Ultimate Scaling (aka Consumer Support)

Many thanks to Ram Ramadas for suggesting this topic.

Some support organizations have hundreds of customers. Others, especially those serving consumers, have millions. What approaches work for very large customer bases? I suggest 10 approaches — which may be of interest to you even if you do not have anywhere close to millions of customers.

1. Make your product bulletproof

If you have a handful of customers and your product is just a little buggy, or just a little difficult to use the first time around, you can cope by giving each customer a little nudge. But you cannot afford to do that for very large customer bases! So work with the engineering and product marketing teams to make sure that usability and stability are near-perfect.

2. Assemble a top-notch support-readiness team

It will help you with goal #1, above, and with all the other goals below. You cannot afford to improvise.

3. Invest in self-service options

Self-service scales best, so anything you can do to improve your support website, in-product help, documentation, knowledge base, or product diagnostics will have a high return.

4. Invest in onboarding

If your product or service is “obvious” to use, great — but if not, invest in onboarding. It could be as simple as a short cheat sheet on getting started, or a series of short videos on how to accomplish common tasks, or regularly-scheduled webinars. If you can, do all of the above.

5. Encourage community support

With lots of customers you naturally have enough volume to sustain a community, as long as you provide appropriate guidance, and regular answers.

6. Invest in social support

Any customer, but especially consumers are likely to take to Facebook and other online media to share their experiences with your product. Be ready to harvest compliments and react to concerns in real time with a proper social support monitoring tool (and process and people behind it).

7. Make 1:1 support the last resort

No, I’m not talking about taking it away entirely, but it is a valuable commodity so provide lots of faster, and helpful alternatives (and check out #10, below).

8. Prepare for peak demand

Whether your busiest day is the day after Christmas, the day after a new release, or the day when your largest offshore center is closed due to a typhoon, you want to plan carefully for how you can deliver a good customer experience under the most demanding conditions. Self-service and community service are likely your best bets.

9. Learn from every customer interaction

One of the important goals for support is to be the voice of the customer, and it’s even more important with a large customer base. Categorize your cases to determine where volume is coming from, and do something about it: get the product fixed or changed in some way, do a better job of onboarding, have a knowledge base article ready, etc. And since most volume will come through self-service and the community, analyze those interactions as well.

10. Nurture a partner community

You may not want to deliver personalized service to every customer, but some want and need it, and some partners will be interested in delivering it. By offering some inside information to (selected) partners you can make everyone happy, partners, customers, and you.

Having a huge customer base is a challenge, to be sure, but it is also a wonderful opportunity since your budget allows many experiments for self-service and community service. Focus on providing a great customer experience without the need for (too much) assisted service.

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