Whatever sector you’re in, in order to succeed you need to offer a combination of excellent customer service, high-quality products, and genuine value for money. As a matter of course, this involves keeping a watchful eye on what your rivals are doing to help you glean a crucial competitive advantage. The online marketplace is intense, with all manner of businesses constantly jockeying for position (and visibility in search engine results pages).
Nevertheless, there’s more to succeeding than just looking at what your rivals are doing and then emulating it (or not, as the case may be). For all the continual upheaval in the business world, and the drastic changes we’ve seen over the last decade or two, some things remain essentially the same. Namely that keeping your customers sweet is, above all else, the name of the game.
Fostering long-term customer loyalty is of vital importance, because keeping your regular clients on board is the cornerstone of success in business. It’s these loyal, returning customers who’ll help to keep your business going through thick and thin.
If you’re running an SaaS development firm, this is relevant to you as well. You might be at the cutting edge compared to most businesses, but those old homilies hold true for you, too. That said, things are a little more complicated in this area.
Clients paying for SaaS (that is, software as a service) will be doing so on a recurring basis. For example, via a monthly subscription fee. To add to the complexity, they’re paying for products which are in a continual process of evolution. SaaS solutions are constantly being added to and tweaked on an ongoing basis. As with any software, SaaS is subject to an open-ended process of amending and reworking.
It goes without saying, then, that customer service in the SaaS sector comes with its own distinctive set of challenges. The ever-changing nature of SaaS also means that customer service is a particularly important concern. After all, many of the changes made to SaaS products are implemented following customer feedback. If you’ve been in charge of an SaaS company for any length of time, you’ll know already just how vocal clients can be and how frequent their feedback is. But it’s important not to be dismissive. Client input can help you discover and resolve important issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.
To help you meet the particular challenges involved in providing excellent customer service in the SaaS sector, we’ve come up with a list of tips to help you ensure you meet your clients’ needs and expectations.
Above all else, you need to recognize the potential opportunities customer service offers. It’s not only a chance to better understand what your clients are looking for, but also to strengthen your relationships with them and continually improve your products. You can meet those goals in all the following ways:
- Making sure your website is user-friendly
- Seeking (and using) customer feedback
- Rewarding clients for loyalty
- Focusing on customer retention
- Remaining transparent
We’ll cover each of those areas in turn later. First, let’s look in more detail at what providing excellent customer service means in general and how to do it.
Why customer service matters
You might think that customer service is pretty obvious – be polite, listen to client queries, and generally keep them sweet. However, there’s a lot more to think about than that. To provide a genuinely excellent standard of customer service requires you to devote serious resources and attention to the matter.
As much as anything, it’s about creating a particular kind of company ethos. The sort of culture dedicated to the needs of the client, and fostering a real willingness to listen to what clients are trying to tell you.
So, first off, what exactly is customer service and what does it mean from a SaaS standpoint? Simply put, it’s about providing clients with the right kind of help, and at the right time. It requires having a team which understands your product offering in intimate detail, and can therefore field client queries when they come in.
It might be that a customer is having problems with a new product they’ve recently signed up for, or perhaps an existing product is suffering issues after a recent update. If you’ve got the right people on your team, they’ll be able to take these issues on board and use their expert knowledge to reach a suitable resolution.
Client and customer queries come in all the time, whatever industry or market you happen to be operating in. For example, a Google Tag Manager agency would no doubt expect clients to ask for clarification on what long tail keywords are and why they’re significant. Fielding questions such as these is simply a bread-and-butter aspect of running a business.
You have to remember that your clients are specialists in other areas, and they’ll probably have only a layperson’s understanding (at best) of the sector in which you work. Therefore, when they come to you asking for an explanation or clarification, it’s absolutely essential to treat their queries with patience and respect.
There is a tendency among some firms in the SaaS sector to throw everything at developing the best possible products at the expense of good customer service. The reality is that you need to find a suitable balance between the two. Of course you need to offer great products – it’s no good having great customer service unless your products are of the same calibre. But you can’t afford to bend the stick too far in that direction. If you don’t make the effort to provide a responsive and consistent quality of customer service, you can guarantee that your customers will soon find someone else who does.
Another important point to bear in mind here is that good client service can do a lot to reduce churn. This is a huge problem for businesses in the SaaS sector. If you find you’re losing clients on a regular basis, it’s clearly indicative of a serious issue. Without a stable base of core clients, you’re likely to find yourself struggling. As we’ve already alluded to, it’s these steady long-term clients who’ll be the foundation of your success, if you’re to have any. So devoting serious attention to customer service standards is very important to minimizing client churn, in addition to lead nurturing.
Top tips for SaaS customer support
The key to great customer support is being proactive. You need to be prepared to go over and above the call of duty in terms of the support you offer your clients. It requires you to actively reach out to them and obtain their feedback, rather than just waiting for them to come to you. You might be hesitant for fear of being seen to badger your clients, but if you go about it the right way, they will appreciate your attentiveness and willingness to listen.
Here are our top five tips to help you provide exceptional SaaS customer support, and keep client churn to a minimum.
- Make sure your website is easy to use
You might think that this is something everyone already understands. You’d be amazed, though, how many businesses still have terrible websites. Chances are that visiting your site will be the first serious interaction prospective customers have with your company. That makes it absolutely essential that your pages make the right impression. Make sure your website is well-designed, bright, straightforward to use, and has accessible, easy-to-read content (especially for non-experts).
Indeed, as an aside, it’s very important to think about the kind of content you put on your website. Category and product pages should be well written and optimized using SEO for SaaS. They shouldn’t, though, be too heavy on text (people simply won’t read it if there’s too much).
Devise a solid content strategy covering all aspects of content on your site, from the aforementioned pages to blog posts. That’s alongside other vital tasks like undertaking SEO competitor analysis. This is a great way of finding out what your competitors are doing; if their search performance is outstripping yours, it’s a clear sign that you need to take action.
- Seek (and use) customer feedback
We’ve already discussed how important feedback is to providing good customer service, and in particular with regard to SaaS. There’s a constant flow of feedback from customers all the time in this sector, not least when new products, features, and services are launched. Clients are generally only too happy to give you their views on how your products are working for them. You might find this a bit of a burden at times, but this feedback is almost always intended in a helpful and constructive spirit.
Remember our earlier point about proactivity and the need to actively reach out to clients for their views. You might have thought that as clients are generally quite content to offer their own feedback unprompted, you don’t need to make any further efforts yourself. This would be a mistake, however. There are lots of different ways you can invite client input. This might take the form of online surveys promoted via social media or outreach via email marketing (you can find some good Gmail templates online). Make sure that clients have a range of different ways to reach you, as and when they feel the need to including via social media, phone and email.
- Reward clients for their loyalty
We’ve already pointed out that there’s more to customer service than the old tried and tested techniques. Sometimes, though, it’s good to throw in some of those as well. One that rarely fails is the prospect of offering a reward for sticking around. Clients who feel valued are far less likely to move on to pastures new.
It’s up to you, then, to make each customer feel that they’re your top priority. Offering them discounts, additional features, or exclusive services is a proven way of strengthening client loyalty and reducing churn. Clients love to be rewarded, so think about what you might be able to offer them.
Think about what you might be able to provide your clients as a thank you. What would they benefit from? What new products and services would be most helpful to them? Perhaps some of your clients have already been in touch with ideas. Ask your team whether they’ve had any dealings with clients asking for products, services, or upgrades that perhaps you haven’t offered up to now but might be able to. If they haven’t already had anything of that sort, perhaps you could invite responses by organizing a survey.
- Focus on customer retention
Although we’ve already discussed it at some length, it bears repeating: if your business is to rest on firm foundations, it needs to have a laser-like focus on hanging on to existing customers. Winning new ones is always important, of course, but it’s worth remembering that pursuing new leads does in fact cost money (at least in the short run). It’s not always guaranteed, either, to deliver results. Rather than going on a frantic, wild goose chase after new clients, then, it’s best to shore up your existing clientele first.
If you provide your existing clients with consistently attentive service, that’s half the battle. A client that knows it can get a reliably good deal from you, and that recognizes the quality of your customer service, would be foolhardy to go elsewhere. This will thereby help to reduce churn and keep clients in the tent. But you will have to consistently provide good service. It’s not a matter of undertaking a quick charm offensive whenever a new client’s been brought on board and then hoping that will suffice.
- Always be transparent
It’s unfair to tar a whole sector with the same brush, but there are a lot of software firms out there that don’t have the best reputation when it comes to transparency. Of course, the overwhelming majority are totally above board about what they can offer and what clients can expect. Nevertheless, there are some bad apples that let the rest down. This can cause a certain nervousness among clients, and it’s something for which you need to make allowances.
You must ensure from the very start that you’re completely upfront about what you can do for your clients and what their money will buy them. Keep clients updated, too, about any potential downtime or contract changes, and be prepared to answer their questions. Furthermore, make sure that it’s straightforward for your client to cancel their contract. Hopefully, they won’t exercise the right. Leaving the option open to them, however, can do a great deal to build trust and bolster your credentials when it comes to trustworthiness.