Whether selling a product or service in-store or as a one-and-done offering online, closing the sale is traditionally viewed as the end of the customer lifecycle. In these scenarios, the role of customer service often drops sharply post-purchase.
When selling software on a subscription basis, however – in which retaining lifetime customers and minimizing churn plays an even more integral role in profitability and growth than acquiring new ones – quality customer service should be a central focus across all lifecycle phases, from awareness to retention.
Below, we’ll explore a series of customer service best practices designed to foster trusted, ongoing relationships with your customers and maximize satisfaction with your product.
Customer Service Should be Convenient and Easy to Access
Many websites tend to bury the “contact us” or “support” links in the footer of the homepage or deep within the navigation, making it difficult for a customer to communicate with your company and resolve their issue. And if they’re already experiencing frustration with the product – a bug or other malfunction, difficult feature or billing problem – the added headache of finding the hidden link may lose you a customer.
Your website and in-app experience should be clear and easy to navigate, from product features and video testimonials, to the checkout process and “thank you” page. The customer service option should be no different. Feature your support center prominently on the site, and set upfront customer service expectations for prospective and current customers.
Offer Multiple Customer Service Contact Points
Just as each customer maintains a different level of technical savvy, they too have varied preferences around how they communicate with a company before – or after – a purchase. In a previous blog, we discussed the importance of using confirmation pages as a vehicle for quality customer service. But what else can you do to offer a truly omni-channel experience?
Some consumers appreciate the one-on-one experience of a phone conversation, so make sure the customer service number is prominent on the page. And for those who prefer the more traditional email route, include the address and communicate specifically how long it will take to receive a response.
Given the level of expectation consumers have around modern customer service, it’d be wise to offer an on-page chat feature as well, which enables your team to troubleshoot a consumer’s issue in real-time. This also supports your efforts to turn prospects into customers. A new web visitor has likely not conducted as much research on your product as someone who’s already bought, and the real-time education process may streamline the conversion process as well.
“Customers will always remember how easy it was for them to get in touch with a company based on their preferences,” says Bernard Aguirre, Customer Service QA Analyst. “Consider them carefully. Think of your key demographic. Are they older and more prone to using traditional support? Or are they younger with a preference toward self-service? Maybe a blend is needed for what you offer.”
Overall, offering as many traditional, self-service and semi-self-service touchpoints as possible enables you to match the communication method with the consumer need. The greater number of options you can use to accommodate varying preferences, the better.
Create a Helpful FAQ Page; Pre-empt Issues Before They Arise
The best form of customer service is answering the question before it’s asked, and solving the issue before it arises. Given the sheer breadth and depth of possible consumer concern around a product or service, this isn’t always possible. But providing rich, relevant information in the form of an FAQ page or video series offers the best chance to educate your customers, and ultimately lighten the load on your customer service team.
According to Zendesk, 91 percent of customers said they would take advantage of an online knowledge base if a company offered one. This implies that a significant majority of web visitors would have a more positive experience on your site if they were armed with deeper knowledge around your software.
“We have seen the positive impact that helpful and pertinent information can have in reducing contacts to our customer service team (via email and phone),” Aguirre says. “The key is to be aware of how relevant and clear your FAQ/Help Center information really is in providing answers and solutions to your customers.”
For more ways to deliver effective customer service, read on:
- Re-evaluating the Information You Share With Customers
- Improving Confirmation Pages With World Class Customer Service
- World Class Customer Service – Enhancing Confirmation Pages
Look for commonalities among support tickets, survey your sales team to better understand prospect and customer concern, or use a tool like Google Analytics to identify keywords and phrases that visitors are searching for to find your site. Then, build a page featuring content designed to educate the market on those issues.
And what’s better than educating prospects and customers on common concerns? Preventing them in the first place. Once you’ve identified the content to be included on your FAQ page, it can be used as a jumping off point to fix product bugs and confusing features, better educate the market, and help you more clearly define your value proposition as a service provider.
Hire the Right People and Train Them … Well
Everyone knows the frustration of taking a question or concern to a company’s customer service portal, only to be passed from department to department, and ending the experience no more educated or satisfied than when you began.
In order to mitigate this all-too-common experience, bring the right people on board. When hiring members of your customer service team, create a clearly defined criteria around experience level and problem-solving skills, empowering your team to provide the best possible service experience for your customers.
Additionally, customer concerns can comprise technical functionality, installation, price point or billing issues, and anything in between. Ensure that your team is ready to field any and all queries appropriately. Either train each team member across the full slate of possible scenarios, or route the appropriate customer to the appropriate representative based upon their particular expertise.
Customer Service vs. Customer Success
For many companies, customer support, customer experience and customer success remain fairly interchangeable terms, and more or less refer to any team responsible for interacting with their client base. But as a SaaS company, developing a tiered approach to customer communication can offer a more focused ability to meet their needs.
According to SalesForce, “Customer support can be seen as the reactive, day-to-day response to customer requests, whereas customer success is there to take a proactive role.”
In support of your client relationships, develop a customer support team responsible for resolving issues in a timely manner, managing phone calls, emails, live chats and all other shorter-term customer touch points. And build a second team focused on long-term, organization-level value that supports larger company-wide initiatives. This supports your efforts to both close a prospect into a customer in the short term, while retaining them as a lifetime customer in the long term.
“Both teams strongly impact the other because the frontline personnel can help identify what challenges are impacting the software/service on so many levels,” Aguirre says. “This in turn influences the evolution of the long-term relationship by offering data and experiences that can help head off these potential challenges in the first place. This results in a successful symbiotic service relationship.”
As the world of ecommerce becomes increasingly competitive, customers look to invest their money not just in the quality of the product or service, but in overall experience. Building trusted relationships with your customers isn’t easy, especially for small- and medium-sized companies that don’t yet have the brand value of the larger software heavy-hitters. But implementing these strategies can help get you on your way.
Kyle Shamorian is the content marketer for cleverbridge.