Pick Up The [D**n] Phone

We’ve talked quite a bit on SaaStr about Customer Success, and there’s a very specific reason for it.  It’s one of the most non-obvious drivers of revenue growth in Years 3, 4, 5 and beyond of your SaaS start-up.  More on that here.  Customer Success can feel like a cost center in Year 1 (and indeed, it is), but by about 18 months out after your first 10 paying customers … it will be your largest profit center.  So invest in it!  Early.  And get it right.

What we haven’t really talked about is Customer Support.  Basic, reactive, customer support.  Solve the customer problem.  Try to.  Pretend to.  Etc.

mimirogersAnd we won’t talk a lot about the nuts and bolts of how to process tickets, etc.  SaaStr is about growing revenue faster with less stress.

But there are a few things in customer support that you can do that will clearly move the needle, but that may be slightly non-obvious.

NUMBER ONE IS PICK UP THE [bs_icon name=”glyphicon glyphicon-phone-alt”][bs_icon name=”glyphicon glyphicon-phone-alt”][bs_icon name=”glyphicon glyphicon-phone-alt”][bs_icon name=”glyphicon glyphicon-phone-alt”][bs_icon name=”glyphicon glyphicon-phone-alt”][bs_icon name=”glyphicon glyphicon-phone-alt”] FRACKIN’ PHONE. [bs_icon name=”glyphicon glyphicon-phone-alt”]

Let’s step back.  Almost everyone not out of a B2C/e-commerce background is going to tell you phone support is a terrible use of time and resources.

Your customer support folks will tell you:

  • It takes 10x longer to resolve a voice call than a trouble ticket.
  • I can’t filter phone calls.  I can filter tickets.  So tickets actually are like 50x more efficient than picking up the phone.
  • I just don’t have the time in the day.  I already spend 12 hours just responding to tickets and in-bound emails from existing customers and all the rest of the drama.

All 3 are true.

And your sales folks will tell you:

  • Oy.  Any in-bound call just sucks up 20 minutes of my time with d-u-m-b questions.  I could be doing a demo to a true opportunity.
  • 95% of whomever calls in never buys.
  • 95% of the rest are single seat customers I don’t want anyway.

All 3 are true.

callcenterhellSo yes, viewed narrowly, picking up the phone is one of the lowest ROI things you can possibly do.

But, that’s wrong.

Here are three things we know that are also true:

  • Customers will forgive problems much more often if they can get someone on the phone.  We all panic less, and feel better, when we reach someone competent.  And at the other end of the spectrum, we never forgive apps if no one responds to a ticket for 24 hours.  Do more here, customers will forgive you, and bond to you.  Do less — and they’ll never forgive you.
  • Sales prospects will believe you are much more professional, and real, if someone picks up the phone.  That’s what great companies do.  Even if the person that picks up the phone can’t really help close the deal.
  • You will build true attitudinal (vs. mere behavioral) loyalty if your customers and prospects can talk to a real human.  Even if it’s not the perfect or right human.  And attitudinal loyalty is key to building a true brand, second-order revenue, and an in-bound lead machine.  Customers that are merely behaviorally loyal, or even — prisoners — don’t churn in a day.  But they don’t buy more than they absolutely have to, they don’t upgrade, they don’t take the upsell call.  And they churn at a much higher rate.  More on that here and here.

Ok so how do you do this?  How do you resolve the seeming paradox that picking up the phone is extremely expensive and distracting, and time consuming — but also one of the cheapest and simplest investments you can make in customer satisfaction?

There’s no perfect answer, but you can do this:

  • Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 5.28.45 PMAt least outsource it for now, with a script.  Make sure someone ALWAYS picks up the phone, even if for now, the answer has to be “That’s a great question.  Let me have sales give you a ring back later today” or “Oy.  Sorry to hear things aren’t working right for you.  That’s a new one for me. I’m going to create a ticket right now!”  You can outsource this with a good script, for the cost of just a few dollars per call.  It’s not great if they can’t solve the problem.  But it’s much better for someone to answer the phone, even if they can’t solve the problem.  Than if no one answers the phone at all.  You know this.
  • Budget for it.  Assume you’re going to get X calls per day, and budget for it.  This sounds simple, but people don’t do it this way.  And if you can, measure your customer satisfaction afterwards.  I bet you it goes up.  And I bet you, measured over 9-12 months, it pay for itself in decreased churn or at least, increased Net Promoter Scores.
  • Segment it, when you can.  The one thing that will kill you is taking phone calls from free users.  So probably, don’t expose phone support to folks that don’t pay anything.  But expose it to everyone that has a paid seat (everyone), and everyone that might buy.
  • It works itself out with customer success.  Once your engine is running, this works itself out with customer success.  Because the customers than know their CSM, will just reach out directly to their CSM.  So the burdens here aren’t as great as you think.  The larger the customer, the most CSM dedication they’ll get.

My main point is here is picking up the phones is one place where you definitely should not listen to your team 🙂  Your interests are not aligned.

They don’t want to pick up the phone.  That makes sense.

But you do.  Make it happen.  Especially because while it does have expense associated with it in the short term … It’s easy.  It’s simple.  It’s a quick improvement you can make right now, this month.  You don’t need any engineering team, any new features.  It will make things better, and give you a lift over the medium term.

It pays for itself in your brand, your NPS, your customer happiness.

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Published on July 27, 2015

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