Wikipedia defines customer support as “a range of customer services to assist customers in making cost effective and correct use of a product. It includes assistance in planning, installation, training, trouble shooting, maintenance, upgrading, and disposal of a product”. It defines customer service as “the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation”.
It would seem natural then for customer support/service to be a “burden” for your business. It’s a cost. Support and service takes place after the fact and you’re left with cleaning up whatever mess is left. In order to run customer support/service, you now need to hire new personnel, train them, buy new computers, sign up for a customer support/service system, and dedicate your hard-earned resources to keep this ugly duckling running. Let’s face it, it’s a cost and you would be happier without complaining customers. You might be flabbergasted by my comments if you’re a business that takes pride in delivering superior customer support. If you are, keep reading.
Customer support/service is a skeuomorph. It’s a concept derived from the brick-and-mortar way of delivering goods and services. You buy something either from the store or over the phone and the “product” is delivered to you. If you have a problem with the “product”, you can either take it back to the store or pick up the phone to call the business you purchased from. Support is available to you to ensure your questions, concerns, and problems are taken care of. The process was simple and everything was done either in paper or in-person. The size and nature of most major businesses back then also meant that providing this type of support was scalable enough to keep customers coming back. The world is a different place now.
In this day and age, businesses need to run leaner, move faster, respond quicker, and adapt better. If your business is online, you know how this works and you should always make interactions with customers count. Your resources are limited and you are always in fierce competition with someone. The good news is that there are plenty of tools to help you make the cut. The ability to make your bread and butter online also means that you have plenty of data and information about your customers that you should be taking advantage of. You should know who they are, where they’re from, how often they visit your business, what their spending pattern is, how valuable they are, how engaged they are with your product, how they respond to you, and many many more. If your “support” personnel had access to all this data, would it make their jobs easier? Would it increase their effectiveness in other areas such as relationship management, business development, sales, retention? Besides boosting incremental revenue and increasing life cycles, your support personnel will help you better manage customer interactions, feedback and information. The traditional way of delivering support only as a means to ameliorate complaints and problems just doesn’t scale anymore.
Customer support has and always will be one of the front lines for your business when it comes to interacting with customers and every successful company recognizes the value of customer relationships. Without customers, a company will cease to exist. It’s that simple. Thinking about customer support as an integral part of your operations and outside of its gridlocked environment can not only help you make the most of customer interactions, but also improve operational and financial performance. Take advantage of thinking about your business operations in an incremental way.