11 actionable tips to up your customer support game
Customer expectations are higher than ever.
In the age of product-led growth, it is crucial to have a customer support function that delights customers.
One exceptional experience can turn a customer into a super fan.
How do you achieve customer delight at scale?
Here's what I've learnt from answering 800+ customer support queries in the last 2 years:
1. Make it easy for your customers to reach you. Use live chat.
Isn't it frustrating when you have a question, or you're running into an issue and you do not know how to reach customer support?
If the customer needs to make more than 2 clicks on your website to figure out how to reach you, you're doing it wrong.
Even if you use bots to scale customer support, make sure there is a way they can reach a human if needed.
2. Respond immediately. Even if the actual resolution will take time.
At the first touch point, you just need to let them know that there's someone at the other end who understands the issue they're facing, and that it is being looked into. That's all.
One mistake startups often make is to wait until they have fixed the issue to get back.
Not hearing back from you soon enough and not knowing when they will hear back leads them to worrying, and associating that negative experience with you.
Don't leave them hanging.
- "Hi- asking the team to look into this, we should be able to get back to you in < 6 hours with a resolution."
That's good enough.
If you just maintain a 2-way communication with them, they will be generous with giving you time to figure it out.
3. Get context.
When a customer reaches out to you, you should know exactly who they are, and what their journey on your website/ product has been leading up to this moment.
Live chat tools make this easy to implement.
43% of companies say that they have a better understanding of their customers within 1 year of using live chat.
4. Hear them out.
Let them give you context, and all the information they think will help you serve them better.
Even if they're venting, let them vent. Don't interrupt and don't get defensive.
Once they have let it out and said everything they wanted to say, they will be more open to hearing what you have to say.
5. Ask questions.
Often, new customer service agents are afraid to ask questions fearing that they might annoy the customer.
This couldn't be farther from the truth.
Asking meaningful questions makes the customer feel that you're trying to understand their problem.
- "Could you help me understand why you're looking for that?"
- "Any particular reason this isn't working for you?"
They're more than happy to provide the information you need to resolve their issue.
6. If you have to say no, explain why.
A customer is spending time to communicate their context and ask for something. It is understandable that you might not be able to do what they need whether they're asking for a discount, or they have a feature request. But the least they deserve is an explanation to not feel rejected.
Be prepared to handle questions on discounts.
This is what Adaface uses to handle requests for discounts:
- "We have a very high focus on the quality of questions that test for on-the-job skills. Every question is non-googleable and we have a very high bar for the level of subject matter experts we onboard to create these questions. To be able to maintain the quality of the questions and the platform, we are unable to afford any flexibility on the pricing front."
7. Apologize for your mistakes.
At some point or the other, something will go wrong. Mistakes will be made and customers will be upset.
Apologizing can be very powerful, and it disarms the customer.
That being said, a fake apology can be harmful because customers can see through that. If you aren’t genuinely apologetic for at least part of the problem, then don’t apologize.
But perhaps you didn't fully understand why the customer is upset?
Ask questions and really listen to make sure you understand what happened. Validate your customer's feelings by stating that you understand why they're frustrated.
- "You're right."
- "I understand why this might be frustrating."
Spend time to explain to them what happened, and how you intend to fix it (if you can).
Also make sure you're not overpromising and just delaying the inevitable disappointment. That's another trap startup founders often fall into.
8. Apologize for their mistakes.
Often, it is not really your mistake.
The customer might have incorrect expectations from misunderstanding something about your product or website. Maybe they misunderstood the pricing, or the roadmap, or what features the product has.
Most misunderstanding on the part of the customer are actually just bad user-experiences on your part.
Maybe your website doesn't do a great job of explaining which features are available in which plan. Or maybe your pricing structure is too complicated.
It is all your fault. Apologize and focus on making the experience better instead of getting defensive.
- "I understand that the website does not do a good job of clarifying this. I'm sending your feedback over to the team to have them look into it and come back with a resolution."
9. Don't respond when you're angry.
Sometimes it really is not your fault, and the customer is just being plain mean (or they're having a bad day and taking it out on you).
Angry customers can sometimes be aggressive/ abusive. If the situation is very frustrating, take a step back.
Don't respond if you're getting angry. It never helps.
Assume good intent on the part of the customer, and empathize. Maybe this has nothing to do with you, they're just having a terrible day.
Get back once you realize it's not personal, and then handle the situation calmly.
10. Make it easy for customers to help themselves.
Once you've been around long enough, you'll start to see clear patterns of what questions customers ask. If a significant portion of your customers are asking about something, maybe it's not clear enough on the website or you need to write a help doc/ add to your knowledge base.
Most customers don't enjoy reaching out to you, it is the last resort.
Automate as much as possible.
Self-service is how people expect to find things.
Too many customers asking you to explain pricing even though it is up on the website? Simplify.
Too many customers asking you how to use your product to do X? Improve onboarding or write a help doc.
11. Focus on solving their problem, not just answering the question. Go the extra mile if you can.
Often as a customer support agent, you're tempted to do the bare minimum.
But that's the opposite of what you should be doing.
It doesn’t matter if it is outside the scope of your product. If it is a one-time thing, and you have it in your power to get it done, get it done.
Your customer will see that you went above and beyond, and it will be the kind of experience they talk to others about.
And you have a customer for life.
As Paul Graham puts it, do things that don't scale.
But hiring for customer support executives can be a challenging task because it requires finding candidates with a unique blend of technical knowledge, strong communication skills, empathy, and problem-solving abilities. Using a customer service test can greatly assist in this process by evaluating candidates' aptitude in key areas such as customer service etiquette, conflict resolution, product knowledge, and communication proficiency.
Apart from a great product/ service, great customer service is what keeps your customers loyal. Be the kind of company your customers can lean on to have their back.