Trust is that feeling you get when the takeaway service you’ve been ordering from for years delivers delicious, well-prepared dishes every time. Or, maybe you don’t even notice normally, but it’s the fact that your lights always turn on because the electricity company is doing its job.
Customers around the world rated customer service as the number one factor influencing their loyalty to a brand. “Earning customers’ trust does not happen overnight, but it is worth striving for. Creating trust is paramount to creating customer loyalty,” says customer service expert Shep Hyken.
For software companies, many things go into building trust around your brand – not least in delivering on the promises you make, and consistently offering good service. We can even earn the trust of a customer without the presence of a human – as long as they perceive the service they receive as part of your coherent ethos.
For example, avoid implementing a self-service knowledge base as a cost-saving measure. Instead, frame it as an option for customers to help themselves, which also allows you to scale your support operations more effectively by making better use of your resources.
The difference is to be found in your mindset, but it will be reflected in how your customers perceive your brand.
Everyone in your company can be involved with your customers in some way, but your support reps are likely to be your strongest customer advocates. They will be a goldmine of information on how to understand your customers better. “Until you understand your customers — deeply and genuinely — you cannot truly serve them,” says Rasheed Ogunlaru, Author of Soul Trader.
Talking to customers on a regular basis definitely helps, but we can also be more sneaky because we have access to the data. There may be some things customers aren’t willing or able to share, but are reflected in how they are interacting with the software, which you can learn about through Google Analytics or tools like FullStory.
When analysing your customers, you can use a potent mixture of intuition, knowledge, and qualitative and quantitative data, to build a clearer picture of your customers and their habits. Find out their most common sticking points, prioritize what needs fixing, and formulate a plan for solving it.
Put your best foot forward in your knowledge base. Make sure your self-service content is helpful and up-to-date, and covers the most common queries that customers have. Only a handful of articles will be the top most frequently visited by your customers.
Invest in an attractive and powerful knowledge base using software like Document360. Make sure your Help Center is easy to browse, and also include a prominent and powerful search bar so customers can quickly search for specific articles.
You should write your self-service content in your brand voice, in line with your knowledge base style guide. Some content can be somewhat more informal, like your tutorials and Getting Started guides, but your more crisis-oriented troubleshooting guides should be plain and to the point. Upset and frustrated customers aren’t in the mood for jokes or memes.
When it comes to the writing itself, use an Every Page is Page One approach. That means topic-based authoring with liberal use of interlinking to related topics. Imagine that your customers can be arriving at your knowledge base from anywhere, including your app, a support ticket, or a search engine like Google.
Solicit feedback on your articles with a rating system, and regularly review content to check it’s still valid.
So what’s an example of a customer issue that you could deflect with self-service? It’s any solution that is relatively repeatable and can be distilled into easy-to-follow steps.
Take the process of renewing a subscription. This is a common customer action that, nevertheless, some customers may have questions about. Take the time to create some self-service content that will answer the most popular queries. They might want to know:
If your self-service content anticipates and answers their questions successfully, you’ve reinforced the cycle of trust that your content will be effective. This improves the likelihood that customers will automatically turn to your knowledge base when they have a problem.
When our customers are in distress, they need to trust that we’ll have their back, and there is a strong probability of their problem being solved. This keeps Customer Satisfaction Score and Net Promoter Score® high, and lowers the rate of customer churn. That’s extremely important, when you consider it costs 6–7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. Retaining customers makes good business sense.
When we trust a brand, that means we have much more to lose if we were to choose to switch to a competitor. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” as the saying goes.
According to Sam Pardhan of Brand Marketing Psychology, one of our fundamental human needs is a sense of control over our environment. One of the main ways we acquire that sense of control is by giving it to others whom we trust.
For software companies in particular, earning trust is an important part of building a successful long-term relationship with your customers. You demonstrate your trustworthiness most effectively through your behaviour. Customers know that words are meaningless – unless they are backed up by corresponding action. “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do,” said renowned Swiss psychologist Carl Jung.
When customers first sign up for your software, they expect a typical level of service such as working software that delivers the functionality that has been advertised. Beyond this, customers also expect you to provide helpful and friendly service if something goes wrong, promptly fix software bugs, and increase the value they receive for the price paid. Trust is not earnt one time and kept. It must be continually renewed.
If customers have to contact your support team every time they have a problem, they will soon grow tired – no matter how friendly your reps are. Investing in self-service shows that you have thought about your customers’ most common problems, and are proactively trying to solve them.
Earning the trust of your customers is just one part of a successful customer support strategy. More than half of customers have higher expectations for customer service than they did just one year ago.
Although customers actually feel less anxious when they know there is a human available, they don’t necessarily have to contact you. Simply knowing they could quickly get help if something went wrong is enough to calm customers, but the likelihood of them opening a support request remains relatively low if self-service content is sufficient.
There are many customer support faux pas that we need to avoid, and not providing self-service content is just one of them. Everything we do should be oriented towards making the experience of the customer as easy and pleasant as possible. “When the customer comes first, the customer will last,” says Robert Half, Founder of Robert Half International.
Don’t be one of those companies that fails to adopt a self-service strategy. Invest in your customers, and you will reap the rewards.