Tag Archive: customer relationship


In the past I have spoken mostly about getting your product to market, making sure you have good marketing programs to support your brand and building an ongoing relationship with customers.  Now, I want to touch on how you can offer support for your product and the role of customer self-assistance.

Just a few years ago when you needed help for a product you bought, you would call the company you bought it from and talk to someone. Companies often staffed call centers to handle billing and tech support. Soon after companies began outsourcing all or parts of call centers to offset direct labor costs. We are at a crossroads in the customer support business. Some companies offer staffed call centers, while others have begun migrating to a more 2.0 expereince moving primary support online. Much of this depends on the product/service being offered and the target customer base. If you are re-selling Retail Electric service for example, you are probably still very heavily supporting your customers through traditional call center tactics. If your model includes SaaS apps or other web-based distributions, you have probably added more self-help options. Truthfully, we most commonly see a hybrid approach of traditional support options and next-gen apps. Companies need to understand how “their” customers will seek support.

There are endless options you can choose from when offering self assistance. From self diagnostic tests to chat and e-mail, the choices are endless. Not every option is right from your product or customer base. Choose from some of the options I outline in the two major categories below and apply them consistently to your product/service, offer, marketing, brand and customers.

  1. Social Media – The social web spurs conversations that can help or harm a brand. Customer complaints can reach thousands of people within minutes. Consumers expect an immediate response. Monitor conversations on Twitter, YouTube, RSS feeds, your Facebook fan page, and other industry specific social channels,  and forums. This helps you respond quickly and appropriately to global or groups of issues. All of these social channels allow you to engage your customers in authentic conversations to assist them, and support brand loyalty. Offer peer-to-peer support forums. By allowing them to ask questions and find answers in an online community, users talk to each other, build relationships and solve issues without adding a single call or email to your contact center’s workload. Monitor the forum content and gain reusable content for your knowledge base.
  2. Web Services – According to Forrester Research, 72 percent of online consumers prefer to use a company’s website to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email. You need to provide this growing base of customers with options. You will free up agents to handle Tier II and III issues, drive down costs and do more with less.  Build and maintain a knowledge base of product information, and FAQs. Continuously add to it through social media tools, dynamic adds and search etc. Offer pop-up guides within the base to lead the conversations, or even link out to chat/e-mail services. A staple in the web services category is Chat. It can bridge the gap between your website knowledge base and phone-based interactions. It provides a way to engage a customer or prospect before they abandon a purchase or when they have problems solving their own customer service issue. Consumers like the immediacy of chatting with agents on an organization’s website. Chat can provide more timely and personal resolution, especially when leveraged as a complementary point of contact to the traditional call center support channel. For more complex issues, offer e-mail support with defined turn around times. Finally, push it to the cloud and make all of this available anywhere, anytime and any place. Mobile support with native app building is here and beginning to move all of this information past just PC accessibility. Take advantage.

The key in all of this is to provide your customers with interaction options across many channels and use your common knowledge foundation to provide consistency and efficiency. Empower your customers to self-serve at their convenience, through their communication channel of choice. Please listen to your customers and learn what they are thinking and act on it. Who cares if you think it’s a great service plan if they don’t? Keep your most loyal, knowledgeable customers—the ones with strong opinions and great product ideas close. Make them part of the ideation and innovation processes, so they can help you identify new business opportunities, guide your product roadmap, prioritize and refine ideas, and develop your next breakthrough product. Lastly, evaluate, baseline, identify and adapt to your customers.

Through my experience in numerous SDLCs and product development/deployment cycles one common theme seems to hold true. It is one axiom that when implemented correctly will bring any product to market on time and under budget. This process unifies marketing, IT, channel support and back office.

The cyclical process of Learn, Get, Buy, Use Pay, Service is a proven Go-To-Market strategy that will insure all of your items are cared for and managed to bring a product to market effectively. It is important to consider all of these elements to fully design, develop and deliver truly customer focused products.  Proper implementation however also requires close program management and controls. This approach demands that the customer is placed directly into the deployment cycle. Below is a definition of the different phases throughout the cycle. 

Learn – Contains all of the items that will be implemented that a customer will use to learn about the product. It might contain: Marketing (off and online), PR, cross-channel, blogs, facebook, twitter etc.

Buy – Defines the customer interfaces to purchase the product and the process to complete purchase. Can include transactional, resellers, direct buy, new payment processing etc.

Get – Contains all of the processes to be implemented that will deliver the product to the customers. This may include any fulfillment, legal terms, downloads, FTPs etc. These are the key methods that will get the product in the customers’ hands.

Use – This is the part of the cycle that most people focus on. There are the key methods that enable the product to function. Contains enabling all access points, and opening up code if necessary.

Pay – Defines the processes implemented to enable bill payment by the customer. This might include modifying existing bill adding out additional services, opening up credit card billing, or any transactional services.

Service – In my opinion, this is one of the most important, but overlooked phases of the Go-To-Market process. Most companies seem to consider this as a standalone process and divorced from the deployment process. This includes considering agent support processes, e-mail, chat, twitter, facebook, FAQs, blogging etc. Spending time building these interfaces before a product is deployed will reap tremendous benefits in cost savings, revenue and customer experience.

In summary, if a company utilizes this cycle of deployment they will be forced to place the customer first and challenge all elements of their existing strategies. This will also lead to comprehensive, logical project plans which can be managed and bring customer focused, effective products.