The Customer Support Function Paradox
The customer support function is one of the most important drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty. Yet, it is sometimes overlooked and underappreciated, except to the constituency that is most important to your business – your customers.
This function goes by many names – customer support, client services, customer experience, client care, tech support, etc. Management will often change the name in a misguided attempt to enrich the jobs of the people in the department or shift the focus of the people in the group. But if you talk to the people doing the work, they will quickly explain how much the titles do not matter.
In many companies, customer support positions provide a starting place for people beginning their careers. They often serve as a launching point to other functions. However, the entry level nature of these positions can lead companies to undervalue the role, a misperception that leads to the customer support paradox.
Customers Recognize the Value – Even When Management Doesn’t
One constituency that has no misgivings about the value of the customer support role is your customer base. When clients have an issue with your product or service, nobody else in the company is more important than the support representative who will resolve the problem. The value that can be generated or destroyed during a customer interaction is huge, and the window for the interaction is limited. A disgruntled customer can quickly become a source of bad PR or be converted to a vocal advocate for your company.
Customer interactions can also provide valuable insights into how and why clients use your product. You can get early indication of a technical issue that didn’t get picked up in monitoring. You can learn what issues customers face. The conduit to this priceless information is your customer service staff. Whether they turn the interaction into a positive experience or create a dissatisfied customer often depends on the value you place on the customer service function.
The Customer Support Golden Rule
Herb Kelleher, founder and longtime CEO of Southwest Airlines, built one of the most profitable airlines in the U.S. based on one principle: if you take good care of your employees, they will take good care of your customers.
At PenChecks, we have long ascribed to this belief, and work hard to take good care of our Customer Experience team. We consider our customers our most important constituency. Yet, we also recognize the value provided by the employees that assist those customers every day. To make sure our Customer Experience team feels valued and appreciated, we:
- Provide frequent recognition. Part of my job is to recognize our Customer Experience employees for the impact they have on our customers. I reinforce the importance of their role by telling them how much we appreciate their contributions to the success of our business. Often, it’s just a simple pat on the back, a “Nice job,” or “Thank you for the work you did with client XYZ.” Sometimes it’s more formal recognition. Either way, employees appreciate hearing it.
- Share customer feedback. We regularly share the positive feedback we receive from customers about the great service provided by support team members. Whether the feedback comes via email, phone or conversations at tradeshows and conferences, we make a point to pass the “customer applause” on to employees.
- Get employees involved. Several times a year we gather the entire Customer Experience team for a meeting. We remind them of the importance of the customer service function to our success. We talk about where the business is headed. And we ask for their ideas and input on how they can add even more value for customers and the company. (Hint: If you want employees to truly engage with your customers and your business, ask for their opinion and then really listen. Nothing makes people feel more respected and valued.)
It only takes one bad support experience to lose a valued customer. Customers are four times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service rather than price or product, and a dissatisfied customer will tell between nine to 15 people about their experience . Practicing the customer support Golden Rule can help prevent defections and dissatisfied customers. What are you doing every day to take care of your customer support team?