Being customer-centric should be the top priority for all companies. If you’re not providing support to your customers how can you succeed? And yet…
As a customer, don’t you just hate it when you have to call support for something? Having to explain the issue over and over again as you get transferred from agent to agent, ridiculous wait times, and talking to people to whom your problem just doesn’t seem to matter. But why does this happen? Why is getting effective support such a difficult thing to find?
Whether you’re in a corporate environment or in a small startup, don’t let the support you provide become a problem for your business.
As I see it, there are a number of factors which can contribute to inadequate and problematic customer support. These are the key areas:
Companies see customer service/support as an extra/unnecessary cost
This is a dangerous thought process, and one that unfortunately is still very prevalent. Customer support is not an extra cost, but rather it is an investment. You want to invest in educating your reps, you want to ensure they’re happy with their jobs so that they can pass that on with every response that they give.
Companies assume it is easy
How hard can it be talking to people all day? Actually, a lot harder than you might realize. We’re all human, even people like me who work in support, and we need to balance our own emotional state of mind with that of the customer. (Everyone has a bad day after all!)
Companies see development as more valuable
While you obviously need engineers and developers in your team, to see anyone in your team as more valuable than another is a terribly shortsighted idea: it makes others feel like they aren’t contributing or aren’t valuable enough and leads to dissatisfaction. Why put effort into a job when you’re not valued?
Companies don’t understand what support really is
It is not just about smiling and nodding and answering a question. It’s about building a relationship with the customer. It requires a lot of empathy and patience.
There’s a gap between technology and business
Just as companies see support as “nodding and smiling”, many also see development as “just building”. It is really hard to build something when you don’t know who you’re building it for, and it’s unfortunately also very common for there to be a gap between devs and customers. Customer reps are there to bridge that gap, as they advocate for the customer directly. They help product managers to understand pain points. I could write an entire essay about why this is hard, but TL;DR : make sure that devs/product are exposed to feedback, and encourage customer conversations!
How we keep ProdPad’s Support Customer-centric
We’ve obviously given a great deal of thought to how we manage our support at ProdPad. We’ve evolved a customer-centric approach which we think deals effectively with all the potential issues listed above. This is how we work:
We Created a Slack Community
The ProdPad Community is a place for everyone to jump in and have conversations – everyone, from our CEO to our developers, and of course our clients, are involved.
We encourage everyone to join the conversation – We don’t just want to hear when something is broken, we actively encourage peer to peer learning and sharing and our community are awesome for knowledge sharing.
All feedback submitted is copied into our own account, so even devs that are too busy to participate in the community get exposed to feedback.
We don’t create feedback funnels
The worst thing you can do is limit the way your users speak with you. If someone wants to talk via Twitter, or has a question via the app, or even through an email, we encourage those conversations to happen. We don’t dictate how people can get in touch.
There’s no such thing as a stupid idea
We encourage everyone to reach out, no matter how big or small their ideas might seem. We never call an idea stupid – because that would just be mean, wouldn’t it? We focus on understanding the problems people are having rather than saying no. We validate each and every item that comes in with a reply, even those with “test” dummy data. “Were you testing something? Cool, we’re here to help!”
Final thoughts for a Customer-centric Company
Support should be an area that companies invest in, not an afterthought. Being on the frontlines takes guts, skill, and consideration. The more companies realize that their support teams are an investment rather than “something to they have to do” – the more that customer loyalty, engagement and trust will grow.
If you don’t know where to start, look internally. Showcase the amazing things that your support team are doing, give them a platform to show off their everyday work, and put them in the spotlight. By letting them shine, you create an atmosphere of respect for the team and the customers they support.