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10 Digital Support Solutions to Transform Your Customer Journey

9 minute read

January 26, 2021

There are many different types of customer support solutions that can help transform your digital customer journey. Studies show that when it comes to support solutions, your customers demand a variety of options to receive their support -- one solution just isn't going to cut it. So what solutions are out there, and which ones are the best for your business model?

Transforming your digital customer support journey to include a combination of solutions can create the best customer support experience possible. Customers prefer to access support in a variety of different ways, and they expect you to accommodate their demands.

Types of Digital Support Solutions

When looking at the options available to transform your digital customer support journey, there is a wealth of different opportunities for you to choose from, each with its own unique set of benefits and challenges. It can't be emphasized enough that your customer support journey should include a combination of different options in order to ensure that all your bases are covered. Let’s take a closer look at what these options are.

1. Chatbots

Also known as virtual assistants, these AI-powered tools are great at handling frequent and low-level common questions. Chatbots draw from the repository of stored articles and knowledge using keywords to help provide the customer with the support needed. As AI technologies continue to evolve, chatbots will get better at providing support because they learn from their experiences.  

2. Online Community Forums

An online community forum is an online space created by an organization or a brand, where members, customers and fans alike can congregate, ask questions, receive peer-to-peer support, discuss interests surrounding the brand and make social connections. Online community forums are a great space to provide customers with peer-to-peer support; essentially, this allows your customers to do the heavy lifting for you. 

3. Knowledge Base

A knowledge base refers to a centralized location for the storage of information about your products and services, usually for the purpose of customer self-service support. Generally speaking, a customer-facing knowledge base functions as a part of an organization's website, or as part of an organization’s customer self-service portal. Knowledge bases can also function as an internal tool as well, for employees and staff to access information and knowledge whenever they need it. That being said, internal knowledge bases are largely used to provide guidance and training to employees to improve their customer support, whereas external knowledge bases provide effective, frontline self-service support to customers. 

4. FAQ

An FAQ is a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers. The questions found in an FAQ include the most common questions that customer service and support receive, thereby providing quick and easy support so that customers don't have to contact the organization.

5. Help Documentation (wiki articles)

Help documentation refers to articles that the organization collaboratively creates and edits to troubleshoot issues that are generally more complicated than the ones found under the FAQ section. Help documentation tends to be long-form and is usually written by a product manager or customer support manager.  

6. How-To Videos

How-to videos refer to content that is created to visually illustrate step-by-step processes on how to troubleshoot or address common customer support questions. These types of videos are usually found on YouTube under the organization’s account, or can be made by individuals, as peer-to-peer support content. 

7. Ticketing Service

A ticketing service is an extremely common method for organizations to manage and queue customer support requests. Ticketing service software provides customers requesting support with a "ticket" that explains their issue to the service rep and usually categorizes the request. These tickets can be analyzed at a later date to identify common issues and customer support requests. 

8. User Manuals

Most organizations offer user manuals, which are essentially guides intended to get the customer started with their new product or service. These types of manuals outline how to get the product or service set up, how to operate it, how to maintain it, and usually provides customers with tips on how to get the most value from it. User manuals serve as a proactive approach to customer support issues by outlining proper use of the product or service from the point of purchase. 

9. Online Chat

Online chat provides customers with a real-time conversation with support agents, but through chat, usually on the organization's website. This support method is, generally speaking, similar to call center support, but online. 

10. Social Media

Organizations with social media channels can provide customer support by responding to posts and inquiries. The most common social media channels for support are Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram.

There are, however a ton of other considerations that should be thought through before you determine to use this as one of your primary channels, notably, privacy and control issues. In short, this is an option that you won't own since it relies on other platforms to survive. 

Benefits and Impacts of Online Communities

Available Digital Support Solutions: Pros and Cons

Now that you're familiar with the types of support solutions available to transform your digital customer support journey, you might be wondering what solution, or combination of solutions, is the best for your organization.

To help you address this question, see the table below, which outlines the pros and cons of each digital support solution.

Solution Pros Cons
Chatbots Learns and iterates to improve services over time
Offers immediate assistance wherever and whenever the customer needs it

Has difficulty solving more complex support issues 

Can only draw from the knowledge inputted by staff

Difficulty understanding words or requests that are uncommon or infrequent

No SEO benefit, not searchable

Online Community Forums

Real time curated content by actual users in their own words

Offers more benefits than just support, such as engagement, feedback and brand loyalty

Searchable, with SEO benefits (if open to the public)

Collects stats on common searches and customer issues

Some support issues will require escalation (we recommend ticketing)

If left unmoderated and unmanaged, can become unwieldy

Out-of-date content can surface

Harder to build a community, as users will come and go after they solve problems

Knowledge Base

Offers a controlled experience for customers to find answers to their questions

Collects stats on common searches and customer issues

Searchable, with SEO benefits

How the customer asks a question might be different than the title of the help document, which affects searchability

Needs to be frequently updated

May miss unconsidered use cases
FAQs

Searchable, with SEO benefits

Deflects tickets by addressing common support questions

If done right, scannable, concise, customer-centric

Static

Usually written by people who don’t interface with customers

May use technical jargon and highfalutin language

Worst: just a copy-paste from the longer user manual

Help Documentation Searchable, with SEO benefits How the customer asks a question might be different than the title of the help document, which affects searchability
How-To Videos

Easy to understand visual explanations for complicated concepts

Quick to consume

Easy to share

Searchable

Pain to consume on mobile devices (high data usage if on cell network)

Gets out of date quickly

Can be expensive to produce

If poorly produced, will have a negative impact on the brand

Limited SEO benefits
Ticketing Service Offers a direct, trackable way to escalate and follow issues to completion

No SEO benefit, not searchable

Repetitive questions harder to avoid

Relies 100% on your company to provide support

User Manuals

Complete resource that should answer all the possible questions and considered use cases

Searchable, with SEO benefits

Static

Blind spot on unanticipated questions or issues

Written in company voice, might be hard to search for

Online Chat

Immediate response to customers when available

Pushes inquiries directly to the CRM/ ticketing system

Not scalable

No SEO benefit, not searchable

Relies 100% on staff and their ability to provide great customer support

Social Media

Finds the customer where they are

Publicly demonstrates responsiveness of a brand

Can quickly degenerate into a negative vortex

Can be missed if resources are not dedicated to social listening

Doesn’t scale

No SEO benefit, not searchable

 

Given the vast amount of options available, it can be difficult to select the best combination of tools to digitize your customer support journey—but is there a "right" combination? Further, how do you approach implementing these tools in a way that makes them accessible and easy to find?

The solution is to create a customer self-service portal; one, central hub where all support channels can be found. A self-service customer portal serves as the entry point to your unique collection of customer self-service options, made up of a number of the solutions outlined in the table above. And while not all the options are required, statistics show that customers use at least three, so make sure that you weigh the pros and cons of each and implement tools that cover any shortfalls you may have.

But in terms of the "right," combination, yes, there is a powerful combination of two of the options outlined in the table that garner amazing results. By combining a knowledge base and community, you can create a best-in-class self-service support experience. 

Be sure to download some of our recent research to see the proof on just how powerful these two tools can be.

Transform Digital Customer Support Journey

Customer Service

Sarah Robinson-Yu

Written by Sarah Robinson-Yu

Sarah is the Content Marketing Specialist at Vanilla Forums. Prior to Vanilla, Sarah worked in the public sector where she led and coordinated the strategic framework and operational policy development of business processes.

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