Until recently, customer service was a less pronounced aspect of business, and not much thought was put into making it a value-add. The thinking behind this was that customer support was only useful for receiving complaints from begrudged clients.
Accordingly, CFOs considered it a cost function — hire customer service reps and fund their operations, and try to cut down such funding as much as possible while at it!
Much like how people dashed the West for the California Gold Rush, CFOs are now striking gold with customer service as a revenue function — a key touchpoint where they can gather valuable data and insights on customers to identify new business opportunities.
There’re different approaches to customer service that uncover value-add for companies looking to generate more revenue. Direct (tangible and explicit) value-adds would typically entail increased renewal rates, easy upsells, and customers that stick around for the long haul (increased average customer lifetime), as more sales trickle in. But it’s not just about the numbers.
Value-add can also be tacit – indirect, or come in intangible forms gleaned through interaction and experience, making it unseen until shared. For instance, a delightful all-round customer service experience that differentiates a brand from the competition, thereby enticing prospects during marketing or sales; Or, more insight into customer needs to aid the product development (R&D) process.
Whichever way this value comes to play, it looks like CFOs are readily riding this wave: TSIA’s The State of Customer Success 2020 reported that CFOs would rather fund customer success resources with direct monetization than throw resources at customer service. As such, monetization can also be a way to prove ROI.
But maximizing the input from customer service to acquire more clients and expand profit margins is no walk in the park. It takes careful analysis, planning, and time.
Things to consider before introducing the “M” word
Thinking about monetizing your customer service? Bright idea! But before you take the plunge, there’re a few things to consider.
It’s crucial to make sure everyone is on the same page and fully trained to handle the transition.
Depending on your product, process, and organization, you might need a new team structure or additional training for your monetization strategy. You may also need to develop new marketing communications, education initiatives, and onboarding processes to ease the transition.
Ultimately, to ensure long-term success, both your organization and your customers must be prepared. The key to success is finding the best monetization strategy for your business. But before you make that big decision, take a deep-dive analysis of your customers, their needs, and how you’re currently filling those needs (the value you bring them).
It’s important to remember that as your offering evolves, so does your customer. The last thing you want is to jump in with both feet and lose a chunk of customers. Get ahead of the game by gathering intelligence on your business, with an outside perspective for prospects looking in.
Strategies for Monetizing Customer Service
One of the best things about customers’ insight is that it presents the most reliable, unbiased information about them. Your customer base is a storehouse of knowledge and feedback on your value proposition you can harness for a successful launch.
With that in mind, we’ve cherry-picked 8 of the best strategies to adopt to give you a headstart in successfully making a money-spinner of your customer service:
Embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered tools
The disruptive power of AI is finding its way into industries, and customer service is no exception. The stats echo this sentiment: This Gartner report finds that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships with companies without interacting with humans.
High-class businesses are using AI to elevate their service to new heights, and if you want to make big bucks, you can’t afford to miss out on the AI revolution.
This entails using cutting-edge tools like Chatbots and Assist Agents to quickly respond to customers and provide immediate, on-demand assistance, also giving customers the option of self-service.
Analysis firm Juniper Research found in a recent research that chatbots alone are expected to cut back on labor and operational costs by $8 billion+ every year from 2022. The costs being saved can be pulled back into R&D processes to innovate a better product for customers.
With AI, your company can track customer queries and issues automatically, saving you the cost of hiring additional customer service agents.
Focus on the customer experience
According to Microsoft’s Global State of Customer Service Report, 90% of consumers think customer service plays a pivotal role in their choice of and loyalty to a brand.
This research done by Havard Business Review also points to the direct link between customer experience and annual revenue. In the report, it was claimed that customers with the best experience spent 140% more than others with a bad or less-than-great experience.
It’s not an oddity to see customers dreading having to return with an issue because they are either put on hold or flat-out ignored.
Remember that great customer service will lead to referrals, so ensure that you focus on making their experience with your company nothing less than phenomenal. In choosing your support team, avoid going for square pegs in round holes — onboard agents that are equipped to provide the right solutions for the relevant customer queries without delay.
A team like that will win the hearts of these customers, enabling them to spread the word about your company’s exceptional service (positive word-of-mouth).
Use customer support as a springboard to streamline internal processes
Service desks are busy and under pressure. And so, they often struggle finding time and resources to make changes that could streamline company-wide processes.
However, recent advances and innovations in both communication technologies and service management have enabled support teams to cost-effectively streamline operations while meeting support demands and stakeholder expectations.
The best bit? These changes can be made quickly and without breaking the bank. Harnessing the power of integration and automation, teams can deploy technology to share data about customers with other departments and let them know what challenges they face as well as what is working well as they learn and improve.
Streamlining helps you align customer service with company goals. Since customer service metrics are now largely tied to revenue targets, you need internal consistency — across all departments, from sales to marketing to product management and R&D — to work as a coordinated unit and deliver results throughout your business.
Use customer service to drive product development
Often, customer feedback is a rich repository of game-changing innovation for product development. With the gift of insight into customer pain points, companies can establish collaboration between the customer support team and the product teams — a strategic partnership where they exchange customer data to bring the company’s products closer to customer expectations.
By carefully mining data from customer support channels, your company gets first-hand insight into the minds of the clients and can then come up with tangible ideas for product development to drive more sales and increase adoption. Plus, product improvements like these make the customers feel like their concerns are being heard, thereby driving customer retention and a positive image.
Feed support insights into your marketing engine
Successful marketing campaigns draw potential new clients into the sales funnel. A big part of making your marketing successful is knowing exactly what appeals to your target audience and applying it. What better way to know what’s running through customers’ minds than through the customer support system?
The desire to solve product problems is mostly what informs search intent. As such, taking a closer look at the concerns raised and questions asked by customers, you’re likely to find that a gold mine of product issues you could deploy for content marketing.
This way, you create useful on-site content that answers customer questions and speaks from their POV to resonate more deeply. To go for the kill, power your marketing activities with these customer insights and watch your engagement levels and traffic skyrocket for more ROI.
Provide proactive support
Providing proactive support is one of the surest ways to keep your customers in your corner. Keep the communication lines open and establish a presence across all platforms so that whenever a customer chooses to contact you, they get a prompt response. And do not be limited to swift responses only. Take proactive steps to anticipate some of the needs of your clients before they even realize that they need it and suggest it to them.
One such step is subscribing to the “call avoidance” principle to streamline support models, saving time and money.
Why is this important? Well, as many in the industry know, telephone contact is often the most time-consuming and costly communication channel for support. But, thanks to advancements in self-service and self-help capabilities, call avoidance support structures have been a staple in the consumer marketplace for years.
Think about it: providing a live person-to-person communication channel for every contact is unrealistic and unsustainable. Instead, self-service portals have become a “one-stop shop” for end users, offering everything from password reset facilities to global system outage updates. This way, users only need to contact support when self-help cannot assist.
And it’s not just theory. In reality, self-service is already relatively widespread in the IT service desk industry. But there’s always room for improvement and lessons from the consumer marketplace can point us toward a more holistic approach. As service desks are increasingly pressured to do more with less, professionals need to take note of these consumer-space successes and apply them to their support models.
Do not overlook the employee experience
Your employees are a reflection of your company — and by extension, its relationship with customers. While you’re activating tools to enhance customers’ experiences, don’t abandon that of your employees.
Only a happy and well-treated agent can pass on the company’s values when interacting with customers on any platform.
Make sure your employees, particularly those at the customer-facing front, are not being made to perform in an unhealthy work environment. Invest in employee satisfaction and watch them go above and beyond in smashing customer service KPIs, leading to a happy customer base.
Turn successful support interactions into selling opportunities
Imagine your customer having to drive 2 hours to the next town to return an item. For every customer complaining about the distance to reach a supplier of your product, you’ve lost so many others who must’ve been too discouraged to bother.
When offering support, be sure not to lose sight of the bigger picture. The immediate solution might be a refund, but the long-term solution could be an opportunity to extend your marketing & sales footprints to a new demographic — or roll out an exciting new feature to significantly cut back on future refunds!
The possibilities are endless, but you only find out after a successful support interaction. To avoid a backlash, you also want to be wary of upselling while the customer issue is still pending. There’s always plenty of room for promotional efforts after the issue has been resolved.
It doesn’t have to be an out-and-out attempt to close a sale on the customers; why push a tedious sales pitch when a subtle, yet effective, strategy like a cleverly placed promotional link in the footer of your closing emails can be the gentle nudge needed to seal the deal?
Calling all businesses! Whether you’re a small startup or a big corporation, we all know that customer service is the true ruler of the land. But, who says delivering great experiences has to break the bank?
From cutting costs to increasing revenue, the sustainable strategies we’ve outlined here’ll help you create and maintain a connection with your customer base that boosts your bottomline, while strengthening your brand image to place you firmly among the key players within your industry.