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Improving Customer Service: 7 Lessons from a Startup

Delivering high quality customer service is vital to the success of startup companies. At this emerging stage, companies rely on early customers to provide three vital ingredients: revenue, product feedback, and references to attract future customers.

Based on his experience at Buildium, company co-founder and CEO Michael Monteiro spoke at the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council’s (MTLC) SaaS Business Model Series: Improving Customer Satisfaction and Customer Experience by Leveraging Operations. Michael offers seven practical lessons for startups on improving customer service. The slides from his presentation are available on SlideShare.

1. Figure out how to measure success
Establish metrics to consistently assess customer satisfaction. Pay attention both to what customers say and what they do. In addition to listening to customers via satisfaction surveys, watch how they work with your solution and identify where you can make improvements.

2. Put the right incentives in place
Once metrics and goals have been established, create employee incentives that are directly aligned with the goals. Include specific customer satisfaction targets in allocating bonuses, for example.

3. Invest in a status board
Make the customer service targets visible to everyone and show progress against those targets in real time. An electronic status board showing the percentage of customer service tickets closed with an outstanding customer rating, for example, can have a positive impact on behavior.

4. Head off the support interaction
Recognize that a support telephone call may be the result of flaws earlier in the customer experience. Telephone calls might have been pre-empted by better training, more effective in-product help, or a simpler user interface. Resolving the customer issue over the telephone is good; fixing the root problem is better.

5. You’ll never really know unless you try
Don’t over-analyze prospective responses to customer support issues. Try out simple remedies, see what works, and make adjustments. Oftentimes a full-blown engineering effort isn’t required.

6. The little stuff matters
Look for opportunities to make small changes that can yield substantial improvements in productivity, collaboration, and morale. Small investments such as an electronic status board or wireless headsets that let customer care experts work together can pay big dividends.

7. Give your customers a voice
Give customers a forum where they can post ideas and suggest new features. Make their ideas public so that other customers can weigh in, refine, and prioritize them. Join in the conversation and provide updates when you act on a suggestion.

About the author
Michael Monteiro is co-founder and CEO of Buildium, a company that provides simple and affordable property management software solutions to landlords, property managers, condominiums, and homeowner associations.

Armed with a bachelor degree in Computer Science from Boston College, Michael began his career as a technology consultant with Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) where he developed mad coding skills using PowerBuilder, a programming language most of his younger colleagues have never heard of.

He continued his consulting career with Sapient Corporation and ten years later, Michael and two former colleagues named Dimitris Georgakopoulos and Christopher Cheung founded Buildium. As CEO, Michael is responsible for sales and marketing, customer service, and generally anything Dimitris doesn’t want to do.

Michael lives just south of Boston with his wife and two children and enjoys commuting home by boat.