This is your ultimate guide to customer support. We cover everything you need to know about helping and resolving your customers' issues including:
- What is customer support
- Customer support vs customer service
- Benefits of providing great customer support
- The main types of customer support
- 7 key steps to improve your customer support efforts
Your customers are the lifeblood of your entire operation.
In our hyper-connected digital age, consumers are more empowered than ever, so to ensure long-term growth, your customer support offerings must be flawless. No compromises, no exceptions.
Not only does customer support contribute to customers’ experience as a whole, but it also has a huge impact on your profit, referral rates, overall customer satisfaction, and much more.
If you’re in any doubt about the importance of customer support, consider these statistics for a moment:
- Companies that focus on their customers are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t.
- If brands request and implement customer feedback, then 77% of customers view the brand more favorably.
- Within three years of investment in customer experience, companies with an annual turnover of $1 billion or more will see an average increase of $700 million.
But what is customer support, exactly? And how can you improve your brand’s customer support offerings?
Let’s find out.
What Is Customer Support?
Customer support is centered around supporting customers to use your product/service along with the systems, tools, and processes that are put in place.
In addition to focusing on customer-facing initiatives, customer support also encompasses activities including technical troubleshooting and finding new solutions to specific consumer issues or pain points.
Difference Between Customer Support and Customer Service
Customer service and customer support both deal with conversing with and helping customers. However, customer service typically exists to provide further value for the customer.
Customer support on the other hand is strategic, technical, and helps businesses focus on the bigger picture (the growth and evolution of a brand or business’s customer-centric efforts).
Customer support software and initiatives differ slightly depending on the sector or industry, but seamless phone systems, helpdesks, email support facilities, and online chat platforms are today’s most notable customer support mediums.
Essentially, customer support encompasses the tools and processes that facilitate seamless customer service and enhance customer experience (CX).
Why Is Customer Support Important For Your Business?
The primary benefits of improving your customer support efforts are:
- Improved customer loyalty and brand advocacy
- Highly-engaged and happy customers
- Boosted brand awareness and market reach
- More valuable feedback to help you improve your products and services
- An increase in growth and profits
The Main Types of Customer Support
It’s clear that customer support offers a host of business-boosting benefits. Now we’re going to look at the primary types of customer support in the digital age.
An essential branch of customer support, reactive processes and initiatives are based on assisting a customer with an issue, query, or problem when they make contact.
Reactive customer support consists of individual transactions depending on the needs of the customer and the point of contact.
Typically, reactive customer support happens ‘in the moment’ and is geared toward sourcing a swift, supportive resolution to an emerging or existing request or issue.
Contrary to reactive support, proactive customer support is a strategic approach that empowers a brand to diffuse an issue before it occurs or provide consumers with support intuitively by interacting with them at times where they’re most engaged.
Using a mix of customer support software, tools, and cohesive initiatives, it’s possible for brands to take proactive measures to provide a seamless customer experience while offering a level of support that reduces the need for reactive service strategies.
The self-service aspect of customer support is integral in the digital age. As technology continues to evolve, consumers expect brands to offer increasingly innovative ways to improve their brand experience.
In fact, 67% of customers prefer to use self-service touchpoints rather than speaking with a company representative.
Self-service support comes in the form of:
- Website knowledge bases and detailed tutorials,
- customer-facing automation features such as chatbots, and
- self-service escalations that allow facilities like messenger or chatbots to refer an escalated issue to a human customer service representative. As Customer Success Leader Yanira Sesniak notes: "ActiveCampaign is one company that does a great job with self-service cancel requests. When you try to cancel they offer to put a hold on your account for one month and to meet with expert right away along with option to just cancel!"
By developing strategies and initiatives that cover each of these pivotal customer support types, you will improve brand engagement and earn increased customer success in the process.
Given the fact that experts predict that by the end of the year, CX will prove to be a key brand differentiator (above the product itself), enhancing your support offerings will result in increased customer success.
How to Improve Your Customer Support Efforts
Now that you understand the three primary branches of customer support, it’s time to explore the practical ways you can improve your offerings and benefit from better customer care.
1. Find the Right Cultural Fit
Company culture matters. Your company culture is your organizational blueprint and, as such, will shape the direction of all internal processes and interactions.
That said, when you’re recruiting customer service-based talent for your business, hiring people that fit into your internal culture cohesively shouldn’t be an afterthought—it should be a priority.
If you consider how a person will fit into your business and how invested they are in your mission, you will hire people who are loyal, willing to offer exceptional frontline support, and who will work well under pressure—the key ingredients to customer support success.
“Culture is defined as values + behavior. It’s the set of values and norms that guides how the business operates; culture happens when we operationalize the values. Culture fit means that employees believe in and align with the core values, as well as with your mission and purpose. You can’t determine what culture fit looks like in your organization if you haven’t defined your core values and the associated behaviors. You must start there.” -Annette Franz
2. Consider All Hands Support
What is all hands support? Well, all hands support is a communal approach to customer service.
By taking measures to integrate every department across your business into your customer support initiatives, everyone will be able to play an active role in the evolution of your consumer-centric strategies.
By embracing all hands support, chat software business Olark reaped the rewards of increased internal innovation, improved customer focus, and improved consumer relationships, among other business-boosting benefits.
3. Create Valuable Help Content
Anything that describes how your product or service works is documentation, and it’s something that every business should have.
Of course, help documents will benefit your customers to help themselves instead of relying on contacting your team. However, other benefits include providing a wealth of resources for your customer support team to use and enabling you to build better products.
The very act of documenting your product and service will help you to quickly identify pain points in your products which you can improve upon.
4. Embrace Customer Support Software and Tools
If you are looking to improve your customer support initiatives, there has never been a better time to do so.
A wealth of digital tools and software exist, designed to help businesses across industries automate critical areas of their customer-facing operations while providing an exemplary level of CX at every stage of the customer journey.
To help guide your efforts, you should explore the following tools and methodologies:
- Phone Support: If a customer needs to speak with someone directly, send them to your customer support team who’s manning your call center.
- Knowledge Base: An effective knowledge base serves as a centralized repository of information for internal and external stakeholders. This not only supports customers to find simple self service solutions to their problems but also helps internal agents to find answers and contribute their knowledge.
- Team Email or Internal Communication Apps: A means of sharing invaluable internal support information and communicating transparently in a way that improves your service strategy
- Live Chat and Chatbots: Online chat services that empower customers to converse with a business and find solutions to their queries online. Machine learning (ML)-driven chatbots are smart innovations that can respond to a number of customer queries autonomously—essential to seamless customer support in the digital age
- Ticketing System: A ticketing system is a dashboard that empowers customer service departments to organize and categorize their customer support activities to improve their offerings in a number of key areas while gaining access to insights for continual improvement.
5. Focus on the Omnichannel Experience
Technology has reached a point where the gap between the digital and physical realms has been well and truly bridged.
That said, rather than creating separate consumer experiences for separate channels (social media, website, in-store, in-app etc.), you should map your customer journey in detail to provide a seamless level of reactive, proactive, and self-service support that extends from one touchpoint to another.
“Current state journey mapping helps companies understand the experience that customers are having today, while future state mapping helps them design the experience of the future. Current state mapping outlines and identifies what customers do, think, and feel as they interact with a brand. These maps not only help brands measure, highlight, and diagnose existing issues and opportunities for the customer but also help them prioritize and rethink existing processes, products, and services.” -Annette Franz
Offering an omnichannel support system allows businesses to integrate different touchpoints together and share data across channels.
This enables companies to resolve customer issues more effectively, as well as be more proactive and ideally predictive of potential future issues.
The added benefit is a better customer experience. Here is a real-life example:
A customer speaks to an agent through live chat, but the issue is not resolved. Next, the customer reaches out a second time about the same issue, but this time via phone.
In this situation, omnichannel support would mean the customer doesn't have to explain the issue again and the phone agent can see what has already been done.
The agent is quickly able to provide new suggestions, offering better support and a better customer experience.
Take for instance, Disney, a global entertainment brand known for its digital excellence.
Disney provides a cohesive level of customer support that spans from its responsive, self-service mobile app through to its online customer service facilities, personalized web content, and Magic Band program — an initiative that offers tailored support when customers visit the brand’s parks and attractions.
Everything is connected and each works together to pinpoint every potential request, issue, or query.
Moreover, by gaining access to a wealth of invaluable data, Disney can extract predictive insights that allow them to anticipate a customer’s potential wants or needs, and deliver a solution in an efficient, timely fashion.
A cohesive consumer experience that offers exceptional support at every stage of the journey: a testament to Disney’s ongoing success and adaptability in an ever-changing digital environment.
If you gain access to insights across touchpoints, you will improve the customer experience exponentially, enhancing your ability to resolve customer queries across a multitude of channels in the process.
And, that’s why the omnichannel experience is so important in the digital age.
6. Work With Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Customer Support Metrics
In the Age of Information, we are drowning in data. In fact, the last two years has seen the creation of 90% of all data.
Digital metrics empower businesses to spot emerging trends while making informed decisions for improved customer success.
If you harness the right metrics to your advantage, you will improve your customer support initiatives significantly while helping your service representatives optimize their individual performance.
When it comes to improving your customer support initiatives, here are the key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track:
- First response time: The time from when a customer first submits a query to the time when they receive their first response. Driving down this metric is a typical Service Level Agreement (SLA) metric and is essential to ongoing success in customer support.
- Customer satisfaction score (CSAT): A metric that shows how satisfied a customer is with a particular product or interaction with a business. Monitoring this is pivotal to making sure that your customer support strategy is moving in the right direction.
- Customer retention rates: The overall ability of your brand to retain customers over a predetermined period. This will allow you to make strategic changes to improve your customer support efforts across channels.
- Top-performing agents: An effective means of benchmarking individual performance and success. A metric that will help you provide additional agent support and training where needed.
- Average reply time (ART): This will give you a firm grasp of how quickly you reply and respond to your customers across various channels or touchpoints. The aim here is to drive your ART down over time.
7. Request Feedback (and Act on It)
When it comes to customer support in particular, feedback is absolutely invaluable.
If you can gain a direct understanding of how your customers perceive your branding, products or services, you will be able to make adjustments in a way that will meet their needs head-on.
Whether you’re looking for human feedback on your new app, your online chat service, your checkout processes, your product pages...the list goes on...in the digital age, the tools exist to gather plenty of invaluable thoughts or opinions.
- Ask questions and spark discussions on social media.
- Launch online polls and surveys.
- Incentivize customers to leave ratings and feedback via email or post-purchase.
- Hold market research groups.
The point is: direct feedback will improve your services and support exponentially — so get out there and ask for it.
Final Thoughts on Effective Customer Support
From intelligence analytics to smart content creation, and tailored support training tools to platform integration and multi-language support, at Helpjuice we offer every solution you need to increase customer satisfaction across the board.
"Customer service shouldn't just be a department; it should be the entire company." Tony Hsieh