How to unlock the business value of customer support strategy
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The twenty-eighth episode of Support Heroes by Kaizo featured Peter Voor de Wind- a Customer Success Consultant at Zendesk, former Global Customer Service Manager at Swapfiets and Benedikt Dormann- Head of Customer Experience at Jimdo, former Director of Global Customer Service at N26.
In this episode, Peter and Benedikt discuss how and why companies get customer service strategy right and wrong. The conversation touches on the value of customer service to businesses today, how to communicate and measure that value of customer service internally, and why the value of great service is often missed. This episode is invaluable to any support leader wanting to better leverage their department to benefit their parent company as a whole.
Why is this important?
Customer service has become a key differentiator in the market. Ninety-six percent (96%) of customers will leave a company for bad customer service. Moreover, “recent research shows that customers will make this switch after just one bad experience”.
However, many companies have not internalised this fact. Their customer service strategy is not aligned with their overall success and the friction between the two is felt most by the customer service department.
Here you’ll find some key points from the conversation summarised and explained for your ease of viewing. If you’d like to listen to the full conversation, find the full episode above.
Customer service added value vs cost reduction
It is very common for customer service to be seen as a cost centre. It is something almost everyone in customer service has encountered. As such, cost reduction is one of the main objectives when reviewing customer service strategy and operations.
Having a cost-efficient department is indeed extremely important. However, reducing costs does not define good performance. According to Benedikt, “you should not be satisfied..” by simply having low costs. The ultimate goal is creating customer loyalty through building positive relationships.
“The minimum expectation you have as a customer is getting a friendly, fast, correct answer but you [as a company] don’t create emotional loyalty by just doing that.” – Benedikt Dormann
If a customer service department makes efficiency gains, the time, energy or money saved can and should be reinvested into providing a better service to customers. How can that be achieved? Well, ask those who best the pains of customers- the customer service department.
Some may see improvements in efficiency as an opportunity to reduce headcount and further cut costs. Peter urges such leaders to see efficiency improvements as an opportunity to leverage the knowledge within the department to benefit all other parts of the business. With the time saved in customer service, there are now product and customer experts ready to advise on new features and roadmaps.
“You can have all these algorithms and datasheets but talking to the people that actually speak to your customers will give you A LOT of information. That’s where the actual value is and you cannot put a number on that.” – Peter Voor de Wind
Utilize the knowledge & data in customer service
“How to position a support department within an entire organisation? It’s a lot of communication. It’s a lot of convincing. You need to prove the value that support can bring.” – Benedikt Dormann
If a company is not customer-centric and customer service strategy boils down to cost reduction, it can be hard to: a) be the voice of the customer and b) advocate for support to receive investment and lead the customer conversation.
However, most professionals are not customer support professionals. Most have not thought as in-depth about customer service as those reading this article. As such, one cannot expect those who don’t understand the value within a support department to properly utilise it. It comes down to how the department communicates with the rest of the business.
This communication is made convincing through the proper justification of undertakings- sound, data-driven business cases. Collecting and communicating both qualitative and quantitative representations of the knowledge in customer service. Ticket content as product and company feedback is is some of the most “valuable information” according to Peter.
“I am surprised that there are quite a lot of companies that don’t really categorize the contacts they have with the customers. So they’re not really aware of the subjects [support] is talking about with the customers and they cannot quantify that [information] to the board for instance.” – Peter Voor de Wind
One can begin to see how support can lead the conversation on product, marketing and company strategy if ticket content is properly utilised. This is commonly referred to as, ‘closing the feedback loop’. It’s an ongoing process between support and the rest of the business.
Benedikt urges support leaders to be tenacious and bold in being the voice of the customer. He advocates for C-level shadowing of customer service to keep the customer and their issues at the forefront of their minds.
You don’t need to spend a lot or do anything fancy to keep the customer satisfied
“It doesn’t cost hundreds of thousands of Euros. Technology will enable things but a traditional customer conversation can be successful and inspiring if you just try to solve the customer’s issue and go beyond in a polite, respectful and enthusiastic way.” – Benedikt Dormann
At the core, a customer’s expectation when contacting support is very simple and can be solved exactly as Benedikt put it. There are indeed things that ought to not be solved by a customer service professional, for example, getting an invoice. That’s where the technology Benedikt mentioned can be leveraged.
Make customer conversations as pleasant and effective as possible, and allow customers to solve simple things themselves. It’s a waste of the customer’s time and the support department’s time to be solving simple, avoidable problems.
“Rather, make it so that the problem never arises. Something I always hear is ‘customers want empathy’. No. Customers don’t want to have that problem. If there’s a problem, that’s when they want empathy” – Peter Voor de Wind
Even more effective than solving problems is preventing them. Closing the feedback loop and staying ahead of future issues is a crucial step. Moreover, as Peter put it “staying ahead of the problem doesn’t have to be costly…that’s just listening.” Listening at scale can be achieved through categorizing ticket content and perhaps on occasion, quoting some perturbed customers to really translate their pain.
Peter echoed the sentiment of Dorien de Vreede who featured on Ep. 20 of Support Heroes – “keep things simple”. Some complexity is inevitable. However, keeping things simple saves on cost and “keeps you scalable which makes it easy to solve problems before they arise”.