When Do You Need a Customer Service Tool?

As startups scale, customer service software becomes all but inevitable. But when is that precise moment when it becomes necessary to move from a manual email/phone-based customer support process to a more automated solution? According to our database:

  • 50% of seed-stage startups use a customer service tool
  • 56% of series A startups use a customer service tool
  • 80% of growth startups use a customer service tool
  • 100% of series B startups use a customer service tool

Why invest in a customer service tool?

When deciding whether or not to purchase a customer service software, it's important to focus on both your front end and your back end. What do your customers gain from the tool and what do you gain internally?

When it comes to the front end, it isn’t just your service that matters; the perception of bad service can lose customers even if the service itself is technically sound. For example, let’s say you don’t have a customer service software, so one of your customers contacts you via email. The first thing that your agent does is ask the customer some critical information: which plan she’s on, the browser she’s using to access your website, the browser version, etc. Your agent needs that information to do her job, but your customer’s first impression of your support system is how clunky and uninformed it is.  

A tool like Intercom can provide your support agent with all of that information upfront, so the first thing your customer sees from said agent is a possible solution, not a laundry list of information requests. Your agent is just as intelligent and well-trained as before, but now the customer has a much different perception of her competence. Founders acknowledge that this is a necessary function once you reach a certain size. Jameson Detweiler, co-founder and CEO of Fantasmo Studios, says, “We don’t use a customer service tool right now, but when we’re ready we’ll probably use Intercom because it’s just so straightforward. It’s all about you and the customer getting together with as little friction as possible.”

And then there’s the back end. Do you need to improve efficiency, and if you do, what processes are you looking to automate?

“We brought in Zendesk when two different things came together,” says Stan Berkow, founder of SenseHealth.  “On one hand, we were getting more users and we were getting so many tickets that we really felt strongly about setting up a help page. On the other hand, we really wanted to streamline our ticketing and our bug issues together. Those two things combined really drove us to bring in Zendesk.”

When should a startup bring on a customer service tool?

Each company is different, so the precise moment a customer service software becomes necessary will vary from startup to startup. Recent data indicates that younger customers gravitate toward self-service features, like a knowledge base, and are less comfortable reaching out to a human representative. If your customer base is made up of primarily 20-somethings, that fact might spur you toward a help desk software a bit earlier than other companies. If your customers are older, it might be worthwhile to keep your customer service process more personal for as long as possible.

Another factor in determining when a company needs customer service software is whether your company is B2B or B2C. Oftentimes, B2C companies bring in customer support earlier than their B2C counterparts because of the sheer volume of support requests they receive. B2B companies have fewer clients but each client relationship is generally more complex than those found in the B2C space. B2C companies are mostly concerned with managing the number of tickets they receive, but each ticket only involves one customer, whereas B2B support will often involve multiple parties from both companies. As such, B2B companies might want to consider a software, not for volume, but just to keep everything straight.

Every startup has its own unique customer service needs. While some may need to bring in a tool to handle a high volume of support requests, others may bring in a tool to improve their customer experience. As long as you’re keeping a close eye on both ends of your customer service process, you’ll be able to identify the key moment when additional support becomes necessary.