4 Things Every Startup Should Do for Customers



A few years ago, I read Delivering Happiness by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh and found that I could completely relate. Why? Because customer service—good customer service—is so vital to my company and every other organization out there. In fact, 62% of global consumers have stopped doing business with a brand or organization due to a poor customer service experience, according to the 2015 Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report. In addition, research by Zendesk shows that good customer service is the number one reason why customers trust a company—more than price or reliability.

So what if you could improve the experience of your customers by 10x or 100x and wildly exceed their expectations? You could have incredibly loyal customers and happy employees, that’s what.

In the beginning, I was the support team. And, for our first couple of years, this approach worked. Almost all of our customers were tiny startups like us. When they had a problem, they’d send me an email and I’d fix it in real time.

As we began to see rapid growth, it became obvious we needed to build out a proper customer support team. But as we did so, I kept my own customer support experience front of mind. Then it hit me: customer service was actually just as valuable as engineering to the success of our business.

And it should be for yours, as well. Here are four ways you can use customer support to delight your customers and far exceed their expectations.

  1. Make everyone a customer service rep. Engaging with customers on the front lines informs how a business can improve its products or drive user adoption, across all different types of industries.

When you join Mixpanel – no matter if you’re in Marketing, Product, Sales or beyond – you go through support training, and I recommend that all companies include support training when new employees onboard. This acts as a unifying experience and allows everyone at the company to deeply understand their product and their organization. At Mixpanel, our new hires leave this training with the chops to “crush the queue,” as we put it.

We test this each year during our annual company Tahoe trip, where the company takes a few days off and hits the slopes. We know our customers aren’t on vacation, so each year we gather everybody in a room and slam through support tickets in shifts. Everybody, that is, except our support engineers. We let them take a break and enjoy themselves. Meanwhile, this is awesome exposure to our customers for everyone else, especially our engineers.

Does this work? Just last year one of our engineers turned to me and said: “Wow, I should do this every month, because I learned so much about our customers. I got a bug report about JQL and was able to identify a real issue.” As an engineer, hearing from real, live customers is hugely impactful and ultimately it makes your product better.

  1. Don’t hire reps, hire critical thinkers. When you’re hiring a new customer support representative, don’t look only for technical people. Look for smart and capable people who are eager to learn. Some of our best Support Engineers come from surprising backgrounds, such as Wall Street, government, law, educators, etc. We can teach them technical skills, and they can apply their interdisciplinary experiences to help people.

Ultimately, we want high-potential people who can learn to do ridiculously crazy customer support at a very technical level—like write a Python script to help a customer solve a complex problem. That’s why we interview them as rigorously as we do our engineers, and put them through a coding boot camp so they learn to code and can better support our customers.

Customer support is very well respected at our company, and they are often called the heart of our organization. With deep product knowledge, support team members build the runway for promotions and often progress into the next chapter of their Mixpanel careers. After a tenure in Support, we’ve had team members move into Product, Sales Engineering, Customer Success, and even our Machine Learning teams.

  1. Perfect the customer onboarding process. The onboarding phase is one of the most critical parts of the customer lifecycle. If a customer is not fully engaged in the first 90 days, something has gone very wrong. But onboarding only takes you so far if you’re not aligned with what a customer wants to get out of your product. Your customer support members should prioritize learning about your customers’ goals up front and helping them figure out what’s really important so you can tailor the guidance the support team provides
  2. Teach your reps to speak for your customers. Customer support should be THE voice of the customer. They should help your organization understand what customers need and they should be empowered to escalate when a customer is having issues. And, as front-line support, they should help you understand when you’re at risk of losing a customer. No company will retain 100% of its customers. Businesses evolve and churn is inevitable, but support members can shine a light on why a customer left and provide insight that enables your organization to do better going forward.

If customers are the lifeblood of your business, then shouldn’t customer service be the heartbeat that keeps it flowing? By putting customer service front and center, you can make customers fall in love with your company and want to be with you forever.




Image Credit: CC by CWCS Managed Hosting

About the author: Tim Trefen

Tim Trefen is the cofounder of Mixpanel.

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