A good consumer experience is what ends up defining your brand. And customer support is one of the key aspects of the consumer experience.
Good customer service is equivalent to good marketing. The cost of organic customer acquisition is going higher and advertisements are not trusted enough by the audience.
So, the only way to simplify your customer acquisition process is divide the responsibility to market your product among all the departments- customer support tops the list.
How else do you plan to stand out in the world of excesses? Establishing personal connections and providing a seamless support is the key to reduce the cost of acquisition and increase returns.
● What is Customer Support?
● Is Customer Support that Important?
● Building a Customer Support Strategy
● The Team you Need for Customer Support
● Customer Support Case Study (the Ritz Carlton Golden Standard of Customer Support)
● Best Practices for a Smooth Customer Support
What is Customer Support?
Everything from facilitating your customer with a product to fixing issues they face using your product comes under customer support. Often confused with customer success managers, a customer support rep is the one focusing on immediate delivery while the success team aims at taking the customer from the sales phase to the support phase.
It is an umbrella term that includes all post sale services that a client requires.
Think about it like this: your customer has no clue about how your product works, they made a valuable investment and yet can’t get the best of your product or service. Would you like to lose them to your competitors after onboarding?
Just because they did not get the best out of your product or service? Certainly Not. That’s why the role of customer support is even more crucial.
Customer support includes installation, bug fixing, troubleshooting issues, answering basic how-to queries, offering support tools, upgrading, etc.
Depending on the type of product or services, customer service can be performed through various channels. You could offer a simple customer support plugin extension, or telephonic support.
It is usually a labour-intensive task, but many businesses leverage customer service bots. These bots can be used on e-mail support or chat support. Bots as of now, are capable of answering 33% queries correctly (on an average). So, even then actual human customer support is required, although labor cost is reduced.
Regardless of the channel used, customer support is a highly personal aspect of doing business. Every customer should be looked at as an esteemed investor in your business. And therefore, deserved to be serviced to the best of your abilities. Customer support is not about bending backwards for your customer but maintaining a reasonable and proactive relationship.
Is Customer Support that Important?
Customer support is as important as your business itself. Maybe slightly more important, but definitely not less important. Depending upon the demographic you cater to, the importance of customer service can range from important to extremely important. Customers play a major role in driving your sales. Word of mouth is still a very important marketing tactic. Reportedly, 49% of consumers decide to buy a product based on the ‘influencer’s’ recommendation.
1. Customer Lifetime Value or CLV
CLV is a simple measurement to calculate the total revenue your business generated from a customer. A high CLV means that that one customer spends more money on your products and does it more often. A good customer support service is directly proportional to the CLV.
If a customer feels welcomed and nurtured by your customer support team, they are likely to shop more. Not just shop more but also share with their friends what a great business you run.
2. Trust and Loyalty
Customer service begins when a prospect lands on your squeeze page. A prospect becomes a customer only when you can establish trust. And that comes from exceptional customer service. Smart support agents, and quality customer support reps are the ones making the most sales for you.
The more trust a customer has in your brand, the more likely they are to keep buying. That is, customer loyalty. But how do you achieve that? Certainly not by fooling a customer.
To earn customers who keep coming back, you have to show that you value them. And nothing beats exceptional customer support in building customer loyalty.
3. Brand Image
73% of customers love a brand because of friendly customer service. Whether you like it or not, your customer support rep makes your brand. You can have a great quality product, and the best branding, but a rude customer support rep can make you bankrupt in no time.
Customer support represents your value system as a business, as well as your vision. These are the two key factors in brand building. The customer should be able to personally relate to your business.
Establishing a good communication channel with the customer ensures a positive brand image. It is this brand image that they remember when they share a testimonial or leave a review or recommend your product/service to a friend. Your response time, how you communicate and which communication channels you use to communicate- all this makes for your brand image.
If your feedback channel is well constructed you will see customers coming up with issues that surprise you to the core. You’ll find bugs or gaps in your product that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.
All said, customers are highly reluctant to address issues. Especially if your product or service is not highly priced. This is why so many Fortune 500 companies allow customers to report problems and offer rewards on exceptional reports.
Customer support from experts, team managers, developers, can play a major role in product improvement. When the developer is directly or indirectly receiving customer queries and complaints, they get a larger perspective on the product. Usually, it is hard to get customers to fill out feedback forms or reviews. But with a good communication channel established through customer support, they are more likely to honestly report problems.
Customer support is a great way to get real, grassroot level reality checks about your product or service. The best part is, that if you are able to successfully resolve reasonable yet complicated issues put up by a customer: not only do you have a better product, but a customer who will be loyal to you for life.
Building a Customer Support Strategy
Your customer support strategy basically stems from your business’ value system. A big part of any organization’s values and vision is dedicated to customers. And using this you can establish what will be your customer support strategy.
Customize Customer Support Service Model
Based on the said vision and values, and the nature of your business, you have to choose a customer support service model. First of all, demarcate your Customer Success and Customer Support goals. The support team focus on delivering satisfaction while the success steam foresees challenges to make the customer journey easier.
Each industry has different standards for what is considered as “Good Customer Service”. Not every business requires all things fancy when it comes to customer service. And similarly, customer support is different. For example, if you are running a restaurant you might not need an in-person assistance customer support executive, but if you sell installable furniture, it is an absolute necessity.
What you offer to your customers as support also depends on what your competitor offers. Not that you must replicate the customer support offered by them, but you should analyze their model cohesively. Weigh out what is absolutely a necessity and what is unreasonable for your business.
It is also a must to look at the legal aspects of customer support. A lot of countries follow industry specific rules to offer customer support. Adhere to these rules and implement them meticulously, to avoid serious consequences. Set out your own customized customer support service. A single page set of rules for customer support should be laid down as the holy grail.
Determine the “How” of Customer Support
You can have a great Customer Support checklist but how will you execute it? Is your customer support email based or will you use an active telephonic route? The answer to the question depends more on the customers than your business itself. You have to use the channel your customers are most likely to use. And it should be convenient for them to use.
Depending upon your industry, you can offer customer support through a number of channels. And in a lot of cases you might need to run multiple channels simultaneously. In this case, you have to balance the time you give to each channel in a responsible manner. The most commonly used and reliable ways include customer support tools and apps like Freshdesk, Zendesk, etc.
Generally, a lot of small businesses tend to take the email support option as the only way for customer support. Although emails are a good starting point, back and forth messages can get frustrating for long discussions. At the same time telephonic calls could be very expensive, as a small business. Depending on your requirement, budget, and vision, choose the medium carefully.
An easy way to provide customer support is by regularly generating how-to video content. You can simply record a video to solve customer issues or share a short go-to guide (if that works better) to navigate them through helpful resources/information.
Many of StoryXpress clients resolve queries in a similar way. If you’re using customer support platforms like Freshdesk, Zendesk or Freshchat you can directly share the StoryXpress videos from within your apps/tools. That’s how most of the customer support teams access their videos while resolving customer queries using videos created on our platform and resolve maximum queries in less time. If you use emails or any other tool that’s not integrated with StoryXpress then simply use the shareable link to embed anywhere.
Measure Your Customer Support Activity
No matter what channel you use to provide customer support, it is important to hold a record of what you do. Every email, every phone call, every social media reply counts. Keeping everything in check will allow you to assess your customer support on regular intervals. And also help you keep the quality of customer support in check.
Use a customer support service desk (software) to record threads of customer support. Everything from initial requests, to reopening customer support threads should be accounted for. The time spent on customer support, the staff requirements, the volume of customer queries, everything serves a larger purpose. The only thing that drives a good customer support service are these metrics.
Most of the times a customer support rep will answer similar queries. Whether it is related to the product, or the company in general, all questions tend to repeat themselves. And they follow a similar pattern. It helps if you set guidelines or standard operating procedures involving each of the common queries.
Guidelines will help you perform quicker and efficient customer support. Use your internal experts to set guidelines and maintain an inventory of questions and answers. Guidelines generally will involve a flow chart that helps the customer support rep to address questions holistically. This inventory can also be used to create the FAQ for your business.
The Team you Need for Customer Support
Since Customer Support is a labor intensive service, the people performing it are of utmost value. Not only should your customer support team be active, but they should also fit in a lot of other sets of frameworks for the best customer support. A good customer support team member means someone who ranks high on both the intelligence and the emotional quotient. And as if that is not hard enough to inculcate, they should also be in-line with your vision.
Customer support is one of those acquired skills, the more one does it, the better they are at it. In some cases, customer support team members require highly technically advanced training. And excellent communication skills to impart that knowledge. It truly is a tricky balance to strike. And it's really hard to find a combination of all of the above in one person. So what you can do is divide your team in namely four types of people.
- The one who keeps the communication channel running. This is the person who will constantly attend phone calls, or reply to emails. Their focus isn’t on solving the problem, but more on receiving the complaints. He or she has to be extremely polite, an expert communicator and extremely patient.
- The technical expert who has an answer to everything. This is the detail-oriented technology buff who knows your product or service inside out. Needless to say, he/she is the one who steps in when the guidelines fail. To address truly unique problems, this person is a must.
- The all rounder who can manage in between professionals. This person is the one you pass the phone to when a single customer faces a large number of problems. Although this person is not a technical expert, nor is he or she always on the line, they know enough to manage both the communication channel and the technical aspects.
- The experienced rep who knows how to deal with difficult customers. You need an extremely polite and well mannered person on the line when your customers are being unreasonable. All of that and a touch of firmness. This person is here to save the day when nobody else can figure out how to turn down the customer’s unreasonable demands. And offer solutions when the problem has really gone out of hand.
Customer Support Case Study (the Ritz Carlton Golden Standard of Customer Support)
There are a few examples of how exceptional customer support has transformed a business for the better. One such great case study is about the Ritz Carlton Hotel that set the standard for customer support.
Being a service-based industry, Ritz Carlton Hotel set a series of values to maintain for their clients. The motto in fact is what sets the tone of the exceptional customer service they aspired for.
“We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”
The motto instantly bridges the gap between the customer and the provider. It somehow unites the giver and the receiver.
You might be thinking, woah, is this really what I need to do to sell bicycles online? No, you don’t have to replicate their steps of service. But do you get the amount of effort employees of Ritz Carlton Hotel are willing to put in to provide a good experience to the customer? Do it in your own way but set standards for the service. Ritz Carlton goes so far as to make 12 service values for their employees that are seen as the Golden Standard in terms of customer support. I’ll breifly explain each of them to you.
1. The visionary folks at Ritz Carlton don’t believe in making half hearted attempts at customer support. They intend to build relationships with their customers, and relations that will last for life.
2. These are no ordinary beings, because they aim at predicting the unsaid desires of their customers. This really is the golden standard.
3. Customer support executives at Ritz Carlton take it upon themselves to ensure that their customers have the best time possible. And make the most of their services. They understand it as their duty to make sure their customers make the best memories using their services.
4. It is ingrained in the Ritz Carlton employee that he or she is the representative of the grand vision of the company. He or she is not just the bellboy or the receptionist but the flag bearer of the company itself.
5. The employee has a voice and the creative freedom to innovate in the best interests of the company. He or she is not just a pawn, but an integral part of the business.
6. As a Ritz Carlton customer support service rep, every problem a customer faces is their problem. And to respond to it is their duty.
7. In order to achieve the exceptional customer support Ritz Carlton offers, every employee must function as a sport. Basically, everyone is part of a larger teamwork at play, and everyone contributes to the team. And all this is done to provide the best services to the customer.
8. Employees at the Ritz Carlton are encouraged to learn new things, and grow in their respective fields.
9. Every customer support executive is a leader in his or her own right. And is as much a part of the planning as of the execution.
10.Professional appearance, good language and exceptional manners are a matter of pride.
11.Not only is the customer support rep a problem solver, but they also wow to protect the customer against security violations. This is extremely relevant to all industries with the increasing security breaches over telephonic, and email conversations.
12.The customer support rep is responsible to maintain a clean and accident free environment. Okay, this is very hotel specific. So, look at it like this: every customer support rep is responsible in providing clean, and smooth support to every customer.
Apart from these the Ritz Carlton also has a handbook that defines, “Who are We”, an Employee Promise, and the Credo. All of these are about the Ritz Carlton experience and are all available for public viewing. This is a great marketing tactic. Not only does Ritz Carlton actually offer exceptional customer service, they also use it as a brand building tool.
Best Practices for a Smooth Customer Support
- Good customer support comes from a problem-solving ability. Customers will throw all kinds of strange queries your way, some of which may not even logically make any sense. With a big intellect you will be able to knock these baseless queries out of the park.
- The other thing about customer support is that it can be an extremely frustrating job. No matter how hard you try, some people just don’t get it. And that is why patience is a big requirement for good customer support. Look at every customer like a 5-year-old who has absolutely no idea about anything in the world. And 9 out of 10 times you will be able to sail through. Of course, there are some spectacularly naughty 5 year olds. But alas, even they are innocent of intelligence (or shame).
- Nothing beats a good knowledge bank when it comes to customer support, except maybe politeness. Having a think tank allows you to predict customer queries accurately. Some queries may still totally take you aback. But a solid knowledge base allows you to take up these problems efficiently. Allow your in-house experts, like developers, project managers, team leads to train your customer support team rigorously.
We live in an all-inclusive world, today. With the onset of technical advancements, it has become even more important to channel human emotions. The best sales are still made by organizations that rank highly on the emotional quotient. Establishing a personal connection with your client makes you instantly bankable.