This excerpt is a little off the beaten path. But if you’ve ever received bad customer service or if you work in customer service, you will find it useful. It’s a conversation between Ashley Verrill and Chase Clemons on the Support Ops Podcast.
Ashley is a managing editor at Software Advice where she runs Customer Service Investigator. Her work has been featured across TechCrunch, Gigaom, and Wired. Listen to the full podcast here.
I think it stems from a generational change. This new generation is so used to sharing everything. By default they assume that companies should return the favor.
Your definitely seeing the desire starting with the customer. With a lack of information, people assume that there is something that you are hiding. So that is another contributor.
Social media is playing a huge role in this shift. Because if customers do feel like they are not getting the information that they want or not even hearing the answer that they want, they’ll head straight to social media.
And that’s a big risk for companies, where I think maybe even a couple years ago companies might still say people are not really do that. It’s still new. And it’s not something we really have to worry about.
We’re really seeing increasing attention by companies around really getting these support channels moving - and managing them proactively. So that they can mitigate some of these potentially negative experiences.
Because if you think about it - social media is just a means for really spreading a negative message further and faster.
Surprisingly, it’s not a new technology. There have been companies doing this for a long time. It’s just receiving attention recently with Amazon taking this on.
I think it could be the future of tech support. Or it could be a terrible misstep that Amazon loathes themselves for even trying.
Number one - it addresses two common things customers get frustrated with more traditional channels. One being having to play around in a phone tree and having to navigate through your system and have to talk to five different agents and listen to hold music. And all these things people really hate about traditional phone support.
Two - it helps reduce the time to resolution. The video support model, or at least the way Amazon using it, has the customer already logged in their account and they are accessing the agent on the device that is most likely having the issue. The agent has immediate context into the problem.
They don’t have to walkthrough the whole can I have your account number, tell me what’s going on, all those sorts of things. So it speeds time to resolution.
I think we’re in a society of instant gratification. I want the answer now. And I want the problem solved now. From that point it could be the future of support because it can increase customer satisfaction.
On the risk end of things, it’s also a very labor intensive channel. With things like chat and email, you have this asynchronous support happening where you can help more than one customer at once. In the interest of productivity and efficiency that is really appealing for companies.
But when you’re on a video screen, you have to give your undivided attention to that customer. And you have to have agents that are “camera ready”. They have to be in a sterile environment. They can’t have a bunch of chotskies all over their desk. They need to have video. They need to have a microphone. They need to be trained in a different way. Because you can see every facial expression.
This isn’t just about providing better support. This is one of the reasons Amazon is using it. You gave a really good example of your friend that wanted advice on what book to read - that’s exactly what Amazon wants you to use it for. Because really the idea is that this channel will help them sell more. Or sell to you better.
With more traditional support channels, it can be cumbersome to pick up the phone and call every time you have a problem. A lot of times customers just won’t do anything. So you aren’t able to capture any of the data of where customers are actually running into problems. And where in the customer lifecycle they are happening.
But putting this channel in the context of where it actually occurs and making it so easy to use, Amazon is increasing their likelihood that customers will reach out and say something about it. Even if the interface wasn’t as intuitive and they couldn’t figure it out, that’s a piece of data Amazon can use to go improve their support for future customers.
The support homepage for customers today is Google. Less and less they are navigating to your homepage. And then from there navigating to your support pages. Often, they just go ahead and type the question right into Google.
If you don’t have the content there from them to find, the more they have to dig for it - the more frustrated their going to get. So imagine if they finally get to the phone and they’ve been digging around for 30 minutes or trying to find an answer in a discussion thread, and there just not finding it - their level of frustration is compounding the more time that passes.
That’s one of the biggest reasons it’s so important for companies to focus on self service. It’s measuring the quality of that content the same way they measure the quality of the service over the phone.
A lot of companies really do not do a whole lot of measuring of self service to see what’s working and what’s not working. If a customer clicks through to five different pages, and still doesn’t find what they are looking for - it’s probably a signal you need to create a new article for your self-service channel. It’s crucial to making these channels useful.
This is also a way to create real brand advocates. Self service communities that enable things like gamification where you’re really getting your customers engaged with your brand. Not only are you deflecting tickets from your call center because customers are able to help themselves. And that’s a cost benefit obviously. Your also turning them into a brand advocate along the way.
What we’re seeing on the marketing side of things is you can’t just run advertisements anymore. Word of mouth marketing is becoming increasingly important.
What better way to get your customers talking positively about your brand then to give them this community platform where you show them just how important they are. And you arm them with the tools to help other customers, really show them off as being valued parts of your company. Not just customers. You’re part of what makes this company great.
If anyone channel could be called the channel of the future it’s self-service.