Profit from us: How customer service protects and grows revenue
Ben Collet, Director of Customer Advocacy, Zendesk
Support has a history of being misunderstood as a cost center. But, support can actually be a profit center. Relating the support experience back to dollars and cents can power up value conversations that help you increase headcount to meet demand, grow the customer base, and play your role in scaling the business. Explore how to depict support as a revenue generator in your company.
This is what happens if we’re not careful and only view support as a cost center.
Intro…Support has a history of being misunderstood as a cost center.
What’s the cost of that underinvestment? You’re also probably wondering why there are a pair of boots here. The answer to both can be explained by Vimes Boots Theory [Explain]
If you continue to underinvest, you end up paying more while still not positioning support as a revenue protector - still just viewed as a cost center.
How do you change that? How do you shift the conversation?
We’ll walk through each of these: Build a clear picture of your current support - demand, throughput, costs. Numbers pave the road of the people-first experience. Continue to build on the value you’re already providing - I’ll show you ways how. Be data-driven and tie support’s contributions to revenue.
1) Track tickets over time
2) Future Events - Product Releases: Align your product roadmap and try to ballpark ticket demand based on previous proportionate precedents. Zendesk might repackage our pricing again in the future. If we do, we will look to past events (proportionate to our customer size) and then justify what the new demand will look like.
3) Service Issues: We now track all red alert problems and incidents and give a report card to Operations every month and quarter so they know how much they have disrupted our customers. Use this same data to justify why headcount is required to compensate for platform integrity issues. Sometimes Engineering has a roadmap with known risks.
4) Segmentation: channel type, customer type (Trialers, Top 10, Top 25, Top 500), advocate type
Calculate cost per unit - Do this every year! Do not have this conversation on its own. Ever. Once your audience starts thinking about cost in a vacuum it will be an uphill battle to talk about how that cost benefits customers and the business.
Now that you understand the picture of your support - think of everything you’re doing as a pie. You only have so many slices. Which brings the most value?
External requests: Zendesk examples (Chat, Elite Support, Inbox)…Each one of these initiatives cost us advocate training and time AWAY from tickets. We can only do so much. Enlist your X team in participating in the prioritization of these projects. Instead of just coming to them with the bill at the end of the meal, give them the menu and let them feel responsible for what they are buying from you.
Consider your internal strategies that take time but help you improve. Such as…self-service (next slide)
Don’t forget to highlight how many tickets you are solving proactively. This way you can show progress when ticket deflection increases, saving on cost, reducing headcount needs in the first place representing fiscal efficacy. What’s your HC deflection ratio? How are you intentionally managing toward its improvement? Focus on Tier 0.
Get Radford justified - We just got our job architecture from our shiny new HR business partner. It codifies each level of expertise within support mapped to an industry standard that has with it pay bands. This eliminates your X team from negotiating per salary. It’s no longer a question. These skills cost X.
Get buy in on your recruiting rules - backfill, TL’s (got 5 new people on the same team, you need a new headcount to cover the TL for that new team).
Hire in advance - We all know that if you wait until you have the demand to justify headcount, you have waited too long. By virtue of your hiring time plus new staff onboarding period, your existing staff will be in a trench. Rather than that hitting your CSAT and making all customer touch points on those lingering tickets more sticky, hire in advance of that demand by your recruitment and onboarding time (3 months at Zendesk).
(-) Churn (=) No change in revenue (+) Upgrades/Conversions/Sales
Organic Growth does not track support tickets - Take credit. Grab all customers who converted from trial or upgraded their plan at all in SF. Join that dataset against Zendesk tickets for those same orgs. If those customers talked to Support and did not talk to Sales, take credit for that budget. It doesn’t mean you are entitled, but it does establish a relationship that your Sales VP’s should WANT to fund with you. Marcus gives us 20% yearly. Sam Boonin asks us to focus on new business and I show him how that focus yields more revenue. Examples help. Use the Gateway story (called about spyware, help them rid of it, recommend antivirus as next ticket resolution).
The sword cuts both ways. If you want to be measured to revenue attribution, you should demonstrate a responsible relationship with your X team by also being measured to revenue cost (don’t worry there is an upside). How much MRR did your company lose as a result of customers who have churned for the same quarter who had tickets with your support team? Here’s the upside: For any customer who did neither upgrade or churn that DID have a support ticket, that STILL counts as Revenue Protection!
Note: Be careful with any revenue conversations. You do not want to be managed to a revenue quota. This is strictly an exercise to understand the revenue and cost lens of support as a differentiator.
Profit from us: How customer service protects and grows revenue
Profit from Us:
How Customer Service Protects
and Grows Revenue
Director of Customer Advocacy
have stopped doing
business with a brand
because of poor
The Influence of Support
say customer service is
important to their choice of
or loyalty to a brand
*Source: 2015 Microsoft Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report
“If a customer contacts
you with a problem and
no one picks up the
phone to solve it, which
way is your revenue
going to go?”
- Greg Collins, Vice President of Global
When Companies View Support as a Cost Center
• Focus on cost, not value
• Raises risk of churn
• Missed opportunity for revenue
• Leads to underinvestment
How do you shift the conversation from ‘cost’ to ‘value’?
• Build a clear picture of your current
• Grow the value of support to your company
• Show support’s contributions to revenue
- Track your annual support demand over
time. What are the current trends?
- Plan for future events (product releases,
marketing campaigns, sales projections)
- Factor in service issues that spike demand
- Segment your data to reveal key customer
- Track your productivity. How many tickets
are solved by support every hour?
- How can you improve? Explore ways to
optimize productivity, such as chat
- Calculate your cost per unit
- Re-evaluate every year
- Don’t have this
conversation on its own
Grow Value: Prioritize
• Identify which ‘slices’ of support
are the most crucial
• Prioritize external requests
• Prioritize internal support projects
designed to help you improve
Grow Value: Improve Self-Service
• Better customer experience
• Fewer tickets save costs, reduce headcount
What is your current self-service ratio?
How can you improve?
Grow Value: Organize Hiring & Job Structure
• Build guidelines for roles and skill
• Get buy-in on your recruiting needs
• Hire in advance to protect the
customer - and agent - experience
Show Support’s Contribution to Sales
– = +
- Take credit for support-only conversions
The goal isn’t to establish a revenue quota -
it’s to highlight value and encourage more
- Be data-driven, but examples help
- Measure churn of customers with recent
- How much revenue did your company
lose from customers who also had
interactions with support? What were
the CSAT scores?
It is about: Showing your team’s value so you can advocate for
your support agents.
It is about: Building a case for your contributions so you grow
investment in support.
It isn’t about: Making your CFO happy or diverting budget
from other departments.
It is about: Introducing customer service into the conversation
about overall business growth.