If you’re a startup and you haven’t thought about customer support, you’re not alone. In a recent survey of startup founders and decision-makers, more than 70 percent of respondents reported they do not have a formal customer support strategy in place. And it’s no surprise. Founders have a lot of competing priorities—building product, fundraising, establishing product-market fit, assembling a team, defining their company culture.
While we all know intuitively that a startup will only survive and grow by acquiring and retaining customers, getting from recognition of that fact to building a strategy to serve customer needs requires effort. No matter what stage you’re at, every decision to focus resources somewhere means that there are fewer available for everything else.
So when and how do you start prioritising customer experience investments in your startup? We wanted to answer this question with data, so we looked at the historical customer support behaviors of more than 4,400 startups participating in the Zendesk Benchmark and compared that to external performance indicators. Our research found a clear link between better customer experiences and faster growth, and shows that the sooner you start thinking about your customers, the better off you’ll be.
High-growth startups move faster and invest more than their peers in order to serve their users. The research showed that on average fast-growing startups added support within 10 months of their first round of funding. Furthermore, fast-growing startups offer more ways for their customers to get in touch with them; almost 60% provide omnichannel support—which means offering contact options over email, chat, help centers, messaging, and/or phone—to help reduce wait times and build more efficient teams.
Fast growing startups also leverage technology to their benefit more, and as such are able to drive more efficient teams with better results. They build 1.3x more robust help centers, leverage APIs 1.4x as often for creating support tickets, and use 2.8x more workflow automations in their support organisations. The net result is that these teams can handle almost 50% more tickets per agent than their peers, and they do it in 40% less time. You can always choose to work harder, but there’s no reason to not work smarter.
Five steps to get started
Our research identified five actions companies should focus on to operate like a fast-growing startup within their first two years, in order of priority:
- Set up a customer support function that prioritises speed and convenience for both your customers and service team (9-10 months from funding)
- Add live channels, such as phone and chat, which are faster alternatives to email and web ticketing (12-17 months from funding)
- Launch messaging channels, like social media and WhatsApp, to reach customers on the channels they use in their day-to-day lives (14 months from funding)
- Establish an FAQ or help center, and include at least 30 articles that answer frequently asked questions (30 articles by month 6)
- Introduce at least one new app or integration to their customer support platform every six months to increase support agent productivity and streamline workflows. This can help keep first reply times and resolution times down to three to eight hours
If you’re still not sure the timing is right for you to adopt a customer support platform, look for these triggers that startup leaders identified as the most important for taking action: increased inquiries from customers, rising costs (due to increased hiring and technology costs for existing support systems), or a new product launch.
While there’s no magic formula for faster growth, our research suggests clear benefits from providing better customer experiences. After all, happy customers will be the ones that keep coming back and recommend you to others – and that’s always good for business.
Main image credits: Billion Photos/Shutterstock
Guest post by Kristen Durham, VP Startups at Zendesk