Even in the Product-led era, as a business owner, your job doesn't end with building a solid product and releasing it to the public. Taking that extra step to build brand loyalty makes customers return to your product. This is a fundamental principle of Product-led Growth (PLG).
Customers desire faster responses, minimal back and forth, and more self-explanatory products. Several terms such as customer support, customer service, customer success, and customer relationship management are used interchangeably but ultimately aim at ensuring customers are well taken care of.
But do you know what the best approach for your product is? Let's first decode what Customer Support actually means.
Understanding Customer Support#
Customer support is when a team of people uses a set of tools to help customers navigate your product to achieve their intended goal with ease.
There are various mediums to support a customer in need. You can provide in-app and outside-the-app aids like phone support, live chats, email support, help desk ticketing systems, CRM tools, feedback surveys, onboarding, guided tutorials, tips, breadcrumbs, etc.
Essentially, these are customer services your company can provide to help facilitate the KPIs lifecycle like customer acquisition, conversion, retention, and expansion.
You can access the mediums mentioned above and fix the bugs that come your way through tradtional support systems or tools such as Zendesk, Salesforce, Olark, Qualtrics, etc.
If you are a Product-led startup, your company might see some growth traction from the get-go, and you might wonder if there is a need to invest money and time in support tools at all. Well, you need systems and tools in place to see continued growth and profits. Here's why:
Why do we need Customer Support tools?#
When customer interactions with a brand heavily rely on digital platforms, providing quick and personalized customer support is more crucial than ever.
Relying on a single used and tested method like the phone or email support alone is insufficient to satisfy the customers of today who are constantly on many different channels, often at the same time. The many benefits of using customer support tools are:
Customer loyalty — You build loyalty when you work to improve customer satisfaction. Happy customers are less likely to switch to another platform. Your team can provide premium quality service only when they have the correct data and tools to execute faster.
Growth — Human nature is to recommend products they are happy with. So in many ways, our customers are our primary marketers. When you enable ease of use, quick fixes, and personalized communication by analyzing their behavior on your platform, you produce happy customers who introduce your product into their workspaces and personal teams.
Competitive edge — When your support agents can manage, react and resolve customer issues quicker with less hassle, they tend to create stronger connections with your customers. You work better when work is delightful and practical, and you can see the impact you can make. Customers can achieve their intended goal in time, ranking your product higher than your competitors with less to no frustrations.
What makes a promising Customer Support tool in 2022?#
Now that we know the importance of using tools, how do we identify the good ones among a sea of tools? Your tools must abide by the fundamental principles of a great support tool:
Speed driven by fewer intermediaries — According to Warwick University, the initial turnaround and resolution response time has the highest impact on customer retention. Its defining factors are primarily based on the number and rate of contact channels and employee skills — the lesser the intermediary platforms and the higher the employee skills, the faster the fix. Here, tools that reduce the intermediaries between the maker and the customers, and therefore, the latency of response and resolution are of the highest value to the customers.
Accuracy driven by AI— Quick responses work on the surface level. But inaccuracy leads to undesired output resulting in dissatisfied customers who opt out of the platform. Accuracy in response to reported issues increases with reliable tools for documentation and tools with search powered by AI that can add meaningful context to all customer interactions.
Efficiency with case deflection — Customer feedback directly reflects the quality of your customer support. Some issues might not need individual attention and can be resolved in bulk. In addition, there may be tickets and issues that may be related to each other. The right tools will not only proactively identify the issue for existing ones but will also help with auto-clustering and help with prioritizing those issues.
Clarity with natural UX — The tools must be easy to use, and the information must be easy to grasp so that there is a very low learning curve across users in your organization. Only then can you execute with a significant impact on your customer experience. This includes factors like simplicity in interaction design, language, self-help tools, and easy flowing and familiar user experience.
Universal org accessibility — Are your contact channels easily accessible by your front office agents, back office engineers, and customers alike? Newer customer support tools bridge the gap between customer agents and engineers who need to work on escalated issues in a single platform that also has a single identity of your customer.
Apart from this, you must ask yourself if the tools you pick have a good ROI in three categories:
Learnability — High learning curves leave you with no time to execute. Use tools that are easy for everyone in your organization to understand on their own using self-help tools and in-app support.
Trial — Modern tools let you try out their solutions without any cost to you through trials and credit. Once you are satisfied that the tool will fulfill your needs, you can switch to a paid plan that is ideally based on consumption i.e., you pay for what you use.
Niche or swiss-army knife — It doesn't make sense if the customer support tool needs another support tool to manage, for example, one for customer conversations and another for ticket management. With multiple tools, you end up wasting time and effort on integration, and the data about your customers become less and less reliable over a period of time. Instead, look for something that can solve most, if not all, of your customer support requirements.
Key Trends in 2022#
The approach to customer support has drastically changed to a digital-first policy. Let's look at some practices and trends that your business must have in 2022:
Trend 1 — Proactive customer support
Modern digital-first companies today have enough telemetry information about their products and services so that they are not only aware of when their customers are facing issues, but sometimes, with the help of AI, they can even predict before a customer faces an issue. In either case, more and more companies are looking at either proactively reaching out to customers when an issue occurs or resolving the problem even before the customers become aware of them.
Trend 2 —A sink for all customer interactions
In today's day and age, consumers have the privilege of choosing their preferred communication channel, physical, digital, or traditional, and they are often present in multiple channels simultaneously. If there are multiple channels that the user switches between, the business should be able to integrate and switch between them seamlessly without loss of data while having a single place in the backend where all customer conversations and interactions are collected and shared with the relevant customer success employees at the same time.
Trend 3 — Mobile-first conversations Although not a new trend, mobile-first conversations continue to be a big trend in customer service even in 2022 and beyond. Messaging apps like Whatsapp, Line chat, and Apple Business Chat are extremely easy for consumers of any target audience to use. They are easy to install, adaptable to all iOS and Android devices, and have a minimal learning curve with minimal features. Some businesses reported a 20% reduction in service calls when the brand shifted to messaging mobile-first apps to connect with and resolve user pain points.
Trend 4 — Agent empowerment through machines A core aspect of good customer support is a potent agent team. They have the responsibility of being the face and voice of the brand. It can get overwhelming at times. Skyrocketing magnitudes of queries, rising customer anxiety, and adjusting to a remote work environment have increased the chances of agent burnout. It ultimately results in poor or frustrated customer management. New age tools help companies empower the support agents by providing real-time information about the progress of work relevant to their customers through piping contextual information directly from production and modern developer-friendly work management tools like DevRev.
Trend 5 — Automation to prediction Machines are here to complement humans and take over the laborious work of extensive research, data analysis, behavior prediction, and so on. We need to make use of the tools and reap their benefits. Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are transforming businesses by increasing economic growth through augmenting agent productivity capabilities. Things like AI-powered bots help handle the frequently asked queries while agents can focus on live assistance for complex pain points. Businesses can stay ahead of the curve by harnessing the potential of AI to predict customer requirements from the data they input and their behavior on their platform, in addition to providing search capabilities that help in automatically discovering and clustering existing issues.
Top 10 tools#
Here are our top picks of tools under the various categories:
Knowledge Base Self Service Nobody likes asking for help a million times, and there is room for misinterpretation in communication. A knowledge base is a centralized, organized collection of information about a product, service, department, or topic.
Document 360 is a cloud-based help desk SaaS that lets you create a documentation website with how-to guides, FAQs, tutorials, SOPs for external customers, and a separate internal knowledge base for your agents. Markdown and WYSIWYG editors are versatile and clean, supporting extensions and integrations of external systems. Freemium: 5 team accounts + 1 version Premium: $19 per addition team + $39/$99/$199 per additional version
HelpJuice offers advanced analytics and extensive customization with complete authoring and formatting. You get insights into what categories hold the user's attention, measure article impact, and optimize your platform for your customers. Their google-like search makes it easy to navigate the forum and find what you are looking for. Freemium: 14 days trial Premium: $120–4 users|$200–16 users|$289–60 users|$499-unlimited users per month
Dev CRM aka Developer Customer Relationship Management As technology and customer expectations rapidly change, Dev CRM focuses on connecting the customers and front office customer agents directly to the developers with Slack-like features with AI features for conversations.
DevRev — The platform has a product called PLuG that customers install directly on their apps and enables conversation between customers and customer support agents about the tickets and issues that engineers are working on at any time. The tool has AI capabilities for search and case deflection, but what sets this platform apart from traditional old-school CRM and support tools is the fact that the product catalog is connected to the issues engineers are working on to the tickets opened by customers, and finally, to the conversations happening in the conversation widget. This is the desired solution for companies that define themselves as Product-led Growth (PLG) companies. Pricing: Users can sign up for the beta on the website.
Customer Feedback Survey One of the important tools for customer support is gettting feedback and researching from customers. There are several tools to conduct surveys and specifically to capture NPS but we love Typeform for its simplicity and flexibility. Within a few minutes, users can create a pleasing feedback form or survey and gather insights from their customers.
Typeform — You can use this online survey-building platform to build a set of questions with relevant images and videos for more insight and improve response accuracy. It generates sharable survey reports, which you can share with data analysis tools and better satisfy your customer needs. The bonus feature lets you customize the layout and themes to establish brand identity. Freemium: 10 questions per form |10 responses per month+ Advanced logic|Multiple endings Premium: $25–100 responses|$50–1,000 responses|$83–10,000 responses per month
Customer Service Training Software Customer service agents have the power to make an impact on the entire business. Skilled agents can acquire, retain and convert users, and experimentation can cost the business a lot. To ensure all support agents are on the same page as the rest of the company, we need continual training programs which are effective and friendly.
TalentLMS — You can simplify the development, deployment, and management of training programs for your agents and partners by creating courses, hosting live sessions, and conducting tests. Your agents can always go back and browse videos from specific categories to stay on track. It reinforces the importance of training for smooth onboarding and compliance of agents for marketing, sales, remote workflows, and training partners. Freemium: 5 users + 10 courses + unlimited email support Premium: $69–40 users|$14–100 users|$279–500 users|$45–1,000 users per month
Project Management Businesses should equip their customer service team to handle multiple projects at once. Managing one project and sticking to timelines is a huge mental load. Imagine if you miss a deadline or implement a solution in the wrong ticket or project. The business is at stake, leaving the customers angry and confused. A project management tool helps organize, prioritize and track progress across different channels.
Asana — Use Asana to collaborate with multiple teams to set milestones, assign tasks, and subtasks, define deadlines and get a complete project overview to onboard any stakeholders with transparency. It enforces collaboration and organized teamwork. You can clearly see the issues by switching between views and supporting documents attached to the tickets. You can also save time by copying regular workflows into different projects instead of recreating them from scratch. Freemium: Unlimited projects + Unlimited files|100MB per file storage + 15 teammates Premium: $10.99-admin console + unlimited dashboards | $24.99 for Businesses of every scale
Customer support has evolved rapidly over the last couple of years as more and more companies have gone remote and, in the process, become entirely digital. With AI and machine learning, modern companies are now emerging that are specifically built to help Product-led Growth (PLG) companies that have a different set of requirements. These companies are looking to get to Product Market Fit (PMF) sooner through their products by becoming more customer-centric and are looking for tools that help them reduce the latency in helping their customers and also provide personalized experiences with the help of AI and machine learning. We expect to see a big shift in the emergence of more PLG companies challenging and morphing the traditional tools of customer support.