Arcadier’s very own Business Development Manager and Customer Support Specialist Hesson Mak sheds some light on the customer support system in startups. Users of ours may have realised a need to have a customer service system for their own marketplaces, and this talk will be a huge help in suggesting some considerations before doing so.
Role of the Founder in Customer Support
In the early years of a startup, it is typical that the founder takes on the double role of the customer service officer in addition to his duties as a founder. This is because the founder has the greatest understanding of the product, and would thus be well-equipped to answer queries about it. Taking on this role also allows the founder to get valuable direct feedback from early users.
That being said, customer support should not be the only focus of the founder. There must be a good balance of priorities, between customer support and strategising the company’s business. As such, during the time when the founder is taking on both roles, one may consider limiting the time for customer support to a crunch time when the bulk of the users are likely to call. Once the business grows, the founder should get ready to train other team members to act as customer support.
Importance of a Customer Service Team
One may think that since there are alternative methods to aid users, such as a FAQ section, a help page, or even chatbots, an actual customer service team may not be necessary. However this view cannot be more wrong. There is invariably a need for a personal, human touch when dealing with customers, especially those that are feeling frustrated at the product already. These customers may feel neglected and ignored if at the end of the day if all they had was an automated answer, with no real person paying attention to them and actively trying to solve their problem.
Remember that a chatbot is never the answer. Humans always want the attention and assurance of a real person that their problem is being solved, so provide them this peace of mind by having a customer support team that is open and willing to help.
When Hiring a Customer Service Team
While in its earlier years, a startup may only need a small customer service team. Small teams are especially good when a platform’s value proposition might change rapidly. Also, keep the team locally based, and in close contact with other departments in the company. This ensures that any feedback they receive can be passed on quickly to be addressed by the other departments, and helps the customer service team stay in the loop of any changes to the product.
It is best to start forming a customer service team with members from the initial team, especially if the product requires deep understanding of its technical features or requires technical knowledge. This will help to cut down on the amount of training needed, as the initial team members would already have much more knowledge about the product than a new employee.
Criteria for a Good Customer Service Team
The customer support team members are probably the only members of a company that will be able to individually interact with the public. As such, everytime they pick up the phone or respond to a query, they are acting as advocates that represent the entire company. Customer service officers must be able to uphold the company values even when dealing with demanding clients, to maintain the desired image of the company. The ability to empathise and understand the client’s frustration will also bolster the company’s image as a partner that is willing and actively trying to help. And, most importantly, customer service staff must be able to quickly sieve out the root cause of any problem described by the clients, so as to be able to discern the actions to take in order to solve the issue as quickly as possible. Not all problems are caused by bugs or technical issues. If the problem is one of user errors, the customer service staff must be able to discern its nature quickly in order to guide the client to correct the problem.
Final Words of Advice
There is no need to be afraid of customers. Most of the time, they want nothing more than to be able to use the product successfully, and wish to enlist help in order to do so. Any frustration they have should be understandable, and not aggravated by chatbots or difficult to maneuver customer support systems.
There can be a lot to gain from investing in a customer service team. Providing a human touch and personal care for customers can keep them satisfied with the product, and better the reputation of the company.
Watch the full Arcadier Inspire Summit by Hesson Mak here