By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as a key business differentiator. As the number of solutions available to customers grows, the more important it's becoming to have a customer support process that stands out.
Strong customer support is useful for customer acquisition, retention, and advocacy. In fact, in some industries, a 5% increase in customer retention increases profit by 25%.
As customer support continues to play an essential role in business success, there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. So what’s the best way to go about handling customer concerns? The traditional system, and one that may come to mind often ticketing. Just because it has been the long-standing choice doesn’t mean it’s the best choice, though.
There are many ways to respond to customer complaints or questions, but they fall into two main categories: real-time support and customer support ticketing.
Submitting a “customer support ticket” is likely the process you’ve encountered most. With this method, a user submits a question or concern which gets sorted and addressed at a later time. Customer support ticketing can make it easier for smaller teams to reply to complaints since your team can respond whenever they happen to be available.
Live chat is a prime example of a real-time support tool. With these systems, there’s no need for customers to wait for a reply. While you may need to rearrange your staffing to make sure someone is always available, live chat is the preferred support channel for customers. Live chat has a 73% customer satisfaction rating, as opposed to a 63% for email and 41% for phone.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's possible that your current customer support process isn’t optimized. On the bright side, though, by evaluating your current systems you can make improvements.
If you want to create a gold-standard customer support process that sets you apart from the competition you need accuracy, speed, and empathy. Of the three, speed is the factor with the most immediately visible impact. Some customers say that no amount of wait time is acceptable, which supports the stat that live chat is most preferred. While customer support ticketing has its merits, here are a few ways it may be unnecessarily sabotaging your efforts.
One of the biggest downsides of a customer support ticketing system is the fact that customers have to wait. Even if your support team is responsive in resolving tickets, there will still be some lost momentum.
Even though a user submitting a ticket isn't having the best experience at the moment, it still indicates some level of momentum. A customer had to be working through something and hit a roadblock, and they wanted to move to the next step bad enough that they were willing to ask for help. By responding to the issue after the fact, the customer has left your site and potentially lost momentum.
Making them wait to get a response may lead to them being less interested in trying again later. Real-time support such as live chat or chatbots embodies the idea of “striking while the iron is hot.”
How to fix it: If your customer support team support a live-chat option, go for it. If you need a way to resolve commonly asked questions without taking up support rep time, consider using a chatbot.
Since routine customer questions on your site are solved with routine responses then these are the perfect scenarios on which to train a chatbot answer – there really is no need to go through the formalities of ticket resolution.
By adopting a waterfall approach, if a question is asked that the bot doesn’t recognize then a human agent can pick up on live chat and, in turn, any live chat system worth its salt should be able to further route agents depending on the level of expertise required.
Finally, if the issue still can’t be resolved in a chat, only then is a ticket submitted, but by this point, as much as 85% of customer issues could have been solved within the first interaction!
Pro tip: To further increase the rate of resolutions within the first interaction consider combining live chat with Co-Browsing for a fully holistic and interactive experience.
Guess what? Your customers don’t view themselves and their issues as “tickets.” They only think about questions they have in terms of their experience as a person using a tool. Reducing their experience to a singular “ticket” is an old school way of handling customer support. Building empathy into your processes and policies is a habit that the most customer-centric organizations adopt.
How to fix it: Make customer relationship building a priority within your organization. Increasing transparency in your company and making yourself available are great places to start.
For example, seek and monitor feedback pro-actively with customer satisfaction surveys, there are many great tools out there such as Survey Monkey. This is a great way to gain learnings and spot any potential red-flags that may otherwise be quietly hampering your user journey.
In a similar way, you should also be continuously listening to website comments, social posting, product reviews and engaging customers directly through live chat.
But always remember that listening is not enough as an end goal - following-up on your customer learnings is a vital a part of the process so make sure to close that feedback loop quickly or you risk the leaving issues relegated to the support ticket.
If you’ve ever worked with a customer support ticket, you know that they don’t always tell the whole story. There’s so much context that goes into a single issue that a customer support ticket can’t capture, particularly if a new user is filling it out.
How to fix it: On top of providing live chat, being able to access chat history or record chat notes is a useful way to add context for any future customer support interactions.
Real-time interactive tools such as co-browsing create a seamless experience, whereas tickets address issues from a delayed snapshot in time. Support tickets also may not take into consideration, or miss opportunities to clarify, a user’s goals, past actions, and what type of user they are.
Think about the best customer support you’ve ever experienced. It probably wasn’t your standard run-of-the-mill process, was it? To deliver a “wow” experience that inspires customers to spread the word about your company, you have to provide a service that feels personal.
How to fix it: Simple real-time additions such as video-based assistance make users feel cared for. There’s nothing personalized or awe-inspiring about a ticket response, is there? Real-time conversations and human-to-human interactions build trust and goodwill towards your brand.
The inherent time delay of customer support ticketing isn’t just an issue at the onset of the ticket. It can also cause delays throughout the entire problem resolution experience.
A two-to-three hour delay between each response really starts to add up if a customer has followed up questions or needs more clarification. A ping-pong of responses also means a single customer could have different support reps helping them if your company is aiming for the fastest response time. This creates an in-continuity that can slow down your support team.
How to fix it: supplementing real-time support with self-serve customer support can help users resolve their issues faster.
There’s a fairly simple equation here: if customers are empowered to find the answers they need within some form of a self-service portal, the ticket volume for support staff accordingly decreases. The form this may take can be something as simple as a well-signposted FAQ page, or as involved as a full-blown knowledge center, enriched with questions, staff comments, and articles.
Going one step further and integrating your knowledge base with your chatbot will help to equip bots with the right responses.
Always remember the aim here is not purely to increase efficiency, many customers prefer to be self-reliant, so cultivating guided routes for self-sufficiency can only lead to their satisfaction.
While many companies get by with a customer support ticketing system, they aren’t your answer to an optimized customer support process that is scalable and personal. Tickets isolate customer problems and solutions and can cause cumbersome time delays.
Want to learn how to improve your customer support process? Read our guides on co-browsing, chatbots, and The Ultimate Customer Support Stack for 2019. Or, check out our step-by-step guide to Enhancing Customer Support.
Amritpal is COO at Acquire. He is a man behind customer acquisition and engagement. His interest is sales, making new connections and build a relationship with people.