Customer support is a must. And excellent customer support is now seen as a requirement rather than a nice-to-have. There's a ton of different options out there when it comes to providing support, but which support channel is right for your business?
At this point, you might be expecting me to say: there's no right answer, and give you some spiel about how every business is different. But I'm not going to do that.
The fact of the matter is that there is a right away to provide customer support, no matter the end goals of your organization; the right way is the customer way. As Marjorie Anderson, founder of Community by Association, says:
“It is now the year of the customer—it’s no longer about what you need as an organization, it’s about what the people that you serve need. And then as a result of being able to provide them those things, you are more valuable than you’ve ever been before.”
That being said, the most effective support channel for your business is one that your customers actually want. As customers continued to be offered a wider variety of options than ever before, they've not only become more vocal about what they want, but they're also able to swap vendors at any given moment.
So what are these effective must have support options? Well, a good place to start is by examining your customers' demands to get to the bottom of what they actually want when it comes to customer support.
What Your Customers Expect
When it comes to what customers actually want, there are essentially three main demands: 1) self service; 2) fast and efficient support, and; 3) options. Let's take a closer look at each.
The Demand for Self Service
Firstly, customers want self service. Gone are the days where a customer’s only support option is calling or emailing customer support. Technology has given rise to a number of other options, and customers overwhelmingly prefer to troubleshoot their own issues before contacting customer support. In fact, 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative.
And who can blame them? Nobody actually likes speaking with customer support agents. In fact, 59% of consumers would rather go through all the self-service channels offered to get support rather than have to call and actually use their voice to communicate. (What a world we live in, am I right?) And when customers do actually have to call, 36% of customers report the biggest frustration is the agents lack of knowledge to resolve the issue.
That’s why the customer of today expects organizations to offer a variety of self service options that can deliver the information they need, when they need it.
The Demand for Fast and Efficient Support
The next thing that customers want is fast and efficient support. This is a no brainer—everyone wants fast and efficient support. But to back up this claim, let’s just say that when it comes down to it, nearly half of all consumers don’t actually care how they get support, as long as it’s effective, accurate and handled quickly.
Which is essentially why people prefer self service support—if you want something done right, you do it yourself, right? That’s my motto, anyways. Given that the number one frustration with actually contacting an agent is that they lack the knowledge to actually solve your issue, it’s no surprise that sometimes, the fastest solution is simply finding it yourself.
The Demand for a Variety of Options
And last but certainly not least, customers want access to a variety of different ways in which they can receive support. In fact, 59% of customers have reported to have used three or more channels to get their questions answered. The reason why customers demand a variety of options is because they want to be able to get customer support wherever and whenever, and having more than one option increases their chances of actually getting it when they need it.
But that's not to say that all support channels that have been used are effective, or are available at all times. For instance, take a look at the chart below.
As you can see, this chart identifies 11 channels of customer support and how preferable they are to customers. Additionally, this chart also identifies the channels that are actually searchable on Google. This is important when it comes to actually accessing self service channels, since most people go to Google and search their issue before they do anything else.
That means that of all the preferred support channels, only two of them will allow customers to actually get support based on their Google search—and having a barrier between your support services and Google is certainly not good for you or your CX.
Now let's get down to the good stuff—what's is most effective customer support channel for your business?
Types of Support Channels
Your ideal support channel needs to be self serving, effective and accessible. For the purpose of this blog, I'm not going to include email and phone.
Email and phone support are VERY IMPORTANT to have, so don't be looking to do away with these—your customers will go nuts! These support methods, however, are just the basics. They are the minimal must-haves. So any option you select for customer support should be on top of these services. Heck, I'd bet they'll even be used more than email and phone, but to avoid having a customer mutiny on your hands, keep them around.
That being said, here are the best customer support channels that align with customer demands:
Online Community Forum
Let's take a closer look at each.
A knowledge base is essentially a centralized location for the storage of information about your products and services, and commonly functions as a part of an organization’s website, or as part of an organization’s customer self-service portal. A knowledge base can include a number of different features that provides customers with the tools they need to help themselves whenever and wherever they need support.
In simpler terms, for those of you who just want to cut to the chase, a knowledge base is essentially a customer service library full of resources and tools for self-service support.
The decision to implement a knowledge base usually derives from three main goals:
To reduce the amount of time and effort that your customers have to put into finding the support they need, which ultimately provides for a better customer experience
To reduce the number of support tickets on your end, which helps distribute the workload of your customer service reps and also helps to reduce costs
To create an official repository of company knowledge curated by staff
Having a knowledge base is not only a cost effective and convenient option for companies, but it also provides 24/7 support for organizations.
According to Knowledge Base 101, having a knowledge base as part of your customer support strategy provides a number of unique benefits:
A knowledge base gives your customers what they want.
A knowledge base provides a proactive approach to customer support
A knowledge base helps you save on support costs.
A knowledge base helps reduce churn and increase retention.
A knowledge base allows you to collect data and analytics on your support efforts.
To learn more about the knowledge base as a customer support channel, definitely check out our eBook on th Knowledge Base.
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 since they learn from their experiences.
Chatbots can be very similar to a phone call and the speed of chat (especially when majority of users use a web browser) makes it an extremely convenient tool.
Online Community Forum
An online community forum is a place where members, customers and fans alike can, among other things, congregate, share ideas and provide peer-to-peer support for the brand they love. That being said, online community forums are best used to connect people around shared values, interests, and brands. In a support-based community forum, customers help each other in regards your product or service, which helps deflect tickets from your customer service operations.
Now, you might be wondering why customers would take their time to help troubleshoot other customer issues. My friends—welcome to the magic of an online community. There are SO many reasons why customers would do this, but to provide you a quick answer, let's briefly touch on Super Fans. Simply put, Super Fans are passionate, engaged leaders of your community, online or offline, and are happy to volunteer their time to a brand they love.
There are three key reasons why Super Fans will help you run your community and answer support questions:
Sense of purpose – Super Fans want to be part of something important, something bigger than themselves. Answering tech support questions may seem silly, but helping the mom of an Autistic child get their phone working again so she can monitor the child at school, that’s a big deal. Creating a meetup that allows busy, stressed out geeks to meet like minds and bring joy into your life, that’s important work.
Identity – Becoming a Super Fan typically takes a great deal of work. Being granted the title of Super Fan in a community can help create a sense of personal identity. And this identity, like the other parts of our identity (husband, father, brother, manager, engineer) become closely held ways of how we think about ourselves. Losing this is simply not something we want to do.
Personal fulfillment – Beyond the sense of purpose, there’s something more personal involved in why members become Super Fans, whether a creative or emotional or professional fulfillment.
If you want to learn more about Super Fans and how they can help power your support community, check out our eBook, Building a Strategic Super Fan Program for Your Online Community.
When you have a support community, you are able to crowdsourced customer issues, saving you time and money. Additionally, long-form complex questions can be easily answered in an online community, and that's great because online community forums are SEO friendly. In other words, these answers will be indexed by Google, which increases the visibility of your community, making it much easier to find. Ultimately, the format of an online community forum allows a brand to provide a self-serve, mobile-friendly, personalized customer service on scale.
What's the Most Effective Customer Support Channel?
Alright, so you came to this blog looking for an answer—what is the most effective customer support channel?
Well, that's an easy answer. It's where your customers are. They are browsing the web looking for their own support, so you better have channels that can be found on Google (SEO friendly) and are effective. While chatbots are great, we would recommend a knowledge base and/ or an online community forum.
If you want to learn about the benefits that an online community can bring to your organization, check out this research report: Online Communities: The Benefits and Impacts on Organizations.