Plenty of companies pay lip service to customer service being the heart of the business. With support-driven growth, it actually is.
To the uninitiated, “support-driven growth” might first appear like a fancy name for customer success — or a souped-up method of filtering prospects to the sales team — but it’s much more than that.
At the risk of sounding grandiose, support-driven growth is a new way of doing business.
We’ve seen tremendous success with it at Help Scout since formalizing the initiative earlier this year, and we’re excited to share those results with you now — and hopefully spark a broader conversation about how support-driven growth can benefit a range of customer-centric businesses.
Prefer to watch a video instead? Check out this webinar on elevating support teams to drive business results with support-driven growth, featuring Help Scout CEO Nick Francis, Brightback’s Mo McKibbin, and Simon Ouderkirk of Automattic.
What is support-driven growth?
Support-driven growth is a business approach aimed at shifting the customer support channel from cost center to critical revenue driver.
The approach reflects a shift in the market wherein customer-centric companies are leveraging their support teams toward revenue-generating activities.
From the support team’s perspective, support-driven growth means:
- Applying the improv principle of “Yes, and …” in points of engagement to drive further product adoption.
- “Proactive reaction” — i.e., using automation to trigger notifications about customers’ behaviors in the app and reaching out to those customers.
(More on that in a bit.)
Support-driven growth applies to teams beyond support, though. For sales, support-driven growth speaks to taking a servant sales approach — a “concierge” level of support that takes responsibility for making customers successful through their lifetime with the product.
From a Product perspective, it’s leaning on Support to be the voice for your prospective customers, identifying “deal breaker” features that result in abandoned trials, to prioritize the product roadmap.
For our product team specifically, it means listening to our customers’ needs in the support channel, which leads to crafting tools like Beacon that reduce grunt-work for customer support teams and free them up to focus on more meaningful work.
And from a financial standpoint, support-driven growth makes solid business sense: When your support team is freed up to spend 40% of their time on activities that drive the business forward, the entire funnel becomes more efficient.
The support-driven growth model eliminates BDRs and SDRs, who focus on generating and then moving leads into the sales funnel.
The support team isn’t paid a commission — rather, they earn higher wages for their more impactful work (so it’s a good fit for people who aren’t wired for traditional sales but who still enjoy working in high-impact, customer-facing roles).
Not to mention that people tend to stick around when they feel like they’re making progress on meaningful work, and retaining talent both saves money and has a direct customer impact.
Examples of support-driven growth in practice
The chief difference between support and support-driven growth is the concept of growth. That sounds obvious, but the mindset for support and the mindset for growth are different (but, in our view, complementary).
Traditionally, support wants to answer questions thoroughly but quickly — they look at the story of the customer as they are and who they are to best solve their problem, but not necessarily what or who they could be.
Growth still wants to help people, but it also wants to keep the conversation going a little longer, or encourage more returns, and help customers realize their full potential. Why? Because we know this relationship encourages people to buy, to invest in the product, and to grow.
“Yes, and …”
In my pre-SaaS life, I was an improviser. Improv is responsible for creating the “Yes, and …” rule of thumb, which has become paramount to the practice of support-driven growth.
For example: Let’s say a trial customer asks, “Do you have a Mailchimp integration?”
Instead of replying with a link to the knowledge base article and moving on, using support-driven growth you might reply:
“Yes (here are the details) — and I notice you just started a trial but you haven’t been to a webinar yet. You can sign up for one here!”
“Yes (here are the details) — and it looks like you haven’t created any workflows yet. Did you know you can use those to organize your newsletter responses?”
Yes, and … is the ultimate “upselling” tool. While it may not seem like upselling to offer free things, like going to a webinar or using features already on the plan they’re trying, the more they engage with the team and the product, the likelier they are to buy and stick around as happy, healthy customers. It’s a natural, non-icky way to offer customers help they didn’t even know they needed.
Note the yes comes first. While some other sales-y tactics (in an attempt to string the conversation along as long as possible) start with the and, we lead with help in support-driven growth, and then offer additional help where it’s applicable.
The more natural opportunities you have to engage with a potential customer, the more likely they are to buy. We use HubSpot to set up notifications that alert our team when there’s an opportunity to reach out to someone.
For example: When we receive a notification that someone on a free trial hasn’t set up their mail forwarder yet, we look up which email domain they’re using and send them a saved reply welcoming them to Help Scout and offering directions for how to pull their email into Help Scout.
Additionally, after attending one of our “Getting Started With Help Scout” classes, attendees are asked to fill out a survey. We send one of a few different saved replies depending on their response to the survey. If they expressed interest in other webinars, we also send them a list of previously recorded and future webinars.
The proof is in the pudding
Since formalizing our support-driven growth initiative in May, we’ve engaged with a subset of prospects — in one-on-one coaching calls, webinars, email, and chat — and among those “support engaged” trial customers, 42% became paying customers.
In other words: It works. Really well.
To break that down a bit further:
- Email: About 17% of trial customers engage with the support channel via email. In the last three months, 39% of those companies have converted to paying customers.
- Live chat: We’re still ramping up chat as a support-driven growth channel as we get ready to launch the new Beacon. But since May, 70% of the people who have chatted with us while on trial ended up as paying customers. That is huge.
- One-on-one coaching calls: For now, we evenly split coaching calls between trial and pre-trial prospects. About 56% of companies who have had a coaching call while on trial have converted to paying customers. Early reports are showing that about one-third of pre-trial coaching calls convert to paying customers within a 4-5 month period.
- Webinars: Not a lot of people sign up for the free classes. But among those who do, about 60% convert. They’re incredibly worthwhile.
All in on support-driven growth
In case it’s not obvious: we’re all in on support-driven growth at Help Scout. We’ve fully embraced the elevation of customer support as a revenue-generating business driver.
Perhaps that’s natural for a company that thinks a lot about customer service, but we believe it can work well in a range of customer-centric organizations, and we’re excited to watch it gain momentum.
The support-driven growth model does require more from the support team. Team members need to know the product inside and out — they need to be ready to field questions about how the product compares to other products, the tools it integrates with, and a host of other in-depth topics that come up during consults.
They’re sitting at the table in forecast meetings, accountable for business metrics, and helping predict future trends. And yes, they’re paid more according to the value they’re providing, although on the whole it’s a more efficient model.
If you’d like to learn more about support-driven growth, check out the related content below.
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