You aren't alone in dealing with apathetic, unhelpful and plain rude customer service. Sadly, this has become the accepted norm, even for products and services we champion and invest heavily in. If you think this is ridiculous and makes no sense, we agree.
Our experience working with small and mid-sized businesses over the past decade gives us a unique perspective on how customer service and user experience affects business relationships.
What we hear from our clients is that they are fed up with:
- Waiting hours or days to get a response, if you get one at all
- Overly complicated communication to ask a simple question
- Getting passed to many unhelpful people before finding a solution
When we hear these issues, it reminds us when we used to view customer support as a cost, instead of an investment in our clients. The result of this insight has created a new department called Customer Success.
Customer support is reactive, whereas customer success is proactive. Customer support is transactional, but customer success has no endpoint. ... Companies are more successful when they group customer support and customer success teams together, instead of as functions or operations or sales teams.
Michael Redbord at Hubspot
Here are a few things we have found that work for us to build long-term relationships with our clients.
It starts on day one
Earlier this year, we formalized and standardized our on-boarding process for new clients, creating a new paid service. We made this mandatory for new accounts and the results have been better than what we expected. While it may sound counter-intuitive that clients would want to pay for on-boarding, this new policy did a few things for us.
- Reduced the number of support tickets generated by new accounts
- Sped up adoption rate and increased the number of active users
- Customers find more value in our service and feel more buy-in
Be a partner, not a vendor
This is something we deal with when working with some of our vendors, small and large alike (however it usually applies far more often for the latter). For the outstanding companies we work with who provide exceptional support, we view them as partners and not vendors.
Build a relationship
One thing we have found that works for us is to assign a dedicated customer success rep for each client account, which means one point of contact for communication. This person sees all communication between the client and support team and is up-to-date on any issues the client is facing.
By keeping this role to one person, our clients develop a relationship with us, and trust is the first step to becoming a trusted advisor.
On-boarding is one of our team's favorite activities because it allows us to sit down with clients and hear about the challenges they face. We can help guide them to what features in Carmalink will be most important to them, and have the most significant impact on their business. Our goal is to help as many fleet owners as possible to realize the power of using software like Carmalink to improve their ELD experience and streamline business operations.
Kevin Holmes, Chief Customer Officer @ Carmalink
Have a proactive approach to support
The best support we can give to our customers is the one they never see. We do this by using active debugging software which notifies our development team of issues that may impact user experience. If the issue cannot be resolved with an over-the-air software update, our support team will contact the user and send out replacement hardware.
To keep on top of non-tech issues, the customer success agent is tasked with regular check-ins with users through email, phone calls and online surveys to uncover issues. Doing this makes a huge difference in how our clients view our service.
Keep your team accountable
Keeping the system running smoothly makes it easy to get feedback on how our team is performing. We use a support portal from Help Scout which allows everyone on our team to quickly respond to customer issues.
It also provides automatic reporting on how our support team is doing which is reviewed at our weekly company huddle. Issues that cause delays in response are reviewed to ensure we continue to provide responsive support for our clients.
We have found that focusing on customer success has improved our customer retention and satisfaction ratings. As a result, we have seen our customer attrition rate turn negative, meaning our clients are staying with us longer and growing every year.
By forming relationships with clients as partners, as opposed to vendors, it has helped foster long-term, meaningful relationships. We have found value in making customer success a priority and have incorporated these into our customer service policies.
If you want to learn more about customer success, check out From Impossible to Inevitable by Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin.