What an exciting and liberating moment for a hardware entrepreneur to ship his/her first products. You successfully dealt with prototyping, funding, perhaps crowdfunding, manufacturers sourcing etc. All you have to do now is sit down, relax, sell and ship. Easy isn’t it? Well, that’s just forgetting the raison d’être of your product & of your business: your customers!
In this first article, we’ll go through the main points to tackle down before even thinking about the setup of your organisation. We’ll then follow up with a second article focused on execution.
Obviously, as a B2C Hardware company, you want to (and you have to) establish a strong brand image. It will bring you visibility and customer loyalty. Because Customer Support is your most direct connection with your customers, consider it as the most strategic touchpoint in order to organically build this brand image.
Every brand comes with its own values: transparency, customer success, reliability, etc. Those values will define the customer experience standards you set. As soon as you publicly communicate on these, they will become the cornerstones of your customer experience. You therefore need to make sure that each step of your Customer Support reflects those values.
In doing so, a perfect knowledge of your customer base is needed: age, location, gender, technical skills, etc to tailor every aspect of your Customer Support.
Define your Customer Policy
The next step is to write the terms and conditions of sales / product usage. They will cover you from a liability standpoint, stating exactly what a user can or cannot do with your product. That’s for your company’s sake, but remember, Customer Service is all about your customers. What’s in it for them? Well, your customers will now know what to do in case of trouble with the use of your product, who to contact, how to return the product and perhaps obtain a refund.
Your terms and conditions must match the values you set ahead, that’s why outsourcing the writing work is a bad idea. How to begin? A first step is to look at what your competitors do: which part of the product is warranted, how many months, what are their return policies. If your device isn’t too expensive, you’re strongly advised to operate on an immediate return policy without inquiry in case of trouble on a unit under warranty. The contrary could be very upsetting from a client standpoint. Last but not least, those terms and conditions must be unique: make sure that what’s written on the packaging matches what your clients will find on your website.
Make the most out of your FAQ
Self support is a huge trend. It allows your customers to troubleshoot minor problems or answer simple questions about the product by themselves, making them save time, and making you save resources to focus on potential bigger issues.
The best way to offer great self support is to provide a comprehensive FAQ, gathering a lot of content such as: tutorials, “how to questions”, unboxing etc. often taking the shape of written posts as well as videos. All the content you generate will also have its marketing purpose, it’s an easy way for people interested in your product to find a lot of non commercial information.
Also, do not hesitate to use your FAQ as a requests router: deliver specific contact information depending on the issue. How to use a basic function? Provide an email where the customer can ask detailed questions. How to deal with a broken part? Provide a phone number he/she can call to figure out how to return the product.
Contact center: which channels to use ?
You should provide your customers with several ways to get in touch with your company in case of an issue.
Here are the main ones, and their specificity:
- Email: the basic one. It allows you to deal with a huge amount of requests with few resources. However, it can be irritating, leading to endless back and forth emails in case of uncommon problems.
- Phone: While requiring a lot of resources, phone will be the most satisfying channel to serve your customers. It will enable your customer reps to solve the problems quickly, and therefore increase customer loyalty. Moreover, it will allow you to collect data on the issues experienced, which is critical for your product’s development.
- Social media: they are today seamlessly integrated in most of the common support tools on the market. It’s a pretty accessible front door for you customers and common issues can be solved directly through these platforms.
- If you do have one, think about your companion app. Implement a direct contact call to action in it, whether this contact is a text message or a call. The benefits? Support at their fingertips for your customers, access to live data and error logs of the faulty device for your customer reps. Data you will of course use for your product development.
Next Step: Execution
You should have a clear picture of what your Customer Support will look like. How you want to interact with them, how quickly you want to replace their defective device etc. It’s now time for execution! You’ll face some critical choices, eventually binding you for a consequent period of time, like the choice of your support platform, whether to outsource some agents or not. But don’t worry about this for now, we’ll help you go through that process in our next article!