perfect way to get involved in development cycles.

A Better Product

Having meaningful conversations with customers is the single most effective way to improve your product or service. This should definitely sound intuitive by now because every success is based on how customers relate to you. If you don’t want to hear what customers have to say, someone else will. A competitor will gladly offer their attention to take a customer away from you.

Michael @ Stripe

"Customer support is part of the user's experience with Stripe, and therefore is a core part of the product, not something subservient to it. We believe that everyone working on support should be able to change what Stripe is; that might involve changing our documentation, figuring out the best way to proactively work with our users, or making a change right to our core products."

Listening to customers and interacting with them not only gives you an opportunity to tell the world that you care about your customers but it also gives you data points and information for what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. This is an opportunity to learn about what your customers need and want or whether or not you’re even going in the right direction. Why would you want to pass this up to a potential competitor?

Read Next Chapter: The Right Number

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