Eliminating The Hidden Costs Of ‘Saving’ On Customer Support by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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A lot of companies, in their early stages, decide that having a dedicated customer support person or team is too big of an expense. Instead of hiring a customer support person, they have one of their software engineers handle any questions that come in from customers.

At the very beginning of a company’s life — when there aren’t more than a handful of customers — this may make sense. For example, my startup began with an incredibly lean staff, almost all with a background in technology or insurance. But we quickly realized that we needed a dedicated customer service team to ensure that our customers got the best experience. We realized that not doing so could end up costing us as we grew and could no longer handle the demand. So we invested in a better solution: optimizing efficiency via specialization, self-service and automation. 

Why Your Tech Team Shouldn’t Do Customer Service

Let’s take a closer look at the inefficiency that can be created by having a software engineer handle customer service. Most business owners probably realize that it doesn’t often make sense to pay an engineer’s salary to someone who’s answering customer emails. But many of us let it go on too long anyway.

For the sake of argument, let’s say most of these emails are actually about technical bugs or glitches, so it can make sense for someone with an IT background to be on the job. And let’s say that at the start there are no more than three such emails per day, each of which takes about 15 minutes to handle.

That may look like a loss of 45 minutes per day, which amounts to 225 minutes (or a little over three and a half hours) per week, from the core engineering tasks that person should be doing. In reality, though, there could be greater time leakage. Each time we’re interrupted, it takes our brains an average of about 23 minutes to get back on task.

So in addition to the 225 minutes per week lost to doing non-core tasks, the software engineer may lose another 345 minutes just by being interrupted, for a grand total of nine and a half hours every week. And that’s usually only going to grow.

Why Specialization Alone Won’t Always Create Maximum Efficiency

The obvious solution to the problem above is to hire a dedicated or semi-dedicated customer service person. As Ransom Olds (of Oldsmobile fame) knew, giving every worker in your organization specialized tasks can create a more efficient operation. This is usually true even if you’re not making cars on an assembly line.

But these days, specialization alone may not keep your organization at its most efficient. Even if you have a dedicated customer service representative, if they’re answering the same questions over and over, they likely won’t get as much done as possible — or be as helpful as they can to customers.

The solution: Automate whatever it’s possible to automate, and create a self-service option for what customers can handle on their own.

For example, add a frequently asked questions page to your website. There’s your self-service. Create response templates for common email questions. There’s your automation. Maybe even set up a chatbot feature with some automated scripts built in. Suddenly, you go from a nine-plus hour drain to a set of processes and technologies that can enable you to do the same work for a handful of queries as you would for a thousand.

The Beauty Of The Tech-Human Hybrid

What’s even better about the specialization, automation and self-service trifecta, though, is how these elements can work together and evolve as your business grows and changes. If you develop automated chatbot scripts for frequent customer questions, you can also segment those scripts into troubleshooting funnels that correspond with the appropriate representative. 

For example, insurtech companies like mine get a lot of questions from customers about what their policies do. Those questions may get routed to a policy-focused script with a licensed agent as a final point of contact. But if a customer has technical questions about how to use an online portal, they get a different script with a dedicated tech representative at the ready if they have further questions. Once you have the infrastructure in place, you can adapt it to whatever issues consistently crop up.

Segmenting customer concerns this way can ensure that customers get the fastest and most meaningful responses and that they are directed to the person best equipped to handle concerns that require a personal touch. It can save both your customers and your team valuable time, which is a win-win.

Infrastructure That Can Enable Growth

Not investing in customer service — or in any process, position or automation that could increase efficiency — may save money in the short run. In the long run, though, failing to create the infrastructure that enables your business to scale can bog down its growth. One of the trickiest parts of running a business is being able to step back and recognize when a savings measure has turned into a cost suck, but hopefully, with these potential solutions in mind, you’ll know where to start.


January 25, 2019 at 09:03AM
https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2019/01/25/eliminating-the-hidden-costs-of-saving-on-customer-support/
Forbes – Entrepreneurs
http://www.forbes.com/entrepreneurs/
http://bit.ly/2CMy7Yu