Becoming product led requires teams across the organization to rethink how (and where) they engage with customers and users throughout the entire lifecycle. For those already familiar with the concept of product led, adoption and growth might first come to mind as opportune journey stages in which to use the product to communicate or demonstrate value. 

But what about the in-between moments throughout the journey, where customers or users get stuck and need immediate help?

The best product-led companies leverage the product to deliver timely, contextual support.

The best product-led companies don’t just use their product to reach customers when things are going perfectly. They also account for the moments when customers may need additional assistance or guidance, and leverage the product to deliver timely, contextual support.

What is product-led support?

Product-led support is a strategy that leverages the product as a channel for delivering assistance to customers and users, so that they’re able to use the product more effectively. Unlike traditional support models, which generally require companies to take a 1:1 approach to answering support requests, product-led organizations use in-app messages or resources embedded within the product itself to proactively address common customer queries. 

It’s important to note that taking a product-led support approach does not mean replacing customer service or support functions. Customer support teams play an important role in helping troubleshoot or diagnose technical challenges, and are integral in escalating issues to the right teams and identifying widespread problems. 

Product-led companies use in-app mechanisms—like guides, resources, feedback portals, and contact forms—to augment these human-led support motions. This strategy also gives customers options in terms of how they’d like to engage with the company if and when they do require help. Bringing this kind of support inside the product also frees up resources across the organization that would otherwise be spent responding to requests or questions that could actually be addressed without human intervention.

The benefits of supporting customers inside your product

Product-led support has a number of benefits for your customers and users, including:

  • It lets them self-serve resources and guidance, whenever they need it
  • Users don’t have to leave the product to find answers to their questions
  • It helps you deliver answers almost instantly, without forcing customers to wait for assistance from their customer success manager (CSM) or support team
  • The resources they consume are more effective because they’re delivered within the context of the product itself
  • Even if the user ends up needing additional assistance, product-led support is a great stop-gap while they wait for help

It’s not uncommon for CSMs to operate as a first point of contact for customers whenever they run into technical issues. And while technical support is not part of most CSMs’ job descriptions, they often spend a fair amount of time helping customers find the right resources—or connect with the right teams—to solve their problems. A product-led support approach helps CS teams eliminate some of this repetitive triage work. By bringing resources (like documentation, FAQs, product updates, and contact forms) inside the product, the organization can reduce user frustration and “train” customers to self-serve what they need—rather than them defaulting to their CSM or submitting a support ticket for every little issue that arises.

Also, while CS efficacy is often measured via expansion and retention, the ongoing support a customer receives throughout their journey ultimately impacts their intent to expand or churn. So it’s critical for CSMs to invest in supporting their customers throughout the lifecycle. Plus, bringing even a fraction of the support-related tasks CSMs typically respond to inside the product frees them up to focus on higher-value work and concentrate on nurturing customers with the greatest potential to impact the business.

Here are a few ways other ways product-led support benefits CS teams.

It reduces support ticket volumes

Making commonly requested resources available inside your product—or delivering in-app guidance that helps users navigate routine processes—reduces the number of support tickets customers are likely to submit. Product-led support puts educational information directly in front of users as they’re engaging with the product, making it as easy as possible for them to find what they need, on their own terms. If customers still need to speak with their CSM or a member of the support team, product-led organizations also use tools within the product to help customers get in touch—for example, with in-app chat, scheduling, support ticket submission, or feedback collection. Embedding these capabilities within the product helps ensure the information users submit is as contextual and robust as possible, which ultimately leads to faster resolution.

It helps CSMs scale previously resource-intensive processes

Augmenting customer support with in-app resources is also a valuable way to help CS teams scale their efforts. It eliminates humdrum tasks (like sharing instructions on how to complete basic workflows), makes it easy to bulk-notify customers about outages or other critical updates, allows CSMs to personalize their customers’ support experience, and (with the right integrations) automates time-consuming processes like scheduling meetings. This frees up CSMs to focus on nurturing customer relationships and delivering a great experience, rather than getting stuck in a cycle of reacting to tedious or repetitive queries.

It allows CSMs to proactively engage with customers

Part of helping a customer feel supported is assuring them that they’re never alone throughout their product journey. A product-led support approach leverages in-app guides to help customers navigate the product effectively or find their way to the appropriate people and resources when they’re struggling or have questions. But CSMs can also use in-app guides to proactively engage with customers before they run into a problem—for example, introducing the customer to their technical support team, or prompting customers with the option to schedule a meeting if their usage indicates they may need help or are at risk of churn.

Tips for building a delightful in-app support experience

Building a product-led support strategy isn’t as daunting as it may sound. Most organizations actually already have most of the resources they need to build an in-app experience, spread throughout external resources like their support docs, FAQs, or community sites. It’s simply a matter of bringing it all together and activating it in an engaging way.

As a CSM, remember that you have particularly great insight into your customers’ most common needs and learning preferences. Consider the support-related queries you most frequently hear from customers and users, and recall the processes you used to help solve them. Could a workflow you walked a customer through 1:1 be brought into the product somehow, and made available for others who might run into the same issue?

Here are a few other tips for building great product-led support programs.

Start with analytics

There’s no use in building a robust in-product support program if you’re not sure what problems your customers and users are running into most frequently. You need to start with a clear understanding of how your users are engaging with your product—so you can identify potential enablement gaps and common queries that might ultimately find their way to you on the CS team. Turn to your product analytics tool to answer these basic questions:

  • What behaviors do the users who contact you have in common?
  • What are users doing right before they seek out help?
  • Are there particular features they’re struggling with or workflows they’re failing to complete?
  • Are they navigating the product the way it was intended, or are they finding workarounds?

Once you have an understanding of how your customers are moving through the product—or where they’re getting hung up—you can segment those users and target them with proactive in-app guides to help them get past the issues they’re facing. 

If you have an in-app resource hub set up, you could also use analytics data from there to continually iterate and improve on other processes, like onboarding and enablement. For example, if you notice a large number of users visiting a particular resource in your hub (and their usage indicates that they were able to successfully complete a workflow only after reviewing that resource), you might consider creating a dedicated training or onboarding guide highlighting that particular process. This way, future users won’t run into the same struggle or need to seek out support for the same issue down the road.

Make support resources easy to find

Your customers won’t utilize your product’s in-app support resources if they can’t find them. Work with the product team to make your in-app support easy to find and use. For example, clearly embed your support documentation and other useful resources within your product’s navigation or a clearly visible widget. Also consider leveraging in-app guides to direct your users’ attention to these places in your app—or try targeting a custom in-app guide to users who previously submitted support tickets, but have not accessed any of your support resources.

Build support that delights

Product-led support isn’t just about offloading work from CS and support teams into the product. It’s also about helping those teams build stronger, more focused relationships with their customers and users. Think about how you might be able to leverage your product to create moments of delight in an otherwise typically undelightful moment (no one likes being stuck). 

Beyond resources like FAQs and technical documentation, consider how you could create an engaging support experience that encourages your customers to go to the product first—rather than defaulting to emailing you. For example, dedicate an area of an in-app guide or resource hub to content that’s regularly updated to keep things fresh. Or try a video or GIF to demonstrate how to troubleshoot a particular issue (rather than only using product documentation).