opinion

Customer Service Done Right

Customer Service Done Right
Cathy Beardsley

Good customer service is key to sustaining any successful business, and this is especially true with recurring revenue models, which depend on keeping customer memberships active over long periods of time.

Of course, delivering the content or products customers want is the main way to keep them around. But it can be just as important to provide the type of support they need. This includes a chance to be heard, different ways to voice their thoughts and opinions and a company that is responsive and caring in its communications. Do those things and you’ll keep your customers happy and loyal. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of key principles your business can follow to ensure you’re meeting the demands of your clients.

Investing in excellent support is just one of many possible retention strategies, but it’s a simple one that can pay long-term dividends.

Be Responsive

Customers want to know what to expect when dealing with support. Commit to a realistic SLA (service-level agreement), which sets expectations regarding expected turnaround time on support inquiries, and stick to it.

Set up an auto-reply that immediately responds upon receipt of a customer’s email, letting them know you’ve received their comment, what the expected response time will be and pointing them to helpful resources in the meantime, such as a knowledge base. Do the same for chats and phone calls, communicating the SLA time upfront.

If you can’t give a personal reply immediately, give them as much info as you have available, and let them know where they stand in terms of getting a more complete response. It’s better to acknowledge their request for help than to say nothing at all. People are willing to be patient with issues when they know that you are addressing them and taking them seriously.

Provide Choices on How Customers Can Ask For Help

As with the products and/or content you offer, consumers want options when dealing with customer service. Many people prefer to talk to a customer support agent, but some would rather document things in an email. Others want the option to chat with a representative online. And many prefer to post their issues on social media and exchange comments publicly.

Make it easy for consumers to find your hours of operation and understand which types of support are available at which times of day/week. Always make sure you offer equal quality of service no matter the channel.

Also, train your customer support representatives to respond to multilingual inquiries when possible; there are tools they can use to make this easier. In other words, provide options to accommodate every type of customer you have and question you get.

Measure Your Performance

You may have heard this one before: if you aren’t measuring, you aren’t managing. Or, you are what you measure. How do you know how you’re doing if you’re not measuring?

Start internally by measuring your responsiveness and effectiveness — the former, by tracking your average response times relative to the SLA; the latter, by recording conversations and identifying areas for improvement. Reward your best support representatives to incentivize excellence.

You can measure externally as well, by including mini surveys in emails and chats that allow consumers to rate the performance of your support reps. Conduct larger surveys of your customers periodically to ask them how you’re doing overall.

Surveys convey that it’s important to you that you’re meeting customers’ expectations, and that their participation will help in that effort. Incentivize participation by offering a reward. Perhaps it’s a chance to win something. Perhaps it’s a discount off a future purchase with you. This will show your customers that you care what they think, and about meeting their expectations. You will hear from them exactly what you need to do to improve.

Plus, you may identify specific customers who aren’t happy, giving you a chance to hear them out and resolve their issues before it’s too late. This will help reduce churn, which of course is a crucial metric for a recurring revenue business.

Make Customer Service a Priority Within Your Company

Make customer support part of your company culture. Preach it as a crucial component of the organization’s mission and objectives. Build training into new employee onboarding.

It sounds cliché when you say your firm is customer-focused, but when employees see that you take it seriously, by being responsive, providing options, measuring, etc., then they will take it seriously as well.

Great customer support improves customer retention, which ultimately drives business expansion. After all, growing your existing customer base isn’t possible if that base is shrinking. This is especially important for recurring-revenue, subscription-based businesses that rely on retention strategies to survive.

Investing in excellent support is just one of many possible retention strategies, but it’s a simple one that can pay long-term dividends.

It took only three years for Cathy Beardsley to turn startup SegPay into a profitable company. As president and CEO, Beardsley oversees the day-to-day operations and long-term strategic planning for the company. SegPay is one of four companies approved by Visa USA to operate as a high-risk internet payment service provider in the U.S. Since 2005, SegPay has offered online merchants a state-of-the-art billing platform that provides realtime payment processing around the globe.

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