You’ve built a great product and launched it successfully. Your website is up, and the sales are starting to roll in. Have you forgotten anything? Oh, shoot! Your customers have questions!
Even if your product is artfully designed, your customers will still have questions that need to be answered. For SaaS companies, customer support is even more important because the business model requires customers to continue doing business with you for long periods of time.
However, most founders don’t come from a customer support background, and that can make setting up a support strategy hard. Where should you direct your focus? Isn’t customer service just a cost center? How should your team be structured in the first place?
Rest assured, we have all the answers to get you started in this guide to delivering top-notch SaaS support.
Customer support vs. customer success in SaaS companies
With all the hype around customer success, it might be tempting to spend all of your energy on success and ignore customer support entirely. What’s the difference between them? Do you need both?
Customer Support teams reply to customers who contact you with questions. They often gather feedback from customers and work with other teams, like product and marketing, to help improve the customer experience.
Customer Success teams, as Stefanie Gonzaga defines, “proactively work with customers to understand their business goals and help them find success with the product, thereby increasing the lifetime value of the customer.”
With SaaS companies, this is incredibly important — company growth is dependent on keeping customers around. With the recurring revenue model, even increasing your retention rate by 5% has been shown to increase profits between 25% and 95%.
However, neither customer support nor customer success works alone:
- Without building a dedicated support strategy that can answer customer questions as they arise, your customers will become frustrated and leave.
- Without focusing on customer success, your company will likely struggle to gain enthusiastic advocates and growth will stagnate.
As you build out your customer-facing teams, you’ll need both customer support and customer success mindsets.
But the first step in building a great brand is to create a strong, reactive support system. When customers need you, your team should be ready to respond. Only when you can solve problems reliably should you start building out more proactive support systems.
Examples of SaaS companies with great customer support
Companies that deliver great support don’t just benefit from happy customers — their focus on the customer experience becomes a unique selling point. In fact, customers will pay up to 25% more to work with a company known for its great service.
The companies listed below have become well-known for their support and enjoy much of their success because of it.
Zapier needs to support a wide range of users — from beginners who are just trying automation for the first time to power-users who are running advanced scripts across many different integrations.
Why is their support so good? They offer a variety of ways for customers to get help, including community support. Plus, they’re big advocates of All Hands Support, which helps every employee feel connected to their customers.
SkySlope is a real-estate broker software company that saw a record high customer satisfaction rating of 97.5% in 2019.
Why is their support so good? Customers say their Support team’s patience is notable. SkySlope’s Support team is built around taking the necessary time to provide complete resolutions:
“We strive to provide as much time and resources needed in order to meet the requests of our customers. At the same time, we are committed to providing a phenomenal, delightful, and positive experience for everyone.”
3 best practices for SaaS support
While the basic principles of support are straightforward (reply to customers, be kind and helpful, and solve their problems), delivering great support requires strategies that aren’t always obvious.
Here are three best practices that you may not have considered, but they’ll make your life (and your customers’ lives) easier.
1. Prioritize documentation
One of the first support tools you should put your focus into is a thorough knowledge base. Any time you spend creating documentation will pay off ten-fold later on.
Not only do 70% of customers say they prefer to answer their own questions using self-service documentation, but encouraging customers to search your knowledge base will reduce your incoming ticket volume.
Onboarding new employees is much easier if you’ve written down the information they need. Without documentation, everything is just stored in someone’s head. If that person leaves, takes a sick day, or is just busy, your team will struggle to answer customer questions effectively.
Getting product knowledge written down is key to providing a great customer experience, even as your company grows.
2. Build a close relationship between support and product
It can be tempting to hire a few entry-level employees and put them to work in their own corners responding to customers. But creating a silo between Customer Support and the rest of the company will cause a whole host of problems down the road.
Customer Support spends the most time talking to customers. They know what customers want, what they struggle with, and how they communicate. Building a strong connection between Customer Support and the rest of the company will help keep your focus on the customer as you grow.
To develop this cross-functional communication bridge, bring Customer Support members into product meetings, circulate Customer Support conversations within the company, highlight customer satisfaction survey responses in Slack, and build connections between employees in different departments.
3. Measure your progress
What does “good” support mean to you and your customers? Without measuring the results, you won’t know if you’re delivering great support that makes a difference to your business.
First, you’ll need to measure the performance of your Support team (even if that’s just one person). This will give you an indication of the quality of your work. The most critical support metrics to keep an eye on are:
- Number of tickets: Is the volume going up, down, or staying the same?
- Average response time: Are you consistently responding quickly to customer requests?
- Customer satisfaction: Do customers indicate that they are happy with your service?
It’s also important to understand how your Customer Support efforts are impacting your growth. When the Help Scout Support team focused on support-driven growth strategies, they found that 70% of the people who chatted with them while on trial ended up as paying customers.
To measure this number for yourself, consider analyzing the number of customers who upgrade from trial to paid customers, as well as the number of customers who churn after talking to Customer Support.
How to find the ideal structure for your SaaS Support team
As you grow your Customer Support team, you’ll need to put structure into place to make sure everything runs smoothly. Knowing when to formalize processes and when to keep things flexible can help you prioritize your support strategy.
The early days
For those Customer Support teams of one, your focus is going to be on answering each and every question that comes your way.
If there’s time for a more proactive focus, spend it creating methods for your customers to find the answers to their questions on their own. You can also spend time ensuring insights you’ve gleaned from supporting customers get back to the rest of your company, so your time may be spent on documentation or automation.
The growth stage (2-10 team members)
As you grow, you’ll have the flexibility to pursue more proactive success activities. You may even have people focus primarily on either reactive support or proactive customer success.
At this point, you can start thinking about what types of things your team will do to help your customers achieve their goals. Writing is an obvious one, and it’s one you should emphasize. Creating help docs, user guides, blog posts, and newsletters are all things you can do to help your customers.
But what else? Will your team create screencasts and onboarding campaigns or conduct webinars and private demos? These all take different sets of skills, but they are skills that people in Customer Support often have.
Spend some time thinking about which of these will help your customers best and who on your team is ready to contribute.
If your team decides that screencasts and videos will help your customers the most, you might have to invest in some tools or training. Research what kinds of content have worked best for your customers in the past, then compare this with the skills of your current team. This can guide where your team can put their time to best use.
The formalizing stage ( >10 team members)
When you’re a team larger than 10, you can start to put a formal structure in place. You may also need to move from a flat structure to having team leaders and/or support specialists.
There are many different ways to structure a team, so it’s important to find the one that works for you. Here are a few roles you may want to consider:
- Customer Advocate: Works on live chat and answers quick emails that don’t require additional support.
- Customer Support Engineer: Deals with more technical support issues.
- Product Liaison: Interacts with the Product and Engineering teams to share feedback.
- Team Lead and/or Manager: Focuses on people management.
- Support Operations: Helps with tooling, automation, and improving the overall customer support workflow.
Building world-class SaaS customer support
The most important part of any business is its customers. Providing great customer support keeps those customers happy, and it helps your business grow.
Need more tips on building a world-class customer Support team? Make sure to read Mathew Patterson’s article on scaling customer service on a growing team.