In a “me too” world of easy-to-build and low cost startups, it’s becoming harder and harder to differentiate yourself from the competition. Just think about your potential customers and all the “stuff” they’re getting bombarded with on a regular basis. You might have invented a better mousetrap, but getting that message across isn’t easy.
And one of the areas where companies (startups and non-startups) continue to fall flat on their faces is customer service and support. It’s amazing to me that so few companies do a great job when it comes to treating customers well and responding to them in a timely and professional manner. To me, that’s basic. It should be a given. But it’s not.
You should look at those continued missteps in customer support as a huge opportunity.
Every company needs to differentiate itself in a crowded market — and one way of doing that is through great customer service.
I’ve always been a huge believer in providing the best possible service you can. And even in our infancy at Standout Jobs it’s paying off. Here’s a couple testimonials from customers:
Honestly, this level of service is really excellent, unexpected, and
of course very welcome. So far, in the 20 minutes since I signed up, I have had a great
experience with Standout Jobs and I’ve told 2 people. Well done!
Standout Jobs is great for our recruiting needs. The team’s customer service is second to none. From the outset, everyone has been there for us to make our site and job postings better. I’m most thankful for their continued support. I get more support from Standout Jobs than I ever will from another job site that I’ve already paid thousands of dollars to be on. Thanks for everything, and please don’t ever change who you are!
A few thoughts about leveraging customer service as a differentiator:
- Great Customer Support = More Referrals. Happy customers won’t spread the word as much as angry customers, but they still do a great job as your army of sales people. And for a startup (which typically won’t have many, if any, sales people) a wee army of happy customers is a very powerful thing.
- Great Customer Support = More Testimonials. Testimonials and case studies are important for startups, especially those in the B2B SaaS space that need to quickly establish a reputation and level of professionalism that gives prospects a high degree of comfort and increases trust. Companies often think to themselves (of B2B startups), “Are these guys for real? Can they last?” Testimonials, client success stories, etc. help to assuage those concerns.
- Set a Precedent Early. The best time to implement great customer support is when you first start the company. Make it a policy. Make it standard. Make it part of your culture. It will bleed into everything you and your team does, which is going to lead to better results all around. And once killer customer support is baked into your startup’s DNA, it’s hard to strip out. If you don’t do it early, it’s also much harder to get going later on.
- Sell Your Customer Service. It’s not always easy to sell customer service to customers. Customers tend to be wary of promises in this area, but if great customer support is part of your company’s DNA then find a way to sell it as a value proposition to customers. Make sure your messaging and brand are representative of how important customer service is to your company. Reflect it in everything you do, so that customers don’t feel like you’re simply paying lip service to customer service in order to get their credit card numbers.
- Be Faster Than Everyone Else. The simplest way to master great customer support is to be fast. You don’t need an army of customer support people to be fast, you need an efficient system with multiple channels for handling inquiries. If you’re doing a B2B Software-as-a-Service startup, I’d recommend that your phone number go right on your site (and prominently.) Setup forums. Use Twitter. Leveraging multiple channels ensures that you’re “everywhere, all the time” communicating with customers the way they want to be communicated with; and you’re doing it at lightening speed. In many cases, being right (i.e. having the perfect answer to a customer’s inquiry) is less important than the speed with which you deliver the response…
- Think of Customer Support as a Profit Center. Too many companies think of customer support as a cost center. (Not dissimilar to HR, but that’s a story for another day!) Done poorly, customer support is absolutely a money sucker. It can very easily be a black hole of crap. And that’s exactly what it is for so many companies. But you can turn it into a profit center by recognizing all the value it brings. And beyond the ancillary value (referrals, leads, testimonials, etc.) you can start to generate direct revenue too. Create enough of a positive vibe with customer support and suddenly it becomes much easier to upsell customers. And think about the dollars that might exist in extended training options you offer customers (especially for B2B companies.)
- Build Momentum. You can build momentum with customer service. It has a way of snowballing into more and more success, by increasing referrals, testimonials, goodwill, etc. The momentum can be external and internal. You can have as much buzz about your amazing customer support as you can for your product – that’s totally fine, and a great way of differentiating your startup from the competition!
Startups that launch with no strategy for providing the best customer support possible will find themselves in trouble very quickly.
It’s not expensive or complicated to provide great customer service. But because so few companies do it right, there’s a goldmine of opportunity to stand out from the crowd.