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February 29, 2016
Customer Service  |  5 min read

How to Effectively Manage Customer Support [VIDEO]

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Ellis Friedman

Customer support isn’t just about dealing with problems—it’s about connecting with customers. And it can actually be part of a great sales strategy. 

Tom Byun, general manager of small business at LivePerson and former vice president and general manager of Yahoo! Small Business, joined Ignition to share how small businesses can focus on providing great customer support without sacrificing acquisition efforts.

Tom emphasized that customer support is an important vehicle to make sure you’re closing new sales and growing existing sales and relationships. He recommends low-cost customer support tools like Hootsuite or LivePerson’s mobile engagement app LiveEngage.

Customer support can’t be avoided. These conversations are going to happen whether you like it or not, so it’s in a business’s best interest to engage and be proactive.

Tom says that retention is key to growth and recommended ongoing communication with customers, even in the form of a simple email newsletter. He also revealed that chat support is up to six times less expensive to implement than phone support.

Check out more of Tom’s great customer support advice in the video!

How small business can manage customer support

In this episode, we heard a question from a small business owner named Melissa:

My cleaning company has grown a lot in the past year, but something I’ve noticed through feedback and declining return customers is that our customer support needs some improvement. But I don’t want to focus on it at the expense of our sales and acquisition. How do I prioritize customer support and find the right tools without taking away from our growth?

Tom Byun, GM of Small Business at LivePerson, recently surveyed about 500 small businesses and found that customer support is their No. 1 priority. But sometimes, the No. 1 priority is sales. sometimes interchanges with sales in being the number one priority. What's evident is that small businesses realize that they need to think about retaining and growing their customer base.

Looking at customer experience as part of a sales and growth strategy is one of the emerging trends Tom has seen, starting at the enterprise level and cascading down to small businesses. While traditionally some think of support as a cost center, in fact it’s an important vehicle to make sure that not only are you closing new sales but that you're also growing the relationship with existing customers.

Low cost or even free customer support tools are available online. LivePerson offers  LiveEngage, a mobile tool that’s free for one user and allows business owners to message customers. Another great tool for customer support is social media monitoring and engagement. Services like Hootsuite allow you to see what customers are saying about you and your service on sites like Yelp or Facebook. Tom has seen small business use social media to retain customers that they were about to lose.

If business owners see a negative review online, they’ll respond with something like, “I saw your comment. I’d like to connect with you offline and see what we can do to correct the problem that you had.” Small business owners increasingly understand that this conversation is going to happen whether they like it or not, so they’ve got to engage and participate.

Customer acquisition is important but can be costly, Tom said. He sees that businesses often invest energy and time acquiring customers but oftentimes aren't serving them well during the sales process and even after the purchase is made. 

Small businesses need to think broadly about retaining customers. If you want to retain that customer over the next three or four years and grow the business, what do you need to do? For example, provide ongoing communication, like an email newsletter. And small businesses are successful in making that newsletter feel personal.

Customer support doesn't only entail people sitting behind a phone and answering questions. Tom has also noticed that voice and phone support is going out of favor. Research suggests that phone calls are costly and that oftentimes chat can be about six times more cost-effective than voice support.

Small businesses should think about how many different channels customers can use to get in touch with them, through a phone number, chat, Facebook or other social media. User forums where customers can answer each other’s questions can also be a great support tool, though there is some effort required in monitoring the conversations.

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