I had to take issue in public with a very well known online accounting software company recently. And what I learned was that some SaaS companies are trying to embrace the Delight section of Inbound Marketing by responding to enquiries by email.
Whilst this could not strictly be viewed as nurturing existing clients in the recognised Inbound Methodology, it is an attempt by Geeks to resolve customer problems without actually having to physically talk to them.
Done carefully, it could actually be very successful.
However, in this instance, all it did was serve to inflame the situation and lead me to start looking at other providers after nearly two years of monthly subscriptions to this company.
Spitting Feathers over my Saas Company
For the second week in a row, I had been unable to send out invoices on a Friday. And this time I needed to send one document immediately so the client could pay me before they went on holiday for two weeks.
To put it mildly, I was spitting feathers. Worse still, when I clicked the button to request customer support, I received an email reply that they would get back to me within 24 hours.
However, I was informed that, to get help more quickly, I could call their office in another country or their 0845 number.
Existing customers should not have to pay to call customer support in the 21st century
Call an 0845 number or call abroad from my mobile? I think not! To understand my irritation, you can find out the costs of calling 0845 numbers here.
And, even from a landline, I would have been reluctant. Since they were already costing me money in unpaid revenue due to not being able to send out my invoices, I was not about to let them charge me for a phone call to their Support team. In the 21st century, with 03 numbers readily available for calls that count as part of your regular minutes from mobiles, this really is unforgiveable!
Inbound advocates sending helpful emails to resolve the problems of existing customers
One of the primary tenets of Inbound Marketing is that it is far more cost effective to hold on to existing customers than it is to keep trying to close new ones. Therefore, regular emails that help your customer to get the best from your software are a really good idea. These:
- keep your product top of mind so they keep on using it
- highlight more ways that your product can provide benefit
- show off your business as one that cares about improving the lives of your customers
And all three of these points means that your customers are more likely to recommend you to their friends and colleagues if they require a similar service.
When email nurturing can go very wrong - with disastrous consequences
The following Monday - the 24 hours response time only covers work days - I received an email from the Support team. This was their chance to apologise for all the inconvenience and make me feel valued again.
The subject line was not promising - it referred to an Enquiry Number but gave no other details.
The email read:
Dear Sir/Madam, Thank you for your recent enquiry to [Name of Saas Company] Technical Support. We're pleased to provide you with the following link to the required article:
Clickable hyperlink including the words help centre and article but nothing more descriptive than that.
Dear Sir/Madam? Professional, but very cold and not personal at all!
I clicked the hyperlink expecting to be taken direct to an article that would give me not only the answer but also elucidate as to the question it was actually going to be answering...
Oh, how wrong I was. It took me to the home page of the Company Help Centre where I was asked to choose from four different options to describe myself.
I clicked Customer - Click 2
And then I got four choices regarding who/what I was enquiring about. I assumed that I wanted the Help Centre so I chose that for Click 3
However, instead of taking me through to a specific article, it gave me a whole list of 23 different products to choose from!!
I assume I am after the product that I use with them - Click 4
Then I get another load of choices about exactly which sub-product I am using - Click 5
This brings me through to the Help Centre for that particular product, listing about 40 different problems that I might have!
I didn't bother with Click 6 because I had lost the will to live.
Customer service by email has to result in a great user experience on your website
When you send a customer an email with a link to a helpful article, it has to go direct to that article.
I was asked to THINK SIX TIMES during this process and I still did not get an answer to my problem. By which time I was spitting feathers - AGAIN!
Customers want you, as the provider, to make life easy for them - especially when they are unhappy and feel that you have let them down!
It took several disgruntled tweets on Twitter to elicit a response from their team there and, having told them how unloved I was feeling, they then asked me to DM them my details so they could call me. This occurred within an hour of my DM and the operative was very helpful. If only I could have spoken to him three days earlier to avoid all the bad feeling that was growing towards their company and the future of my ongoing subscription.
Why do they make it so hard to reach the people who can resolve my issue and make me feel like a valued customer?
If I need help, I want it to be obviously available. I don't want to have to scroll through three screens to find a phone number that I cannot call because I am on a mobile. I don't want to have to wait 24 hours for an email response. Yes, they had web chat - but not obviously! AND it wasn't mentioned as a quicker alternative on the holding email response.
The problem is that Software Help Centre websites are designed by Geeks who have no idea of how regular humans interact with the interwebs. They may well not mind working their way logically through 50 different screens to reach their answer. But most humans want answers and they want them NOW!
Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krugs is a masterpiece of website designery and should be compulsory reading for all software developers/website designers.
How can you delight your SaaS customers with Inbound Marketing?
Inbound Marketing is brilliant for acquiring new customers! But it's also about turning your existing clients into brand advocates who will provide free advertising by singing your praises to the skies to anyone who will listen.
A short email with free advice that tells your customers about new product features or updates that will make their life easier is one of the quickest ways to bring your name back to the top of the pile. Educate and innovate!
Or reminding them that a licence is about to expire and offering a loyalty discount if they renew within a certain time frame?
Even a simple thank you for being a loyal customer on the anniversary of their first invoice - communicate how much you value their business!
With this particular company, I have received none of the above.
I have had repeated problems with the software and with the complete lack of online customer service. They just don't seem to understand how their cock-ups impact my bottom line. I have now given them extremely detailed feedback on their shortcomings - both as a platform and for online customer service.
They are on a warning when it comes to the future of my subscription with them and, with this first-hand knowledge in mind, I would be happy to talk to any SaaS companies about how they could improve the experience for their existing customers.