How to Choose the Best Channels for Your Customer Support Strategy

Customer Support

With the advent of business ratings, online reviews, and social media, your company’s customer support efforts are now integral to your brand’s reputation and your customer experience online. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter how great your marketing efforts are if your support and experience are lacking.

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.

Jeff Bezos

Are your customers and your brand at loggerheads with each other all the time?

  • Despite your company sinking its teeth into the Customer Service department.
  • Despite satisfying and often exceeding your customer’s expectations. 
  • Despite all those free (and extremely costly) giveaways and loyalty programs you shell out every now and then. 

If the answers to all these is “yes,” you’ve got to get back to the drawing board and revisit your customer service strategy. To guide you along, let’s understand the “why” before the “how” and look at what’s causing your customers to saunter over to the “dark” side. Here are two plausible scenarios:

Scenario 1: You’re Doing Way Too Much

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, there is such a thing as doing “too much” when it comes to customer service. Always rooting for all things ‘practical,’ we understand that it is not possible to offer support on every channel or be ;omnipresent’ in a sense. Falling short of human capital and excessive costs are often cited as the primary reasons for this. To that end, logic dictates that it is better if you choose the right channels that make sense for your customers. 

So, if you need to, roll back on a channel that isn’t working for you. But most importantly, do it gracefully. The operative word being gracefully. Here’s a handy list of steps you can undertake to ensure that your customers don’t end up feeling angry and dissatisfied (due to the sudden and inevitable changes that will come their way):

  • Get into your customer’s mindset to preempt the challenges/frustrations they may face. By embracing a more empathetic route, you can ease their pain and effectively address their concerns.
  • Implement the changes via stages instead of removing support tools all at once. One way of doing so is by offering alternate support options and highlighting it on the platform before removing any kind of customer support.
  • Opt for more creative and personalized customer support options once the channels have been closed off. Educational guides work well to hand-hold customers and lay out all the options available for them.
  • Adopt a more direct and honest style of communication when it comes to educating customers about the available support channels at their disposal. For example, here’s what the brand Kinsta relays to their customers:

Support work often requires careful, focused thought and investigation. Keeping support solely online allows us to better help you troubleshoot your website in a speedy and more efficient manner, as our engineers are able to focus all of their energy on solving your support concerns with the fewest number of distractions and interruptions possible. This, in turn, means that your support requests are ultimately resolved faster.

Kinsta

Think of customer support as a journey and identify key touch points that inform customers about the changes made to the support system. These include examples such as redirecting old landing pages to a community forum where customers can find new and inspiring material on the brand’s ongoing developments – support-related or otherwise.

Key Takeaway: The adage, “more is better” is not always preferable when it comes to using tools for offering a stellar customer service experience. Sometimes, fewer and more focused options do the job better and quicker. Also, it makes sense to guide your customers throughout the ‘changes’ that are being made by way of clear and effective communication and providing alternate support options.

Scenario 2: You’re Not Focusing “Enough” on the “BAD” Customer Support Experiences.

Customers often love a company for its unique offerings, competitive pricing, ease of convenience, and quality products, among other things. Very rarely does a “good customer experience” come up on the list of reasons as to why they prefer brand A over brand B. 

However, interestingly, bad customer service is often one of the primary reasons why customers stop engaging with a brand. Some examples that come to mind: 

  • Those never-ending long queues on the phone from the customer service provider.
  • That bag you just lost on the way to your honeymoon.
  • That messy hotel room which ended up costing a bomb on your credit card.

The list goes on…It goes without saying that all these examples make up for a terrible customer experience which need immediate intervention.

In fact, a study conducted by the Customer Contact Council found two intriguing details that should form a part of every company’s customer strategy: It claims that:

Delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does.

Customer Contact Council

What this means is that your brand’s value-add should circle around easing the customer’s concerns instead of offering a fancy, relatively less useful features.

Adding to the first finding, it says:

Acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.

Customer Contact Council

Key Takeaway: Customers are willing to exact revenge on account of bad services than reward companies for better service. If your brand does not think on its feet and reduce the back log of those ever-increasing customer complaints, it will fall down the rabbit hole – never to revive again.

Key Questions to Consider when Embracing a “Customer-First” Approach

When it comes to lending a helping hand and a sympathetic ear to your customers, there are some important questions that need internalizing and probing:

A More Generalized Form of Questioning:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What are your their needs/wants?
  • Can you list the diverse preferences of different demographics?

A More Specific Form of Questioning:

  • From the customer’s point of view, how “urgent” is urgent when it comes to replies? Is it 10 seconds, 5 minutes, an hour, or a day?
  • What kind of medium should you use as basis of the type of query/concern. Basically, it requires demarcating between issues that need phone support and issues that can be dealt online. Typically, financial matters need phone support for faster and effective resolution.

A handy tip: When it comes to understanding your customer, take this as a thumb rule:

Listen to what your customers are telling you – but not too closely.

Confused? Let’s take an example. What we mean is that while the customers may be asking for phone support, what they really want is a fast response. To that end, it is highly recommended that your support team undergoes training which can help them to promptly and preemptively address a customer’s queries.

The Pros & Cons of Top Customer Support Tools: A Quick Guide

There’s no doubt that when it comes to customer services, different companies opt for different strategies – on the basis their needs, customer’s expectations, budgetary concerns, and so on. Plus, with a plethora of options available today, it can get confusing and overwhelming to say the least. To make things easier for you, we’ve listed the top pros and cons for the four key customer support channels in action today, namely:

Phone Support:

Is It the “Right Call” for Offering an Illuminating Customer Experience?

Pros of using phone support:

  • It is one of the most famous and preferred types of customer service options among brands around the globe.
  • It is a direct form of communication which leaves no room for any errors or misunderstanding.
  • It immediately and accurately addresses a customer’s concerns and emotions.
  • It is effective in taking care of complex and more urgent issues that the customers may face.

Cons of using phone support:

  • It may appear “old-fashioned” or outdated particularly to the younger generation as they prefer texting over talking.
  • It may lead to extreme duress and frustration if the customers end up waiting for a longer duration. This typically happens if the agents are busy or if the company is under-staffed.
  • Technical issues such as poor network can hinder customers from calling for help.

Chat Support:

Can Being “Chatty” Do More Damage than Good?

Pros of using chat support:

  • It offers instant and effective query resolution – sometimes as high as 92% among customers!
  • It is a cheaper alternative than phone support and acts as a great knowledge base.
  • It empowers agents/bots to converse with multiple people at the same time. In fact, data by CallCentreHelper suggests that around “70% of agents can handle 2-3 conversations simultaneously, while 22% of support agents can handle 4-5 conversations at a time.”
  • It helps companies to automate services and offer a more guided experience by integrating futuristic features such as chatbot and co-browsing respectively.
  • It offers the ability to keep track of the conversation (often by way of a dashboard) which acts as a handy reference for the future for the consumer as well as the customer representative.
  • It empowers brands as they can leverage valuable insights (extracted from the live chat sessions) such as user buying behavior, past complaints, buyer’s motivations and expectations, etc. and use it to deliver better services/offerings.

Cons of using chat support:

  • According to Kayako, scripted responses are obnoxious to your customers. 29% of consumers say they find scripted responses most frustrating, and 38% of businesses agree.
  • It may lead to dissatisfactory resolution of issues if the chatbot is unable to address the customer concern and has to redirect the user to an agent. Naturally, it ends up taking more time and leads to a disgruntled customer.
  • It can quickly escalate from being endearing and useful to being annoying if chat invitations are misused or used too frequently.

Did You Know? Data by MarketingDive claims that people over 55 refer telephonic support over other platforms.

Email Support:

Mail is the New Medium of Communication – Or Is It?

Pros of using email support:

  • It is one of the most widely-used forms of communication. In fact, data suggests that people send 269 billion emails every day.
  • It empowers brands to send queries – night or day, 365 days a year.
  • It offers voluntary, written proof (for lack of a better term) for future reference so that everyone is always on the same page.
  • It doubles up as an opportunity to automate similar enquiries by using chat bot facilities.
  • It helps brands to communicate with customers in a more customized and informal manner. You can also follow-up on past conversations more easily.

Cons of using email support:

  • It can lead to unforced errors. For example, this Amazon email was sent to people who weren’t expecting a baby and some even had fertility issues! As you can imagine, public outrage was at its peak. Checking up on automated email subscriber lists every now-and-then is a must to avoid mishaps such as these.
  • It is more time-consuming as opposed to phone support.
  • It does not offer instant query resolution as emails take longer to respond. This is a big negative as Forrester Research claims that “41% of consumers expect an email response within six hours.”
  • It requires a lot of special skills such as the ability the read the user’s mind and read between the lines. The communication is more indirect and can get convoluted. All in all, the context of the communication can easily get lost amidst multiple email exchanges.

Social Media Support:

Is Having an Online Social Presence a Boon or Bane?

Pros of using social media support:

  • It offers a variety of ways in which companies can address user concerns such as post comments, private/direct chats, and group messages. It helps to conduct market research and understand your user’s better.
  • Being public by nature, it helps users get answers to queries that they might have as someone may have already posted it before. Brands can form a community forum which binds like-minded people together and helps address their questions/concerns.
  • It is literally free-of-cost and offers huge opportunity for consumer feedbacks.
  • It can act as a great opportunity for brands to win the user’s trust by way of consumers posting positive experiences. Brands can also use sense of humor and be more creative in addressing user concerns! Skyscanner demonstrates this brilliantly in the example shown above.
  • It demonstrates the company’s ability to change and adapt to the dynamic times as being active on social media is a necessity today. A big plus as research by MarketingDive predicts that “25-year-olds and under primarily chose social media as their preferred means of communication for customer service.”
  • It also enables great customer engagement and helps brands to truly build valuable relationships with the users.

Cons of using social media support:

  • It can tarnish a brand’s image if too many negative posts are seen on public domains such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Being honest and forthcoming can help reduce the damage to the highest extent possible.
  • It runs the risk of unwanted behavior (for example bullying/derogatory comments) and can also lead to security risks such as information leaks or hacking.
  • It requires constant monitoring and instant responses to avoid customer flak.

Closing Thoughts

Telling reps to exceed customers’ expectations is apt to yield confusion, wasted time and effort, and costly giveaways.

When it comes to choosing the right customer communication tools, there is no one-size-fits-all approach that brands can take. Organizations need to factor in multiple key points such as available resources, budget and time constraints, customer demands and user expectations, etc. to come up with a customer support strategy that delivers on all accounts:

  • By providing a seamless, hassle-free, personalized, and positive customer experience for the user.
  • By ensuring that the strategies don’t cost the company – financially or otherwise.
  • By offering meaningful value-adds to all the stakeholders involved – from the investors and the customers to the company’s employees and the general community at large.

Armed with all this information, it’s time to walk the talk and deliver a fool-proof customer experience – one that entertains and educates the customers all at the same time. Are you in? We thought so.

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