Customer support – never an afterthought!
Customer support. We’ve been thinking a lot about what it really means.
If you have a successful product or offering, it’s easy enough to fall into the trap of treating customer support as a bit of an afterthought, after all if your product is fit for purpose, well designed and intuitive why bother having a dedicated support team – surely a call centre bureau should be able to resolve all but the most technical queries?!
But companies who treat customer support this way are missing out on so many opportunities to build brand and trust. They are missing out on essential feedback for development and they are missing out on social proof and valuable referrals.
Moreover, customer service can be the deciding factor for winning new business away from the competition, or at contract renewal time – especially if your offering is similar to others functionally and financially, as we mentioned in our recent blog, Does your recruitment software provider make you feel special?, Jerry Gregoire, CIO of Dell, claims that, ‘customer experience is the next competitive battleground.’ – so good customer service suddenly seems like much less of an afterthought when you view it like that!
So we asked idibu’s own heads of customer support, Ben Bird (top left!) and Stuart Simmons (top right!), what makes a really good support team, what are the deeper impacts of good and bad customer support, and why being ‘human’ is still the number one best trait for a truly successful relationship with customers.
So Ben & Stu firstly, what qualities are essential for good customer support?
Ben: I hate to use buzz words but empathy is so important, we really try to put ourselves in our customer’s shoes and understand who they are, how they speak and what technical level they are comfortable with. People appreciate the details and speaking in the same language makes problem resolution much quicker. If they are ‘techie’ and appreciate the detail, give them the detail, but if the word “server” is likely to confuse – don’t use it!
Stu: Agree that there is a very broad technical spectrum, learning who prefers to communicate via bots or emails and who needs a really human experience is so important. Personalised communication means building a genuine rapport with our clients and we do try to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for all parties!
What do you think are the most fundamental factors when comparing internal or outsourced support?
Ben: We’ve grown very organically over the years, carefully recruiting the best people and fit for the company – as a result we are an experienced, cohesive team. I think that is something that’s almost impossible to achieve with outsourced support, not least because the churn of staff is very high. We even get customers coming to us first for help with other software platforms as they don’t want to have to contact that support desk! That’s crazy but it shows how they view us compared with how they view the remote, outsourced support, there is just no confidence there at all!
Stu: We do really invest in our support, we all know our product in great detail and we don’t need to escalate through different departments. As there is no churn in our support team we are all experienced and capable of delivering really fast resolutions! Great after sales support is as much a part of the package as the software itself, so it makes sense to have a dedicated, invested and experienced support team.
What do you think are the deeper ramifications/knock on effects for a customer if they have a good or bad experience?
Ben: Apart from the obvious i.e. we don’t want angry phone calls from frustrated people if they have had a bad experience! We have found that having a really strong support mentality and the time spent building those relationships has led to many direct referrals and really long term customers. The win/win here, is that as our customers grow, so do we.
Also, we are only human, so sometimes things do go wrong – however, due to the trust we have been able to build up, we can confidently reach out to customers and manage expectations, explain what’s happening and how we are putting things right. It’s essential that people trust that we will do what we say we will do and this makes these bumps in the road much easier to manage.
Stu: Honesty and transparency is always the best policy! We don’t give misleading replies, or hide behind technical jargon. Also, our clients enjoy interacting with us because they know we care about them and are striving to make their working lives easier.
When has good customer service led to unexpected outcomes?
Ben: I can think of a few times when a customer has left us as part of a technical restructure they went through, but a couple of years down the line contacted me directly asking to come back. The fact that they felt able to do this rather than going back through the standard Sales route makes me very happy and grateful that we had that strong relationship previously.
Stu: There have been relationships that maybe didn’t get off to a flying start due to 3rd party influences, turning some of these into the best relationships and some of the strongest advocates we have has been a particular buzz for us!
If you’re currently looking for a software solution, don’t just be tempted by the shiny outer wrapper! It so important to understand how the after sales care and support is going to affect your staff and your business. Get it right and you’ll have a fantastic platform to help you future proof your business and maximise productivity and growth.