Although customer service is a cost center rather than a revenue generator, the quality of customer service your company provides can have a direct effect on your bottom line. Consider this: According to research from NewVoiceMedia, negative customer experiences cost U.S. businesses an average of $62 billion each year. On the flip side, 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases from companies that provide excellent customer service. With statistics like these, it’s hard to argue the value of good customer service.
That said, customer service can be particularly challenging for software as a service (SaaS) companies, for a few reasons. For one, most SaaS companies utilize a subscription-based pricing. Rather than a one-time, upfront purchase, SaaS customers repurchase a product or service on a monthly or quarterly basis, which means SaaS companies need to consistently re-earn their business via renewal.
This challenge puts SaaS customer service representatives in the unique position of having to both provide support and act as a member of their company’s sales team. That’s because every customer service interaction is a sales opportunity: A bad experience could convince a customer to cancel their subscription and spread negative word of mouth, which could jeopardize a SaaS company’s existing customer base, as well as future sales. On the other hand, a good experience could not only secure a customer’s loyalty — it could even persuade them to repurchase the product or service at the next tier up. It’s important that reps be mindful of this every time they engage with customers, and that they work to build solid customer relationships and to re-promote the product any time the opportunity presents itself.
Providing exceptional service as a SaaS company can be kind of like walking a tightrope — on one hand, you want to provide your users with the direct, one-to-one guidance they desire, while still making sure your business stays profitable. The good news is, with these best practices — and some help from Salesforce — you can achieve the perfect nirvana between customer success and company growth.
Why Does Customer Service Matter?
In addition to those we’ve already mentioned, a key reason why customer service in the SaaS industry is so important is because it can have a direct effect on customer renewal and retention. According to a survey from American Express, over half of Americans have abandoned a planned purchase as a result of poor service, and 33% reported that they’d consider switching to a competitor’s product after just a single instance of poor service.
Customer service also provides SaaS companies with valuable opportunities to learn about their customers, gain feedback on how they can improve their products, and better understand how to unify their brand messaging.
To illustrate how this works, let’s follow the journey of a fictional SaaS customer — we’ll call him Jason. Jason works as a freelance writer and relies on time-tracking software to monitor his billable hours. Jason has had to contact the software provider on three separate occasions, each time for a different reason.
During his first interaction, Jason indicates that he prefers to communicate over the phone rather than over email. The representative who assists him then updates his user profile within the company’s CRM system with this information, so that it can serve as a point of reference for future interactions with Jason.
A few months later, Jason contacts the customer support team again, this time to report that he discovered a bug in the software. Jason carefully describes the issue and sends screenshots to the customer service rep, who runs the information up the flagpole. After receiving the report, the company’s software engineers quickly set to work to fix the bug.
A month after that, Jason reaches out to the customer service team with a question about billing. While talking to a rep, he expresses that he’s particularly impressed by the software’s project management feature, which helps him stay on top of deadlines and consistently meet monthly goals. Based on this feedback, and similar responses from other customers, the company’s marketing team decides to develop an email campaign advertising this specific feature, using Jason’s comments as a user testimonial.
As you can clearly see, every customer service-related interaction is not only an opportunity to win the customer’s favor — it’s also a chance to improve the way your company does business.
How Should You Structure Your Support Team?
Most SaaS companies use a tiered system to structure their customer service and support teams. There are a few ways to go about organizing those tiers; for the sake of this article, we’ll look at two.
The first and most popular option is a three-tiered system that escalates incoming requests based on the severity of the challenge. Incoming support tickets are initially directed to Tier 1, which consists of representatives capable of answering basic questions and handling low-level requests. The reps who make up Tier 1 typically follow a strict call script. If the customer’s challenge is not sufficiently resolved by Tier 1 support, it is escalated to Tier 2, which consists of representatives with more technical knowledge. Tier 2 is still remote, but it is more flexible and is capable of more strategic troubleshooting. If the issue still persists, the request is escalated to Tier 3, which consists of reps with true expertise and hands-on knowledge. Tier 3 representatives will sometimes double as field service technicians and may provide onsite assistance to the customer.
The second option is a less common two-tiered system, in which the representatives who make up Tier 1 essentially act as account managers. Tier 1 fields all incoming support requests, gathers information about the challenge at hand, and lends a sympathetic ear to the customer. Then, the representative at Tier 1 internally escalates the request to Tier 2, which consists of software specialists who can get under the hood, identify the source of the challenge, and swiftly resolve it. Once Tier 2 has completed its work, it bubbles the solution back to Tier 1 to be delivered to the customer. At no point does the customer ever interact with the representatives on Tier 2 because Tier 1 acts as the single point of contact for the entire process.
Both of these approaches to structuring customer service in SaaS have their merits but, ultimately, your support structure will depend on how complex your product is and what technical resources are available to you.
5 Ways to Strengthen Your SaaS Customer Service Strategies
Providing exceptional customer service to SaaS users doesn’t have to be difficult; implement some (or all) of these best practices to build a winning support strategy:
- Offer your customers multiple support options. Each user is different, and their customer service preferences reflect that. If a customer is anything like our friend Jason from earlier, they prefer the immediacy of a phone call rather than having to wait for an email response from your support team. Or maybe they’re independent and prefer to have a variety of self-service options available to them, in which case a detailed customer knowledge base could come in handy. Offering your customers a variety of support options across different channels not only makes it easier for them to seek assistance — it also makes your customer service truly omnichannel.
- Make it easy for your customers to get in touch. You can offer all of the support options in the world, but they won’t do you any good unless your customers know where to look for them. Consider adding a support link or a contact page to your website, as well as a support widget to the software, itself, and take care to make these items highly visible, so customers don’t have to waste precious time looking for them.
- Administer quick fixes with live chat. Live chat essentially takes the first two tips on this list and combines them. First and foremost, it provides users with a convenient way to submit low-level service requests and representatives with an easy way to administer quick fixes. Second, if implemented correctly, your live chat module should feature prominently on your website or in your solution, making it easily accessible to users.
- Provide your representatives with a 360-degree view of the customer. A well-informed rep is a prepared rep. CRM technology makes it easy for service specialists to pull up detailed user profiles — including users’ personal information, preferences, prior service history, and so on — so that they can be proactive in their response. Having a 360-degree view of the customer can also strengthen relationships because it can help reps identify opportunities to tailor their service to the individual.
- Be transparent about expectations. From when users should expect to hear back after they’ve submitted a request to how frequently representatives should follow up after a service interaction, set clear expectations for customers and staff alike, and have a plan in place for what will happen if those expectations are not met.
Build a Better Support System With Salesforce
The reality of customer service in 2020 — and going forward — is that it’s omnichannel. You have online customer service in the form of chat, email, social media, customer communities, and any number of customer service portals, as well as more traditional channels, such as phone support. Each of these channels is integral to a successful support strategy, though it can be challenging to stay on top of them all. Fortunately, Salesforce offers a few different SaaS customer service tools designed to simplify omnichannel support, including:
- Omnichannel Routing: Made generally available in the Winter 2016 release, Omnichannel Routing is a feature within the Salesforce Service Cloud that enables users to consolidate tickets from multiple channels within a single dashboard. Using Omnichannel Routing, customer service administrators can see all incoming service requests and determine who to assign them to based on factors such as the complexity of the request, each representative’s qualifications, and so on. That said, Omnichannel Routing comes with certain limitations — limitations that can be overcome with the help of the right Salesforce consulting team (more on that in just a minute).
- Community Cloud: Salesforce’s Community Cloud platform uses Chatter to enable businesses to build branded communities through which employees, partners, and customers can interact. From a customer service perspective, Community Cloud makes it easy for SaaS companies to create customer communities in which users can connect with each other, ask questions, share advice, access self-service capabilities, and more, all though branded portals and community pages.
- Computer Telephony Integration (CTI): Thanks to CTI, businesses can now access modern telephony software through their cloud-based Salesforce instances. With CTI for Salesforce, customer service administrators can screen incoming calls, view caller information based on CRM data, route calls to the appropriate service representative, share caller information, and record and store all call logs for quality assurance purposes.
- Service Cloud Console: Think of the Lightning Service Cloud Console as a sort of command center from which service representatives can see incoming requests across all channels and quickly determine which ones they can handle, and which ones need to be escalated to the next tier up. In addition to customer service ticket information, Service Cloud Console also consolidates customer data, recommends knowledge base articles for reps to share with users, and enables reps to take notes, making it easy for them to triage multiple cases at a time.
- Omnichannel Supervisor: Salesforce’s Omnichannel Supervisor provides customer service supervisors with a holistic view of their contact center so they can gain valuable insights, such as whether their team meets SLAs, how their reps are doing from a capacity perspective, how long it takes to respond to incoming requests, and more, all from a single panel.
Extend Your Customer Service Capabilities With VennScience
Similar to Omnichannel Routing, there’s so much more you can achieve with the entire Salesforce ecosystem with the help of a qualified and capable Salesforce consulting team.
Whether we’re extending Salesforce Service Cloud’s capabilities or adding custom product documentation to Community Cloud, VennScience can help your SaaS company implement winning strategies for improving customer service today. So, let’s talk — contact us today to start the conversation.