Image: José Martín

Customer Support is a Feature

“One customer well taken care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.” — Jim Rohn

They’re all looking at you because you’re the link to the company. You’re the person that can get them logged in, find their charge, and fix what was broken. You’re there to support them and help them be more awesome in their work.

So how do you do that?

“I’ve got a great product. Now how do I support my customers?”

Customer support is as much a feature of your product as that last feature your team added. When done right, it can set you apart from your competition. An app can be recreated easily. A rocking support experience is much harder to copy. When customers know they’re going to get great support, they’ll usually choose you over the competitor.

But if you do it wrong, it can undo everything that you’ve worked so hard on with your company. Customers will start leaving you behind as they find a company that can provide that support experience they’re looking for.

“But Chase, it costs money!”

Yeah, customer support does cost money. So does paying for servers, apps, designers, and developers. Running a business costs money.

But did you know it’s cheaper to keep current customers than to get new ones? Gaining just one new customer can cost you up to ten times as much as any of your current customers do. You’re paying ten times the cost of keeping a current customer just to get a new one.

Placing profits over customers leads companies to do stupid things like outsource their support or offer a very narrow set of ways to interact with the support team. Sure, sending your support calls and emails overseas gives you a chance to cut costs. But outsourcing often leads to more frustration for your customers because the company no longer owns that support. They’ve pushed that problem off on to an outside company rather than doing their own hiring and training. They’ve given support reps scripts and robotic replies in place of actual thought.

When your support team is truly part of your company, you take the time to hire the right people and make sure they’re trained. It’s a different mindset — one where the company has a greater sense of ownership over providing customer support.

From a profit standpoint, you want to keep your customers and keep them happy. Providing solid customer support does that. Customers will love you for doing the job right.

Think of the free marketing.

When customers love you, they’re going to tell others about you. There’s a reason I rave about Media Temple when people ask me about web hosting. Every single time I contact Media Temple, their support rocks my socks off. In return, I make sure to send every person I can their way.

At the end of the day, everything you do as a company is marketing, customer support included. Say you’re looking at two identical products. Same cost, same functions, same in every way. You email one and receive an auto-responder promising a reply in 48 business hours. You email the other and you get a reply back from a human within a single hour. Which one wins your business? You’ll pick the one better at support every time just like your potential customers will.

You’ve got to be better at customer support than the other teams behind products competing against yours. You’ve got to outsupport the other guy. It’s not an option anymore. You have to make the shift from seeing support as a cost to seeing support as marketing.

Great support lets you keep customers at a cost way cheaper than getting new ones. Those same customers are going to bring you new customers because they love you.

What else do you gain by rocking at support?

You get better.

You can get an immediate glimpse into how customers are using your product. It allows you to see exactly what pains your customers are having, what confusion is happening, and where your product could be better. Customers want to help you, so listen when they share their thoughts with you.

Now, if one person emails you asking to tweak or add something, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Someone might say they want you to add photos of penguins to your app. I’m all for cute penguins but they probably won’t make your product better.

Your company should be customer inspired not customer driven.

Let’s be clear — you can definitely learn from the crowd. That’s what your customers are there for. To learn from. To be inspired by. To help.

If you get multiple people a day writing in about those penguins, that’s the time when you might want to rethink it. Those changes that you need to make will bubble up from your customers. Keeping track of the common requests and problems that pop up from customers will let you know what you need to be focused on. That way, you can improve pain points and make your product better.

Quick Recap

When you provide an awesome customer support experience, you’re going to save money, get free marketing out of it, and your product is going to get even better. I think that’s a pretty solid case for doing support right.

Looking for a new customer support podcast? Try The Support Ops Hangout! You can find a few of our best episodes here.



Customer support at Basecamp. @chaseclemons on Twitter.

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