SegPay isn’t just a payments processor, we’re a customer support company too, handling consumer billing inquiries on behalf of merchants for more than a decade. This week we wanted to share a few lessons learned over the years; most are common sense but often overlooked.
Good customer service is a key to sustaining any successful business, but perhaps nowhere is this more true than in recurring revenue models, which depend on keeping customer memberships active over long periods of time; i.e., reducing churn. Of course, delivering the content or products customers want is the main way to keep them around. However, one could argue that it’s just as important to give them the type of support they want – namely, 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.
Customers want to know what to expect when dealing with support. Commit to a realistic SLA (Service Level Agreement), which sets expectations in regard to expected turnaround time on support inquiries, and stick to it. Set up an auto-reply that immediately triggers upon receipt of a customer’s email, letting them know the expected response time 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 up front. Bottom line, even if you can’t give a personal reply immediately, when someone sees that you care enough to acknowledge their request for help, give them as much info as you have available, and let them know where they stand in terms of getting a more complete response, they will be appreciative. People are willing to be patient with issues when they know you are working on them and taking them seriously. On the other hand, not being responsive can convey a dismissiveness that drives someone away quickly.
Give them choices
Just like with the products and/or content you offer, consumers want options when dealing with support. Many people prefer to talk to a human, but some would rather fully document things in an email. Others want the option to chat, but not necessarily speak, with a live person. Still more may look to post 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. Make sure you offer an 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.
Measure your performance
You may have heard this one before: if you aren’t measuring, you aren’t managing. 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 versus the SLA; the latter, by recording conversations and identifying areas for improvement. Reward your best support representatives to incentivize excellence.
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 also how you perform. 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 pinpoint their issues and resolve them before it’s too late, helping to reduce churn, which of course is a crucial metric for a recurring revenue business.
Make good support a mindset
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 cliche 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.