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Should startups invest in scaling customer service?

It depends, of course… but what does it depend on? 

As your startup grows, your customers will expect more from you, their requests will increase, and they’ll want a faster response. You’ll move from the reactive mode of supporting requests as they happen to the proactive mode of resolving issues before they ever become a problem. 

Exceptional customer service can be incredibly valuable! SaaS like Hubspot thrive not solely due to their products, but also because they priortize customer success by offering a range of educational resources, self-serve help, and responsive support.

So is it possible to build a customer-first SaaS organization!

Should you spend years and fortune to build one? 

How do you decide? How will you go about it?

Here’s a stage-by-stage guide to scale your customer service.

1. Early Stage (1-10 employees)

At this stage, your #1 goal is to make sure your product fits the market. That means getting lots of customers on board because they’re crucial for figuring out if your product is right. So, everyone in your team should be handling support questions, talking to customers, and working on making a product that really matches what the market needs.

What to do 

– Setup a simple system like a single email “support@” to manage all your customer queries. And all hands on deck: Assign dedicated support times among the team.

– Use team huddles to regularly talk about common issues customers face and incorporate the planned fixes in your roadmap. Pay special attention to your most vocal customers. They often provide valuable insights.

-Build a writing culture: Prompt the team to start documenting the help articles like how-to-use a feature or solving a use case with your product. “Remember, building help documentation takes time, so start now and keep building on it as you go forward”

2. Traction stage (11-20 employees)

It’s time to have your first dedicated resource to help your customers and reduce support load from the rest of the team. This work is hard and requires extensive collaboration. The best way is to align this resource with the product owner to give them the leverage of the product’s knowledge from the get-go.

What to do 

– Start priortizing self-service and automation – Start building response templates, knowledge base repositories including help content like FAQs, How-to articles/videos and other educational resources. 

– Get a helpdesk or a shared inbox – Hire a product that unifies all your customer interactions into one single place.

3. Scaling up (21-100 employees)

Your customer base is growing, so are the support requests. Your support team has grown. But remember, this stage is the most important one in scaling your customer service. What you do now is what will be the foundation of your customer service in the time to come. The themes and processes that you develop at this stage will evolve with you and shall make all the difference between running or stumbling as you hit the expansion stage. So, be conscious and deliberate about all your decisions.

What to do 

– Measure what matters – as the support volume increases it is very important to start adding metrics like issue categorization and response/resolution time and start tracking these metrics by customer lifecycle stage.

– Double down on self-serve help – With significant customer insight, it’s time to double down on your knowledge base creation by hiring additional resources to start upgrading and maintaining a help center.

Basics everyone should do:

Even if you decide not to invest in scaling customer service, there are two fundamentals that every startup should establish early-on:

– Your customer service needs to be in proactive mode rather than reactive mode, so you need to figure that out, don’t delay (proactive customer support alone can get companies into the growth stage)

– A strong, consistent customer-first culture by ensuring that everybody thinks deeply about helping your customers.

Customer service cannot be a side project. Make that call early as most of the SaaS companies get serious about customer service after encountering a churn spike and thereafter the panic sets in. It’s rough. 

I hope this helps