Customer Success

Your Customer Service is Your Weakest Link – So Eliminate It

June 22, 2010

In today’s web-centric world, early stage technology companies need to be super competitive in all aspects of their business. It is not about product-based competitive positioning anymore. Exceptional companies are creating competitive advantage through outstanding customer experiences.

Think about it: Does your business have a clear competitive advantage? Be honest. If you do, is it because of your product? I bet not. So here’s a thought for you: I bet that one of the most under-utilized, under-resourced, and most neglected aspects of your operation is your customer support. It is time that you bring it to the forefront.

OpenView Venture Partners is about to host a two-day forum focused on Customer Service. In preparation, I read a great book titled The Best Service is no Service. Here’s my book report, although I highly recommend you read it yourself.

The author’s core premise is that companies should focus lots of attention on reducing the amount of service they have to provide to their customers.

“Stop coping with customer demand for service, which simply increases customers’ frustration; instead, challenge customer demand for service so that, ideally, everything works perfectly, eliminating defects and confusion so that there is no need at all for customers, or even prospective customers, to contact the company for information or for help.”

The book provides a framework and seven principles within that framework:

  • 1. Eliminate Dumb Contact Points: Focus on reducing the number of contacts that it takes a customer to get a question answered or issue resolved. And ‘resolved’ means that the customer leaves the last contact fully satisfied with the resolution.
  • 2. Create Engaging Self-Service: Since you can’t eliminate all contacts, make the contacts self-servicing. But do it in a way that doesn’t break Principle 7 (i.e. make the contacts pleasurable).
  • 3. Be Proactive: Provide customers with the information, or resolve their issues before they need to contact you. Figure out the top reasons customers contact you, and make the resolution available proactively.
  • 4. Make It Really Easy to Contact Your Company: Do not limit the channels that customers can use to contact you. Open the floodgates so that you have full visibility to all the issues your customers are experiencing. This way you can apply Principle 3 more effectively.
  • 5. Own the Actions Across the Company: The Customer Service department is NOT the cause of poor customer service. It is invariably the fault of your product development team (for designing a product with defects); your product management team (for designing features that are hard to use); your marketing team (for not providing sufficient and useful information); your sales team (for over-selling the product); and your finance team (for mishandling billing and licensing).
  • 6. Listen and Act: Customers that interact with your company through customer service are a great, and free, source of product usage ideas. Engage them in your product management process by leveraging the customer support process.
  • 7. Deliver Great Service Experiences: Design a service process that leaves every customer with a really, really good feeling. So good that they turn right around and recommend your product to another person. I don’t know how else to describe this one.

For more on this topic, check out Sell More to Your Existing Customers Before You Sell to New Ones.

The Chief Executive Officer

Firas was previously a venture capitalist at Openview. He has returned to his operational roots and now works as The Chief Executive Officer of Everteam and is also the Founder of <a href="">nsquared advisory</a>. Previously, he helped launch a VC fund, start and grow a successful software company and also served time as an obscenely expensive consultant, where he helped multi-billion-dollar companies get their operations back on track.