Spending Smart on Customer Service

Companies know where their bread is buttered, and one of the last things they have wanted to cut during these economically lean times is anything customer-facing. Conversely, now that budgets are opening up a bit again, customer service-based technology, training, and hiring are some of the first things smart companies are investing in.

“Executives are paying more attention to customer service in an effort to increase sales and gain market share in the economic recovery,” according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.  In the article, executives from companies ranging from Walgreen to Comcast to American Express said that they are looking to customer service to entice customers who are starting to spend again, attain competitive advantage, and to engender loyalty.

FreshBooks, which provides online invoicing and time-tracking services, has committed not just its customer service team, but the whole company to ongoing customer service training and support. “Everyone in the company is really responsible for customer support,” says FreshBooks “Firestarter” Darius Bashar.

Indeed, every one of FreshBooks’ employees spends some time in a customer service capacity.

“Ever since I first came to FreshBooks, there was no mistake that customers were the most important thing,” says Customer Support Manager Grace Antonio. “As soon as you start at the company–whether you are a developer or a marketer, a recruiter, IT specialist, anything–every person spends time on the support team, learning how to do support. They talk to customers on the phone and through e-mail because we see that it’s such an important part of our culture–to be able to build a relationship with customers and know how they think and what they need.”

When companies look to make a new or increased investment in customer service, there’s no better place than in the people who are providing the service, according to Antonio. “The best investment people can make in customer service is definitely in the kind of people you hire.”

Antonio said that anyone looking for a customer service position at Freshbooks should expect a rigorous hiring process. “It’s not easy to get a job on the support team,” she says. “What we’re looking for mainly is fit within our culture, fit within our team. When you hire people you know you can trust and who will genuinely do what’s best for the customer, you know that everything will fall into place.”

4 Customer Support Investment Trends

When it comes to investing in customer service, four trends have recently emerged, according to John Ragsdale, vice president of technology research, Technology Services Industry Association. In a recent column on SearchCRM.com, Ragsdale said the following trends will impact service and support through 2011.

Technology spending
Aging legacy tools and lower-cost on-demand options are key drivers in this area.

Social media
A large number of companies already have online discussion forums, and that companies have been quick to make use of social channels such as Twitter and Facebook. However, few companies have done the integration necessary to fully exploit these channels.

Focus on search
Search technology, more so now than knowledge bases, can help reach the right answers at the right time.

Mobile devices and applications
Companies are spending on mobile technology to make employees more productive and allow customers more self-service options, he said.

Throughout the coming year Zengage will analyze the investments companies are making in customer service. If your company has made a smart investment in customer service, let us know at editor@zendesk.com.