The cloud platform services market is getting crowded and, like any industry, there comes a point when it may make better business sense to stop competing on price and instead focus on providing an outstanding customer experience. Google recently announced new support packages for Google Cloud Platform and, bless their heart, they didn’t get the memo on how to excel at customer service.
Under the new program, Cloud Platform customers can choose from four tiers that range in price from free to $400/month or more. The free option gets you the bare minimum — online documentation, community forum access, and answers to billing questions. The next two levels add direct access to the support team via email or phone for an additional charge. Top level support offers “direct access to the Technical Account Management team” for even more coin.
Okay, wait. $400 a month just to get someone on the phone? To be fair, that also includes consultations with the Google team about application development or best practices for your specific needs, but still, 400 bucks a bit steep just to get some questions answered.
We get that a company the size and scope of Google needs to limit direct access to its customer support team through the use of paid support models or they’d be so slammed with trouble tickets they’d never get anything done. However, unless you’re as huge as Google and have a quadrillion people using your product, consider theirs a cautionary tale on how not to support your customers.
Your company’s most basic support options should already include access to online documentation, a knowledge base, and authoritative content that encourages users to become product experts in their own right. If they’ve paid for your product, then you’re also on the hook to provide a quality support team to answer questions and offer advice. That may seem like a daunting (and potentially expensive) investment for small or medium-sized businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. Lean in close and we’ll tell you why.
Responding to customer issues costs a lot more than preventing them in the first place.
If you’re product support environment is pro-active, you won’t need a cadre of support staff working phone banks and trouble tickets around the clock to serve your customers when they run into issues. Make product information available through great online documentation and a living knowledge base that’s associated with smart and useful content on your website. If you’re a software provider, product help can even be woven right into the app itself. Give users the answers they need, when and where they need them (hint: firstname.lastname@example.org isn’t good enough). Create a product support structure that lets customers serve themselves and you’ll help yourself in the long run.
No product or service is 100% issue free so, yes, you want customers to be able to contact you directly with questions. They’ll be much happier, though, when getting tangled up in a phone tree or ticketing system is the last resort instead of the first. As a bonus, you’ll free up human and financial resources that can be diverted to development, marketing, research, and all the other components that keep your business running.
By preventing customer confusion you are delighting your customers. You are making your products more competitive, your brand more valuable, and your customers happy. Happy customers are fiercely loyal and love to talk about you to friends and colleagues. Prevention needs to be a huge part of your customer experience strategy because it lowers your costs and increases your revenues.
Due in part to its enormous customer base, Google can get away with charging Cloud Platform customers upwards of $4,800 per year to its customers for the luxury of a phone call, but most of us can’t. The good news is, we don’t need to. Today’s customers want instant, useful, and correct answers that don’t take three hours, nine phone calls, a pocket full of money, or a blizzard of emails to find. Why not make it easy for them? An ounce of customer confusion prevention is worth a pound of trouble support cure.