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How to build a kick-ass and a sustainable customer support team?

The Open Coffee Club yesterday saw a great discussion on "Building a kick-ass and a sustainable customer support team". 

Customer Success.  Customer Delight. Customer Ecstasy. 

No matter however fancy the name, everybody is waking up to the fact, that happy customers , can make a huge difference.

Here's a quick roundup of all the main pointers that were discussed.

P.S. I've woven in my thoughts as well.

Support at what stage of a company?

Delivering kick-ass support should be part of your business model. It comes in, when you decide to start your venture. You decide if exceptional support forms the core of your business. If yes, then early on, make sure you focus on support.

Make it a ritual, so it becomes ingrained in all the decisions you make for the company. After all, you run the business for your customers.

So, support early on, and most definitely it can't be an afterthought!

Company's culture in support

The company's culture plays a major role in how efficient your support team is.

Days when support, as a job description, was looked down upon, are becoming history. Companies have now started offering customer support pay structures on par with development.

Make sure your support folks are empowered with the right attitude. They can be trained to understand your product, but attitude is something that needs to come within. Or can be learnt from the company's culture. Make sure this is included as part of their on-boarding training. 

Hiring for support

It is indeed a daunting task to look for the right customer service rep.

At early stages, ensure you hire the "anchor" guy, who can step up and act like a founder in customer support. And then build a team around the anchor.

Here are some pointers that are must-haves in your support hires.

  • Good communication skills. That's a no - brainer.

  • Empathy. It's better if you look at the situation as a human with a problem, rather than a customer with an issue.

  • A jovial person. Why so serious?

  • The right attitude. Couldn't think of a comment for this one

Make sure you spend a considerable amount of time with the person you are hiring and try to understand if they'll fit your culture, as they will be the face of your company.

How to keep it sustainable?

As you grow, your customer base grows and ergo, your customer service team has to grow.

That said, ramping up a customer support team isn't that easy. If your motto is to deliver exceptional support, you should stick to it, without compromising on your quality.

Going the self-service way would be the best bet. Ensure your support page has all the answers customers might look for in the form of FAQs, solution articles etc. Keep updating this!

Drawing a line between profits & incredible service

Great customer service doesn't mean giving things away for free.

Sometimes, when you screw up, or even if you don't, you might have to give away that coupon or that refund.

But know where to draw the line.

Also, by running your business at low-profit margins, it's really difficult to sustain with exceptional support. That bubble burst with Kingfisher.

Empower your customers

It's all about how you make people feel. Even if they don't buy from you, they will someday come back to you.

People forget what you told them.

People forget what you did.

But people never forget how you made them feel.

 - Maya Angelou

Go out of your way to solve their problem. And make them happy. They’ll be returning customers.

Also, the cost of acquiring a new customer is way higher than retaining an existing one. So hold tight & don’t let them go.

You can't please everybody!

Learn to say no. Sometimes, if you realise the customer at the other end has too many demands and it actually goes against your principles, you have to let go.

Targeting a niche market like AMEX helps a great deal.

Dealing with criticism

Negative reviews are part of a business.

People think they are great critics. Finding a half-baked negative review online is common these days. Take it with a smile. And make sure you do make people happy.

But please don't delete those comments. That's cheap.

Worst of all, please don't get all defensive. Or attack them back! Like this guy

You can't control things people say on the internet.

But, hopefully, you have some delighted & loyal customers who will vouch for you when things go bad.

Customer Service in India

Exploding population. Diverse people, each with their own needs.

It is a difficult task to cater to the huge population with needs as diverse. That said, very few companies in India have managed to give customers a feel - good experience. Time to think about that.

That's all folks!

Hope you got a few takeaways. So get out, and build that kick-ass support team :)