“You should take extraordinary measures not just to acquire users, but also to make them happy.”
– Paul Graham, “Do Things That Don’t Scale”
Is customer happiness a priority for your team?
For many emerging high-growth startups, there is a focus on acquiring users in the most automated and scalable way possible. However, numerous studies show that it’s cheaper to keep customers happy than it is to acquire new ones.
While this can obviously vary company to company (and user acquisition is still an incredibly important activity), it’s surprising that customer support is often reactive and an afterthought for businesses.
Customer support should be a multi-faceted strategy at all stages of a business. For younger startups during early growth stages, why not surprise and delight your customers with support strategies that stand out from the competition? It will help you build a great reputation right from the start.
In Paul Graham’s essay article, “Do Things That Don’t Scale,” he highlights many ways that startups can operate in ways that don’t scale. The “Delight” section of this article is interesting for the purposes of this discussion:
“Another reason founders don’t focus enough on individual customers is that they worry it won’t scale.
But when founders of larval startups worry about this, I point out that in their current state they have nothing to lose. Maybe if they go out of their way to make existing users super happy, they’ll one day have too many to do so much for.
That would be a great problem to have.”
Indeed, it would be a great problem to have. So how should you handle customer support at your startup?
Here are nine tips to get you started.
1. Say thank you
Your prospects have so many different products and services to choose from, and they opted to sign up for yours.
While your online onboarding flow might welcome them to your product, it doesn’t hurt to also shoot them a note and thank them for giving you a shot. Provide further resources to simplify onboarding and make their life easier. Personalize it, automate it—those details should be worked out as you scale. It’s a simple strategy, but it will have a positive impact.
2. Be fast and responsive
If consumers have a question, concern, or complaint, they expect a response or answer almost immediately. In fact, according to a study by Lithium Technologies, 66 percent of consumers expect a response to their query on the same day, and over 40 percent expect a reply within the hour. Further, Forrester data shows that 77 percent of U.S. online adults say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.
To keep customers happy, you must demonstrate your availability and reliability. How can you make this an actionable goal? Put in place a process with your customer-facing team that puts the onus on responding—whether it’s by day of week or time of day, your team should know who is responsible and when so that no one sits waiting.
If you receive a lot of comments or questions at odd times of the day, you can buy yourself some time by automatically letting a customer know that their complaint is being reviewed and that they will receive a response within 24 hours.
3. Be human
While it’s okay to automate some aspects of your customer response and support, your users want to know that they are working with real people who are actively trying to solve their problem.
As a small team, if your customers have a problem with your product or your service, it should be your number one priority to fix it and the best way to quell any concerns is to handle it directly. Be transparent about why the problem is a challenge for your team, what you’re doing to fix it, and when you expect it to be fixed if it can be. Always use your best judgement as honesty is the best policy.
4. Show your personality
Tone and personality differ by business, but once you figure out your brand voice, let it emanate through all customer communications, including customer support, creating unified experiences your customers can count on.
Whether your copy and product experience are light, funny, serious, or professional, you should always let that personality shine through in the way in which you deal with unhappy (or happy) customers.
5. Be channel agnostic
Customers want to reach you in the ways that they prefer to communicate.
Some users might prefer to pick up their phone to get in touch; others might cringe at the prospect of a support line. Most small teams should be able to handle incoming support requests via phone, email, and web or app chat—and giving customers the choice will make them happy.
6. Optimize as you grow
When you have a small number of customers, managing support is a piece of cake. But as you grow, you don’t want to suddenly feel out of control and unable to get a firm understanding of customer satisfaction.
If you have the capital, look into issue trackers, CRM, or customer relationship solutions—most have free trials and freemium tools—that help you scale your customer support. Tools like Doorbell.io, Intercom, Drift, Zendesk, Help Scout, Desk, and more will give you access to customer data to enable you to make smarter decisions.
7. Show improvement
If your customers are sharing feedback and you’re acting on it, let them know. They can’t read your mind and they don’t have a keen understanding of your roadmap.
Even if it’s a few months after they’ve commented, the fact that you’ve followed up on their concerns and put a solution in place will create a memorable user experience that brings them back to your business again.
Write a blog about it, email them, have their support team member follow up personally to remind them of how your solution is improving their business and life. Let them know that you’re listening.
8. Leverage tools to help you understand
Determine the scoring system (Net Promoter Score, Customer Effort Score, and so on) that will keep you aware of issues, and will help you define, measure, and accelerate company growth and customer loyalty.
9. Write it down
Once you have a customer support process that works, turn it into a formula that your team and new hires will implement to improve ongoing customer retention and happiness. This can always be tweaked and reassessed as you grow.