You may think to yourself, “I’ve already read an article about the importance of client communication. I know how important it is in business.”
But unless customer communication comes naturally, it’s something you always have to keep working at. Even if you are a client whisperer, there’s always more to be learned from others’ experiences.
At ZipBooks, even the exercise of writing this article is kind of us eating our own dog food in terms of thinking about what’s important about customer support and laying out why we make it such a major focus of everything that we do.
For us, our clients are the users of our software or, as we like to call them, ZipBookers. The biggest difference between us and other accounting software providers (and maybe the software industry in general) is that we provide excellent support to all our users. If you have users who are not paying you anything at the moment, the fact that they’re engaging with you and using your product holds a lot of value. You want to make sure that your customers are feeling connected to you as a brand, period.
So, how do you do that?
First, make sure that you have a connection with your customers, because everyone makes mistakes once in a while. You’ll want to have enough stored up in your relationship account with your clients that you can make withdrawals from time to time without going into the red.
To us, making deposits in your clients’ relationship account means putting yourself in your client’s position and feeling their pain in the moment—not just saying that you support them.
Clearly broadcast how your users can get help managing your product. This is a big part of developing a good working relationship with them, because what you’re essentially saying is, “Hey, we know that you’re going to have issues come up, we care about your problems, and we are going to take care of you when you need help.”
Having support solutions set up, and letting users know that they can reach out and contact you is a very important first step to showing empathy for your customer. It’s a sign of good faith that you’re going to be right there when customers need help.
Remember, potential customers are looking for signals that if an issue comes up, you’re not going to hang them out to dry. This need for a stable connection is more important for a business looking for accounting software than just about anything else.
The next step in developing a great connection with your client base is to have really good people in place to help with those problems when they come up. It may be difficult, but you have to learn to delegate certain jobs so you don’t do everything yourself. Hire good staff members who care about the company and the clients just as much as you do.
This might sound like a kind of backwards approach, but we are more concerned with finding team members who demonstrate traits of empathy even if they hadn’t mastered accounting. You can teach someone accounting and how our product works, but how do you teach someone empathy?
Karen and Emily are our first line of defense in making sure that our customers get great support. While they both have a solid understanding of accounting principles, the real reason that they’re the ones doing support is because they both demonstrate a high level of empathy in their day-to-day interactions. We hope that comes through when they’re helping our ZipBooks customers.
Every support team is going to run into situations where clients might not reciprocate the empathy that the support staff is demonstrating. What do you do in that situation? You have to hire people that are able to have empathy and respect “in a vacuum”, regardless of how the other person might be acting.
If your client approaches you with a problem, have them first explain the problem to the point that you can repeat it back to them. Make sure that you understand exactly what the problem is so you can produce an authentic response.
We like to believe that everyone’s default response is to show empathy, but sometimes other things get in the way. For example, let’s say you have a company where there’s some kind of general, user-wide problem. Your first response might be to feel embarrassed and defensive instead of emoting an authentic, respectful response. It isn’t very helpful to try to justify a mistake or talk around the issue.
If the user doesn’t quite understand how to use the product, it’s still your responsibility to make the user experience so intuitive that they can figure it out on their own. If they can’t figure it out on their own, then be there with a friendly, helping hand.
It’s fair to say that we’re building the very best, and fastest, accounting software, but we are also building an accounting software solution that authentically cares about the success of our clients’ businesses. We are honest with them about where their company is, and where their company could go, with a little help from our software.
At the end of the day, empathy is a powerful emotional connection that can drive the success of a company, and may even motivate continued innovation.
Brad Hanks is in charge of Growth at ZipBooks.