Five ways to make customer support your best marketing tool

Think about all the times you needed help with a product or service.

Years ago, the worst thing to deal with was sitting on hold for five minutes before finally “speaking” to an automated customer service bot. Then, once you finally got through that, maybe you could talk to a real human.

While that can still be the case for larger business-to-consumer companies, most startups go with the simple approach of maintaining a customer support email address and having a presence on social media.

Interactions between brands and customers can range from wonderful to disastrous on social media and via email. These simple rules can help you find your next power-influencer or turn an unhappy customer into a product evangelist.

1. Respond in a reasonable time

When somebody asks you a question, you should answer it while considering how important it is to them.

Maybe they are just one customer out of 1,000, or 10,000, or even 100,000. But to them—and hopefully to you—they’re a valued member of your audience.

Xbox is absolutely knocking this out of the park with @XboxSupport on Twitter. They clearly post their customer service hours in the account bio, and they hold the Guinness World Record for “Most Responsive Brand on Twitter”—yes, that’s a real thing.

We don’t all have the resources of Xbox, but it’s not much of a time commitment to respond on social media and say, “Hey, can you send us an email so we can talk about your issue and get it resolved? Thanks!”

At the company I work at, Load Impact, we have a rating system that judges the response times from our Customer Success team. That accountability helps the team maintain great response times and has helped turn support questions into positive referrals.

 2. Be honest

Don’t lie to your customers. That’s a pretty simple concept, right?

If you don’t have a solution to their problem, tell them you’re going to do a little research and get back to them. Nobody wants to hear excuses or responses that clearly haven’t been thought out.

Customers always appreciate if you go the extra mile. And if it turns out that you don’t have a way to solve your customer’s problem, just clearly explain the issue and most reasonable people will be okay with that.

At worst, an unhappy customer who abandons your product or service might open your eyes as to how you can better describe your value proposition.

3. Use your manners

All of our parents taught us to say “please” and “thank you” as often as possible, and that’s still an important lesson.

Answering a customer via email sometimes requires a lot of questions to be asked. In order to make your conversation not seem like an interrogation, preface your questions with something like “I have a few questions that will help me understand how to help…”

You should always thank the customer for their time, too. Maybe they’re helping you discover a bug or uncovering a drop-off point for other users. In the end, they could be doing you a huge favor by asking for your help.

Also, being polite on social media is especially important. You may have heard this before, but everyone can see what you’re doing there.

4. Make them feel important

Thanking the customer for their time plays a role in this, but gently asking for their opinions on your product is a great way to connect. Any customer likes to think they have real input on a product they use.

After you’ve reached a resolution to their issue, try something like this: “Thanks for your question, and I’m glad we got this figured out. If you have any additional feedback, we’re always looking to hear from our best users on how we can improve our product.”

This is also a good touch point to send the customer some swag. A T-shirt, some stickers, or even a few pens is a nice gesture that people appreciate, and as New Relic knows so well, turning users into walking billboards can work wonders.

5. Keep them in the loop

Another form of customer support is sending out update emails about product changes.

At Load Impact we recently released a new version of our product. Obviously, that was a great opportunity to let our users know what was going to change and invite feedback. We sent emails to a bunch of influential users (who hadn’t logged in for a while) asking them for feedback.

Here’s one of the many positive responses we received: “Thanks for using a ‘real’ email address instead of one of those sad ‘donotreply’ addresses so many other companies use.”

So, by simply reaching out to influential users and telling them we want their feedback on the new product—potential bugs and all—we landed a new testimonial and a bunch of great suggestions.

Overall, customer satisfaction is a chief component to a company’s success. While that all starts with product excellence, the benefits of quickly answering customers and keeping them in the loop with honest, transparent communication will only help your company in the long run.

Photo credit: Lauren Kallen

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