Businesses have a 60% to 70% better chance of selling products or services to existing customers than to new prospects. The cost of acquiring new customers almost always surpasses the costs of simply keeping your existing customers satisfied.
Customer service plays a crucial role in building customer loyalty and retention. It takes the median SaaS company an 11-month subscription period to cover the acquisition cost of one customer. So, you better equip yourself with a long-term customer service strategy to keep your users around.
Here’s a list of 12 action items that will help you build successful customer services for your SaaS company.
Define customer service goals
In order to build outstanding customer service, you should first define the ideal state of support that you want to achieve. Every company has a different vision for their customer service, depending on their target users, products, resources, etc.
Knowing where you want to end up will help you map out the journey that will get you there. So, break your vision down into small achievable goals. We like to use the SMART approach that makes goals:
The SMART framework helps you create support goals that are ambitious, realistic, and easily trackable. Here are a few examples of what SMART customer service goals look like:
- Get email First Response Time down to 3h 30min by the end of the fiscal year (instead of a vague “improve response times”);
- Improve the quality of customer service by delivering 85% CSAT and 92% IQS within six months (not just “provide high-quality support”);
- Achieve an IQS over 90% across channels at all times by the end of the quarter (which is more meaningful than, for example, “improve live chat”).
Customer service goals should be the starting point for all of your support strategies. If you align your activities with your goals, success becomes (almost) inevitable!
Read on: 17 Ways Intercom Builds Customer Relationships that Last
Choose your helpdesk software and support tools (wisely)
Your customer service helpdesk is the one software that all of your services will stand upon. Take your time to research the myriad of solutions out there to find the best one for your needs.
Your goal should be to find a helpdesk solution that has the capabilities to function as the central hub for all of your support activities. Support agents manage a number of different responsibilities every day and handling them in different apps can take a lot of time and manual work.
When shopping for support software, look for one that caters to all of your main support functionalities:
- Support channels that you use (e.g., email, chat, phone, etc);
- A knowledgebase to enable customer self-service (including videos, in-context help, or other widgets);
- Reporting that helps you make sense of it all (e.g., CSAT, response times, other relevant KPIs).
In addition to the main functionalities, check whether the software solution offers integrations to third-party apps that you’ll definitely need. These are often offered on the helpdesk marketplace or via API.
✨ For example, Klaus offers a support conversation review tool on all major help desk marketplaces (e.g, Zendesk, Intercom, Freshdesk, Aircall, Wix Answers, etc.) and saves customer support teams about 50% of the time they would normally spend doing internal quality assessments for their customer interactions.
Read more: Top 5 Customer Service Reports that All Managers Need
Make support easily accessible in every stage
High-quality customer service is a valuable competitive advantage in the tight SaaS market. Make sure your customers get to see it by keeping your support in plain sight at all times.
There are literally no limits to the places where a SaaS company can plug its support operations inside its own product. However, the strategy for creating those contact points can vary from business to business.
Here are a few points in the customer journey where support assistance is usually needed the most:
- Before signup: if a potential customer comes to your site and cannot find what they’re looking for immediately, they’ll probably leave. However, a friendly face (e.g., in a popup chat window) could convince them to reach out to you before they escape your page. That’s your chance to help your customers find what they need and drive signups.
- During onboarding: right after you’ve converted some of your visitors to new users, you’ll face another huge cut in your potential customers as they go through the onboarding process. Even tools with brilliant UX/UI lose customers during onboarding because they fail to present key information that the customers need. The customer is either confused, or unimpressed, and they leave to try another tool.
From questions about specific features to user management and billing details, make sure your support agents are there to help whenever your customers need them.
- In the product: Keep your customer service in reach for your users at all times. Most SaaS tools have a chat window or support button available in the product header, footer, or other permanent areas that are visible to users at all times.
In a (potentially) stressful situation when the customer is already upset about a bug, missing feature, or lack of product knowledge, you shouldn’t make them search for help in different product pages and menus. Avoid distressed customers and assist your customers whenever you can.
A link opening up a conversation with your support folks is an easy thing to add to your product and it can go a long way in keeping your customers happy – and around – at all times.
Free download: Customer Service Quality Assurance Job Description [Template]
The goal of your customer service is not just to provide excellent support interactions but to help your customers use the product as intended. They don’t always have to reach out to your support for that.
if you create a comprehensive and easily accessible knowledge base, your customers will find answers to most of the questions they have on their own.
Succesful self-service practices reduce the risk of customers churning simply because they don’t know how the product works. Moreover, as a public knowledge base reduces the support load, your team will be able to spend more time on the complex issues that customers can’t really solve on their own.
Here are a few tricks and tips for building a successful self-service center:
- Write a step-by-step guide about all of the main features and use cases of your product. Keep the articles short and interlink them;
- Create videos and gifs to illustrate how the product works – but bear in mind that it’ll take time to keep them up-to-date;
- Offer contextual help inside the app to display relevant content to your users based on where they’re currently navigating.
Make sure your self-help sections are as easy to find as your support contacts. Keep them visible throughout your app so that they can serve their purpose and be helpful to your users.
Read more: Best Customer Service Software: The Complete Toolset for CS Teams
Offer proactive help
When you’ve made your customer service easily accessible and set up a decent knowledge base for self-service, you can take your customer service to the next level by adding proactive help to the mixture.
You don’t have to wait for your customers to approach you first, especially in situations that you already know are likely to raise questions. Moreover, you can use proactive help to drive product engagement and upsells at different points in the customer journey:
- Draw attention to related features that your users could benefit from. For example, if a user exports data into the product manually, then they might be happy to find out that there’s an integration that does the job automatically.
- Introduce new features: support agents talk to customers on a daily basis. Each of these support interactions is a great opportunity to let your users know about the newest releases to your product – even if these are not always directly linked to the topic at hand.
- Offer premium features: as your team gets to know your customers and learns what paid or premium functionalities they could really benefit from, your agents are in a very good position to upsell the product. Personal and contextual recommendations like this can really drive sales.
What’s also great about proactive help is that you can use automated emails and reach a very large proportion of your users with little effort. Trigger personalized emails based on your users’ behavior and wow your customers before they’ve even realized they need your assistance.
Read more about how to build customer loyalty through support activities.
Create support quality standards
Depending on your customer service goals and vision, write down your quality standards for your support interactions. These are specific and actionable guidelines for your agents to follow as they talk to the customers.
Each company has a unique set of values and principles that they translate into their support quality standards. Here are the most popular quality criteria used on Klaus:
- Solution – The provided solution has to be correct and the most suitable one for the specific case.
- Product knowledge – Flawless product knowledge is a must for all support teams. Agents are expected to be up to date with all features, newest releases, etc.
- Tone – Support quality is usually not just characterized by what agents say, usually how they say it matters just as much. So, appropriate style and tone are essential components of most support teams’ quality standards.
- Process – Agents are expected to follow certain internal processes like forwarding feature requests to product teams or new leads to sales teams.
- Validation – Many support teams also expect agents to validate whether they understood the customers’ requests correctly before providing a solution.
When you’ve defined your customer service quality standards, make sure your entire team can clearly understand those criteria and knows how to act accordingly. Moreover, don’t forget to explain why you need to have those standards in the first place. Go back to your support goals for inspiration.
Read more: How Buffer’s QA went from Manual to Masterful with Klaus
Conduct regular conversation reviews
Quality plays a key role in SaaS customer service and you can’t really have that (at least not consistently) without Quality Assurance procedures in place. That’s when conversation reviews come in handy.
Customer service conversation reviews are regular evaluations of your team’s support interactions, based on your internal quality standards. Reviewing a sample of your team’s conversations is an essential part of a customer service team’s quality program.
All support teams need conversation reviews because they:
- Give you a great overview of your team’s performance,
- Pinpoint your areas of improvement,
- Help your agents become better at what they do.
As soon as you implement conversation reviews, you’ll notice that your customer service quality gets a nice boost from week one. Here’s how to start them with your support team:
- Create a scorecard that reflects your quality standards.
- Decide who will be the reviewer– manager, peers, or dedicated QA specialists?
- Define which conversations to assess. Combining a random sample of 5-10% of all tickets and cases rated by your customers has become a best practice in the field.
- Find a conversation review tool to help you manage your review data, notify agents about the feedback they’ve received, and create meaningful reports of your team’s performance.
- Make conversation reviews regular. You will reap the best results if you make internal assessments a part of your daily routines.
Conversation reviews are the quickest way to improve the quality of your customer service and keep it on a consistently high level across agents and support channels. It’s the only way you can really know what’s happening in your support interactions and what needs to be changed.
Track the right customer service metrics
Customer service metrics provide you insight into your customer service performance in a measurable and comparable format. You can’t really control and improve your support quality without having proper KPIs in place.
Here’s a quick overview of the customer service metrics available out there. Choose the right ones for your team, depending on your support vision and goals:
- Quality metrics look into how well your support agents met your customers’ expectations (CSAT, NPS, CES), and how they aligned with your internal quality standards (Internal Quality Score – IQS). Maintaining a healthy balance between internal and external feedback is the key to building strong SaaS customer service.
- Time metrics like First Response Time and Average Handle Time track the time it takes for your agents to reply to your customers’ inquiries and solve their issues. Providing timely answers and solutions plays an important role in keeping your customers happy with your services.
- Volume metrics help you keep an eye on the number of tickets you receive and help you plan your team’s work ahead. Conversation Volume, Open Cases, and Replies per Ticket are some of the most popular volume metrics to track.
- Business metrics connect support efforts with your overall business results. Customer service can easily affect churn and retention rates, so keep an eye on how these and other business metrics change over time.
Proper analysis of your team’s performance helps you notice changes in your support quality as soon as they happen. Trace down the causes of the decline and correct your course before it’s too late.
Give feedback to your team
It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of giving regular feedback to your support agents. Constructive feedback is an integral part of customer service quality programs because it’s the only way for your agents to learn about their areas of improvement and for the entire team to up their game.
Integrate regular feedback into your daily support routines on all levels:
- Team meetings to track your team goals: track your CSAT, IQS, and other support metrics and discuss your team’s progress on a monthly or biweekly basis. Team quality meetings are a great way to keep everybody aligned towards the same goals.
- 1-on-1 meetings with agents: have regular feedback sessions with all your support agents separately. That’s the time when you can discuss each team member’s personal development and map out their goals for the future.
- Regular feedback from conversation reviews: see what’s happening in your support interactions at all times. Assess your agents’ conversations against your internal quality standards and add suggestions for improvement right when those interactions happen.
Feedback is not just important for your customer service quality because it improves your team’s performance and brings consistency to support interactions. Feedback is also a fundamental part of your agents’ professional growth, as it irons out the gaps in their knowledge and creates a neat track record of their personal development.
Improve products based on customer feedback
In addition to insight into your support quality, customer feedback also provides great information on how to improve the products and services that you offer. Keep your customers’ needs and expectations in mind when building your SaaS tool and use customer service as a tool for collecting this data.
Here are two tips for how to make the most out of your customer feedback in terms of product development:
- Build internal workflows to pass customer feedback to product teams, engineers, and other related parties. By mapping out the processes for forwarding this information to other departments, you’re making sure that none of this valuable data goes missing.
- Create a feedback loop to ensure that customers are notified about the feature requests and other suggestions they’ve proposed as soon as you’ve released them. Getting back to your customers saying that the feature they asked for a few weeks or months ago is now available for them is one of the coolest ways you can really delight your customers.
Keep your product roadmap flexible and use customer feedback to develop your product in the way that your users would like to see it. However, keep in mind that not all customer feedback qualifies as input for product developments. A seamless workflow helps to pass user requests on to product teams and filter out the most useful suggestions.
Synchronize Customer Experience (CX) efforts
Customer Experience is an umbrella term that connects all customer-facing activities into one common strategy. Usually, it’s a company-wide endeavor combining efforts from different departments and teams.
Here are the most common counterparts of CX:
- Outbound sales is often the first contact a SaaS company has with its customers. The sales experience creates the first impression of the company and sets expectations for the future.
- Marketing is another key impression-maker at the very beginning of the customer journey. It’s important to align sales and marketing messages to pave the way towards similar perceptions of the company and products.
- Customer service usually comes in after the customers have already signed up for the product. It’s important to keep the customer experience consistent with the previous touchpoints.
- Customer success reaches out to existing customers to make sure they are making the most out of the product, that they’re up to date with the latest changes and releases, and satisfied with the customer journey so far.
- UX design is a crucial part of customer experience, defining how easy it is to navigate in your product and perform the tasks for which the users have chosen the tool.
- The product team is responsible for ensuring that product updates, new features, and functionalities align with users’ expectations created throughout the customer journey. They must also make sure to communicate all changes to the rest of the CX teams because most product changes will affect marketing, sales, support, and other teams.
Keep your customer service in sync with the rest of the Customer Experience efforts at all times. A unified CX strategy is a great starting point for cooperative efforts to deliver delightful and consistent experiences to your users across customer journeys.
Make sure your agents are happy
Last but not least, don’t forget that your support agents are the real assets of your customer service. Make sure your agents are happy so that they can deliver delightful customer experiences every day.
- Provide feedback to your agents and discuss how they’re doing in regular one-on-one meetings. Make open communication a normal part of your customer service team and build trusting relationships with your support agents.
Don’t focus only on performance-related topics in your feedback sessions. Try to understand what motivates your team members, how satisfied are they with their jobs, how to improve the work environment, etc.
If you need more guidance on how to conduct successful meetings with your agents, check out this customer service one-on-one meeting guide and template.
- Keep your agents motivated by letting them take on responsibilities and challenges that match their capabilities. Nothing will kill your agents’ motivation faster than being trapped in tedious and boring tasks day in day out.
Learn what your agents love to do besides answering customers’ questions and what else they’re good at. Distribute tickets based on your agents’ individual strengths and interests and let them focus on the topics that they enjoy managing the most. Assign new responsibilities like managing product feedback or creating marketing messages to keep your agents happy and motivated.
Learn more about how to motivate support agents.
As you talk to your support agents, don’t forget that “That’s fine, continue” is great feedback that often goes unsaid. Letting your team know they’re doing everything right can go a long way in keeping your agents happy.
SaaS companies usually operate in extremely competitive markets. That’s also where a strong customer service strategy can become a real differentiator and advantage for your business.
By implementing the 12 action items outlined in this article, you’ll be able to build an outstanding support team that delivers high-quality assistance consistently across all support channels and agents. From defining your support goals to knitting your customer service efforts into your grander CX strategies, keep support quality and agent happiness your top priorities. That’s the key to building successful customer service for a SaaS company.