Why Customer Support Pros Aren’t A Cost Center: They’re The Frontline Marketers Of Your Industry

Customer support professionals remove obstacles. They enhance the experience. They make friction disappear.

Customer support is often at the frontline of enabling customers to appreciate your product or service. Often, customer service agents may be the only face or voice someone can connect directly to the business.

Yet, these individuals, the ones bearing the flag for an entire organization, are typically overworked, underpaid, and underserved.

Meet Help Scout.

Help Scout has built a kick-ass SaaS product that enables Customer Support Reps (CSRs) and others to perform faster and better.

They’ve also created a culture where these professionals are valued, heard, and understood.

Their clients love the product and the company, because both are built around them.

From Help Scout’s customers, to their employees, even those unhappy with how Help Scout’s changing the industry, I heard one thing in common with every stakeholder:

Help Scout is ruthless about customer-centricity.

That’s why Help Scout is an #Exception.

Crazy About Customer-Centricity

I spoke with Mercer Smith-Looper, who works at Appcues as the Head of Support. Her company uses Help Scout, and to Mercer, the support she receives is mind-blowing.

Here’s one example: In her previous role at Wistia, her engineers and technicians were routinely writing what they thought were only internal notes. Unfortunately, the engineers were often writing communications directly back to guests with “engineer-speak” not customer-oriented verbiage.

So, Mercer reached out to Help Scout with the issue. Help Scout immediately implemented a color feature within their product that highlighted customer notes vs. internal documentation different colors.

Problem solved, fan earned, and advocacy achieved.

That brings us to our Big Idea.

Today’s Big Idea: Don’t Just Relate to Your Customers—Advocate for Them

Last episode, we discussed becoming a platform for your audience, something upon which a community can relate and loudly proclaim their issues.

Advocacy turns up the heat.

It means standing up for something or someone and being a voice of change, turning relevancy into action.

Every company has customers. You may not be serving customer support professionals like Help Scout, but you are helping someone, somewhere, solve their issues.

In B2B, we tend to forget something: Our customer’s aren’t commodities, they aren’t MQLs, they aren’t tickets. They aren’t even customers.

They’re people.

They have real worlds, real lives, real problems.

Be an advocate for them — and not just with your product. Ensure your brand is synonymous with “champions of change” for the individuals you are aiming to serve.

Challenge more than just your own competitors. Focus on the largest issues facing your customers, even if it’s a direct challenge to the accepted status quo with the industry.

This is the kind of relevancy-turned-advocacy that Help Scout has accomplished.

Early on, they realized something: In most companies, customer support agents are viewed as a cost center, or worse, as a necessary evil.

This is why customer support agents are chronically underpaid, overworked, and under-appreciated.

I talked with the CEO of Help Scout, Nick Francis, about what makes Help Scout stand out from his competitors.

Nick didn’t point me to “faster handle time,” “more ROI,” or “better reporting for CSR tickets.”

He pointed me toward their ruthless pursuit of advocacy for their customers.

One way they do this: Help Scout releases a document every year that shows the average pay of CSRs compared to others within their respective industries. As you can probably guess, often times, these CSRs are underpaid. And many times, this reports end up at the C-suite of Help Scout clients.

This hasn’t always gone well with various companies, but you know who loves this type of advocacy? Customer support agents. They feel valued, heard, and respected.

Help Scout’s brand name = advocacy.

3 Questions to Help You …

Question #1 What Is Blocking Your Customer’s Success?

To advocate for your customers, you must move past the tunnel vision of your product and discover what is hindering your customers from executing.

Help Scout dug deep and understood that customer service professionals were drastically underpaid and overlooked. They championed that issue. They were willing to face the “suits” in charge over it. And people like Mercer aren’t just excited to use Help Scouts products. They rave about the entire Help Scout brand.

Find what’s blocking your customer’s success, address it, remove it, and become a true advocate.

Question #2 Are You Vetting New Employees to Immediately Trust Them?

Do you trust your employees to serve your customers?

Here’s an idea for your hiring process: Copy Help Scout’s hiring method, and ditch the Q&A portion of your interviews. Start assigning tasks during the interview process.

I apply this to my own company. I pay my writers well, but I want to know if I can trust them to perform. Early on, I give them writing assignments to determine their strengths, so if I move forward with an offer, I can immediately trust they will be performing the quality of work necessary for the job.

Question #3 Do You Believe Customer Support Is A Cost Center Or The Front Lines of Your Brand?

(This comes directly from Help Scout.)

The very language often used to describe customer support professionals and their industry is degrading: “cost center,” “average handle time,” “tickets,” etc.

We have to move away from this misconception in viewing these vital professionals as a cost and start seeing them as the front lines of our brand. They are the epicenter, the direct marketing, the frontline flag bearers for us.

Treat them as such. The company will reap the rewards of enhanced brand image in the long run.

Watch the full episode of #Exceptions here: 

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