Customer Success Executive Vend
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Follow the sun: Lessons in delivering 24-hour customer support

19th Aug 2016
Customer Success Executive Vend
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One of the biggest challenges faced by fast-growing businesses is to know the answer to this simple (yet vital) question: “What do all our customers need?”

A major factor is having access to immediate support when they unexpectedly need it most, which inevitably won’t coincide with your typical nine-to-five. Depending on the industry, businesses can work at varying hours throughout the day (and night), and if you have customers in multiple countries (if you’re online, then chances are you do), this means you really need to have 24-hour support. Your customers – and your bottom line - will only thank you for it.

This was one of the first things we focussed on when tackling customer success at Vend. Our support teams live by the motto “be available, be everywhere, and be helpful”, and here are a few of the lessons we’ve learnt about providing consistent, 24-hour support: 

Be everywhere - figure out your customer clock

One of the first things we did was to look at where our customers were, and what hours they would most likely need support. Our customers are retailers, and retail is not a desk job. When the store is open, say from nine-to-five, staff and managers are busy serving customers and dealing with their products and inventory. If they need support (unless it’s something very major) they will usually wait until closing time, so they can dedicate undivided time and effort to getting it fixed. That means our support teams often receive the bulk of their queries at the beginning and end of the day. And as a global business, with customers in over 140 countries, we need to be able to serve all of our customers no matter what time zone they’re in.

Being everywhere means following the sun. We plotted out our office working hours on a clock to see where we would need to set up support teams in order to cover a full 24 hours. Our team in New Zealand will work morning until evening, until our team in London takes over for a few hours, followed by Toronto, and then it’s back to New Zealand for their morning shift. Knowing the time zones we needed also helped in deciding where to open new global offices, and gave our expansion some clear direction. 

Be available - Cover yourself for gaps or busy periods

While we have three support offices to cover the 24-hour clock, the reality is that we do still have a gap of a few hours which falls outside our teams’ working days. At the same time, one of the biggest challenges in customer support is forecasting for demand. You always staff your team based on the volume of enquiries you expect. But what if the volume spikes, you have staff call in sick, or like us, you have a window of a few hours where there’s no one available to take enquiries? That’s why it’s important to have burst control. There are companies you can work with who can help to cover these periods for you, and step in to lend a hand when you’re unexpectedly busy. They’re not just there to put their finger in the dam until your ‘actual’ team gets into the office - they are just like an extension of your own customer service team, and have undertaken detailed product training to know your company and customers inside and out.

Burst control is a key part of our customer success strategy, and it’s a fantastic way to ensure your customers still receive the quality of support you would strive for at times that work for their business.

Lastly, gather feedback and actually use it

In customer support, it’s important to be able to address the feedback and needs of all your customers, not just the vocal few. Whilst the loudest voices are the easiest to address, it’s the shy majority who should truly be getting your attention. But how do you do this when they’re not speaking up? It’s all about data.#

We have an amazing Customer Health algorithm that calculates how engaged and satisfied our customers are based on a number of different factors. This means we can communicate with each customer in a particular way depending on their ‘health’, to provide really individualised support. We gather a lot of stats to monitor how well our support team is doing and how customers are feeling - for example we ask a very brief satisfaction question after each support query is resolved, and usually sit at around a 95% satisfaction rate. Any less than that, and we’re looking to see how the team can do better.

We also monitor a Net-Promoter-Score (NPS) which asks customers for a ranking from 1-10 based on one simple question: “How likely would you be to recommend Vend to a friend or colleague?” and gives customers the opportunity to add more detail if they wish. We learn two invaluable things from this - we get an idea of overall customer satisfaction, and we can spot any problem trends that need resolving. The trick is in identifying the common problem themes in the NPS feedback, and then designing ways to address them. Looking closely at recurring feedback and acting on it is one of the best things you can do to better your support, grow your product, and help your customers succeed.

Sharad Mohan is Chief Customer Officer at Vend

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