The first post on our blog. Let's talk about customer service in a web studio / interactive agency


    Hello, Habr! This is our first post on the corporate blog of the project “ Ruward: All Runet Ratings ”. The project was conceived as an aggregator of all existing niche tops in the digital agency market (now we have 52 ratings and more than 1000 participating companies) - to serve as a kind of interactive market map (and at the same time - a cheat sheet, to quickly see who is in what positions in which tops)

    Since the rating topic is quite controversial and sometimes provokes a negative reaction: “Yet another digital ratings!”, we decided in our blog to post useful copyright (our) materials about the life of web studios and interactive agencies. I propose to start our cycle with a conversation about customer service, since in the vast majority of cases in our market it is simply a disaster. So:

    Customer service in the market of digital agency services

    This is a short overview material in which I want to talk about the functions of the customer service, give some advice and discuss the delicate places in building communication with the client. In the next article, we will definitely discuss the process of working with a client base, specific examples of its segmentation and other “hodovka”, which allow to increase work efficiency.

    Key Customer Service Features

    There are three main areas of responsibility for customer service in a typical agency:

    • Control and coordination . All client work, services, projects. Dates, tasks, plans. The history of communication, complaints, appeals to support. Money, contracts, documents, payments, debts. The main task in this area is to increase the quality of customer services and increase the effectiveness of interaction with him. Also, competent and error-free work on this unit significantly increases the level of customer loyalty.

    • Relationship development . Clarification of plans, tasks, customer needs. Proposal of new projects and services. Suggestions for optimization and improvement of already launched projects / processes. Actually, the main block is from a commercial point of view, the activity of which is aimed at increasing the CLTV (Client LifeTime Value) indicator - the total revenue that the client brings throughout its entire life cycle. It should be noted that work in this area is almost impossible without the organization of the right actions and business processes in two other zones.

    • Conflict resolution . A pool of work to anticipate the occurrence of problems and also to efficiently solve existing ones (meaning problems in a broad sense, and not just the nature of bugs solved by technical support). The purpose of this block is to reduce the Churn Rate (outflow of customers from the database), as well as to increase the CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) indicator of customer satisfaction.

    Today, in our material, we will talk more about conflict resolution communications.

    Customer base - more than it seems

    Speaking of working with a client base, the agent market usually means a pool of your current, existing clients. In fact, your client base is much larger and consists of three large blocks, each of which should have its own work strategy.

    • Current customers . A pool of your current customers. As a rule, the main focus from the point of view of customer service is precisely on this segment, which is not always the right decision.

    • "Failure . " A large pool of customers who contacted you but did not become your customers. As a rule, this is a rather large segment, significantly exceeding the volume of the first block. A special communication strategy should be worked out for this segment - after all, this is also an important asset of your business.

    • "Outflow . " Companies that were your customers, but for some reason left. Similar to the previous paragraph, it is important to configure individual business processes for working with this segment of the client base.

    In the next material of the cycle, we will talk about ways to segment the customer base, techniques for working effectively with each of these three segments and consider specific cases of how these mechanics can be used in real life.

    Work with complaints

    Competent work with complaints and conflicts is the most important area in customer service.
    Often a client whose problem has been quickly and efficiently resolved becomes more loyal than the one who had no problems at all.

    • Have rules for handling complaints - who is responsible for what, what is the reaction time. Ideally, something like SLA (as in support). Again, there are many services that automate this process - for free or for ridiculous money.

    • Monitor the situation in production and support all the time - take preventive measures even before a problem arises. The simplest problem is that it never came up. At regular meetings with account managers, always find out the possible risks in communication for the coming period. For example, what are the risks of receiving a complaint from client XXX during the next week on the YYY project. Such preventive practice instills the right culture of communication with clients and develops a “sixth sense” among managers.

    • Collect history by fakap, highlight frequent, solve systemically. Use the tools for automated collection and analysis of such data - there are quite a lot of them on the market now.

    • Do not be afraid to engage leadership if necessary. Often, the very fact that the director / top manager is present in the conversation reduces the client’s “charge for conflict” by several times - he sees that his problem (and he himself) is important for the company.

    • Do not make excuses, but offer a solution. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the client is not very interested that “Vasya got sick” or “We have such a rush, such a rush” - he needs to know what and when you will take to solve his problem.

    • Focus more on testing, QA. Then there will be less problems. This is pretty obvious =)

    - Offtopic, about working with complaints and “haters” in SMM

    How many times have I observed the same situation. Here you have a product / project / service. And it so happened that you got a personal hater in your social networks. The reasons for his appearance may be different - either he was really dissatisfied with the real jamb, but they didn’t help him on time, or he just didn’t like your pink blouse, or just a troll, and he cannot ignore those around him. It's not about that.

    He appeared - and now in your posts, any news feeds invariably appears and writes. If he simply writes “XXX sucks”, then to hell with it, everyone understands everything. But if he writes reasonably, the circus begins. You then, of course, at first you tried to talk, deal with the problem, discussed the arguments, phoned. Everyone seemed to have expressed, answered, clarified - and even, perhaps, won the original thread.

    And he continues to write - with and without reason. Wherever it reaches. Well, this is not entirely adequate. And here, 99% of Internet directors and star PR managers make the same mistake. For some reason they think that everyone around them is aware of this sentimental drama, carefully read all the first posts and hundreds of comments when it first appeared, and of course, they recognize your greatness and expert authority. And they stop responding. Or they write something like “we have already discussed this”, “my time is too expensive”, “I already told you everything”, “I have nothing to prove to you”, or in a more severe form, they try to troll in response.

    The same applies not only to haters, but simply to people who do not really like each other and have a long personal history of conflicts and media wars. Again, for some reason everyone thinks that everyone was obliged to familiarize themselves with a sinking heart and barely restrained enthusiasm with all this dirty linen that had accumulated over several years.

    What the client sees. He sees that some person wrote some reasoned comment / question / claim to your post / info line. He does not have a clue about what you have there for the background, and what is your real expert greatness. He just sees - the person asked a question, and he was stupidly ignored. Or sent. And he thinks that even this shnyaga is some kind of project, service, and he also immediately stops liking your blouse. So reputation and user loyalty are lost. And this is how they achieve their trolling.

    A simple example: A post about the company's birthday, the results there for the year, a party, pictures from the corporate party. And in the comments appears a man who writes something like “DR is, of course, wonderful, but what about my #XXX problem, and I also think that your service is bad, because ... and your managers are incompetent and sent me, and in an interview your CEO said about the market trends YYY , which I consider complete nonsense, because ... Dear customers, the project is going nowhere, do not use their services! ". Here. And to him a couple of influence agents and a pr-manager write something in this vein: “ Damn, you got it, the post is not about that, write to support ”, “ As much as you can, they’ve already discussed this 300 times, leave me alone ,” “ I'm tired of spamming there’s nothing more to do?". And what do I think? Perhaps the dude really got everyone - and just a troll. Or maybe he has a real problem, and he says the right thing. Will I go look for source threads with discussion, analyze market trends and read interviews? No, I'm too lazy. I want to see right here what the company will say about this claim. Although I understand that it is off topic.

    For any reasoned question / claim (no matter from whom it comes from), the client should receive a clear answer. Even if this question is asked completely off topic and for the five hundredth time. Do not think that everyone knows you and the history of incendiary SM-dramas of your project.

    Customer Satisfaction, CSI

    The level of customer satisfaction is the most important assessment of the quality of customer service. It needs to be measured and track the dynamics quickly. Without good indicators of the “happiness” of your clients, it will be almost impossible to talk about any significant development of relations and expansion of the pool of services / projects produced for the client. It may even be worth building a scheme of service motivation depending on these indicators:

    • Number of complaints received, percentage and term of successfully resolved;
    • CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) - a general indicator of customer satisfaction;
    • Extended checklists for customer satisfaction (different services, different aspects of interaction, etc.) - for a deeper analysis of the situation;
    • It’s important to take slices by specific client managers, and not just look at the big picture.

    As a general result, actions to improve these indicators will reduce the Churn rate and increase CLTV (total revenue from the client throughout the life cycle).

    CSI is the easiest way to calculate . Let's look at the easiest way to calculate a customer satisfaction index.

    • We take a relevant sample of the customer base;
    • We call (or online, but the quality of communication is obviously worse) and ask one question: “Rate on a 10-point scale how much you are ready to recommend our services to friends”;
    • Based on the results of the number of ratings for each point. We distinguish between the categories “attract” (the number of high marks in the range of 8-10) and “detract” (low marks of 1-3).
    • We calculate the CSI index = attract (8+) / detract (3-) ; Of course, it should be much higher than one, otherwise you have serious problems.
    • We conduct quarterly assessments, look at the dynamics both for the company and for specific managers and clients.

    A set of simple but useful rules for communicating with a client

    • We had a meeting with the client - they sent a contact report on the same day. Often this rule is ignored, but clearly fixing the hot pursuit arrangements is a very important part of communication. Unfortunately (I say this as a person who works on the client side), most agencies simply ignore this practice.

    • Heard, even verbally, some complaint / dissatisfaction - recorded in some store / log. Be sure to inform the client about the status of the problem later. Often, this simple approach has a magical effect - the customer simply mentioned a minor bug in the conversation (maybe not even on his project), and after some time you notified him about the solution to the problem - this creates a significant add-on to customer loyalty.

    • Delay the deadlines - warn the client BEFORE the deadline. Obviously, but ignored in 80% of cases. The reason for the failure of the deadlines is not so important to the client - how much an advance warning about this failure.

    • Assign response time to different types of customer requests. Control them! Ideally, it’s like a SLA, according to which, I hope, your support team is already working. Use a hard whip for managers who do not abide by them. It is important.

    • Detail as much as possible all project discussions with the client; be with him in a single conceptual field. Speak the same language, specify professional terms. Remember that the verbal part may be lost when sending the document / proposal to another employee of the client.

    • Keep a record of all incoming requests, all current customers, all departed. Use statuses and filters. Automate support work - tickets, notifications, tracking. Jira, OS Ticket, etc.


    Of course, within the framework of one small material it is impossible to tell about all aspects of the work of the customer service. We will talk about some in the following publications + I propose to discuss the issue in the comments to this post.

    You may also be interested in a couple of my latest materials about business web studios in Habré:

    Andrey Terekhov

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