Customer support is all too often considered a necessary evil by business owners – an attitude that becomes regrettably obvious when you’re on the receiving end of it. Whether online or offline, we’ve all experienced support that’s grudging at best, and actively hostile at worst.
Handled intelligently, however, customer support can be transformed into a reliable profit engine for your business, rather than an expensive obligation in terms of both time and personnel.
In this piece, we’ll cover five straightforward ways you can turn customer support from a money pit into a profit center, and get a significant head start on the competition while you’re at it. There’s a mindset shift involved throughout here, so let’s get that out of the way before we go any further.
A Word About Approach
Your overall success with any of our five suggestions will be, in large part, determined by your mindset going in. You need to flip the mental switch regarding customer support before committing to action on any individual item – and make sure your staff are fully on board while you do so.
The core concept in each of our five suggestions is that every customer support interaction is an opportunity. Commit to that strategic idea, and the tactics below will quickly start proving their worth. Fail to embrace it, and you’ll be swimming against the tide.
With that in mind, let’s start making customer support work for you!
1. Use Customer Support to Drive Process Optimization
Ongoing iterative improvement is at the core of building a successful business of any size, but it can be hard to spot shortcomings in your own processes when you’re deeply entrenched in day-to-day firefighting. Luckily, your customers aren’t troubled by this particular problem, and will happily describe areas where you’re less than perfect in incredible detail given half a chance.
You’re basically getting completely free business process consultation every time you open the support queue – expert external advice on exactly which operational areas need a little extra care and attention. Make the most of this.
In addition to solving the issues at hand, commit to documenting underlying causes with a view to wiping out the possibility of reoccurrences where possible. It’s a small extra step to take, but one that can quickly transform the overall solidity of your offering, and translate into reduced costs and improved profits.
2. Recognize Customer Support as a Free Product Development Channel
Picture the scene: In one room, there’s a team of product people struggling to work out what customers actually want. In another room, there’s a team of support people listening to customers talk. If these two teams aren’t talking to each other, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
Customer support is the coalface of consumer desire. Take the time to regularly mine this channel for product development ideas, and you’ll naturally align yourself with your customers’ wishes and organically boost future sales as a result.
3. Turn Customer Support Into a Content Marketing Engine
Search intent is largely governed by the desire to solve problems of one sort or another, and your support channel is a goldmine of relevant, real world examples that can be transformed into useful on-site content with a little bit of digging.
Take the time to sift and categorize your most common issues and solutions, and you’ll discover a content marketing treasure trove – complete with the actual language consumers use to discuss these topics in the wild.
Feed that insight into ongoing content marketing initiatives, and you’ll quickly see the bottom line benefits in terms of increased traffic and engagement on your site.
4. Use Successful Support Encounters as a Springboard for Sales and Promotions
Nobody likes being upsold when a problem is still in play, but there’s plenty of room for promotion in the warm afterglow of a successfully resolved customer support request. This doesn’t have to be a hard sell, something as simple as a linked promotion in the footer of a closing email can be enough to move the needle.
Take some time to work out scenarios that would make sense in the context of your own business, and you’re sure to spot some previously unexplored promotional opportunities which can drive further sales.
5. Remember That Great Customer Support Translates Into Referrals
Like most people, you’ve almost certainly referred a friend or family member on the basis of truly outstanding customer support at some point over the years. E-commerce giants such as Zappos have long ago learned this lesson and committed to going the extra mile when it comes to providing world-class customer support – follow their lead!
The long-term benefits here are myriad: you’ll be looking at increased Customer Lifetime Values, a massive uptick in referrals, and a lower overall cost of customer acquisition – it’s win-win all around.
As we mentioned at the top, a simple shift in mindset should be enough to get you on the way to considering customer support as an opportunity rather than an obligation. Apply a little creative thinking and you’ll soon see wider profit potential across all areas of your business from operations to sales and marketing.
Let’s recap the five major points we covered:
- Use customer support to drive operational improvements.
- Put customer queries at the heart of product development.
- Feed real world feedback into content marketing initiatives.
- Pick the right moment to promote when problems are solved.
- Turn on the referral tap by going the extra mile with customer support.
Have you already committed to making customer support more than pay for itself, and do you have any tips or tricks to share? Get in touch via the comments section below and let us know!