Customer support is about empowering your customers to achieve their desired outcomes with your products and services. The levels of support that are common to B2B software are:
- Reactive Support
- Proactive Support
- Pre-Emptive Support
- Continued Training
Let’s look at these in detail..
Reactive support refers to any support given as a response to a customer request. Typically, you can offer various channels for your customers to reach you. A couple include:
- Contact Forms
- In-App Chat
- Email (into a ticketing system or helpdesk)
It’s important to match your support channels to the needs of your customers and your desired support outcomes. For example:
If your customer issues require a sense of urgency to be resolved, then you should provide more immediate ways for your customers to reach you. Offer a hotline or a direct chat option.
If your customer issues are important, but your customer doesn’t expect a 1 hour resolution time, then feel free to offer an email-based communication channel.
Characteristics of High Quality Support
Regardless of the channel you offer, ensure that your support interactions hit on these 3 qualities:
- Effective: Are you solving your customer’s problem?
- Attentive: Are you providing an understanding, empathetic interaction?
- Accessible: Are you making it easy for your customers to reach you?
Being effective without being attentive, will give off a cold impression on your customers. Being attentive without solving the problem will make your support team seem ineffective. Being inaccessible to your customers will increase the gap between you and your customers, making you unable to identify and solve their problems.
Proactive support is when you seek to identify your customer’s problems before the customer gets the chance to register their concern. A couple common forms of proactive support include:
- In-App Feedback
- Customer Interviews
- Focus Groups
- Check-Ins: Automated & Manual
Proactive support often exposes you to problems that you weren’t aware of. Simply by picking up the phone and checking in with a user, he/she is more likely to share insights with you that they didn’t bother to share in the first place. Having a conversation with your customer also allows you to dig deeper into the root causes of customer frustration and discover other needs that you and your team can address.
It’s important to note that proactive support can be expensive, requiring a much time and resource investment than simply waiting for your customer to tell you that something is wrong. Nonetheless, being proactive in serving your customers is one way to differentiate your service from that of your competitors, and may help you in building customer loyalty.
For more on the topic of Proactive Customer Support:
The “self-actualization” of customer support comes from eliminating your customer’s sources of frustration. This can be achieved by automating or eliminating every possible customer problem through product design.
This approach provides 2 main benefits.
First, by eliminating sources of customer frustration you can continuously reduce the volume of support delivered by your team. This leads to lower support costs and higher operating profits.
Second, by channeling your customer needs back into the product development process, you and your team can guide product and feature iterations that deliver more value to your customers. This leads to higher customer satisfaction, lower churn rates, and a higher customer lifetime value.
A useful mantra to carry for pre-emptive support:
“Every time a customer contacts me to tell me they have a problem, I have failed to empower them to achieve their desired outcome. I must continuously strive to eliminate any obstacle my customer may have in using my products/services.”
Put simply, no one wants to stop what they’re doing to complain that the product or service isn’t working as they thought it would. If there’s a problem, you’ve already failed your customer. Operate with a “zero support” mentality and you’ll always be looking for better ways to serve your customers through the products and services you offer.
Continued training refers to any means or resources made available for your customers to learn more about your products and services. Training resources should be made readily available for your customers, so that they are empowered to re-train themselves. Common resources that you can provide include:
- FAQs, Knowledge Base, Documentation
- Community Support Forums
Again, the resources you make available should match your customer’s needs. If the feature are complex and ‘training heavy’, then consider providing a ‘how-to-video’ where you walk your customer through the process of using a new feature.
A valuable takeaway from Intercom’s book on Customer Support:
“The most important consideration is to pair the level of support with the value of the customer. Make sure you are never treating a valuable customer badly nor are you wasting precious support hours on a very, very low revenue customer.”
Most importantly, understand the needs of your customers and setup the appropriate processes to support them best.
In the next post, I’ll cover some fundamentals on software maintenance and customer experience alerting that are critical to driving a positive customer experience.