Product-Led Growth Has Turned Customer Support Into a Double-Edge Sword

Product-led growth (PLG) is a popular go-to-market strategy that relies on product adoption as the primary driver of customer acquisition, conversion, and expansion. Instead of leveraging the traditional top-down sales model, the product is designed to be extremely customer-centric, and when done correctly, sells itself. This leads to reduced friction when new users evaluate the product, a higher volume of users, and a lower customer acquisition cost. But how does this affect customer support teams? 

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Image source: Product Led Growth Collective

The Paradox of Customer Support and Product-Led Growth

When new users are driven into the product, they are being onboarded without the sales or customer success teams talking or meeting with them. Eventually, these users may experience challenges, have a question, or worse, a product issue. And when that happens, they are going to open a support case. This shift has fundamentally changed the role of customer support, bringing these teams to the front of the line when it comes to customer experience. 

With PLG in place, support often becomes the first human interaction new users have with a company – an interaction that has to be a good one, or that new user won’t convert into a paid customer and the PLG strategy will begin to fall apart. Yet, even with the increased importance of customer support as the first contact point for new customers, many customer support teams struggle to handle this increased demand because they are still trying to overcome the stigma of being seen as a cost center and not getting the resources they need to be successful. Now we’ve entered the paradox of support and product-led growth. Let’s explore the challenges and opportunities this presents for support teams. 

Unsustainable Increases in Ticket Volume

Under this model, the increased number of users will result in an increased number of support tickets. In addition to this, as products become more complex, the support tickets follow suit, resulting in reduced resolution time, CSAT, agent satisfaction, and more. Steady increases in the ticket-to-agent ratio aren’t sustainable, as there’s a cap on the number of support agents that can be hired. 

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Manual Processes Inhibit Scaling Growth 

Trying to manage a high ticket volume is difficult on its own, but manual and repetitive processes are what really slow support teams down. There are numerous recurring support workflows that plague support teams. Manual tasks like tagging, identifying trends, searching for solutions, analyzing, routing, and responding to support tickets need to be a thing of the past. 

The number one goal should be to deflect as many tickets as possible, which generally starts with having a vast knowledge base that helps customers self-serve and find solutions to their questions and problems without submitting a ticket. Some companies leverage chatbots as another layer of ticket deflection, but in both cases, tickets will still funnel through. Customer support platforms aim to solve this but have limited out-of-the-box capabilities. That’s where automated support ops become vital to scaling customer support growth.

Disproportionate Support Budget

According to Zendesk’s CX Trends report, 34 percent of companies predict a 25-percent increase in engagement, but only 14 percent plan to raise their budgets by a similar margin, and only 25% of support teams strongly feel that they are being funded adequately. 

Underfunding support teams is nothing new. Customer support leaders need to find a way to demonstrate this new reality to their finance team, centering their support metrics around revenue, customer churn, and customer satisfaction to receive an appropriate budget that will allow them to employ the tools and resources required to accommodate the growth induced by PLG. 

As Challenges Persist, Opportunities Emerge 

With or without PLG in place, customer support teams have an opportunity to emerge as revenue drivers and leaders within organizations. Here are a few examples. 

Increase Revenue & Prevent Customer Churn 

With customer support becoming one of the first human touchpoints in customer experience, getting this interaction right is important. By focusing on the right mix of support metrics, you can ensure customers are satisfied and getting the level of support they need. Go beyond metrics like NPS and measure metrics such as customer satisfaction score (CSAT), first reply time (FRT), average handle time (AHT), requester wait time, and customer effort score (CES) to get a closer look into the customer experience. While these metrics are important, remember that measuring and acting on them is reactive in nature. 

To get ahead of the curve and start proactively monitoring and automating your support, you can leverage AI-powered tools like AptEdge, which provide advanced and predictive analytics that enable you to correlate trending tickets and issues with companies, the associated revenue risk, and overall sentiment. 

Focus on getting good visibility around the new and ongoing hotspots within the ticket transaction flows, and it will save your team hours of work and reduce customer escalations. What are the types of tickets truly impacting your support team and KPIs? Knowing this in advance will allow you to put out the growing fires before they hit the team. 

Predictive Analytics

Fuel Product Innovation with Customer Insights

Customer support teams store a treasure trove of customer insights that go unnoticed by other teams within the organization. They understand customer challenges, know which features are user favorites, where the product hotspots lie, and what customers wish was improved about the product. As support ticket trends are detected and categorized, these may contain product issues or feature requests that haven’t made it through the established communication channels. By sharing customer insights with the product management team, it will allow them to get a direct look into customer insights at scale and use that information to make changes to the product, and ultimately, improve customer experience. 

Tighten the Feedback Loop with Engineering to Increase Velocity 

PLG is a team sport, and every team needs to be a well-oiled machine – especially in the areas where they collaborate and overlap. Unfortunately, both support and engineering teams have a tendency to get in the way of each other. As engineering increases its deployment of new features and product updates, the support team will receive an influx of new tickets and escalations. If the support team is stuck with manual, repetitive processes, there is a high likelihood that as tickets get escalated, there will be many redundant and duplicate escalations that make their way back to the engineering team. This reduces the engineering team’s velocity to innovate and develop faster and costs more as tickets escalated to engineering cost 5-10x more than regular support tickets. 

Support teams have the opportunity to automate their support workflows and prevent escalations from occurring, to become more self-sufficient. Similarly, engineering and QA have the opportunity to be more aligned to support, especially after new releases are deployed, to notify them when there are issues around a new feature, and proactively provide support about resolution instructions or workarounds. Establishing and optimizing feedback loops between support and engineering allows both teams to operate more efficiently, and increase velocity.  

The Road to High-Performance Support 

Product-led growth is a great way to scale organizations and has brought customer support teams to the forefront of GTM strategies. Senior leadership within organizations needs to understand this shift, and include support leaders in the PLG strategy planning to ensure that they are enabled and prepared to take on this new role and the increased volume of support tickets that will come along with it. This will require a recalibrated budget around headcount, tools, and resources. Ultimately, the key to customer support success within PLG will be to apply automation wherever possible, eliminate unnecessary manual processes, increase team efficiency and user adoption, reduce churn, and fuel product innovation. 

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