10 Helpful Customer Support Tips for New Startups
By Joe The IT Guy
There are so many pressures on new startups. From the finances (and seeking third-party investment), through product development and delivery, to marketing and sales. Then there’s the support of customers as they come on board with your company and its product(s). It’s vital that your customer service setup reflects your company’s brand and culture as well as delivering a great customer service experience – so what can you do? And what can you do quickly?
Please Don’t Do Any of This!
Something that’s very quick to do is to learn from the mistakes of others!
Your initial customer service setup is potentially just as important as your product and marketing – you’ve probably heard the stories of great products that failed because they were poorly marketed. Or poor products that succeeded on the back of great marketing. Now, in a world where customer experience is a key differentiator, the same will be true for startup customer service.
Your customer service will potentially make or break deals and strongly influence the “buzz” created around your company and its product(s). So, please avoid these 5 potential startup mistakes:
- Simply forgetting about the need for customer service (until it’s too late). It’s way too easy for startups to be obsessively focused on product creation and then on its marketing. After all, startup founders are often “product people.”
- Underappreciating the value of customer service and great customer experience. Often good customer service can go unnoticed. Great customer service perhaps (but hopefully not). Whereas poor customer service is something that will be shouted about, especially in these days of social media and the platform it can provide. Don’t make your startup life any more difficult than it is already.
- Underinvesting time and resources in customer service. It doesn’t matter how great your customer focus and customer-service policies are if you don’t have the right people, and suitable technological assistance, to deliver against them.
- Assuming that product-focused staff will be able to support customers. This is either that they have the time or have the right set of skills (or both). In many ways, it’s the organic result of bullet 1, where customer queries and issues default to product staff who will probably struggle to deal with them effectively.
- Thinking that customer service and customer experience are limited to customer support . This is not appreciating that there are many customer touchpoints that impact customer experience – from the customer’s initial search for a solution to their need, through marketing/sales and post-sales support, to the cessation of the customer relationship.
There are probably many other “easy mistakes” that could be mentioned here, but it’s more important that I cover the key ways to ensure that your startup customer service setup is right (and quickly if need be).
The Importance of Great Customer Service
The quality of customer support and the overall customer experience can make or break any company, let alone a startup. And for new companies – particularly startups – the stories told by, and the recommendations offered from, early-adopter customers form a big part of the initial marketing efforts.
Thus, neglecting your customer service setup – in terms of customer support personnel and fit-for-purpose help desk software – and providing anything less than a great customer experience from the get-go will have a detrimental effect on your startup’s brand and ultimately its future sales and growth. Ideally, your startup’s customer service will help to sell its product(s).
Hopefully, the 5 potential startup mistakes mentioned above already have you thinking about how easy it is to neglect customer service (as a startup) as well as the wider scope of delivering great customer experience. Ultimately, the important thing to remember is that – especially because legacy competitor companies will most likely already be employing customer acquisition and retention strategies based on customer experience – a customer will have expectations of service, support, and customer service that go way beyond the product itself.
10 Tips for Startup Customer Service and a Great Customer Experience
In addition to avoiding the above mistakes, also it’s important to proactively address the inevitable need for customer service and great customer experience. And quickly if this is a case of “playing catchup.” The following 10 tips will help:
- Ensure that every team member understands the importance of customer service and experience. While your new customer service team might be the very visible face of your startup’s support capability, everyone has a part to play in delivering great customer experience.
- Decide whether to make a deliberate customer experience play. If your startup truly understands, and values, the importance of customer service and delivering great customer experience, then make it part of the company’s DNA and market on it.
- Ensure that your customer service setup reflects your startup’s brand and culture. It’s important to decide how your customer service setup will operate in terms of customer perceptions. For example, you might want to appear “professional” but not “large-corporation professional.” So, understand, design, and deliver the “messages” you want your customer service set up to provide to customers.
- Recognize that customer experience isn’t just about the right people, technology, or processes. Instead, that getting your customer service setup right – and delivering a great customer experience – is about creating the right combination of all three. If your startup needs to move quickly, then the speed of getting started with new help desk technology needs to be factored in too.
- Choose your customer support channels wisely. In an ideal world, don’t limit the customer-service access and communication channels made available to your customers. These will include telephone, email, self-service/help, chat, and newer channels such as chatbots. And pay attention to, and invest further in, the ones your target customers prefer.
- Realize that customer service/support is also a great feedback mechanism. As a startup, you want to get as much customer feedback as possible. Your customer service setup should be designed to facilitate this.
- Don’t scrimp on customer service setup costs. Budgets can be tight for startups but if you intend to deliver a great customer experience, then it will necessitate employing suitably skilled and experienced customer service personnel and investing in a help desk tool that will augment and enhance their capabilities.
- Set customer service and experience targets and meet them. Saying that you want to deliver a great customer experience is one thing, consistently doing so is another. This not only requires a suitable investment in people, processes, and technology but also a mechanism to monitor, report, and improve upon the level of customer service and experience. Then there’s the question of where to set those targets – it’s ultimately a case of managing customer expectations, so quickly find out what’s expected of you!
- Plan for future scale. While it’s important not to overspend as a startup, or to delay the introduction of customer service capabilities, it’s also important to avoid investments that need to be “thrown away” as your business grow. Thus, while your customer service setup might start small, ensure that it can be scaled as your business grows.
- Take an 80:20 approach. The “Pareto principle” states that: “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” In the case of startup customer service, this can be applied by understanding which 80% of your customer service setup’s value comes from 20% of your investments and activities. The important thing is to understand what will make the most difference to the customer experience in the eyes of your startup’s target customers.