How to Turn Your Customer Support Team Into a Profit Center

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Fletcher Richman
Fletcher Richman



Customer service horror stories are everywhere. You found a dead rodent in your salad? Tweet a photo. The airline lost your expensive guitar? Post a music video about it. The cable company won't let you cancel your account? Record the call and share it on SoundCloud.


Scroll through any social media site, and you're bound to see plenty of bad customer service examples. You've probably had a few of your own. The horror stories that you read about on social media and in the news usually are direct results of the companies that view customer service as expenses on the Profit & Loss statement. They invest the least amount of money they can while still servicing customers.

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So, when it's time to divide up the budget every year, the customer service department is treated like second-class citizens. They are often left under-resourced and with far less budget than other departments. This process gets embedded into the company's DNA in the early days. Customer support begins as one person's part-time job, and, inevitably, it becomes the lowest priority on the totem pole when hundreds of other tasks are pulling for that person's attention. Eventually, the company decides they need to get their first full-time support person.

As the company grows, the customer support load grows too. However, the team continues to suffer from being understaffed and unprepared to handle the scale.

Customers are more empowered today than ever to define your brand. With a smartphone and a Twitter account, they can send one tweet that can reach thousands and sometimes millions of people in minutes. This happens all of the time.

It doesn't matter how much money you invest in lead generation, creative branding, and even your products if your customers think you don't care about them. Happy customers will recommend you for your good products and good service. After all, the best marketing comes from the awesome experiences your customers are talking about on their own. Here are six examples of how customers sharing their over-the-top experiences can have a big impact on a company's reputation.

The Solution? Care About Your Customers.

The reality is that customer support is the front line to the most valuable thing at your company: your paying customers. If you empower your customer support team to feel like a valuable asset to the company, it can revolutionize your brand with each customer interaction at a cost cheaper than any advertising campaign. This approach might sound complex, but it's actually quite simple. Are you ready for it?

It starts with training everyone in your customer support team (ideally all employees in your organization) to care more about your customers than themselves. Here's a secret: The bar for great customer service is set pretty low. Hiring customer service people who take pride in their work, are empathetic and care about doing the right thing for the customer will stand out.

You won't need to run any large customer gimmicks or surprise and delight campaigns. Some surprise and delight gimmicks -- like this one from TD Bank where employees rigged an ATM machine to give out personalized thank you gifts -- are well-executed. It won't be necessary for providing memorable customer service experiences. You can take it a step further and "wow" customers day in and day out by simply offering them more than what they expected.

Here's the four-step process for creating moments of customer delight with your customers:

1. Solve their problem.

Before trying to go above and beyond, you need to actually address the original reason they got in touch with you. If you try and delight an upset customer, it's not going to go well.

2. Be helpful.

Read between the lines to understand what would make the customer's day. Suggest additional reading. Offer next steps and advice. Jump in and give hands-on help with what they need to get done. Provide a free trial of a service that would be helpful for them. When agents are empowered to be helpful, they can go beyond just solving the problem.

3. Help customers achieve their goals.

Be proactive in helping customers achieve success with your product. Look for moments where you can delight with product on-boarding and troubleshooting before the customer asks for it. Customer journey mapping is a great way of highlighting where support can elevate the customer experience without being asked.

4. Be enthusiastic.

Delight is a feeling of excitement. It's not possible to be delighted when energy is low. Agents need to be enthusiastic about talking with customers and making them successful. However, beware the robotic, scripted voice many customers have associated with call center agents -- be human, be authentic and create personal connections.

This is how companies -- like Zappos and HubSpot -- built their brand when no one else was prioritizing customer service. Not only did the resolve their customer's problems in a friendly and efficient way, they also went above and beyond to deliver personalized moments of delight. You know that you're getting it right when you start seeing more customers sharing positive stories and experiences about your brand and customer service interactions on social media. When this happens, you should take screenshots and share this with your marketing and sales departments. These are people that they can reach out to for future testimonials and case studies.

You should also be regularly talking with product and engineering by sharing both positive mentions of new features and feature requests. In addition, these same customers that are now brand promoters can also be excellent beta testers for new features for your product team. Go ahead and invite them to your company Slack for more product evangelism. Notice how all these changes will add value to your business.

The best part: The more resources you put into customer support, the better your product, marketing, and sales will become. Now, you've turned customer support on its head. It's no longer a cost center. Instead, it's a way to drive your business forward. It's a profit center.

Customer Service Metrics to Live by

To measure how much value customer service is driving for your business, you need to change the way you measure it. Focus on increasing efficiency and turn-around time, and you'll find your customer support team cutting quality. Focus on the long-term gain of more loyal customers, and you'll empower your customer support team to go above and beyond.

Below, we listed the metrics on which you should be measuring the success of your Customer Support team. For more options, check out the full post on customer retention metrics.

1. Churn Rate

This is the rate at which customers cease doing business with you. Any rate higher than 5-7% is cause for concern. The larger your customer base, the more frequently this should be measured to ensure your company is on track.

Annual Churn Rate = (# of Customers at Start of Year - # of Customers at End of Year) / # of Customers at Start of Year

2. Repeat Purchase Rate

This is the percentage of your customers that have returned after their original purchase to buy from you again. This metric helps you track your customer loyalty. In order to get an accurate account of this data, your customer support team might want to consider tracking the purchasing frequency of each individual customer, as well as the overarching repeat purchase rate for your entire customer base.

Repeat Purchase Rate = Number of Returning Customers / Number of Total Customers

3. Net Promoter Score®

This is the score assigned to each individual customer that measures their satisfaction with your brand and loyalty to spreading the word on your company. Even if a high NPS doesn't necessarily equate to growth, it does mean you have a strong base of brand evangelists and bringing in referrals.

Ask each customer, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or colleague." (9 to 10 = promoters, 7 to 8 = passive, 0 to 6 = detractors). Then, calculate Net Promoter Score = % of Promoters - % of Detractors.

Next, check out this post on protecting yourself from customer support burnout.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

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