Why Customer Service Matters In Time & Expense

DATABASICS is proud to announce its 3-year winning streak in the American Business Awards for its customer service. To be honest, a lot goes into our customer service. Here's why we put so much effort into maintaining the highest standards in supporting our customers.

A major challenge for today’s providers of time & expense management software is customer service. The reason is the same as the reason why so many companies fail when it comes to the customer experience: customer service is not what they do first.

The truth about customer service goes beyond the fact that, according to a 2014 Havard Busines Review article, keeping a customer is cheaper than acquiring a new one. Instead, customer service goes as far as to represent a company’s values, image, and mission. The customer service team has a direct line of communication with customers and that team’s dedication to the company values will reflect on the customer. In other words, if customer service isn’t part of the company’s culture, customers will feel the difference.

Why Does Poor Customer Service Happen?

Poor software customer service happens because software providers are busy doing what they got into business to do: building software that provides a solution. The focus is on solving a problem and turning that solution into a product to sell to a customer.

Thus, for many providers, the goal of providing an excellent customer experience must be secondary or tertiary (or even dead last). This is true for businesses beyond the software industry stretching all over the world

When customer support is not built from the beginning as part of the product, the company is bound to fail when problems arise.

In one example, an online reviewer of a major provider of expense management software wrote a recent review saying that “the most frustrating part is little to no technical support.” That means that the customer might have been perfectly satisfied with the actual product; instead, the problem was instead with customer support.

Customer Service As The Product

When a customer says that the worst part of their experience is poor support, it becomes clear that customers are understanding of the fact that sometimes the software won’t work as expected. Those problems might be because of user error or a bug in the system. Software customers in general are realistic about their expectations and they will have patience for problems the first few times they occur. However, what’s unforgivable is failing to provide a resource that helps users not only understand the problem, but solve it.

The solution to the problem of poor customer service is to go back to the way we think about customers. Tacking on a support team once problems have arisen after the fact is too late. The result is that your team has to work backwards in order to solve problems. Instead, the DATABASICS viewpoint is that customer service should be the product itself, not a by-product.

When the customer’s experience is made part of the product, the product is inherently better. Beyond the product, however, the next step is dedicate the resources required to make customer service is a priority. For DATABASICS, that means making customer service part of the company’s culture. Each DATABASICS employee has agency to solve problems and answer questions. Often, company policies hold employees back from doing what’s best for the customer to prioritize doing what’s best for the company. When employees have the power to take action to solve problems, they aren’t going to be called upon to break rules or become heroes to solve problems. Employees shouldn’t have to be rock stars to deliver excellent customer service.

Yes, software providers should still be providing excellent software, but that doesn’t matter when the customer experience hasn’t been accounted for.  That means providing for the best possible customer experience at all stages of the product, from initial training with the software to what to do when things go wrong. And things will go wrong. Problems will arise. Mistakes (by you or the customer) will happen. It’s how you deal with those mistakes that differentiates you from your competitors, especially when software within the same industry can often be the same (which is particularly true in terms of time & expense software).

The Echos of “Extremely Unhelpful” Impressions

As an example, another customer of that same major provider of expense management software above recently posted on a major software comparison website that, among complaints about the program, the company’s support team was “extremely unhelpful” and that they were left without a solution.

Granted, bad reviews happen. Whether these bad reviews stem from someone having a bad day, a simple miscommunication, or just the fact that it’s difficult to please everyone, these bad reviews matter. In fact, they often tell more than the good reviews.

In this particular situation, it might be that the customer misunderstood how to use the software or the customer service agent was having a bad day or they genuinely could not provide a solution because their hands were tied by rules or regulations.

Larger companies are known to struggle to provide even mediocre customer service because their concern is their bottom line. When it’s more important to pad their numbers, it’s not efficient to spend money and resources on prioritizing customer service. What happens instead is that large customer support teams are encouraged to quickly get through a conversation with one customer so that they can get to the next one. That system will leave customers with a poor impression, poor enough that they will take the time to tell the world about it.

That experience will stay on the Internet, which is bad news for that large software provider. According to a February 2017 article from Business.com, “77 percent of people take the time to read product reviews before they make any purchases online.” That means that when other potential customers look to compare this software against its competitors, this review can make or break that deal.

What we’re not saying here is that this company should hurry to get this review taken down. Instead, we say that this company should have made it right in the first place. If the customer had posted a review without contacting customer service, then it’s the job of the customer service team to reach out and solve this problem. However, this reviewer specifically did attempt to get help and, still, the company failed to assist her.

Every Customer Is A Person

In reality, this company probably doesn’t realize the importance of this single review. For years, it will float out there in the online world, whispering the word “unhelpful” into the ear of potential clients.

This is not because they aren’t aware of its existence (because they’re a big enough company to have a brilliant marketing team); this is because the company doesn’t care about one person’s poor experience among the hundreds or thousands with whom they do business. To them, this person is a number, not a name. Chasing down every person to make it right isn’t worth the effort.

This is the wrong stance to take. This customer’s problem matters, even if they are one in a thousand or hundred thousand end users. In fact, if they are one of a lot of users, their problem might represent the same problem of a dozen or more others.

In a classroom, for example, teachers encourage their students to ask questions because one might speak for others not brave enough to raise their hand. The same is true here; one brave reviewer might speak for others having the same problem without the time to write about it online.

This also speaks to the need for software providers to actively scan internally and externally for problems. Then, that problem needs to go to the solution maker, who has the power to install a solution. Listening actively and taking complaints seriously will help the company anticipate future problems and solve them before they become widespread.

Related Article: The Future Of Customer Service

Back To The Basics

In the time & expense industry, employees just want to do their timesheets and expense reports and move on. They want to get back to their real jobs without hassle or confusion or frustration. The software itself is a failure if the customer cannot use it, whether it’s because they are confused or because of broken software.

It’s essential to go back to the basics when we think about the customer’s experience from beginning to end. Consider the each line of communication and the effort involved for the customer. For instance, we all know that the process of getting to a customer service agent can be agonizing. Waiting, waiting, waiting, listening to the automated voice promise that your call is important, can feel helpless. That feeling is so frustrating, creating an even more negative beginning to the interaction with the customer service agent. One major step toward solving a problem like this is to consider what your company can do to shorten the path, for example, from the customer to the support team.

Today, positive customer experiences are a basic requirement left unfulfilled throughout the industry, which means that if your company actually has done the work of prioritizing the customer experience, you’ll be ahead of the competition. Plus, according to Forrester Research, “Few companies are innovating how they manage [customer experiences], creating a huge opportunity for you to breakaway from competitors.” This innovation begins with choosing a path that intentionally and thoughtfully does what it takes to prioritize the customer’s experience.

In the end, customer support is about people and those people deserve to be and expect to be treated like people, like individuals. We’ve definitely been in that situation when something we paid a lot of money for just doesn’t work, so we appeal to the customer help line, hoping to talk to someone who is not only respectful and polite, but who can actually solve the problem.

Your customers are not only customers. They are people with full lives, with families, hobbies, likes, dislikes, jobs, and problems outside of the reason why they’re calling you. Making a commitment to honor them as whole people will create a positive relationship and will earn your company a positive reputation online and through word of mouth.

All this is to say that we love our customers and we're proud to support them every day. We put our whole selves into it and we think the results--from our year-over-year award recognition to customer testimonials--speak for themselves.

So, thank you to our customers for the opportunity to keep working with you and to keep doing what we do best.

Learn more about other things we do best, like mobile timesheets, in our latest white paper:

Why Switch To Mobile Timesheets

For more information on the DATABASICS Time & Expense solutions, contact us, or call (800) 599-0434.

DATABASICS provides cloud-based, next generation Expense Reporting, P-Card Management, Timesheet Management, Leave Management, and Invoice Processing automation. Specializing in meeting the most rigorous requirements, DATABASICS offers the highest level of service to its customers around the world.

DATABASICS is relied upon by leading organizations representing all the major sectors of the global economy: financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, research, retail, engineering, nonprofits/NGOs, technology, federal contractors, and other sectors.

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