Essential Elements of SaaS Customer Support
It’s easy for a customer to cancel their subscription to your SaaS, just watch them!
Unfortunately, too many SaaS find themselves in this situation where cancellations are happening left and right. This can be especially frustrating when you’ve heard nothing but good feedback and you’re left wondering what the problem is.
We have spoken a bit previously about defining customer success for your SaaS and basically ensuring that customers reach the milestones they need to in order to see value or success from using your app. An important part of customer success tends to be what you’re doing with customer support.
What are the key elements of effective customer support for SaaS? Let’s take a look.
#1. Support Is Easy to Find
Your SaaS might have the most impressive set of features in your category, but if your customers can’t easily find ways to get help, they’re of no use to them.
This might seem 101 or very basic, but it’s still amazing just how many SaaS build a beautiful, simple website that is so “clean” that finding help is not obvious at all. Here’s a clue; if your customers need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and search through footer menus to find how to get help, it’s not clear enough.
When thinking about website design, in-app support features and any other support you may provide, put yourself in the mindset of the customer (or have a third party test it out for you). Remember, a customer seeking support is possibly already frustrated about something so they’re looking for a quick and easy solution.
Also bear in mind that these customers may never even let you know that they’ve had a problem. Silent customers actually make things more difficult for you than the loud complainer — at least with the complainer you have a chance to address the issue. Often, the silent customer simply cancels without another word, whereas if they’d said to you “it’s hard to find support”, you may have been able to take care of it.
Your SaaS might have “best in class” features, but without good support, those won’t matter.
How easy is it to find support?
#2. Self-Service Options Available
Your customers come in all shapes and sizes, so they also will have different preferences when it comes to how they get support. Many people actually like to get on the phone or find sending an email easy, but plenty of people would prefer to be able to easily look up the answer themselves.
Efficient SaaS provide quality self-service options for customers looking for support. This may be in the form of a knowledge base, FAQ page or even a resource library where you have stored content such as “how-to” videos. Some SaaS will also include a community forum where members can ask and answer questions.
The point is, customers expect an omni-channel customer support experience these days and self-service options which actually deliver value are seen as a given. You may think that your customer service line or email response is so good that self-service doesn’t matter, but in not ensuring you have valuable self-service options, you’re ignoring what has become a best practice.
#3. Stay on Top of Regular Requests
This is about proactively working to make improvements. You can’t cater to every feature request or suggestion, but you can be paying attention to what is regularly coming up from customers.
It is good practice to assess the support requests you get and dig down to see if you have an underlying issue. For example, if you’ve got multiple requests for a similar reason, that’s a pretty big clue, but you should also look at your one-off complaints, requests or suggestions. Is it one of those things where it is highly possibly others have the same issue but have said nothing?
Always be looking to improve.
#4. Have Customer Success Staff
What’s the difference between customer support and customer success? As Salesforce sums up, customer support can be seen as the reactive, day-to-day response to customer requests, whereas customer success is there to take a proactive role.
One of the top goals of customer success is to keep customers engaged with the product, regularly in touch with the SaaS and seeing value from the software. Customer success identifies the milestones customers need to hit to be engaged and understands that “success” will be subjective to each customer.
What does this have to do with support? Having staff in place who are dedicated to customer success will often reduce the load on customer support. It’s much better to be getting in early in the piece and ensuring that customers are achieving what they’d like to with the product, prior to them getting annoyed and contacting customer support.
#5. Have the Right Support Staff
You’d think there’d be no excuse for shoddy customer service these days, but there seems to be a never-ending supply of people put in customer service roles who really shouldn’t be there. SaaS at the early stage are often in a pinch with limited people, and founders, while they may be enthusiastic in terms of making sales, they’re not always the best with customers!
Having the right people in customer support roles (even if that is initially one person), could be seen as a valuable investment in the future of your SaaS. After all, even with brilliant features, a poor customer service experience could be what sees the customer exit early.
If there is any kind of complexity in your software which is not easy to explain through self-service options, then you are likely to have customers seeking an actual person to help them. For this reason, SaaS should be looking for people with both exceptional customer service skills and required technical aptitude.
#6. Have Published Standards
Even if you feel you have the best possible customer service people in place, a golden rule is never to assume that they will all uphold the same standards. Why would they if you haven’t told them what those are?
The best customer service teams in the world have guidelines, which is probably why they’re so good! Consider standards such as:
- How quickly customers must receive a response.
- Any discretions staff should have for refunds or just to “make things right.”
- How customers are to be greeted.
- When and how to follow up with customers.
- How to track requests and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
- Any standards about responding to specific situations.
Besides having published standards for your customer support team, it is encouraging for customers to see you have published Service Level Agreements (SLAs). For example, what is your standard for dealing with any downtime? How quickly do you agree to respond to customer queries? Simply having these published can save angst because the customer already knows what to expect.
Source: Robert Half
#7. Be Transparent
Customers often still have a certain level of suspicion about SaaS. As Gartner found, the “big data” industry creates uncertainty about security of information and in many people, a feeling that the SaaS is charging a lot of money for something which isn’t costing them a lot.
Your customer support should seek to reduce or eliminate any suspicion by being transparent about your policies, pricing and any issues which are going on. Kissmetrics suggests that you follow these practices to reduce skepticism:
- Notify users of downtime.
- Give customers advance notice of pricing or contract changes.
- Explain to customers where their money goes.
- Answer any questions that prospective customers have.
- Make it easy for customers to cancel service.
It often boils down to not making your customers jump through hoops to get answers. Be proactive and stay on top of any possible issues which can lead to skepticism.
The quality of your customer support will often determine the longevity of your customers with your SaaS. There are SaaS which are still making basic mistakes in not providing customer support at a level which it should be and they tend to pay the price in the form of churn.
Besides a quality software, the experience of the customer with your SaaS overall is a big factor in whether or not they hang around. Give them the level of quality support they need, including self-service options, proactively seeking to resolve issues and maintaining transparency.
What best practices do you feel should be in place for SaaS customer support?