Most start-ups acknowledge that offering top-class customer service is a vital part of becoming a successful business. But one of the biggest challenges of customer service in the digital age is that almost as soon as everything is set up, things seem to change – platforms evolve, new collaboration methods emerge, and customer expectations increase.
In the last year alone we’ve seen a string of technology-related customer service mishaps. Telstra’s five-time outage infuriated millions of Australian customers, leaving business-owners, students and families without internet access.
Product and service malfunctions are forgiven and somewhat expected at different points in the lifecycle of a company, but what consumers no longer accept is a lack of communication, openness and transparency surrounding the fault. For instance, on a global scale, Microsoft has been condemned this year for disregarding consumer choice by pushing its Windows 10 update onto customers in a reportedly “highly deceptive” manner.
The ‘always on’ expectation customers have when it comes to the services they pay for and their ability to interact with your business means that the scope for error is narrowing. There are now a multitude of ways in which customers can voice their dissatisfaction, and CEOs might find customers directing frustration at them in a very public arena, closing the traditionally broad gap between CEOs and their customers. Ensuring a positive customer experience is therefore no longer solely the remit of those on the front lines.
In the digital age, more and more businesses are recognising that customer service must be a top-down priority. This presents businesses with the necessary but delicate challenge of striking the balance between being productive and scaling up, as well as maintaining the human touch of personalised customer experiences as they continue to grow.
The drive that spurred the birth of Nitro came from an identification of a gap in customer service, or lack thereof, when it came to Adobe – our most visible competitor – who offered little to no user-friendly help with their software. From the beginning it’s been the objective of Nitro to set ourselves apart through responsive, practical and effective customer service.
At Nitro we’ve always worked to maintain a laser focus on the customer at all levels of our business, and at all stages of our growth. Many of our C-suite team spend time with customers each year to ensure their finger is on the pulse of customer needs and changing business environments. One of our key priorities is to ensure that everyone in our organisation, regardless of job function, put our customers at the heart of their day-to-day decisions. It’s this approach that has given Nitro, from the outset, a key point of market differentiation.
Of course, achieving this takes a tremendous amount of effort towards building company culture. Here are a few practical ways to help your start-up to continue delivering perfect customer service in the face of changing customer demands.
1. Communicate with your customers
We’ve all been on the receiving end of poor customer service. Emails only when things aren’t working, an impersonal text by way of an apology. No one likes only getting the bad news, so why would your customers only want to hear from you when things have gone wrong? Authentic communication of good news as well as bad will help to build your customer’s trust in your business and set an expectation of accountability and transparency.
Not only is the content shared with customers significant but the method is equally, if not more, important. Creating open channels of communication with the mechanism for both consumer and company to discuss freely what works and what doesn’t should be put in place.
There are plenty of other reasons why you should keep in regular touch with your customer base too. It opens up dialogue with your customers, who are the best source of ideas and feedback to help improve your customer service.
For any tech company customer feedback is key to creating a better product. For Nitro in particular, customer feedback allows us to customise our product for individual enterprise users.
2. Get to grips with your customer’s journey
We all like to think we understand our customers’ journeys, what they like about our product or service, and what should be improved. But a reality many startups face is that we’re just too close to the business to see our customer’s journey objectively.
To get around this, you need to get in front of your customer, work to understand the problem they have and consider how your service or product can help them to solve it. Find out what research your customers are doing before they decide to buy your product, and how they’re doing that research. Technology has changed buyers’ behaviours, so how are they finding you?
It’s also important to talk through some of the tougher issues: what do they find difficult about your product, what would they change if they could? Is your product critical to your customers? If so, you’ll need to ensure you have 24/7 customers service in place ready to respond to anything that may go wrong. Alternatively, have you got a set of simple FAQs for customers to access at all times?
Being able to see your business as your customer sees it is the most effective tool to have at your disposal when it comes to defining your approach to customer service.
To effect real change in your organisation, you need to do more than pay lip service to prioritising your customers. You must establish ways of working which ensure that however your organisation changes in the future, whatever new processes or technology you invest in, the focus will remain on offering top-class customer service.
3. Develop strong relationships with your employees
Your employees are your biggest brand ambassadors, and your goal of delivering top-class customer service will only be as successful as your employees’ ability to translate that into a top-class customer experience. Therefore, it’s vital to make sure everyone in your organisation understands not only the value of the customer, but their own value to your business and the difference they personally can make to customers.
In my experience, one of the best ways to boost morale and give an employee perspective on their own role is to invest in developing strong and effective working relationships between colleagues at all levels of the business, from the intern to the CEO. Employees who understand their role in your organisation and how they can work with their colleagues to maximum effect will be better equipped to respond effectively to customers’ demands.
Adam Nowiski is the APAC Director at Nitro