Choosing a customer support solution is an important decision. It can make or break your team’s ability to assist customers and have a major impact on the level of service you offer.
And while there are plenty of great options available, most of them aren’t designed to be a one-size-fits-all solution. This means it takes some time and research to find one that’s right for your business’s needs.
And while there are many factors to consider when evaluating different solutions, one of the most important to consider is your current stage of business growth.
That’s why in this post, we’ll explain how to choose a support solution that’s appropriate for your company’s current stage and will offer the functionality you need as you continue to grow.
What Are the Growth Stages of a Business?
Before jumping into the process of evaluating platforms, it’s essential to know where your business stands in terms of growth. This process is often broken down into five stages of business growth: development, startup, growth, expansion, maturity.
The development stage begins as soon as you decide to start a business. It includes putting together a business plan, setting goals, and establishing growth targets.
The startup stage begins as soon as you launch your first product, and is often the most stressful stage for many founders. The focus during this phase is typically on building a customer base.
The growth stage occurs once you’ve established your brand and earned a solid amount of customers. Here, you can shift your focus to generating revenue and improving efficiency and profitability.
Once you’ve achieved a sustainable business model, you shift into the expansion stage. In this stage, you work towards increasing your brand’s market share and adding new revenue streams.
Finally, a business reaches the maturity stage once it’s achieved stable profits and a solid market share. That being said, growth is often slow in this stage, and many business owners opt to switch back expansion mode to look for new opportunities.
So as you learn about your support options and choose one for your company, it’s important to keep your current stage in mind, as well as how your needs will change as you move on to the next.
4 Tips for Choosing a Support Solution that Supports Your Business’s Growth
No matter which stage of growth your company is currently in, there’s bound to be a support solution out there that meets your needs. Here, we’ve put together four tips you can use to find it.
1. Start Evaluating Your Options Early
Many business owners wait until they desperately need a customer support solution to start researching their options. This is a huge mistake.
Rushing through the process is unlikely to result in the best possible decision. And considering how big an impact the right support platform can have, it’s more than worth it to take your time and make an informed choice.
That’s why it’s best to start evaluating your options before you need them. As soon as you start developing your target audience and your concept of the ideal customer base, you should start thinking about how you’ll help them get the most out of their investment with your company.
How often will they need assistance from your team? What kinds of issues might they run into? And what will be the most efficient way to resolve those issues?
The earlier you start thinking about support needs, the earlier you can start learning about what kinds of platforms are available to you, and which are equipped to meet those needs.
Even if you don’t make a decision right away, having the information you need will make it much easier to make a choice you’re confident in when it’s time — and eliminate the need to try to learn everything you need to know about support solutions while under a time crunch.
2. Determine What You Need in a Customer Support Platform
Many business owners jump straight into learning about support platforms without first considering their own needs. This is the exact opposite of the approach you should take.
Before researching what support solutions are available, take the time to determine what you need out of a support platform, and what kind of support experience you want to offer your customers.
What tools will your team need? What channels do you want to offer your customers? What could be improved about your current support experience?
If you’re not sure how to answer these questions, consult your customer-facing employees. After all, even if you don’t have a formal support team in place yet, someone is responsible for addressing customer issues, questions, and concerns.
This might be your sales team, your account managers, or even your developers, depending on your industry and growth stage. But once you’ve determined who those people are, use the insight they provide to create a list of must-haves in a support solution.
Are they dissatisfied with your current ticketing system? Is it difficult to assist customers on certain channels? Do they need better internal communication tools for consulting other members of your team?
These are the kinds of criteria you’ll want to include in your decision-making process.
Then, as you learn more about the options available to you, evaluate them based on those criteria. This way, you’ll be choosing a platform that meets your needs — and not simply the most popular one currently on the market.
3. Create a Shortlist of Platforms that Meet Your Needs
Once you’ve created a list of criteria specific to your company’s needs, create a shortlist of options, excluding any that don’t offer all of the features you want.
This may sound like a high bar depending on how many criteria you’ve established for your company, but you may be surprised at how many options still end up on your list.
Many companies now take support more seriously than ever, and companies offering support solutions know this. As a result, many of them offer the advanced features brands need to deliver top-notch service.
This means that there’s no need to include those that don’t.
Then, once you’ve created a list, spend some time learning about each of the options you’ve selected. Take a deep dive into their features pages, and learn how they differ from one another.
It’s also a good idea during this step to sign up for any free trial offers available. This way, you can test each platform for yourself, and get a hands-on look at what your support strategy might look like with each one.
4. Consider Future Growth
As you evaluate your options, it’s essential to think about whether they’ll be able to grow with your business.
So beyond your current needs, determine what growth will look like with each of the options you’re considering. Can the platform support a large team of agents? Will you need to upgrade to a more expensive plan if your team grows?
Knowing the answers to these questions up front can save you a lot of money in the future, as well as the time it would take the find and switch to another platform that’s able to accommodate your needs.
Then, it’s a good idea to spend some time looking at the more advanced features each platform on your shortlist offers. Even if you don’t need those features yet, can you see yourself using any of them in the future?
For example, let’s say one of the platforms you’re considering supports live chat support and another doesn’t. That might not matter to you if you don’t currently have the staff to manage a live chat feature.
But is it something you would want to offer your customers in the future, when you do have the staff to support it?
These extra features may not be the most important factors in your decision, but if two platforms seem equal in all other respects, they’re certainly worth considering. And as your company grows, having those features available will make it easy to accommodate your changing support needs.
Finding a support solution that works for your business can be challenging. But once you do, it can have a significant impact on your ability to assist customers quickly and efficiently — making it a process that’s more than worth your time.
And though there are many factors to include in your decision, it’s absolutely essential to consider your business’s current stage of growth. Being aware of where you stand can help you get a better sense of how your needs might change over time.
So before you make a decision, take the time to do your research. Determine what you need in a customer support platform, and create a shortlist of tools that meet those needs.
Then, evaluate the additional features each of those platforms have to offer, and consider how they might become useful as your company grows.
With this approach, you can be confident that you won’t outgrow the platform you choose within a matter of months of years.
Main illustration done by Sriram Govindasamy