Messaging tips for startups: a primer on improving one’s customer service

While a rich, modern messaging experience is a technical reality, it may feel out of reach for startups who are, say, establishing a customer support team for the first time.

Messaging might feel ambitious now, but you can still plan for it down the road, and there are more than a few reasons why you should.

Let’s get started.

The importance of messaging

We’ve seen a big acceleration of messaging in 2020, and we think it’s safe to say the trend will continue.

We know that customers want to talk to companies on the channels they’re already using to talk to friends and family, and increasingly, that includes messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and even native messaging apps. Already, 69 percent of customers use messaging to contact customer service, and the reality is, they will expect this even from startups. Given the many benefits of messaging, it’s easy to see why.

Context is retained so that customers don’t have to repeat themselves, conversations are engaging and interactive, and bots can help make services more accessible during off-hours.

3 steps to take before you launch messaging

So we know messaging is important, but sometimes you need to walk before you run. Here are 3 things you can do right now:

1. Master the channels you already have in place

As a young startup, you might only have a few channels, such as email and self-service. These foundational channels are still important, and it’s worth the effort to get them right. Here’s why: Research shows that nearly half of customers would switch to a competitor after just one bad customer service experience.

Every customer counts when you’re a startup, so you need to make a good impression on the channels you already have. Here are a few tips:

Email: Respond to emails as quickly as possible. Most customers expect an email response within 12 hours.

Self-service: Expand your library of help center articles. A good goal is 40 articles within the first year of funding, according to our startups’ benchmark.

Social media and live chat: Take advantage of apps to help you capture customer data, so you can provide more personalized service. Here is an overview of helpful apps for startups.

2. Understand your customers’ priorities

As a startup leader, you should be intimately familiar with your customers’ needs—and that understanding should extend to customer service.

Before adding a new support channel, you should make sure it’s right for your customers. Customer feedback forms can help you see how your team is performing, and customer surveys (if done efficiently and effectively) can help you find out what your customers want to see from you in the future.

To find out if messaging is important to your customers, try asking questions like: is it convenient to talk to our customer service team via email? What is your preferred method of contact when reaching out to customer support? Do you find it helpful when you can talk to customer support via SMS or messaging apps?

You should also consider your customers’ context. For example, a retail customer might prefer the immediacy of live chat or messaging, while a cloud software customer might choose email, which allows them to respond as they have time.

But it’s not all or nothing. Customer preferences might change depending on the type of question or circumstance. It’s good to provide options.

3. Level up with live channels

Live chat is a logical next step for startups that want to offer the convenience of real-time conversations. You might be wondering, what’s the difference between live chat and messaging? Good question. Here is a quick breakdown:

While both mechanisms operate as real-time conversations, messaging threads are retained over time. This format works best for building stronger customer relationships. On the flip side, live chat threads are limited to individual sessions, making them most suitable for answering questions quickly.

Top startups in our benchmark were 20 percent more likely to roll out live chat within their first two years. But more importantly, it’s not just startups. There are more than four times as many Zendesk customers using chat compared to five years ago.

Planning for the future

There is no rush to adopt messaging, but it’s something you can plan for. You might even be more ready than you think. An out-of-the-box solution like Answer Bot can be a good first step that’s well within reach.

But the most important thing you can do as a growing startup is keeping your customer in focus. Worry less about channels and more about the help you’re providing. If you can deliver fast, reliable service, the rest will follow.

Zendesk gives you the tools you need to deliver a better experience for your customers and connects you with the resources to help you grow strategically as you scale. Startups in the e27 community can apply to the Zendesk for Startups Program to get 6 months free of our customer support and sales CRM solution.

Sammi Chen

Zendesk for Startups Program

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