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Best practices

Customer support = the most important team

Not that long ago, customers only ever really interacted with sales staff. The internet, and the way we buy things, has changed all that.

‘Pay as you go’ is the way we are going

We have started to subscribe to things, rather than buy outright now:

  • We stream music instead of buying CDs or downloads
  • We rent our cells instead of buying a wall phone
  • We subscribe to our software online and via app stores
  • We buy our clothes and accessories online through a long-term relationship with brands that deliver for us

What does all this mean? It means our relationship with businesses is changing. It means that what was once your back office, or “support team” is now firmly at the front. They are the primary deliverers of customer experience.

What’s behind that pretty face?

Customers buy through your beautiful web store, your shiny app, your slick email autoresponder sequence. But what then?

They have a question, they need to make a return, they want ongoing assistance. Remote, ‘pay-as-you-go’ buying takes a lot of regular interaction to keep the revenue flowing.

Every communication matters

The importance of measuring satisfaction on a per-communication basis for support, given the likely lifetime value of your customer, is now essential.

Subtle nuances in language over email, timely responses, going the extra mile to fix something – they are what now makes the difference between you getting the repeat business, or the customer voting with his feet.

An annual customer satisfaction survey won’t cut it now. Now just one poor response to a ticket thread is enough to send a customer onto Twitter.

Asking people if they are happy once at the end of a year or project doesn’t allow you to capture and rectify issues along the way, nor does it offer an opportunity to train staff on the inevitable highs and lows of long term customer relationships.

Even bad feedback is good

If you get it wrong for a customer, that can actually be good for you. So long as you know about it, and handle it right. Customer service recovery can actually make a customer more loyal than if they hadn’t had the bad experience in the first place.

But you do need to know you got it wrong pretty quickly. This has the brilliant side benefit of fixing issues before any bad press gets on social media. Mad customers tell their story – happy customers tell your story.

5 ways you can use customer feedback to keep your support operation at the top of its game

  • Ask customers for simple feedback on each interaction, and make sure that feedback is regularly discussed and used in training
  • Understand support can sometimes be tough, make sure you are alerted to unhappy customers and can be on hand to advise when there’s a tricky situation
  • Regularly share the main reasons for poor feedback – so others can avoid mistakes already made
  • Train your team to understand that satisfaction is not the goal of their interactions – loyalty is
  • Put complaints at the top of the pile. Ever called a company to complain, and found it takes 3 times longer to get through than to the sales line? We shouldn’t see complaints as something to be reduced or removed. The most enlightened businesses encourage complaints and learn from them.

Your customer support operation now holds the key to your business’ growth and is your best defender of revenue. Make sure you do everything in your power to support them.

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