Building Successful Customer Support for our Enterprise Customers
It is not only enough to have an awesome product, you do need awesome customer support.
As a company that started out with end-customers who were using our Tonido Desktop Product and moved to business customers with Tonido FileCloud, we have had to change our support infrastructure and how we approach and work with each and every business customer. This has been quite challenging to say the least and we wanted to share how we approach this and offer you insights into our customer support setup. The following key takeaways apply to any business thinking about building a Customer Support infrastructure for their organization.
Customer Support Wins Business
Contrary to public opinion, customer support is NOT a fringe activity, nor is it a chore to be handled as part of selling the product. It is an “essential” piece of the business as important or more important than your product itself. Customer supports starts even before the sale and encompasses every interaction you have with the customer. Good customer service is invisible and sometimes taken for granted but with enterprise customers whose time is money, solving their problems or needs is invaluable and becomes a pivotal point to close new sales. It is not only enough to have an awesome product, you do need awesome customer support.
Customer Support Improves Product
One of the best ways your product is going to get better is through customer feedback. Customer feedback is provided directly sometimes, but most times it is provided indirectly by the problems reported by customers and handled by customer support. In many organizations, where there is a thick organizational wall between development and support personnel, it is almost very few items that get past this barrier. Customer support folks simply keep doing their job of handling tickets without actually sending the feedback that a particular feature or function generates a whole lot of questions. Also, soft questions on whether a product can do ‘X’ or ‘Y’? never even get outside the support organization. These are buried in emails sent by customers. Good Customer support has to bubble these requests, questions, comments, feedback up to drive the product so the next iteration or release pushes it to the next level. It also makes customers immensely happy that we are listening in. A quick and easy way to cut down the organizational walls is actually make your developers handle customer support at-least part time. An even better way is make your management folks handle customer support. At CodeLathe, everyone does customer support and it really is *everyone*.
Customer Support is an Essential Customer Relationship building Exercise
Customers who buy our products are not buying some widget that can be swapped out without any impact, they are actually buying because they like the relationship and they are comfortable with talking to support regarding any problems they might have. We, in turn, treat every interaction with a customer as an opportunity to show how responsive and how much we want our customers to succeed using our solution. We also go out of our way to make them our customer for life as we are in it for the long haul. Based on the above takeways, we went to on to create our Customer Support Mantra which aligns everyone on our team to the same goals. Our Customer Service Mantra
- Highest Priority: Customer support is considered as #1 priority within our organization and trumps everything else.
- Swift: Faster is better. We try to respond to every request within a max of 24 hours, averaging 1-2 hours normally and usually immediately.
- Useful: Fast is not good if it is not accurate. We spend time understanding the actual issue at hand and then try to solve the problem fully.
- Human Touch: Build relationships by addressing by name, taking time to write a personal note and not just be a cut-and-paste knowledge-base article. Recognize people are on the other end.
- Always Improve: Look for avenues to improve, product, documentation and business processes. Listen to the customer, what is the customer telling us and what he is not.
Following some of these tips has improved our customer support quality immensely and all our customers are ecstatic as we continue to grow. So let me close out with the immortal words:
A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.