If you’ve sensed that customers expect more lately, you’re not wrong. According to the 2016 Microsoft State of Global Customer Service report, customers today are more likely than ever to demand good service. And if they don’t get it, they vote with their feet. The report says that 60 percent of consumers have taken their business elsewhere due to poor customer service, and nearly 70 percent of younger consumers have moved on due to inadequate support, which suggests that the trend will continue.
It’s clear that bad support can lead to a loss of customers, but can great customer support drive growth? The answer is a resounding yes, according to a 2016 McKinsey report, which found that customer success efforts accelerate revenue growth and decrease customer churn. Happy customers tend to spend more and provide referrals that lead to new business, particularly in a connected environment that values customer reviews. Here are three key elements of a growth-driving customer support strategy:
1. Measure customer satisfaction.
If your aim is to continuously improve customer support (and it should be!), you’ll need baseline measurements to monitor progress. That’s why it’s crucial to measure customer satisfaction on two levels. Gauge satisfaction on every transaction by using an in-app satisfaction survey. This will reveal how individual agents and techniques can be improved.
Also measure overall sentiment with annual or periodic Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, which assess the state of customer loyalty. NPS surveys provide insight into how likely customers are to recommend your company to a colleague or friend. Periodic NPS surveys can help companies address deficiencies that prevent growth through customer support excellence.
2. Invest in technology.
Customer support organizations today have an advantage they lacked even a few years ago -- the availability of robust technologies that can help them manage customer relationships more efficiently and effectively. Spreadsheets and email don’t cut it anymore; customer support agents need tools that connect them with information instantly.
A well-designed customer support platform gives agents access to support history, and should include a knowledge base to enable agents to leverage the company’s collective wisdom. A great support software will facilitate screen sharing and/or recording so agents can walk customers through solutions step by step. You should also look for solutions that include self-service tools that allow customers to resolve issues on their own.
3. Provide ongoing agent training.
Companies that aspire to customer support excellence typically incorporate customer-centric values into their mission statements and cite customer satisfaction as a primary objective. That’s as it should be. But, as far as customers are concerned, the frontline agent is the face of the company. That’s where the battle for customer satisfaction is lost or won.
Ongoing agent training is a great investment in customer satisfaction, and it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Take a look at how other successful companies approach customer support. Make sure managers and agents understand best practices and have the tools and knowledge they need to succeed, and update training as new tools and techniques come online.
It’s important to keep in mind that customer support is an extension of a company’s marketing and sales operation. Marketing’s task is to create awareness and generate leads. Sales focuses on turning leads into closed deals, and customer support owns the relationship after that. Since support agents handle the customer relationship for the longest period in the lifecycle, it is vital that they have the technology and know-how needed to manage it effectively.
For software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, the line between sales and support is blurred since customers will ask support agents about product features and add-ons, so it’s critical that agents have extensive product knowledge. In this scenario, support agents effectively function as part of the sales team, and it’s important to ensure they have the tools and information they require to succeed in that role. Similarly, a prospect’s experience with the support team before she becomes a customer can make or break her decision to purchase the software.
Companies that sell services on a subscription basis must also focus on reducing costly customer churn. Well-trained, knowledgeable agents can keep churn to a minimum and grow the business by providing an exceptional customer experience and expanding product use. Organizations can reduce churn by equipping support agents with the technology and know-how they need to minimize customer turnover.The bottom line is this: If customers like your company and your product, you’ll succeed. But, the perceptions they form about both are grounded in their experience with your support team. That’s why it’s essential to understand customer support’s role in driving growth. It’s not just about keeping the customers you already have on board; it’s about reaching new customers to build a growing, thriving company. Customer support isn’t just a growth driver -- it’s the growth driver.