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We all know bad customer service can lead to churn, but can great customer service drive growth?
According to a 2016 McKinsey report, the answer is absolutely. The less revenue a company loses to customer churn, the more likely it is that the company will grow.
The logic is simple enough, but when most SaaS companies focus on accelerating growth, they invest the bulk of their resources into acquiring new customers, not retaining old ones.
The truth is, a retained customer is a won customer—and the best way for SaaS companies to retain customers is by delivering exceptional support experiences.
On the surface, SaaS support has all the markers of traditional customer support: Customers present questions or problems and customer support agents provide answers.
Unlike traditional customer service, SaaS support plays a significant role in sustaining a company’s growth. When someone buys something like a microwave, they don’t contact the manufacturer unless something goes seriously wrong.
In the SaaS world:
Taken together, that means customers don’t just rely on your software—they also depend on your service.
According to the jobs-to-be-done theory, customers “hire” products and services to perform specific jobs. When those jobs aren’t delivered as expected, support serves as a safety net—a way for companies to bridge the gap between what customers need and what they’re getting.
In practice, this usually includes:
This gives the average SaaS customer tremendous power. With the threat of churn looming every month, the ongoing goal for SaaS support teams is to fill in the gaps where the product fails to deliver.
Delivering churn-proof customer service experiences means shaping your support team into the ultimate safety net.
Here are a few best practices that can help your team pull this off effectively and at scale:
There are many things a SaaS company can do to help customers before they ask for it. This typically takes the form of front-facing resources like help center articles, but it can also include backend resources for the support team.
For example, when a customer support agent has access to error logs, they can contact customers dealing with real-time product issues via live chat.
Enabling event-based outreach not only shows customers you’re on top of your game, it also allows reps to intervene before they become frustrated.
First response time and customer satisfaction (CSAT) are inextricably linked.
Your customers may not demand an immediate solution to every issue, but they do expect prompt replies. According to this research, fast replies and resolutions are the two things customers care about most when trying to resolve a problem.
What constitutes as “fast” will vary based on the channel, but generally speaking, a fast FRT signals availability and concern—factors that make customers more likely to stick around.
Every customer has communication preferences. Some people prefer the immediacy of live chat, others enjoy writing email, and contrary to popular belief, phone support lives on.
This doesn’t necessarily mean your team needs to offer support on every channel possible, but it does mean you should give customers a few ways to get in touch.
At Froged, we make heavy use of our in-app chat feature, but we also use email to help customers in different time zones. In some scenarios, we may even hop on a screen-sharing call to better understand an issue.
When setting up multichannel support, aim to strike the balance between internal efficiency and effectiveness for the customer.
Acting on customer feedback is essential to driving growth, and some of the best feedback will come straight from your support inbox.
Challenging interactions can be especially useful. If a customer makes a mess of their setup or has ongoing difficulty using your software, it’s not their problem—it’s yours. Either:
Diagnosing and course-correcting these issues will mean taking an active hand in learning from support interactions:
The most forward-thinking SaaS companies don’t stop at optimizing the customer experience, they also empower their support teams with the tools to provide stellar service. In addition to giving agents access to error logs, consider expanding your support team’s toolkit to include:
Customer event data arms agents with vital information like where an end-user was within your app, the actions they attempted or completed, and the history of the problem. With the help of activity logs, support teams can confidently diagnose issues and reduce the potential of back and forth with customers who mistakenly blame the product.
Sometimes it’s totally unclear how a customer managed to arrive at a particular problem, even with activity logs. That’s where session recordings come in handy. When agents can view customer activity from the customer’s perspective, they can identify exactly which steps they took that led to an issue.
Co-browsing is like screen sharing with two drivers instead of one. With co-browsing, both the support agent and the customer can view and work on the same web page at the same time. This enables agents to walk customers through the solution themselves, training them in the process.
The more complex the product, the more necessary it becomes to organize your team around agent expertise.
Level 1 Support: The basics
New customers will inevitably have questions no matter how intuitive the software. These first-time questions usually revolve around simple goals like learning where things live within the app. To help customers find their footing quickly, some companies use live chat plugins to field frequently asked questions from freemium customers. In-app product tours also fall in this category.
Level 2 Support: The backbone
Level two support typically involves questions that your helpdesk doesn’t cover. It can also include questions that level one agents can’t hack. Since it’s commonly reserved for paying customers (who don’t want to interact with a chatbot or wait too long for an email), it’s essential to have enough level two agents on staff to respond within a reasonable timeframe.
Level 3 Support: The highly technical
A level three support request is almost always a bug, a problem without precedent, or anything that demands a deeper analysis. Resolving level three issues require a test environment to reproduce the problem and often, a code fix. For smaller SaaS companies, the development team typically fulfills this role. For established teams, only the most experienced reps diagnose, escalate, and resolve level three support requests.
Not every SaaS company will need a super-defined team structure to be successful, especially small or early-stage providers. What’s most important is remaining agile and adjusting your strategy as you learn what works (and what doesn’t).
For instance, if a mid-sized startup began receiving a ton of questions around a new feature, their support team might create the long-term goal of reducing friction around product releases.
To achieve that, they might:
These types of initiatives will require agents to escape the queue at some point, so allow for some flexibility in your team’s structure to make sure it’s sustainable.
Employee churn can be devastating for support teams. When agents leave, they take their institutional knowledge with them—and if you’re not adequately staffed, it creates more work and added pressure for remaining team members.
While no company can ever fully prevent employee churn, you can shift the odds in your favor by creating career tracks that make them more likely to stick around. According to one study, almost 80 percent of employees would stay at a company longer given a solid career path.
This is great news for growing teams with expanding business needs. Here are a few positions your support reps might grow into:
If there’s one thing the savviest support teams have in common, it’s their commitment to helping customers succeed. Here you have examples of SaaS companies providing awesome customer support.
No matter how straightforward your product is, some customers will need help with certain features, and it’s up to support to make it as simple as possible for them to get it (self service support).
Many customers aren’t willing to help themselves if finding an answer requires them to leave your product, find your support page, and contact a member of your team.
That’s why Buffer earns the top spot on our list. Instead of sending customers away from the source of confusion, the social media engagement platform provides support options directly inside the user interface to streamline the process.
By clicking a static support icon available on each page of the app, customers can search from a list of common topics to retrieve information without ever leaving the app. This enables them to find answers quickly and continue using the tool without interruption.
The customer support team at JazzHR functions a lot like a customer success team. In addition to offering high-touch service to every customer, their agents also take a consultative approach to helping companies hire by going above and beyond the typical call of duty:
So far, their personalized approach has worked. In the past year, the team at JazzHR:
Finding the right signals for optimizing content is equal parts art and science. Striking that balance—and helping customers to understand it—is where the support team at SurferSEO excels.
Unlike some companies that put the bare minimum into their FAQs, SurferSEO’s helpdesk acts as a comprehensive resource in its own right. With annotated screenshots and embedded YouTube tutorials, the company caters to different learning styles from individual article pages.
Beyond the helpdesk, their support team is speedy, responsive, and patient when engaging with customers directly. More than anything, they prioritize guiding customers through the learning curve associated with search engine optimization.
As one of the most beloved communication platforms, Slack can’t afford to drop the ball on customer service.
That’s why maintaining an efficient self-service portal is a crucial piece of their customer support strategy. Instead of stopping at answering a few commonly asked questions, Slack aims to provide an educational resource capable of standing in for a customer service rep.
But what really makes Slack’s self-service portal stand out is its user-friendly design. With an auto-suggest feature in their self-service search bar, their helpdesk enables customers to find answers quickly and feels just as slick as the product.
Slack’s support team approaches customer interactions with the same level of efficiency. Even for free customers, first response time remains a top priority.
Amaka brings enterprise-level accounting workflows to SMBs. By enabling businesses owners, accountants, and bookkeepers to integrate their operations, this SaaS startup is democratizing accounting automation.
We can attribute some of Amaka’s success to its integration technology, but the company’s approach to customer service might be its true competitive advantage.
To help prime users for success, Amaka offers a 30-minute video call to every one of its customers—even the free ones.
By guiding customers through the process of setting up their accounting integrations, the customer support team at Amaka ensures their solution meets everyone’s needs.
Recruit CRM takes customer feedback seriously. As an end-to-end recruitment platform, the company helps staffing agencies and recruitment firms work faster and more efficiently through its powerful suite of tools.
To build and maintain a platform that delivers the most value to its audience, the folks at Recruit CRM have invested thousands of hours getting to know customers to understand their software needs—and they use those insights to continuously improve both the product and the user experience.
As an edtech provider, Docebo helps some of the world’s best-known brands design custom learning experiences.
But the company’s fast and steady growth—and robust, language-defying product suite—demands an equally strong customer support function to keep things running smoothly.
To meet this demand, Docebo expanded their support team quickly and strategically. With 50 customer support specialists on staff, the company currently offers help in English, French, and Italian, with plans to add a fourth language in the near future.
They also use a triage system to prioritize tickets from different channels, enabling their team to respond to most queries within seven hours. In the last 12 months alone, Docebo’s support team handled more than 55,000 questions.
Docebo also hired a VP of customer support to ensure customers remain top-of-mind as the company continues to enjoy massive growth.
In a SaaS company, every renewal is like a new order—and every support ticket is an opportunity to inch customers closer to signing on for another month.
You may not have control of every outcome, but with the right mix of people, process, and technology, your team will help drive revenue regardless.
Is your customer support proactive enough? Try Froged for free.