Our company, Phone Halo has made its fair share of mistakes over the past few years in terms of customer support. The biggest and most important lesson we’ve learned, though, is that it’s critical to have our customer-support team in-house.
Nonetheless, investors question whether customer support is a burden to the bottom line of our hardware-focused business; several have suggested that we explore outsourcing this component of the company. This echoes the “big corporation” mentality of the 1950s, rather than promoting the new approach of focusing on customers.
Here are five reasons to keep a support team in-house:
1. Installing support software is simple. With the rapid rise of software-as-a-service companies such as Desk, Get Satisfaction and Zendesk, implementing a support system has never been easier or more cost efficient. For example, after our company started using Zendesk, a single customer-support representative can answer and solve more than 100 consumer inquiries (or tickets) in just over an hour. In addition to being highly efficient, these customer-support systems are extremely cost efficient for startups. Zendesk’s most basic package costs just $1 a month for one agent to use.
2. Providing the ultimate brand experience. Put aside the idea of sitting on hold with a health insurance agent. Think instead about booking an appointment at Apple’s Genius Bar. Ahhh, much better. Apple’s team shows what support can be. Each Apple employee is highly knowledgeable about the differences between the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, can help new Macbook owners set up devices in a jiffy or might be able to diagnose bigger software-related issues.
In short, customer support can provide a company an opportunity to bring its message and brand to life while showing consumers it cares about them.
3. Incorporating engineering driven by customers. When we first released our product, Wallet TrackR, we assumed all customers would use it with their wallets but we soon realized that customers were finding new, innovative uses.
Likewise customers can discover new and unexpected use for any company's product or even find previously unknown glitches. A few weeks ago, our company was alerted about a glitch in TrackR, such that the map would unexpectedly crash. Our customer-support representatives were able to collect vital information via Google Forms and we were able to provide the engineering team a detailed report so the bug was resolved quickly.
4. Getting feedback from outside the office. For a resource-constrained startup, it is not always feasible or cost effective to conduct research with customers about what they really want from a product or service. Yet with a well-established customer support system, consumers turn to the company and say what works, what does not, the changes they'd like and more. By keeping customer support in-house, a company can have a wealth of information at its fingertips; entrepreneurs can easily glance over at a representative’s screen to see what a customer is saying.
5. Countering the spread of bad news. Unlike the days of the Pony Express when news and information were shared relatively slowly, today’s technology enables communication from California to Sydney in mere seconds, thanks to social-media platforms and email. This also applies to customer support since a team is able to quickly share company news and updates on the fly as things change and information becomes more readily available.
Most recently, several hundred of our company's devices were shipped with the incorrect firmware. With our quick-thinking customer-support team and engineers on hand, we were able to quickly arrive at a solution, train each staffer, walk customers through the firmware fix and avoid future escalation or confusion.
Just like engineering can make or break a startup, so can customer support. Which is why it is crucially important to not ignore this seemingly outdated part of a business.