SaaS companies are subscription-based businesses. That means they need to keep customers happy with high-quality service so they can retain customers for the long term.The key element in retention is the product itself. Customers won’t stay around for long if they can’t achieve their goals using the software.
But customer service plays a vital role in keeping customers on board, too. Microsoft says that 90% of customers consider customer service when making buying decisions.
The question is: how can you provide great SaaS customer support? And what specific customer service challenges do SaaS teams face? This article will explore these pointers in greater detail.
What exactly is SaaS customer support?
SaaS customer service is everything you do to help customers get the most from your product. It includes answering questions and troubleshooting problems through channels like live chat, chatbot, email, communities, and phone support. While much of SaaS customer service involves agent interaction, it can also include self-service help channels.
Great customer service is critical for SaaS. Here’s why:
Customer service is important no matter what you’re selling. But SaaS businesses have several unique customer service challenges.
SaaS products can be complex. Customer support teams need to provide clear instructions about how to overcome technical difficulties. This isn’t something that, for example, e-commerce stores typically have to worry about.
SaaS products are deeply ingrained into the customer’s business. Any issues with your product could seriously affect their ability to operate. You need a way to provide fast support that’s always available.
Retaining SaaS customers depends on them using your product. If users fail to see the value your product offers, they can cancel their subscription and move on. Providing great customer support is essential to keeping customers on board.
Many studies show that good customer service can have a material impact on a business. It can directly impact revenue by stopping customer churning and encouraging promoters.
Below are some enlightening customer service statistics.
Customer Service Statistics
58% of customers will stop doing business with you due to poor customer service.
89% of customers say a positive support experience makes them more likely to buy again.
Americans are willing to spend 17% more with companies that offer good customer service.
94% of customers who rate a company’s customer experience as “Very Good” are likely to recommend them.
62% of customers share bad experiences with others.
Three pillars of SaaS customer support
A good customer support system has many elements. We think the following three pillars are vital to providing high-quality customer service.
You can’t provide amazing customer service without knowledgeable agents, as they are the people who interact with customers and offer support. They help you build lasting customer relationships.
Hiring the right people is key. You need to find candidates with good soft skills, empathy, and enough technical knowledge to help with complex challenges.
You also need to train your staff well. A robust onboarding process will teach new hires about your brand and quickly get them up-to-date with your product and customer service processes. Use this alongside on-the-job training and mentoring from more experienced agents.It’s also a common practice to create different levels of support teams depending on the complexity of the issues.
For example, agents in Level 1 support interact with customers, understand the issues, and offer solutions if they are simple. The L2 support team takes care of the relatively complex support tickets routed to them via the L1 team. Finally, L3 is the last line of support and this team handles the most complex issues.
Great software stack
While agents are the ones providing support, the customer service tech stack enables them to do so. There are various types of customer support software available that make it easy to offer service via multiple channels.
Most customer support teams will use some form of ticketing software that organizes customer service requests from multiple channels in a single inbox. These tools make it easy for teams to answer requests as they come in.
But there are plenty of other tools that help teams.
Community software creates a secure space where customers can interact with each other and with agents. Users can ask questions in the community and search through previously answered questions to find answers fast—thus deflecting customer support tickets.
Knowledge base software lets you create a searchable database of commonly asked customer questions. It’s a helpful way to reduce the number of tickets your team has to deal with.
Cloud contact center software lets you offer phone-based support via a virtual contact center operated via mobile or browser apps.
Chat software allows you to offer real-time text support. Many of these tools come with chatbots that enable automated support.
And this is just the software that is built especially to enable customer support. Tools like cloud storage and video conferencing software may also be necessary.
The final pillar of great support is the resources that support your team.
Clear product documentation will help your team find answers to even the most complex customer queries. You should also define the key processes and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that enable your team to work effectively. Creating email templates or saved replies that agents can use to solve common customer problems also helps.
It’s all about ensuring that your customer support team can access everything they need to work effectively.
SaaS customer support best practices
Once you have agents, software, and resources set up, you have the foundations to execute your customer support strategy.
Implementing best practices will ensure you use these tools effectively. This section will introduce four best practices you can use at your company.
Speed is of the essence
Customers say that speed is the most important aspect of an exceptional customer experience. They want and expect companies to answer their questions quickly.
It’s especially important in SaaS, where businesses use products as part of their daily workflow. Any interruption to service will impact their ability to generate revenue.
The question for SaaS customer service teams is how can they improve speed without sacrificing quality. Here are some strategies you could implement.
Self-service support provides access to instant answers while reducing the number of queries your team has to deal with.
Hiring more reps will help you deal with an increased number of tickets.
Omnichannel support makes it both easy for customers to find and speak to you and for your team to respond to requests.
A customer community encourages product users to help peers by answering each other’s queries.
Grouping issues ensures customers get through to the relevant people for their problems. Create different teams for billing issues, technical problems, and more.
Creating SOPs helps you quickly respond to common problems. For example, create a templated message that shows customers how to solve a specific problem and use this as the base for relevant customer requests.
Visibility into how long it takes your team to respond to tickets also helps. Track metrics like First Response Time and Average Handle Time and use the information to take action when necessary.
Also, be sure to keep customers informed about wait times.
Let customers know on contact forms or chat widgets when your customer support team operates and how long you typically take to reply.
Meet customers where they are
Modern customer support is based on the philosophy of meeting customers where they are. Make interaction easy by being available on the channels your customers use.
Channels you can offer support on include:
But, it’s not enough to simply offer support on each of these platforms. You need to provide a connected experience that is the same no matter which channel the customer uses.
This means that when a customer calls your support team, your team members can access a record of their contact on channels such as email or chat. Support agents use this information to provide better, faster support in a contextual manner.
Encourage company-wide involvement
Your customer support and other customer-facing teams like the customer success team will answer the majority of your user queries. But other departments can support them where necessary.
Support staff should feel comfortable approaching other teams, for example, product or engineering, to get answers to complex customer questions. This is based on the escalation process (L1, L2, L3) and knowing how and when an issue needs assistance from the product and engineering.
At Bettermode, our entire team is active in our customer community, and we encourage them to jump in to answer questions when relevant.
Offer self-service support
SaaS tools are complex products with multiple features. You need a way to make it easy for customers to understand and feel confident using your software.
Self-service support tools like an FAQ page, customer communities, chat-bots, and knowledge bases can help. They are also useful if you are a startup looking to provide scalable customer service.
The key is to create documents that answer common customer questions. You then need to make these tools searchable so customers can easily find answers.These resources benefit both your team and your customers:
Your customers get faster answers to their questions. They don’t need to spend time explaining their problem to a rep and then wait for an answer.
Your team has fewer tickets to deal with. Self-service support helps customers before they need an agent’s help.
Here are some tips you can use to ensure self-service support works for both you and your customers:
Make your self-service resources easy to find by promoting them throughout your product and web pages (especially the pages dedicated to contact your support team)
Ensure your resources are optimized for searchable keywords so customers can easily find what they are looking for.
Make it easy for customers to contact your team from self-service resources. This ensures they can get help when they can’t find what they’re looking for.
Segment support issues and fix the cause
In a typical SaaS company the support requests can be traced back to the following categories:
For a SaaS company that constantly develops new features, bugs are going to be a constant element. So, from the support standpoint, the key is to ensure that customers can effectively report the bugs and you are capturing all the contextual information.
For example, the bug could be a specific area of the product and it could be happening only when customers access via Safari browser. This will help your engineering team to fix the bugs.
SaaS products are inherently never complete. They are in a constant process of development and improvement. Hence, customers are going to request missing features as well. When you get constant requests for a specific feature, it is time for your product team to seriously consider the request.
Apart from reducing support tickets, it will help you improve your product and contribute to retention as well as new customer acquisition. However, if your team decides to not build the missing feature, ensure that you have sufficient self-serve material offering workarounds and the reason why you are not building the feature.
Finally, support queries arising from features that are hard-to-use and unclear can be addressed easily via self-service material and your product team. This essentially means your customers were able to find the feature they are looking for but they are not able to use it effectively.
The key here is to catalog the requests and ensure that your product team has enough context to make the features intuitive.
Apart from the ticketing solution, a great way to look into the product areas that need improvement is to dig into the analytics of the self-service content. For example, Bettermode's customer community has the following most-viewed Q&A posts:
This gives you context on what your customers are searching for when it comes to your product and what can be done to improve different product areas.
SaaS customer service example: how we do it at Bettermode
At Bettermode, we’re always taking steps to improve the customer service we offer our customers. Here is a better way to put it in words - we're obsessed with support experience and you don't even have to be a customer to get help!
Here are the most important elements of the support we offer and how they all work in practice.
Bettermode Customer Support
✔️ Knowledgeable agents ✔️ Customer support community ✔️ Conversational support via business messenger tool and chatbots ✔️ Ticketing software ✔️ Knowledge base ✔️ Omnichannel integration ✔️ Escalation process ✔️ SLAs
Our customer community is a key component here. All our customers have access, and prospective customers can sign up too to learn more about our product and how we support our customers.
Once in the community, customers can ask questions. Other users can offer input, and our support team can easily see these requests and provide help.
We have notifications set up so that our team members are alerted whenever a customer asks a question.
The community is also a powerful self-service resource. Over time, our team has answered hundreds of customer questions. These are all searchable so customers can easily find the help they need. As customers use the search bar, it highlights relevant answers in real-time.
We also have a knowledge base that contains all our official documentation. Customers can easily access this and use it to find detailed answers to common questions.Our main live support channel is the Messenger (chatbox) that is accessible to the admins directly inside the communities when logged in as a customer. Customers can use this to contact our team about issues they face and get real-time help or leave a message.
We make it clear when our team is available so customers know about how long it will take to get help.
We’ve also integrated our customer community answers and our knowledge base into the Intercom Messenger. Users can search for self-service answers before contacting us. This reduces ticket volume—helps us respond to the tickets swiftly.This business messenger also acts as our ticketing software. We use it to manage tickets from all channels, including live chat, email, and social media.
This makes it easy for our team to respond to requests from multiple channels.When customers use the live chat option and submit their queries, the intelligent bot suggests content from the resources and helps customers with self-service.
This gives an overview of how customer support operations are handled at Bettermode. Note that many other factors go into the service Bettermode provides depending on the SLA (service-level agreement), the severity of the issue, and the customer’s subscription plan.
Key SaaS Customer Support Metrics
The final step to great SaaS customer support is to track what is and isn’t working. Customer support metrics are essential to know what your team is doing right and where it can improve.
Here are some of the most important factors to consider:
Ticket volume tells you how many support requests your team receives in a given period. Track this along with ticket backlog to spot when your team may be getting overwhelmed. Implementing self-service support or hiring more customer service agents can help.
First response time and average resolution time are good metrics to track how long customers have to wait for both a reply and for you to solve their problem.
First contact resolution rate and interactions per case show you how effectively your team responds to requests.
Your customer satisfaction score shows how happy customers are with the service you offer.
Customer churn rate and net promoter score aren’t specific to service, but they show how happy people are with your brand as a whole.
SaaS Customer Service in Summary
SaaS customer service teams have several unique challenges, such as the technical expertise needed to solve customer problems and the speed at which support is offered. But implementing the ideas in this list will ensure your team is well-placed to help your users.
Support and success
Articles on community building, customer engagement, customer success, and more