So you’ve poured a ton of effort into setting up your business, and you’ve finally started making sales. Congrats! But where do you go next?
Many new businesses think that managing to sell something is the hard part. The truth is that it’s just the beginning. There’s a lot more to running your business than just selling your goods and services.
Soon, you’ll have customers trying to contact you for all kinds of information.
“Help! I have a problem that needs to be fixed.”
“How do I get started?”
“Has my order shipped?”
Over time, you’ll get more and more of these inquiries. And you’ll never have enough time to both grow your business and attend to each of your customers’ concerns.
The solution to this problem? Customer support.
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What is customer support?
Customer support teams serve as your business’ bridge to your customers. They are there to make sure that your customers can experience the full benefits of your products, and to help improve them through helpful customer feedback.
Without customer support, you or someone else in the organization would be spending most of your time dealing with customer issues rather than doing the work you should actually be doing. This would eat up tons of hours you should be using on finding ways to improve your products and grow your business.
Having a customer support team you can rely on lets you breathe easier. You won’t have to worry about losing — or missing out on opportunities to create strong relationships with — your customers.
Importance of excellent customer service in online businesses
A crucial part of running a business is providing your customers with timely support. In fact, customer support is often the deciding factor in whether a customer will shop with you again or not.
And if you strike out, the chances of them giving you a second chance are very slim.
This is why a business needs to be serious about its customer support. Especially if it’s new and out to make a name for itself.
Fortunately, customer support has become more streamlined over the years thanks to the various CRM, help desk support, and ticketing tools that are now available.
These tools help businesses reach their customers through various channels and provide them with seamless support that leaves everyone happy and satisfied.
The many kinds of support tools and channels out there can make customer support seem tricky. However, once you know enough about your customers, you’ll quickly realize that you don’t have to be part of every channel out there.
The key to becoming good at customer support is to learn to identify the factors that make a difference for your business. Focusing on these will allow your team to perform their work more smoothly.
What makes customer support great?
Customer support is all about connecting with your customers. It’s about showing them you care and giving them more reasons to stay with you.
While there isn’t any “one-size-fits-all” solution for customer support, there are a few core elements that every business should try to adapt and refine.
When you have an issue, you want it to be resolved as soon as possible. The same holds for your customers. They reach out to you hoping to sort out some confusion or problem.
The average customer nowadays expects to get a reply from customer support within 60 minutes. That is a very small window for a business to respond to, and failing to do so can damage your reputation.
Depending on the severity of the issue, it can even result in your customer leaving you for a competitor.
Whether it’s through email, phone, or social media, you should make a habit of being extremely responsive. You can train your support agents to be faster. You can also provide them with help desk tools that allow them to work more efficiently.
Understand your customers
Good customer support makes a customer feel satisfied and happy. To make this happen, you should be able to correctly identify their needs and wants. Ideally, before they even know it themselves.
One of the best things you can do is make an effort to know your customers. Remember their names and note their shopping patterns or business information to identify their needs in the future.
Companies that are familiar with their customers can make them feel more welcomed. This automatically makes their customer support infinitely better.
Honesty is always the best policy
No one likes a liar. The same goes for businesses. Not being transparent with your customers brings nothing good to your business. One bad review can spread like wildfire, and will slowly ruin your reputation.
Customer trust is a very powerful factor in determining your ability to retain customers. It takes a lot of effort to build and maintain, but it pays off.
Honest companies are transparent with their customers. They don’t mislead them, and they strive to learn and grow from their mistakes.
Every customer support agent must be able to apologize to a customer. Empathy is an important quality to have when you’re in customer support. If a customer is frustrated or upset, it’s important to address that you understand and can see why that would be bothersome. Then, you can get started on resolving the issue.
When customer support teams receive issues, one of the first things they’d normally do is refer the customer to the related support document.
And while this might work a lot of the time, you should also be open to the idea that the customer has already rummaged through your support documents before contacting you at all. Sometimes, these documents simply aren’t enough — especially if you have a large and diverse base of customers.
It’s vital that your customer support team knows your product inside and out. This makes them well-equipped for any kind of customer concerns. They’ll be empowered to look for solutions faster, and your customers will be confident that they’re in good hands.
Shining examples of good customer support from different industries
No two customer support teams from different companies are exactly alike. Each has its own style of handling issues and interacting with customers, but there are some notable companies that have great customer support.
Using Netflix is usually a breeze — it has a great UI and a pleasant viewing experience. But it still runs into technical problems like video playback freezing from time to time.
Netflix makes great use of live chat to interact with their subscribers and help them deal with their issues. It feels natural, it’s simple to use, and customers love it for its short response times. Netflix makes it a point to help customers in resolving these issues fast so they can get back to binge-watching as quickly as possible.
Amazon deals with customers all over the world, so it’s easy to think that its customer support team must be struggling to keep up. But that’s far from the case.
Amazon has been a consistent top-notcher in the American Customer Satisfaction Index for almost a decade, scoring a solid 82 out of 100 this 2019. Amazon does this by integrating its customer support with the rest of its operations, and personalizing each customer’s shopping experience to the highest extent.
Zappos is known for being one of the most accommodating organizations in the world, and for its creative use of social media to reach out to its customers. Zappos practices customer support on social media too.
Customer support on social media is a double-edged sword. Do it right, and you’ll gain lots of PR points. Do it wrong, and a very wide audience witnesses your failures. Zappos knows this very well, which is why it treats every interaction as an opportunity to create lasting relationships with its customers.
Customer support channels your business should consider
There are five major support channels that are essential for a good customer support setup.
- Help content
- Phone support
- Live chat
- Social media
Which channel should you go for?
Picking the right channel is a crucial part of setting up your customer support. Blindly adding channels can be costly and wear out your support team. At the same time, sticking to just one channel can make it hard to reach your customers.
You need to maintain a perfect balance of quality interaction and standardization. The ultimate support setup should be able to provide customers with a consistent experience across every channel.
For a startup or small business, the email, FAQ, and social media trio is a good choice. It’s affordable, easy-to-use, and significantly expands a business’ reach. Once you feel like they are no longer able to meet your support needs, start expanding your setup.
Help desk software provides businesses with a suite of tools that help them provide seamless support that makes customer interactions quick and pleasant.
Businesses can invest in entire help desk setups or use tools that are relevant to their needs. If you want to focus on live chat support, then you should use live chat tools. There are plenty of apps that let support agents converse with customers in a very natural manner, and even look over each customer’s journey.
Remember, customer support should never be thought of as an isolated operation. It must be highly integrated with other areas of a business to produce good results.
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The top customer support software you should use
If you want to have a high-performance customer support system, you should equip your team with powerful tools. These will play a big part in how well they connect with your customers and resolve issues.
Support ticket system tools
Ticketing is the most popular form of customer support, thanks to its simplicity. A ticket is created for each issue sent by customers. These tickets are then organized depending on the issue, forwarded to the appropriate team to be resolved, and then closed.
Freshdesk is a free support ticket system app with several features that can help your team deal with issues and complaints with efficiency. Some of these include email ticketing, social ticketing for your social channels, and team collaboration so you could work on resolving issues faster.
Freshdesk’s pricing plans are based on the size of your team, but its free plan has all the essentials you’ll need if you’re just starting out. It runs on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
HelpDesk provides an easy way of keeping all the issues submitted by your customers clean and organized. The app lets you convert emails into tickets so you don’t lose track of them. HelpDesk also has handy features like smart search and filtering, to save your team more time.
HelpDesk is priced at $24 per agent monthly for all its features. It has a free 14-day trial so you can have the full experience before deciding if it’s a good fit for your team.
Live chat and chatbot support software
More and more teams are adopting live chat as their primary method of customer support. This is mainly because live chat allows for quicker response times and closer interactions with customers.
Intercom has been around for a while now, and it’s one of the most widely used live chat tools. Intercom allows sharing help documents via live chat so you can manage customer support more effectively. It also has a team inbox feature that lets your team work together seamlessly.
Intercom’s plans start at $87 per month, with a 14-day free trial. You can also apply for a discount if you’re an early-stage start-up and pay only $49 per month.
HubSpot’s free live chat software promises to make customer relationship building easier. HubSpot has a built-in chatbot to give your customers an even smoother experience, plus it integrates with Slack so you can respond to them with minimal hassle.
The live chat feature is already included in HubSpot’s free plan, but it has paid plans starting at $50 per month for several additional features.
MobileMonkey is a chatbot tool that runs on Facebook Messenger. It automates the process of interacting with customers on the platform, and has several chatbot templates for different industries from ecommerce to real estate.
MobileMonkey’s free plan comes with basic chatbot features. For advanced features like drip scheduling and bot analytics, it has multiple paid plans that start at $49/month.
Task management software: Hubstaff Tasks
Having a task management tool helps your team deal with tasks more easily and can give a big boost to productivity. Hubstaff Tasks is a Kanban project management app you can use to organize your tasks and closely track their progress from ticket logging to resolution.
With Hubstaff Tasks, you can quickly check for updates on all your tasks with checklists, progress bars, and team comments. To move a task from one stage to another, all you have to do is drag and drop. All the assignees and followers of the task will automatically be notified so no one misses a thing.
Hubstaff Tasks is free for up to 5 users, unlimited projects, and 100 MB of storage per user. Its paid plan starts at $4 per user monthly for more users and increased storage.
Use time tracking to improve your customer support further
When measuring your customer support team’s performance, the first thing you look at is often the total number of tickets they have resolved. However, this metric alone isn’t enough if you want to understand how well your team is really doing.
Making decisions on this metric alone can lead to bad staffing decisions and hurt your team. Just because someone has closed fewer tickets than another doesn’t automatically mean that they aren’t putting in the effort.
One of the best things you can do is to use a productivity solution like Hubstaff. Hubstaff is a time tracking tool with activity monitoring, screenshot capturing, and detailed reporting capabilities.
With the data from Hubstaff, you can easily identify which people on your team are the most efficient with their time, as well as who is struggling to stay productive. You can then help your team to address their time management challenges so your business can grow more.
How do you handle customer support?
Each business has its own approach to customer support. There isn’t one best option for all, but there are several tools that can help customer support teams do their work as best they can.
We’d love to hear what you think. Do you have any tips or techniques to helping customer support teams perform more efficiently? What tools did you find are most effective for your business? Let us know in the comments below.
This post was originally published in December 2018. It was updated by the Hubstaff Blog team in October 2019.