Software isn’t just a purchase; it’s a relationship. As it evolves and updates to meet new technology demands, the relationship grows between software providers and the end-user—the customer—as the perpetual buying cycle continues. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers often excel in customer service in order to survive because they’re engaged in a perpetual buying cycle in more ways than one.
Good customer service helps ensure customer satisfaction, fosters growth through social media and word-of-mouth referrals, and gives users the confidence to broaden their relationship through additional service and capabilities. For SaaS providers engaged in the B2B segment, this can mean significant numbers of added seats and licenses, all from a single customer.
In today’s competitive service economy, exceptional customer support can be the most important brand differentiator of all. With that in mind, here are a few valuable tips from the SaaS field:
1. Don’t let the good (cost savings) be the enemy of the perfect (customer satisfaction).
Keeping costs down is certainly a worthy goal. Taken to the extreme, however, it can lead to some bad business decisions.
Many customer service operations have tried to manage costs by offshoring their customer support, with plummeting customer experiences as the result. Others have instituted more self-service options, which can be a euphemism for “read this article and figure it out for yourself,” but SaaS providers are experts in understanding one size does not fit all. Tech-savvy millennials and Gen Zers may be okay with an online self-service option, but Gen X and baby boomer customers who prefer using a phone consider self-service as an easy way to eliminate direct human interaction.
Support organizations that attempt to recalibrate the cost-service challenge by limiting contact duration also miss the point. By incentivizing agents to minimize time spent on each call, chat, message, or email, it’s easy to misunderstand or ignore customer needs. Poor experiences are often the outcome.
It’s vital to appreciate the importance of quality encounters to long-term customer loyalty, especially within the perpetual buying cycle. Until companies factor in the cost of churn, loss of trust, and damage to brand reputations, short-term cost savings will continue to win out over long-term success.
2. Prioritize these two metrics instead.
Excellent customer service and support organizations focus on a few metrics: mainly:
- Average speed to response – a metric (something like average speed to answer, or ASA), which can be measured by any modern support platform; and one focused on customer satisfaction, with metrics gathered through quick post-contact surveys. Response times are a barometer for convenience, accessibility and satisfaction, so responses must be as quick as possible.
- Customer satisfaction scores – along with freeform comments, indicate whether the customer’s needs for overall quality of service (QoS) were met. Instead of judging effectiveness using metrics like first-touch resolutions and call duration—which can be easily manipulated and ultimately don’t determine QoS—SaaS providers find success in measuring ASA and overall satisfaction.
3. Think of the customer as if it’s your mom on the phone.
Empathy is a huge part of customer support. Imagine it’s your mother or close family member on the phone; you’d want the support center to answer promptly (or give her the option to receive a call back). You’d also want the agent to walk her through each step of the solution with patience and compassion, even if that meant talking her through a self-service link. Finally, you’d want the agent to give her all the time she needs, even if that takes the call past an arbitrary duration target.
Ask the customer service manager at any SaaS company and they will agree that training in software skills for customer support personnel isn’t simply a nice-to-have; rather, it’s essential. Even if the company’s agent training is good and ASA scores are above average, treating every customer like a member of the family will make users rave about your brand above all other factors.
4. Promote your agents to other departments
Internal attrition should be the most revealing metric of customer support success. If a company promotes its best-performing customer service agents to other parts of the organization, it means it’s not only training well but also giving those employees a career path.
Smart customer service departments aren’t afraid to let their agents move on to sales, quality assurance, product development, or other disciplines. It means those agents have learned the brand as well as its strengths and opportunities for growth from their frontline exposure. As graduates of the company’s “farm system,” they have invaluable insights and habits that will be valued throughout the business.
Rethinking what’s important to drive (customer) success
Businesspeople like to say, “What gets measured gets managed.” In customer service, however, what gets measured usually gets manipulated. SaaS providers are good at avoiding the pitfalls of measurement because they realize the practice moves service away from customers instead of toward them.
It’s an increasingly abstracted world out there, and customers value experiences over all other things. How well a company treats its customers is at least as important as the product it’s selling. Software providers may be selling the first S in SaaS, but to be successful they have to be masters at the second S. That’s a notion any company—and any customer—will certainly appreciate.