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Sep 7, 2011 by Vadim Katcherovski in PM Best Practices & News

Four rules of great customer service: early, helpful, personal and fast

This article was originally published at SoftwareCEO.com

Product, marketing or sales strategy do not define a company. Customer service does…

If you have a great product but your support sucks, you won’t last long. And if you have a great support even the most absurd idea like selling shoes online can bring you hundreds of millions of dollars.
Over the years we have established a number of rules and principles that define our interaction with clients. Here are the top four:

  • Early
  • Helpful
  • Personal
  • Fast

Rule #1: Start your support early. Really early.

A lot of companies require a maintenance or support contract to be in place in order to provide support. Not us. Anyone – a paid client, a prospect or even a user of free products that we offer can contact our support team and get an answer.

Yes, it does clog up the resources, however the benefits outweigh the expenses. For us it was an easy decision. We track a lot various metrics and we noticed is that the prospects who talked to our technical team have a higher conversion rate compared to the prospects who just spoke to the sales people. Once a user sees that in case of a question or a problem, it’s easy to get hold of us – it makes the purchasing decision much easier.

Rule #2: Make sure any response from your support team is helpful. Even if the answer is no.

Our technical support team knows that any answer given by them must meet these three criteria:

  • Quick
  • Clear
  • Helpful

Recently we got an inquiry if one of our modules can run under a specific flavor of Linux. The simple answer was – no. Time required: 30 seconds. However our support person chose to provide detailed description of why that module doesn’t work under that edition of Linux and provided some links to the beta versions of the 3rd party products that might be able to get it working.

Did this answer required more time? You bet! At least 20 times more (about 10 minutes). Did we see the results? Absolutely! The customer replied back noting how impressed he was with that answer which essentially was “No”. Will these extra 10 minutes provide any ROI? I’m sure it will.

Rule #3: Make it personal

Another principle that we try to adhere to is that no customer should be sent to voicemail. To start with voicemails are annoying. You have to wait for the beep until you here the same instructions you’ve heard thousands of times. Then voicemail usually doesn’t offer any feedback – you don’t know when and if ever the person you’re trying to reach is going to get back to you. Which can be quite frustrating if you have an urgent matter at hands. Finally, the whole voicemail experience is very impersonal – you’re talking to a machine.

That’s why every extension in our office is configured to have a chain of at least two call forwards, so if the person you’re calling is not available or on the line, the call will be sent to someone else in the same department (sales, support, accounting, etc). If the second person is busy, then the call is routed to the third person. Only after that the voicemail will be activated.

Rule #4: Get back fast. Really fast.

Now, let’s a prospect or a customer left you a voicemail. Well, we have a rule for that. The person in charge (if available) should reply within a maximum of 2 hours. The same rule also applies to any incoming emails or support tickets. However our real target is 20 minutes. And it’s especially important in case of prospect inquires.

I once read that browsing the web can be compared with driving at 80Mph on a highway. Websites get same amount of attention as the billboards along the road. If someone is looking for a product, came across your website and sent you a message, you better reply fast. Because, chances are that visitor will be on a different site in 10-15 minutes, will visit 5-10 different sites within 2 hours and probably won’t even remember your product and his question tomorrow.

So Early, Helpful, Personal, Fast are our Customer Support principles. What about your company? Please use the comments box below to share your tips.

vadim-katcherovski
Vadim Katcherovski

Vadim Katcherovski is the CEO of Logic Software Inc. based in Toronto, Canada. He has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry and has managed dozens of software development projects.

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