5 Tips for Outstanding Customer Service

Providing outstanding customer service is an important step in growing your startup. Follow these five essential tips to take your customer service to the next level.

By Luke Holzken
December 8th, 2016

If you’ve just launched your app, offering outstanding customer service is an important part of your ongoing strategy.

You have people interested, people paying, and those same people will now have questions.

This is a very good thing, as it means there’s interest in your product.

Outstanding customer service is an important step in growing your startup.

A new launch means product updates, bug fixes, promoting your app, and more. And even though you have so many things to deal with, you can never forget to provide outstanding customer service.

You have to put in the time to answer questions and keep your customers happy.

These are your customers, and they’re the ones who keep the lights on at night.

When we first launched Provide Chat, we knew we’d have a lot of work to do. In fact, launching the application was just the first part of it.

We knew we’d have customers and they would have tons of questions.

This meant we would have to take the time to answer their questions.

Also,  we would have to do this while working on all of our tasks!

For many of you,  launching an app is a project that you start on the side.

Providing outstanding customer service takes time. And unless you have investors, you probably don’t have a huge war chest of funds you can use to hire someone.

With resources in short supply, you’re going to have to do your customer service, at first anyhow, on your own.

Either way, if you want customers and you want to keep them paying, you will have to put in the time to make them happy.

I’m going to list a few things that you can do to make your customers love you. Make them rave about you and keep them coming back.

These are simple things that you can do on your own that will really make a difference. What’s best, they won’t require a massive budget or a big team.

1. Respond to Your Customers Immediately

No one wants to wait for a response.

Have you ever contacted a company and didn’t from them for over 48 hours?

You probably felt pretty bummed and wondered if they ever heard from you.

In fact, there’s a good chance you took your business elsewhere, or at the very least you thought about it.

Nowadays people want a response within 30 minutes. At the very least they expect a quick response if they contacted you during regular business hours.

Whatever you do, make sure you respond to your customers quickly. Even if it’s only a simple email to let them know you received it.

The easiest way you can do this is by setting up a customer service auto-reply.

While auto-replies aren’t right for every company, I think they’re an excellent way to manage expectations regarding your response time.

Something simple like this will work:

Hi, thank you for contacting us!

This is just a quick note to let you know we’ve received your email, and a real person will be answering you as soon as possible.

Our regular business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM PST (same time zone as Los Angeles!).

Until then, please check out our Help Documentation for detailed steps on how to use our product.

Cheers,
Your happy friends from [product name]

If you like this, you should check out this excellent post by Blake Thorne of Status Page. He sent out 100 emails to different companies to find out how to create a better customer service auto-reply.

While an auto-reply is a start, it’s not going to be enough. You have to respond to your customers’ actual questions and you have to get back to them quickly.

Because it’s just you (and possibly a business partner), make sure you are bringing your emails with you.

Whether you use your phone or laptop, have your customer service emails available from anywhere.

This way, you’re always taking your sales and support requests with you. You can respond in a pinch even if you’re away from your desk.

Getting a response to your customers quickly is becoming more important than ever.

Toister Performance Solutions, who specialize in customer service, have an annual survey. It measures how quickly customers expect you to respond to their emails.

In 2014, a response within four hours was considered good (the point at which about 80% of people were happy).

By 2015, this had moved up to about one hour.

In 2014, only 4% of people expected businesses to respond within 15 minutes; by 2015, that had jumped to 14.5%, an increase of 362%.

Customers are expecting quick response times more than ever.

To put things simply, for every 100 customers that email, 15 of them expect you to respond within 15 minutes.

2. Have as Many Methods as Possible for Providing Outstanding Customer Service

Give your customer every possible tool to reach you. The easier it is to contact you, the more comfortable they’ll be doing business with you.

A toll-free number, live support, contact form, and social media are all tools you can use to make it easy to contact you.

It also lets customers know that you are going to be there to answer questions when they have them.

Running multiple channels of support has never been easier. You should make sure that these channels of support are readily available, and easy to find.

Shopify is a perfect example of a SaaS company that offers multiple methods for customers to contact them. They have options for email, live chat, and phone.

Multiple Options for Customer Service

Even better, their toll-free number and social media links  are immediately available from their website’s footer.

Setting up your website so your customers can contact you easily is extremely important. Look at your competition, see what they’re doing and figure out what you can do even better.

3. Always Put Your Product in a Positive Light

Your product does a lot, but it can’t do everything.

While you can be honest with your customer about your product’s limitations, always put these limitations in a positive light.

Also, never lie about your product features or capabilities.

It’s better to turn down a sale and let your customer know your product isn’t right than to lie about what it can do. They’ll only come back to you disgruntled, or even worse, write a negative review.

Back in the early 2000s, I worked for a web software company. We had a product with a database that wasn’t on par with our competitors’ offerings.

To make a long story short, our database still used flat files while our competitors were using MySQL. If you’re a developer you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Because we used a flat file database our product had a max limit of about 1,000 records.

Instead of drawing attention to this we focused on features our product had that put it ahead of the competition.

You’ll sometimes find it difficult to talk to your customers about your product’s limitations.

That said, being able to put your limitations in a positive light can help you reframe the discussion. Use this opportunity to focus on the features that your competitors’ products don’t have.

This is a perfect opportunity to clarify any points of differentiation with you and your competitors.

A lot of the best customer service happens at the point of sale.

Remember, never lie to your customers about the capabilities of your product. The end result can be disastrous.

If your customer purchases based on a misrepresentation it could come back to haunt you negatively in the future.

While you may get the sale you will likely end up with an unhappy customer. Be careful here, unhappy customers   can vent their frustrations through social media.

Customer Service - It's Kind of a Big Deal

4. Make Doing Business with you Easy

A while back, I was working as the customer service manager for the same web software company.

At first, we used to make it extremely difficult for customers to refund a product being purchased from us.

Back in those days people purchased the source code for our web apps directly and installed them on their servers.

Then one day we thought of something absolutely crazy for the time.

We were going to make it extremely easy for customers to refund their software. Just fill out a short form on our website.

We advertised from the website’s homepage that our products were backed by a 90 day, no hassle, money back guarantee.

Customers who weren’t happy with the product simply filled out a form and got their money back.

The benefit here was this removed all barriers to entry. We had created a level of trust that was unprecedented in the industry at the time.

At first, we were afraid we were going to get hundreds of refunds.

What actually happened was we got hundreds of more sales, while the refund rate didn’t go up all that much. We realized that sales increased because we made it so easy to do business with us.

In essence, we had removed a huge barrier to entry.

To make things even better, we backed up our money back guarantee with testimonials from customers who had gone through the refund process.

You can make doing business with your company easy by removing your barriers to entry. One way to do this is by offering a free trial (e.g. 7 days, 14 days, or even 30 days), and make sure you back it up with outstanding after-sales customer service.

In fact, most hosted software service companies already do this.

So how can you take what everyone else is doing and make it even better?

Sometimes you just have to think outside of the box.

With Provide Chat, not only do we offer a 14-day full-featured free trial, we’ve gone one step further. We offer a free install for any customer (free or paid) that signs up for the service.

When installing Provide Chat, the last step is to paste a few lines of JavaScript into the website’s HTML.

We’ve removed this last barrier to entry, and offer to do this for the customer.

 

Unrivaled Customer Service

5. Talk to your Customers Regularly

Don’t be afraid to contact your customers, and ask them what is and isn’t working.

Many customers won’t tell you when something is wrong. Reaching out regularly is a great way to get their feedback.

It also lets them know that you’re interested in how you can make your product better.

A company that shows an interest in improving their product is a company your customers will want to continue with.

With that in mind, you have to be ready to receive critical feedback.  And you’ll want to make sure your business is adaptive to whatever your customers might tell you.

While you can’t cater to every customer’s whim, the fact that you’re hearing them out is a step above what many of your competitors are doing.

Here’s a simple sample email you can use to contact your customers:

Hi,

I know you’ve been using [product name] for a while now.

I just wanted to know what you thought of it. Is there anything we’re doing right? Or is there anything that could be better?

Don’t be afraid to hold back, I really appreciate your feedback and I’m looking for ways to make [product name] that much better.

Thanks again!

What’s even better, is your customers will often have positive feedback. Make sure to ask if you can use this as a testimonial on your website.

So What’s Next?

These are just five methods that you can use to really take your customer service to the next level.

Remember, the better your customer service the more likely you are to convert sales.

Not only does outstanding customer service help you keep the customers you have, it also helps you find new customers.  Word-of-mouth plays a huge role in creating new business.

Your customers will become raving fans. They will go on to talk about how great they think you are.

Of course, poor customer service does the exact opposite.

One pissed off customer can post to Facebook or Twitter a litany of reasons why not do business with you.

You want to be exceptional with your customer service and avoid that kind of situation at all costs.

The way to avoid that is by offering outstanding customer service.  Customer service that’s easy to access, with fast response times and honest answers.

I also suggest you look at what your competitors are doing. What can you do differently that will really put you over the top?

Remember, differentiation is not only found in your product offering, it can also be found in your customer service.

Do you have any customer service tips and strategies that you would recommend for SaaS startups?

This article is written by Luke Holzken. Provide Chat's Product Manager. He's interested in all things online marketing related but his primary passions include content marketing, SEO, customer service, website analytics, and running a SaaS startup.

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