One of the most repeated arguments that growing businesses had in the past was this – that customer support was too expensive, and this money was better used in ‘productive’ areas such as marketing and sales. Good customer service was (and remains) expensive, and businesses just did not see the point in doing something that did not contribute much to the bottom line.
In a time when communication was restricted to the telephone and when people talked to each other only when they actually met, this was the working approach. Service wasn’t that important because it didn’t affect sales. And that was, and still is, important in business. What doesn’t increase the bottom line is expenditure. What doesn’t garner returns is unimportant.
Customer support was seen as a cost center, something that ate up company funds and didn’t give any ROI on it. That was in fact, true, for many years.
Until the day it wasn’t anymore.
Today, customer support is a profit center. Good customer support is not only going to give you happy customers who will spend more on your products, it is going to give you new customers, more and more of them. It is going to give your brand unparalleled goodwill and publicity, your brand equity is going to get stronger.
Here are the three reasons why.
1. Support as an acquisition channel
The social web has done several things for customer support. Customers are now contacting brands and business on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, asking questions and expecting answers. And the whole network of friends and friend’s friends watching. The result? New customers. Great support today garners eyeballs, eyeballs that marketing spends a few hundred dollars to get. Strike One!
2. Support as a retention channel
People are now talking about this company’s great support on social networks. As the company keeps doing this and the image of superior customer experience becomes consistent with the brand, there arises a community around the brand. Now support doesn’t have to answer the questions at all. The community steps in, and in adverse situations even steps in to defend the brand. With the rise of self service portals and forums, support is becoming amazingly community driven, bringing down costs and reinforcing brand loyalty. And when customers are engaged, they do not even think of going anywhere else. Strike Two!
3. Support as your product manager
With such an engaged client following and community, customers even do the very very important job of managing the product. From suggesting new features and giving insights into what the market wants and doesn’t want, the community will provide valuable market research, without companies even having to ask for it. The product will be shaped by the customers themselves, and in this way will mirror their needs better and better. Competitive advantage, anyone? Strike Three.
Whichever way we look at it, great customer support now gets in more revenue than it will ever take out. If someone in your company is still talking about how investment in customer support is a drain and how that money could be better used in other activities, you should be telling him/her that times have now changed.
There will be no better time to invest in your customer support and experience. In financial terms – do it, now, and you will reap rich dividends later.
Because, all said and done, it is the bottom line that matters.