Communications services customers are becoming more self-reliant—more adept at finding the information they need on their own. This has also created a trend of fleeting loyalty across industries as more than 44% of consumers admit to switching vendors because they were unhappy with the service they received, according to research by NewVoiceMedia.
Social media has contributed to this trend of self-reliance and trust in peers is helping to make online interactions a mainstream practice for buying, finding information to improve the use of products and for post-sales support. The impact of serving customers through online service initiative can pay off as McKinsey & Company found for one CSP that was able to reduce call center volume by 20% in eight months while increasing their net promoter score (NPS).
There are four interactive online components to social support and service:
- Social networks are the “leased land” option for customer service. These networks, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, are convenient for customers and popular choices for a majority of customers. Unfortunately, the public nature that makes social networks ideal for marketing makes them not such a great choice for customer support. But, done well, social networks afford the opportunity for communication service providers (CSPs) to provide proactive customer care—before a more expensive phone call is necessary.
- Self-help is content placed on owned properties, such as the company website or a support portal. This includes information such as FAQs, training content, product specifications and downloadable manuals and other content intended to help customers get the most from their relationship with your company.
- Communities are a form of social network that is also owned property for the company. These exchanges are often organized around ask and answer formats and/or discussion groups. The goal is to encourage participation and help from super-users for less-skilled customers, the management and moderation of communities is dependent upon company-provided moderators and managers. Research from McKinsey & Company found that depending on age group, 38 to 48% of CSP customer survey respondents agreed with the statement, “I want to help other customers with problems and questions about the brands I love and use.”
- Chat also operates on owned property as an option available to customers visiting the company website or support portal. Its “just-in-time” convenience is highly customer convenient and provides the instant gratification that customers crave from support without a queue they may experience when calling the contact center or waiting for a reply to an email or support ticket.
Integrate Online Channels with the Support Team
The purpose of expanding the role of a CSP’s contact center to serve subscribers through online channels is to redirect service to less costly options that customers may source first and provide an optimal customer experience by making it easy to do business with your company. It’s important to adapt the way each component is used and bring them closer together to create a unified customer experience for support and service.
Tips for aligning each channel with support to suit its best purpose:
- Use social networks for monitoring and guidance
- “Listen” on social networks to gain current insights to trending issues
- Respond to all questions and concerns in a timely manner
- Broadcast support channels to guide customers to relevant content
- Make sure to separate support channels from marketing messaging to avoid confusion from conflicting advice
- Present self-help content in the customer’s context
- Create content suited for customer abilities and needs as identified through an analysis of calls to the contact center
- Provide clear navigation focused on ease of access by topic, product and situation
- Make use of self-help content incredibly simple
- Beautiful presentation is great, but not if the content lacks substance
- Edit self-help content for “geek speak” that may be too technical for the average customer
- Create a governance plan to ensure that self-help content stays current and accurate
- Communities require care and nurturing
- “Build it and they will come” is not a strategic approach to support communities
- Encourage super contributors to participate frequently with rewards such as badges, points, and other types of loyalty recognition
- Remove irrelevant content to keep the community clear and engaging for all users
- Make sure every question is answered—either by community members or the community manager
- Use dedicated forums for topics that show high interest and engagement for customers
- Approach Chat proactively
- Define the parameters for proactive chat opportunities before customers email or call the contact center
- Use chat to educate and provide guidance to appropriate self-help content and community forums
- Take the opportunity to use chat to create a sales-through-support revenue stream
- Ensure the buttons to activate a chat are located properly to avoid unnecessary sessions
Ultimately, these new avenues for self-service and online interactive support will function best for CSPs as an integrated set of channels that provide the opportunity for customers to engage in the type of experiences they prefer. Don’t overlook the analysis of contact center data that can provide clarity about which issues can be best addressed through channels other than voice and email. By integrating online channels with the support team, costs can be reduced as channels align with customer expectations to increase affinity for your brand.
[AA1]Source – Higher Satisfaction at Lower Costs: Digitizing Customer Care – McKinsey