Customer support is more important than ever in 2023. According to Salesforce’s latest State of the Connected Customer report, 88% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services — up from 80% in 2020.
And as SaaS (Software as a Service) becomes an ever more popular business model, differentiating your business from your competitors will become business critical. It’s no longer enough to have a killer product: Customers expect to have an ongoing relationship with your business, to be able to find their own answers on your site, and to receive fast, personalized support from your team when they can’t.
As a SaaS company who has been doing business for the past 6 years and who takes pride in providing great customer service, we've picked up a few tips for delivering the best SaaS customer support over the years. Not to mention the fact that we have SaaS giant customers like Zendesk using our support automation solution.
In this article, we'll go over a few best practices that will optimize your customer support for 2023 and have your customers coming back for more. But let's back up a step first...
Why is SaaS customer support so important?
SaaS customer support is particularly important because customers are accessing the software remotely, so their only real chance to connect with real people is through customer support. This means that your support team is representative of your brand as a whole so the experiences your agents provide must be exceptional.
“You create customer superfans by creating the kinds of experiences people want to have again and again. The experience your customers have with your brand is the most competitive advantage you have at your disposal.”
- Brittany Hodak, Author and CX expert
Great customer experiences lead to higher customer retention rates, which — especially in today’s economy — is essential for maintaining a profitable business. It's been proven that a mere 5% increase in customer retention can produce more than a 25% increase in profits.
This is particularly true of SaaS companies who often have a subscription model that relies on repeat customers. What’s more, happy customers tend to refer new customers your way. Essentially, improving your customer service can make your company stand out in a crowded market and actually turn your support function into a revenue driver.
The top 3 SaaS customer support best practices
1. Set up your team for success
The number one rule of SaaS customer support is making sure your support team has the knowledge and tools they need to succeed. You can ensure your team is ready to provide the best support possible by allowing them to be where your customers need them to be, creating close alignment between support and product teams, and empowering them to work as a value center — rather than being seen as a cost center.
Make sure your team is accessible
Make it easy for your customers to get in touch with you when they need help. And this doesn’t have to mean long hours for your team. You can make sure your customers have a self-service avenue to get their questions answered. The easiest way to set that up? A generative AI-powered chatbot that can answer FAQs 24/7, across all digital channels. And some of them can even serve your customers in the language of their choice.
Break down silos between support and product
Knowing everything possible about your product is a surefire way your agents can provide joyful customer experiences. One way to ensure this is to have your support team and your product team work closely together.
Not only will this give your agents deep product knowledge, a strong relationship between these teams will mean your product team gets unparalleled insight into what your customers want. This will pay dividends in the long run: when designing new products or services, product can turn to their colleagues to draw from real customer data to help inform their decisions.
See your support team as a value center (not a cost center)
Customer support has long been seen as a cost center, but for SaaS customer support teams in 2023, that’s no longer a viable business strategy. Empower your agents to suggest products proactively or upsell to customers who are already in the process of purchasing. If you’ve already broken down the product/support silo, they have all the knowledge they need to support those customers along their buying journey.
“For 32% of respondents to our trends 2023 survey, return rates drastically increased in 2022. Take that as an opportunity: Your support team can do more than just process those returns. They can suggest items that can be exchanged at equal or higher value.”
- Hosam Hassan, Solutions Consultant, Ultimate
Your customers will feel holistically supported, your agents will feel taken care of, and your business will reap the rewards — according to Accenture, companies that view customer service as a value center vs. a cost center achieve 3.5 times more revenue growth.
Learn how AI can actually empower your agents from Zendesk's Director of Self-Service.
2. Choose the right tech stack
Giving your support team the right tools and resources ensures maximum efficiency and productivity. What do we recommend for the optimal SaaS customer support tech stack? A customer relationship management system (CRM) to store data, a knowledge base to serve as a repository for all product knowledge, and an AI-powered platform or a virtual agent to automate and optimize aspects of your customer support.
Centralize your customer data with a CRM
Firstly, you’ll want a CRM. This software stores all your customer data and allows your agents to quickly draw information from it, enabling the personalized customer experiences your customers want. Since your customer data is all in one place, it also becomes easier to analyze that data at scale and draw conclusions about your customer base.
Enable self-service with a robust knowledge base
Secondly, implement some sort of knowledge base. Think of your knowledge base as an online library of information about your product. It houses everything from product documentation to how-to guides to the answers to your most frequently asked questions. It can serve as a first line of defense for your customer service team, allowing your customers to look for answers themselves before contacting support. This type of option is actually preferred by 67% of customers, so not only does it reduce incoming tickets, it provides a better customer experience.
What's more, a well-structured knowledge base can serve as the foundation for a generative AI-powered bot — like UltimateGPT. Gen AI can analyze your existing help center to create a bot that can instantly answer FAQs for your customers.
Maximize ROI with an AI chatbot or a virtual agent
Last, but certainly not least, adding an AI chatbot or a virtual agent to your tech stack will help you make the most of the other tools you’ve invested in. An AI chatbot can live on your website and allow your customers to get instant 24/7 help. A chatbot solution can surface articles in your knowledge base and answer frequently asked questions, significantly curbing the number of incoming tickets, but a virtual agent takes this a step further.
This kind of bot can automate responses not only on live chat, but also on email, social media, and even WhatsApp. Furthermore, it can automate processes in the backend of your systems to help your team work smarter, not harder. It can triage requests, route them to the right agent, and enrich them with information it gathers from your customer to make life easier for your agents.
To truly get the most value out of your existing technology, you can integrate your bot into your tech stack so it can fetch data from your CRM and other back office systems. This means that some processes are automated end-to-end, with no human involvement needed, maximizing your support team’s efficiency.
"The main challenge of working with SaaS customer support is that the inquiries they receive can be very complex, and so, in turn, is the help they provide. That can be difficult when building out automation workflows, but when done correctly, it can take a lot of work off the shoulders of the support team."
- Ethan Scott, Customer Success Manager, Ultimate
3. Develop customer-centric processes
Your customer support processes guide everything you do, so it’s important that they keep your customers’ best interests at the forefront. The best SaaS support processes are proactive rather than reactive and are developed by listening to customer feedback and key success metrics.
Be proactive, not reactive
Simply reacting when a problem occurs won’t cut it for SaaS customers in 2023. Providing proactive solutions that prevent problems from occurring, or at least informing your customers of a problem before it can escalate, is the way forward. The best way to reduce reactive communication is by ensuring excellent onboarding. By teaching your customers the ins and outs of your product right at the beginning of your journey together, you decrease their dependency on your customer support team.
Next, be sure to continue this proactive approach by informing your customer base of regular updates. Send out email newsletters or have your customer success team contact your customers directly to inform them of new features or updates to the product so they know how to use them right away.
Finally, when issues do arise, be sure to notify them before it can become a bigger problem. This serves double duty to curb incoming contacts about the issue and reassure your customers that you are aware of what’s going on and are taking care of it.
Collect customer feedback
Customer service interactions are a valuable opportunity to get your customers’ opinions. Collect feedback and reviews to see what your customers love and what your customer support team could improve upon.
Give them lots of opportunities to give that feedback: include links at the end of livechat conversation or emails interactions to customer feedback surveys. Use the surveys to measure things like customer satisfaction (CSAT) or net promoter score (NPS). Then use this information to change your processes and offerings.
Monitor it, measure it, and make it better
Speaking of metrics… make sure you’ve determined certain aspects of your support that you’re keeping an eye on and working to improve. Establish KPIs and monitor your performance against them.
Some SaaS customer support KPIs could include:
- Reducing average handling time (AHT)
- Increasing first contact resolution rate (FCR)
- Lowering transfer times and rates between departments
- Increasing automation rate (if you have an automation solution)
- Improving your NPS and your CSAT
By monitoring these metrics, you can discover if your support team is able to resolve problems efficiently and effectively and if your customers are happy with the support you provide. If they’re not happy, you have a data-driven roadmap of what you need to improve.
Examples of SaaS customer support best practices in action
Zendesk is literally in the business of customer support, so you know their customer support is stellar. This top-notch CRM software provider checks off pretty much every best practice on the list with a robust knowledge base, 24/7 multilingual support, automation powered by Ultimate’s industry-leading AI, tools that are built-in to their software to track the most important metrics and KPIs, and more. It’s no wonder Zendesk tops the list of best customer support providers and best customer support software lists alike.
Slack has become the ubiquitous messaging platform for businesses, especially for other SaaS companies and start-ups. Part of their success is due to their incredible customer support. They offer self-service support with a huge amount of useful troubleshooting articles. Slack also encourages feedback from its users so they can alter the product to suit their customers’ needs. It’s personalized service at its best.
Leading SaaS platform and marketing automation solution ActiveCampaign is trusted by 150,000+ businesses around the world. And for good reason: their happy customers can receive customer support in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian or Portuguese, can contact customer support via any digital channel, and can rest assured they’ll receive instant support from the company’s bot 24 hours a day.
How to deliver SaaS customer support success in 2023
Good customer support truly underpins any good SaaS company. With ever-increasing competition and high customer churn rates abounding for SaaS companies, successful support teams make sure their team has everything they need to be successful, implement the right technology to maximize productivity, and establish customer-centric processes that they improve upon. Following these best practices for SaaS customer support will help you retain customers, stand out from the crowd, and see success in 2023 and beyond.