How to Capitalize on the Value of Customer Service as a Competitive Tool
As a startup, we focus on customer service intently.
Frankly, it’s one of the few areas where we could possibly have a competitive edge over larger companies with more resources and stronger products.
For one reason or another, the larger companies get, the more impersonal and infrequent their customer service tends to be.
For us, it’s an opportunity - and we jump all over it.
The thing is, customer service is not just a way to support your customers, but a way to inform your entire strategy, making it our number one competitive advantage.
Here’s how we do it.
Having Quick Support At All Hours
Let’s start with the fundamentals - lightning fast support.
We try to be on 24/7, because a customer who needs help wants it immediately, and if they don’t get it, they might just not log in again - ever.
And there’s no better feeling than getting an answer to your question immediately.
I get these types of surprise responses all the time - people weren’t expecting an answer within 20 minutes at night because it just isn’t industry standard.
Customer Service With A Plan
Support is not just about correcting difficulties - it’s about helping the customer achieve the most value out of the tool.
Often, that requires giving the customer a plan of attack for using the software.
As part of our newsletter series, we prompt new trial sign ups to schedule time with us so we can discuss their goals and come up with a strategy for achieving them.
We even have a way to book a call with us in the app itself, right on the login screen:
And people schedule calls with me, daily.
On these calls, I try to understand what they’re looking to get out of the software. I’ve built these different use cases into tutorials in the knowledge base, which I can give to the customer once I’ve identified their needs.
Yes, it’s a lot of work to build up this knowledge base but once you have it you’re set for a long time (until the software drastically changes, basically).
Poaching From Competitors Who Are Sleeping
We use Zopim for our website chat, and it works fantastic.
The ability to chat live with a visitor on the website gives us the fastest response time possible - there’s no way anyone could beat it solely through email.
In fact I’ve tested our competitors response times on email and it usually takes them between 24 - 48 hours.
In that time, there’s a lot a visitor might do. Often they’re in research mode and shopping around. Who do you think they’re going to go with?
The first person who gets back to them, most likely.
As a result, customer service becomes a form of lead generation. If you’re available and answering questions, you’re building trust with the visitor, and eventually onboarding them to become a trial signup.
Using Customer Service To Inform Your Product Development
What better way to formulate the direction of your product than by prioritizing the features that customers are actually asking for.
This is what the Lean Startup method refers to as customer development.
- Solicit advice from customers, and prioritize those features.
- Release a beta version aka an MVP of the feature.
- Get feedback from said customers.
What they don’t tell you is how difficult it is to get customers to provide feedback outside of the moment.
Have you ever sent a survey out to people? Usually I find response rates hover around 10%. That means I need 1k customers just to get 100 responses - argh!
On the contrary, having a live chat in the app itself as well as on the website allows us to probe into what the customers are asking for in the moment.
Response rates are much higher this way.
If you aren’t making customer support a part of your strategy, you’re missing out.
For us, it’s helped us get a tiny edge of larger competitors by generating leads, informing our product strategy, and reducing customer churn.
All of which combines to make our business stronger, and offsets the cost of customer support.
How are you using customer service to strengthen your business?
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