We asked leaders at 7 different SaaS companies “What Does Customer Service Mean to You?” to find the secret sauce behind their customer service practices. See what they had to say in this post.
In the early stages of your startup, everyone talks about a “growth” mindset. You have weekly meetings about specific steps you can take to expand, such as owning your niche and strategies that will help you stand out from the crowd.
But growth isn’t just about expansion—it’s about retention. The 2016 Pacific Crest SaaS Survey showed that it is 9X more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Retention is crucial to keeping your business afloat, and the bedrock is having policies to provide excellent customer service.
That’s why we sat down with leaders at 7 different SaaS companies and asked: “What does customer service mean to you?”
We wanted to find the secret sauce behind their customer service practices, looking at both the way they ensure customers succeed using their products and how they support customers when they need help. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Solve Problems Before They Happen (Amplitude)
You only hear from 4% of your dissatisfied customers—and 91% of the ones who don’t speak up will never come back again.
Retention depends on much more than your company’s responses to the customers who contact your support team. It’s also important to solve potential problems before they occur and help your customers get the most value from your product.
Alan Ibraham, Director of Customer Success at analytics tool Amplitude, recommends having structures and tools in place to guide every customer’s journey.
“Our Solutions Architects and Success Managers work with customers to maximize value from Amplitude. Through these partnerships we’re able to encourage the customer to advance their analytical framework, which ultimately benefits their business.”
Excellent customer service begins with the user onboarding process, where you teach customers to maximize the value they get from your product.
In addition to using tooltips and great design, you can make your onboarding process even easier by segmenting it for different user personas. For example, Clearbit uses Customer.io to send different emails to their developer, marketer, and sales personas—so that each has the precise tools they need to succeed with their product.When someone signs up for Clearbit, they will expand their email capabilities using their Enrichment API to find their role in the company and segment accordingly. If their role is “developer,” they will receive the email on the right showing how to code the API into their own tool immediately. However, if their role is “marketer” they receive a completely different email without code, but with clear directions to complete integrations that are tailored to the needs of marketers.
2. Make Support an Extension of Your Product (Backplane.io)
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: you’re not selling a “product,” you’re selling a “solution.” Everything you do, whether that’s building new features or creating tooltips is an extension of that solution, so customer support should be part of that framework, too.
Blake Mizerany, founder of Backplane.io, strongly believes that support is an extension of your product.
“Our customers sought us out because they had a problem they needed help solving, and we are the solution. However, the product alone isn’t going to solve everything. It’s about us helping them achieve the goal they set out to achieve. We have to make sure we provide the support they need to meet their goal.”
For many customers these days, support doesn’t ONLY mean having the ability to call or live chat with an agent—they want to resolve the problem themselves. Self-service support options empower your customers to quickly and easily find answers to any questions they may have about your product, which delivers more value.
Using Teamwork Desk’s Help Docs feature, you can create your own self-service knowledge base in just a few clicks. You even have the ability to customize your Help Docs to reflect your company brand and style.
3. Implement Team-wide Support Training (Harvest)
In the early stages of your startup, you’re receiving calls from customers left and right—so it’s easy to stay customer-focused. But as you scale and hire a dedicated support team, it’s easy to step into your new roles and temporarily reduce your focus on the customer-first mentality that helped you succeed in the first place.
Alanna Feinsod, Support Lead at Harvest, recommends team-wide support training to maintain that customer-first mentality throughout the entire company.
“Every designer, developer, QA engineer, and marketer goes through training to learn how to provide support when they start working here. Customer service at Harvest goes beyond just firing off an email—it’s about being a company of people who want to help other people (we’re all in this together, right?).”
Maintaining an all-hands support system ensures that the customer’s needs are a top priority for everyone at your company—instead of just the support team. Here at Teamwork.com, we do “A Day In Support,” where everyone spends a day working the support desk roughly once every two months. These days help every member of our team hear the voice of our customers and get a more thorough understanding of how our products serve them.
4. Prioritise “Wow” Moments Over Support Scripts (Gliffy)
You’ve heard the stories about an amazing Zappos customer service agent who personally went to another store to get shoes for a customer when they ran out of stock. These stories deliver delight to your customers and generate excitement for anyone who hears them.
The reason Zappos has so many examples of famous customer service is because they focus on treating every customer like a VIP instead of sticking to scripts. In fact, they have the record for longest support call—over 10 hours.
Liza Mock, a manager at design tool Gliffy, favors the same approach.
“At Gliffy, customer service is not corporate slogans or played out scripts. We heart our customers, our coworkers and our fellow humans and treat them the way we hope to be treated.”
The trouble with “Wow!” moments is that they’re unpredictable. You never know when you’ll have the opportunity to create them, so the best way to ensure they’ll happen eventually is to hire an incredible support team—and train them so they’ll have permission to go above and beyond for customers in every possible circumstance. At Teamwork.com we’ve written this into our company values so anyone who joins the team knows that our customers always come first.
5. Prevent Customer Support Silos (Airtable)
Your customer support team is a goldmine for data about how your customer base uses your product—and how you can improve it to serve their needs. But in the daily hustle and bustle of helping customers, it’s easy for that data to get siloed to the customer support team.
Zoelle Egner, Customer Success at database tool Airtable, believes in breaking down those silos to improve your product.
“Many organisations silo customer support, but that’s dangerous. Customer support is the first opportunity to evaluate product-market fit, and no one hoping to build a sustainable, long-term business can afford to ignore it.”
Use your project management software to track feature requests and then relay them back to your developers for consideration. Tracking requests keep you in touch with your customers’ needs, which can lead to features that both present and future customers will love.
When your help desk software and project management software directly integrate with each other, it’s easy to keep track of these requests. If you’re a user of the Teamwork.com software suite, you can create your own tracking system by creating tasks from any support tickets where customers mention feature requests. Then you can use Board View in Teamwork Projects to create a visual representation of your pipeline—which your developers can directly access. You’ll soon earn a reputation for being responsive, and your entire team will feel more connected to your customers.
6. Create a Dialogue Surrounding Support (Interana)
In the startup world, everything is changing rapidly. From hot-button features to much-needed functionality, your customer’s needs will be shifting over time—which means your product should, too. That’s why you need to create an ongoing interaction with your customers rather than just reacting to their questions.
Alexis Johnson, VP of Customer Operations at analytics tool Interana, believes that customer service should be a dialogue.
“Customer service at Interana is an active collaboration with our users. We work with our customers as data changes, business needs evolve, and our product grows. This dialogue is key to the relationship we build with our users.”
The easiest way to engage in this dialogue and build relationships with your customers is to encourage conversation on your social profiles. Start scheduling your posts on social media to include blog posts and information on company and product updates. Then, instead of waiting for your customers to give you feedback on the content you share, take a proactive approach by asking for their comments and feedback.
7. Build Support on Your Values (Campaign Monitor)
Your customers aren’t sitting next to you at all-hands meetings when you brainstorm ideas for new features. They’re not with you during your commute as you’re thinking about ways to improve the user experience. They don’t know everything you’re doing to make their lives easier—they only see the results.
Allison Wahl, Director of Customer Success at marketing email platform Campaign Monitor, believes the fundamentals of the support team should be the fundamentals of the company.
“We have a company value at Campaign Monitor — “If our customers kick ass, we will too”. It goes without saying that it is the core ethos of our Customer Operations team (housing Support, Services and Success), but it is also lived and breathed by every employee at Campaign Monitor.
Here at Teamwork.com, that’s one of our values, too: We Embrace Openness by Default. One of the ways that we bring this company value to life is by publishing our product roadmap. These status reports show our customers how their suggestions are shaping the development of our products—and when they can expect to see the next updates.
Great Support is a Growth Mechanism
Excellent customer success and support aren’t “add-ons” to your company. They are integral to the loyalty your customers are building with you—and key differentiators between you and your competition.
When your customers know that you’re doing everything you possibly can to ensure they succeed with your product and go the extra mile when they need help, they’ll be in it with you for the long haul.