Why Your Subscription Business Can’t Ignore Customer Service

A huge amount of work goes into running a direct-to-consumer subscription company: building a brand, constructing a website, acquiring customers, creating merchant accounts, writing email copy, developing and sourcing products, and more. Because there’s so much to do to get a company off the ground, it’s not uncommon for things like eCommerce customer service to take a back seat. Ultimately, that’s a big mistake.

In the subscription space, you’re not just conducting a single transaction — you’re building an ongoing relationship with customers, and your profitability depends on being able to keep them around for months and even years. Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” One of the ways you can build your company’s reputation is by offering high-quality products and services that fill a need. But investing in customer service is what will prevent that reputation from being ruined by a single bad experience that can now be shared more quickly than ever before.

Some brands go so far as to hide customer service options on their websites, and it costs them. It makes it difficult to acquire customers who seek that information before buying, and it can cause existing customers to lose trust. Every interaction you have with a customer is a chance to make a positive impression. By not listening to your subscribers’ issues, you’re losing the chance to resolve them and to avoid those same issues in the future.

Putting Customer Service First

For an example of a company with legendary customer service, look no further than Zappos. Not only are Zappos employees empowered to solve whatever problems might arise, but they’re also given the freedom to impress customers. Customer service agents regularly go out of their way to deliver a top-notch experience. Stitch Fix is bringing the same approach to customer service to the subscription space, and its “client love team” is there to write thoughtful notes and send gifts to clients, delivering a truly remarkable experience that expands far beyond reaction to customer issues.

Even if you don’t have room in the budget for a “client love team,” taking small steps to prioritize customer service can have a big impact. Start with the following strategies:

1. Plan how you’ll fit customer service into your budget.

If customer service is an afterthought, you won’t have the resources left over to budget for it. Plan for the type of customer service that your product category demands. For example, a beauty product that’s applied to skin might require a more knowledgeable service staff than a box of toys or apparel for kids.

Many companies make the mistake of viewing customer service as a cost. As a result, they spend years trying to minimize that cost as much as possible. A more productive approach is to view it as an investment and even a retention tool. At the end of the day, customer service is a valuable opportunity to humanize your brand and connect with your customers on a deeper level.

2. Augment service efforts with technological solutions.

Even with the rise of chatbots and voice-activated AI solution like Alexa and Siri, customer service will always be a labor-intensive area that requires a lot of input and optimization over time. However, technology can help scale your customer service and deliver a better experience to more people. Chatbots, for instance, can achieve as much as 85 percent accuracy, allowing them to bear the brunt of your customer service inquiries and direct the more difficult problems to experienced human service representatives.

In addition, the data you receive during each customer service interaction should be recorded in each subscriber’s file to be accessed later and brought into a larger data set to determine trends or common issues. The more data you collect, the more you’ll be able to personalize future interactions, after all.

3. Optimize and personalize your customer service efforts to improve quality.

When you’re first starting out, it often makes sense to keep customer service in-house — even in a place with expensive rent. The building team might need to pull info directly from the people on the team who can help. As you grow, however, you’ll want to move a larger customer service team to an area where costs are less astronomical. That could mean moving your team to a cheaper location or outsourcing to a call center, but either way, ensure that you and the team area always provide high-quality interactions.

You should also optimize efforts to deliver a better experience. Pay attention to trends in customer service inquiries, and if your team members are getting the same question over and over, put those questions and their answers in a help or FAQ page on your website to help customers help themselves. Listen to call recordings or review chat logs to identify those patterns.

Customer service is one of the most important components of building a lasting relationship with your subscribers. In the direct-to-consumer subscription space, your success depends on these relationships, so don’t skimp on customer service and treat it as an afterthought. Instead, embrace the above strategy and take a proactive approach instead of a reactive one. Your customers and your business will both thrive as a result.

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