We’re consistently commended for our best in class levels of customer support. We aim to answer our customers questions promptly, correctly, and with respect.
I recently contributed to an article on customer support in Software as a Services products. I was asked to outline some of the principles and tools that we apply.
Answering your customers question correctly and sportively is a hygiene factor. You must do this. The following suggestions will take your customer support to the best level it can be.
- Timeliness of response. Respond to the initial contact in a reasonable time-frame. Our average wait time is 8 seconds.
- Setting and managing expectations. If at first contact you cannot resolve their question immediately, then let them know that you’re working on it and give them a time-frame to resolution. Be conservative, so that when you do respond it will earlier than the initial estimate. If your customer had passed that estimate on to their client, then they will also be earlier as well.
- Building rapport. Remember your customers, their businesses and their issues. These are human interactions and every person is different, but it all becomes easier if you like and respect the person you’re talking to.
- Use CRM tools. Your Customer Relationship Management, or support system, must be able to show operators the previous conversations, issues, and even personal pieces of information. This demonstrates to the customer that they are being listened to. It gives them the security of knowing that their issues can be handled by any of the support operators. It gives the comfort that the company is well organised and is great at internal communication. We use the Zoho suite of tools.
- A customer first attitude. Put your user/customer before your own interests. When talking with them, review their account, make sure they’re on the best plan for them, even if its not the most profitable for you. If your product isn’t a good match then tell them! There’s no point signing a new customer if they leave you 5 weeks later because of poor product fit. That wastes everyone’s time and the negative experience will be talked about with other potential customers.
- There is no such think as a dumb question. Your customers arrive at your product with different levels of competence and experience. Some will fly through with no support required because your system is intuitive to them. Others are diligent and read the guides/help docs. Others will skip the guides and play about until they get the result they want. They’re all different. However, every interaction with the customer you must ask yourself, “Why are they asking this question?” If you don’t understand their question, then get them to rephrase it. Their question will usually be how to resolve a symptom, but you want to find the underlying root cause of their problem.
- Provide multiple channels for communication. Different customers are more comfortable using different channels. We make heavy use of our in app chat. But for people outside our timezone email works better. Other customers just cant type, they prefer phone calls. Some customers have difficulty communicating their needs, or finding the right technical language to explain their problem, you might save everyone’s time by simply calling or video chatting them. In the first instance, try and funnel your support to the most efficient channel. But do break away and use the most effective channel for your customer. Some of ours are here.
- Make use of Co-Browsing. Co-browsing is like screen share only better. We use Surfly for this. It allows both parties to view and work on the same web page at the same time. In your customer support you’re also trying to train the customer, so that they don’t need to ask the same question again. Seeing how you resolved their issue is better than simply resolving it for them. When you resolve the issue for them it trains behaviour to contact you again next time it happens. You want to build their confidence so that they can resolve issues themselves. Now, instead of the issue being an ‘unknown fault in your system’ that has to get fixed, they can see how the system is able to resolve these issues with a little customer input.
- The customer is always right. It’s an old adage, but true, particularly in Software as a Service. If a customer makes a mess of their setup or can’t operate your software, the issue is not theirs. The issue is that:
- Your system is not intuitive enough
- Your labels/buttons/text could be more descriptive
- Your guides and documentation are insufficient
- Your software is buggy
- Your on boarding is lacking
- Treat every customer with respect, no matter their level of competence. Enough said.
- Learn from your support questions. Categorise and review your support history. Look for trends, identify repeating issues. Continually evolve your product and documentation with the aim of reducing your support queries.
- Be proactive. Our support operators also have access to our application Issues Log. When the application throws an Exception (an error/warning/issue) then it appears on the log along with the users name and the page where they were working at that time. The operator can then reach out to the customer over the chat system and contact them first. This creates the impression that you’re on top of your game. Secondly, it allows you to intervene before the user becomes frustrated. Some people will plug away at issues, consistently doing the same thing and not getting their desired results. This causes frustration levels to rise. If you can resolve that early then you eliminate that stress for them.
- Keep an activity log. Your system software should be able to keep a log of customer Requests and Responses. The support and development teams need to understand where the user was, what they were doing, and what the history to their problem is. Some issues are created by the user. A log can help you figure this out.
- Use Session Recording. Even better than activity logs, session recordings are ‘video’s’ of the users interaction with the software. We record all sessions with Inspectlet. Sometimes you’re scratching your head about how your customer managed to get into their particular problem. Session recordings lets you see what they did at that time. We’re a multi-user payroll system, so different people in the same company have access to the company data. Sometimes the problem was actually created by another user from the same company, or they simply forgot that they did something themselves earlier. You can give them a link to the session recording and say, ‘Here, see, this is where X deleted the pay run 3 weeks ago, that’s why it doesn’t exist, and this is how we will help you resolve it.’
We’re not at the pinnacle of customer support service. We will be looking at how we can stream our support questions, and take some of the more frequent or easily solved questions to an AI ChatBot. However, the use of AI ChatBots is more about providing support quickly and efficiently. It’s about managing support desk volumes. They also need to be trained.
While we’re still building the business we’re focusing on learning as much from our customers as possible. And that means real conversations.
If you want more specifics on the tools that we use, then get in touch with me. I’d be happy to share what technology stack we’re running at the time.