It's Now or Never—Shifting Your Support Strategy Online

Posted by Mel Attia on Apr 14, 2020 8:30:00 AM

7 minute read

It's Now or Never—Shifting Your Support Strategy Online

With the current pandemic, millions of people are losing their income while still needing to find a way to pay for housing, utilities and provide for their families. Expenses are being scrutinized, particularly any recurring subscriptions and nonnecessities such as telecommunications, cable and internet, to find savings. This puts service providers in a difficult position: they are faced with either losing their customers to cheaper competitors, resulting in a 100% loss of revenue from those subscribers, or getting them to downgrade their plan and losing out on high profit margin addons.

Spending on nonnecessities is down during COVID

But which is the best of these two outcomes? Of course, it's keeping your existing subscribers—as the old marketing adage still stands true even in these extraordinary circumstances: it's cheaper to keep your current customers than to get new ones.

As an executive during these difficult times, it's important to shift how you look at the current situation. Instead of focusing on the loss of revenue due to downgrades, you should focus your efforts on adjusting your business so that you can meet the new cost-conscious needs of your customers. This means being leaner in other areas of your organization so that you can pass on these savings to your customers, and the best place to start is how you deliver your customer support. It’s so important  to keep in mind that this time will eventually be behind us, and being able to keep your customers now even if they're spending less, will eventually lead to more revenue later. 

What’s more, choosing to continue with a contact centered support model is likely impossible. Case in point, TD Bank sent back home 9,500 call center agents and many more organizations simply cannot staff their call centers because of ongoing self-isolation and quarantine measures.  

Now is a good time to finally undergo that digital transformation initiative that’s been pushed to the back burner. You must do this NOW for the survival of your own line of business, with a heavy focus on optimizing customer support. In essence, this means reducing your reliance on the costly and unsustainable call center support strategy and implementing a full customer self-service support portal. Implementing a self-service model will help your organization save money during these difficult times, as a self-service portal can service hundreds of customers at once for a base price. Moreover, the satisfaction that customers get from finding answers on their own is often greater than that of phone support, since oftentimes, agents aren't well trained and don't provide the best service. 

Ultimately, there are two major reasons why reducing your reliance on or completely replacing the call center with a self-service support model is a great option when looking to cut costs:

  1. It delivers on customer expectations

  2. It contributes to leaner operational costs—by hitting all the metrics that matter so much like contact avoidance, call avoidance, ticket deflection and time to resolution. 

Let's discuss.

Delivers on Customer Expectations

By shifting your support away from call centers and pushing for a fully self-serve model, you will be able to give customers what they actually want: great support. If you take a look at the chart below, you can see the top 5 contributing factors to an excellent customer experience.

Top 5 factors of customer experience

The thing that customers value the most is fast response times to issues. This is precisely why self-service interactions have overtaken all other support channels—people don't get fast responses from call centers. Statistically speaking, 91% of customers prefer to use the internet to find a solution themselves, before they even consider calling in for help. Not only do customers have to wait to actually get a hold of an agent, but oftentimes they are passed around, having to explain their issue multiple times. As you can imagine, this not only frustrates the customer, but also costs the company money—and lots of it.

Oh, and just a side note: 88% of your customers expect you to provide them with these options. If you deliver on customer demands, they're more likely to stick around.

Contributes to Leaner Operational Costs

There are two major ways that organizations can save money by shifting from a call center to self-service support:

1) It's cheaper

2) It's more effective (decreases customer churn)

Self-service is not only extremely powerful at addressing low-to-mid level support questions, but it's also a great way to deflect some of the most common questions that support teams receive. Call centers often respond to the same types of questions throughout the day, which wastes money and resources. If the most common questions could be answered in a self-service portal, call centers would be able to reduce costs since they would require fewer employees; the remaining employees would then be empowered to address only the most complex questions. 

Additionally, since self-services reduces the likelihood of a negative customer experience, it enables organizations to increase retention and decrease churn. Just take a look at the top contributing factors to poor customer service:

  1. Customers don’t feel appreciated.

  2. Customers aren’t able to speak to a person who can provide them the answers they are looking for.

  3. Customers experience rude and unhelpful employees.

  4. Customers are being passed around to multiple people.

  5. Customers are put on hold for unreasonable lengths of time.

With a focus on self-service support, all of these experiences would be eliminated, which means that customers are less likely to leave. In fact, statistics back this claim, as 66% of organizations say their online community, which is one of the best self-service support options, has had a positive impact on customer retention.

The Right Conditions For Success

Now of course, I have to stress that self-service only has the monetary benefits noted above if it's with the right self-service solutions, the right vendors and implemented/ used correctly. While these prerequisites may sound daunting, it's actually quite easy to get it right, if you know what you're doing. 

As mentioned above, an online community is one of the best self-service solutions, given that over 60% of communities are used for self-service support, and 88% say that it's improved their customer experience. In case you're not familiar with what an online community forum is, it refers to 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—which essentially allows your customers to do the heavy lifting for you, saving you time and money.

But customers also want options when it comes to self-service support—hence why you should implement a self-service portal. A self-service portal is an online space that gives your customers access to a wide range (usually at least 3) self-service tools. While community is often part of this portal, other common self-service channels found in these portals include:

  • Chatbots

  • Knowledge Base

  • FAQ

  • Help Documentation

  • How-To Videos

  • Ticketing Service

  • User Manuals

  • Online Chat

While selecting the right tools is important, it's equally as important to ensure that the vendor you select is the best for the job. Acer is a great example of an organization who found that the vendor price doesn't always translate to quality, and that there are high quality, cost-effective self-service options out there. 

If you want to compare community vendors, including their offerings and price, be sure to download our free vendor evaluation guide—this will help you out a lot if you decide to shift away from the call-center.

And last but not least, you have to actually use your self-service tools correctly. For example, if the support content in your community is weak and unhelpful, you won't see good results. Self-service tools can take time to perfect—it's all about understanding your customer, their demands and the types of questions they ask, and then crafting your support content to meet these demands in a way that's accessible and easy to consume. Make sure whoever you choose to buy from helps you plan, build and launch your community in a way that makes sense for your business.

Ultimately, shifting from a customer support call-center to self-service will help many mobile companies adjust to the predicted loss in revenue, while at the same time, delivering better support. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do this; organizations looking to shift away from the call center for a more agile and long-term digital support solution need to ensure they procure the right tools, the right vendors, and use their tools correctly. 

how to build an online community forum: a framework for successful community building

Topics: Support, News

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