Inbound Customer Service 101: Creating Value for your Customers

Your customers care about being treated well. When people think about customer service, they often think of phone banks with rows and rows of people on headsets that don’t care about their problems. But, 70% of your customer’s buying decisions depend on the experience you provide them. Those call center employees have a significant role in how your customers feel about your brand and the experience.

What is Inbound Customer Service? 

Many have heard of inbound marketing—instead of reaching out to customers, a company creates enough value that the customers end up coming to them. The same can be said for inbound customer service. 

Your customer service strategy may currently be made up of both reactive and proactive pieces. Proactive support is when your team reaches out to customers before they need to contact you. That can be before a renewal, upon noticing that their account needs servicing or even based on a trigger inside of their account. Reactive customer service is more traditional: your customers reach out to your support team when they run into trouble or need to accomplish something specific. 

Both tactics benefit from applying an inbound customer service mentality.

There are three core pieces of truly excellent inbound customer service: 

The inbound marketing cycle includes attract, engage, delight

Much like inbound marketing, inbound customer service relies on your service resources to attract, engage, and delight your customers. From there, the cycle continues as your loyal users talk to their colleagues, and you engage additional new excited customers. In this blog post, we’ll break down the critical aspects of these three steps and how they impact your customers’ experience.

Attraction

The first step in inbound customer service is attracting your customers to your product. You do this by making informative and exciting resources and helping your customers and prospects use your product effectively. While much of this falls to your customer service team, the attraction stage also requires some cross-functional effort from your product and marketing teams. Here are the aspects that have the most impact on attracting new customers.

Self-service documentation

Create a beautiful center for all of your documentation that is easy to navigate and find for your customers. Outside of designing it beautifully, maintain your documentation so that it is always up to date. Ensure that your documentation is linked in your product, on your social media, and anywhere else where customers may go to find information. The more prevalent it is, the better.

Webinars

Not all customers learn by reading—some prefer to be a bit more interactive in their learning. For those customers, webinars and video content are kings. Create a regular webinar schedule that your users can depend on and allow them to access past recordings of content. That way, your new and incoming customers can know what to expect and plan, and your older customers have access to the content they learned initially.

Webinars can also be an excellent addition to your marketing strategy. They help you build your email marketing lists and gauge your customer segments’ interest in products and features. 

Blog

Your blog is the face of your company to many potential customers. Work with your marketing team to ensure that the content that you have there represents best practices and compelling use cases.

Easy onboarding

Over 90% of customers feel that companies could be doing better when it comes to onboarding guidance. Make it easy for your customers to get started with your product. Whether that means an email onboarding campaign, or in-app onboarding using a service like Appcues, create processes for your users to understand where to start. You can even develop TextExpander snippets to help your chat support team get in on the onboarding action and help guide users that reach out there.

Beautiful, intuitive product

The more straightforward and elegant your product is, the better it will be for your customers. If they can jump right into using it, they’ll feel more compelled to tell their friends, and you’ll reap the benefits of word of mouth marketing.

Free trial

Your trial or demo of your product lets your customers get their hands dirty without any additional commitment. Try to make the experience as feature-full as you can without giving away too much. Many companies choose to limit trials by time rather than by features so that customers can get the full experience and see how empowered they can be.

Do these things well, and you’ll have customers hooked in no time.

Engagement

After you’ve attracted your customers, it’s time to engage them. When your customers reach out to your support team, it’s your inbound customer service strategy’s time to shine. Focus on providing the best possible inbound service experience that you can by using these tactics:

Make it a one-stop-shop

Empower your customer support team to handle any inquiries that come through your inbound customer service channels. Your customers should be able to call a single number to order products, change services, make a payment, register purchases, or even get information about specific product features. Give your team the knowledge and tools that they need to handle everything, so you don’t have to bounce your customers around.

Staff well

There isn’t much you can control outside of product quality and staffing when it comes to inbound service. Hire the best. When you’re finding individuals to handle your incoming support conversations, look for empathy, kindness, and customer-focus. Regularly keep great candidates in mind—it’s essential to be proactive about hiring so that you never run into burnout on your team due to understaffing.

Customer-centric metrics

When you utilize metrics that put emphasis on call length, you encourage your team to get people off the phone quickly, even if you haven’t resolved the issue. Pick metrics that position your customer at the front of everyone’s mind. CSAT, resolution time, and customer effort score are great metrics to do this with.

Make your self-service best in class

Self-service functionality is a critical component in all three aspects of the inbound customer service cycle. Along with your documentation, make it easy for customers to take care of themselves as needed. For instance, if they need to process returns, cancel their account, or ask for refunds, create tools within your product to allow them to do so. Not only does this create a better, more empowering experience for your customers, it also frees up your service team members to work on other things.

Delight

Although the interaction may be over, you still have work to do. After you’ve attracted and engaged your customers as part of your inbound customer service strategy, it’s time to delight them.

Continue to create an excellent experience after their support interaction by following up, providing additional information, and supporting them after the fact. You can do this by sending along documentation about related features or even new product releases similar to what they reached out about.

Another great way to do this is to monitor the ratings they leave for your support interaction. If their comments are negative, it’s an excellent opportunity to follow up, correct the issue, and begin to rebuild your relationship.

If they are excited and leave positive remarks, follow up, thank them, and use it as an opportunity to build a deeper relationship. You can use times like these to build loyalty and maybe even ask for them to leave public reviews on a site like G2 Crowd—bringing you back to the start of the cycle as you attract new customers.

Keep the cycle going

Every customer is an opportunity to perfect your team’s handle on the inbound customer service cycle. Take time to ensure that your outward presentation for your customers is on lock: make great webinars, create accessible documentation, and get alignment with your product and marketing teams. When your customer inevitably reaches out to engage with you, make the experience excellent. Let them handle everything in one spot, take care of the small things themselves, and keep your staffing levels up to avoid burnout.

After you’ve attracted them and engaged them with your customer service team, it’s time to delight your customers. Continue to support them after the interaction by sending along helpful documentation, information that may interest them about new product releases, and using survey responses to build deeper bonds.

To read more about excellent customer experiences, check out our blog.

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