4 Strategies to Building a Great Support Culture

June 10, 2015

It isn’t a secret that one of the main success factors for FreshBooks has been our Support Team. Since day one, we saw a horribly underserved group of small business owners who were ignored by big business. They didn’t have large corporate bank accounts, didn’t spend enough for the platinum status concierge perks and were generally left alone to fight for their business with no one in their corner. We saw this injustice as our calling and decided that we were going to give them a level of support they haven’t experienced before.

Over the last 10 years, we have identified four support elements that we believe make the biggest impact on our small business customers.

1. Build Support into your company culture

Perhaps one of the biggest myths that floats around the Customer Service world is the concept that customer service is a cost centre and should be operated as lean as possible. I remember sitting on a plane next to a VP of Operations for one of the big Canadian telcos who unabashedly declared, “Support is just a cost centre anyways”. No wonder contacting these companies is incredibly painful – if those at the top don’t even care about support, why would the ones at the bottom be any different?

At FreshBooks, every single person who gets hired does a full month of customer support. This has been the case since day one and is passionately held by every level of the company. We strongly believe that talking to our customers allows employees to truly understand our product, our company and the people that matter the most, our customers.

2. Make it easy for your clients to get help

In Steve Krug’s webpage design book, Don’t Make Me Think, he explains that every customer has a level of goodwill or happiness towards your service. If they run into an issue, their happiness level takes a hit and as they search for a solution, every hoop they must jump through decreases that happiness even more.

We’ve all been there – just think of the last time you couldn’t find a company’s phone number or were forced to listen to a thousand different menu options. My personal favourite was being put on hold for 45 minutes while listening to an automated message praise the award winning team I’m about to speak with.

The trick about creating a great support organization is to remove as many of these hoops as possible.

A common misstep companies make is focusing on what would make their lives easier instead of the customer’s. For example, it’s helpful for a company to implement a phone tree because they can understand the support load better. However, the customer experience isn’t about what is better for you, it should always be about what is better for the customer.

At FreshBooks, our phone number has been and always will be at the top of our home page and when you call, you will be connected with someone that can solve your problem right away. No phone tree, no hold times. Instead of frustrated customers who have been on hold for the last hour, we get people who are surprised to talk to a human. They still need their issue solved, but we’ve made the process much less painful for them.

3. Solve their problem

When a customer calls in, the highest form of support is to help that customer – no matter what. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is actually exceptionally rare to get someone who is willing to go out of their way to completely solve your problem. Doing so forms a connection so strong you will win over that user’s trust for life. Instead of calling a stranger half way across the country, they feel as though they are talking to a trusted friend.

It’s not out of the ordinary to get a customer request at FreshBooks that is outside the scope of what our software can do. In these situations, it would be so easy to choose to go down the Unfortunately Path (that is, “Unfortunately, FreshBooks does not currently support….”). However, at FreshBooks, we try our hardest to help our customers as best we can, in every situation. A great example of this is when customers ask for specific reports that we do not have in the application. Instead of giving the customer the bad news that it is not possible, we will find out what they need and try to create the report manually for them. Often, this involves requesting data from our backend, manual editing in Excel and a lot of time, but the experience the customer receives is worth all the effort.

4. Put a cherry on top

Many customers have very low expectations when reaching out to support teams. They are so used to having poor experiences that if they can reach a real person who solves their problem, they are generally pretty blown away by just that. This low bar allows great support teams to really rise above by taking things even further and providing a personal and special ‘wow’ experience.

At FreshBooks, we really watch out for moments where we can make someone’s day. For example, one of our Support Reps, Chris, took on a case where a FreshBooks customer was closing down his account because he was being deployed in the military. Chris saw an opportunity to do something special for this customer and researched what the best items were for newly deployed service people. He found that socks and baby wipes were the best, so sent our customer a care package with both. The response was huge and Chris was really able to make them feel special.

To help encourage this, we empower all our Support reps to spend as much as they want to make a ‘wow’ moment. No approval required! The results are heart-warming and really show our customers that we really care about them beyond just their subscription.

We hope that these points help you to fine tune your approach to customer service and hopefully we can collectively continue to raise the bar for customer service so that customers everywhere get the magical experience that they deserve.

Steve Bujouves

Director of Support, FreshBooks

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about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.

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