Sneaky headline alert: I don’t think customer support is a waste of time. I just think there are plenty of businesses out there who are spending way more time on it than they should.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on ticket deflection. To briefly recap that post, ticket deflection is a means or method companies use to cut down on person to person support time. This practice not only saves businesses time and money but drastically benefits customers as well.
An incredibly efficient way to do ticket deflection is to set up what some have dubbed the future of customer service—a self-support system. This tool can be as basic as a searchable knowledge base, or as advanced as a fully hosted portal. It’s really up to you.
Now, I know: developing a new system sounds like a hassle. It’s not. For that reason, allow me to offer this simple conceptual roadmap to get you started in the right direction.
1. Listen & Learn
The key to doing self-support well is to focus on that second word: support. If your system feels like a simplistic way to pawn off your company’s support responsibilities, customers will either forego it completely or take their business elsewhere. If, on the other hand, they feel like it’s a genuine response to their pressing needs, they’ll appreciate the effort.
Therefore, the first step to designing a self-support system is simple: find out where your customers need support. What are their most common questions? What topics do they discuss most frequently? Which issues require the most time and effort from your team?
By paying a little bit of attention to the biggest issues on your customers’ minds, you’ll learn which items need primary attention. You’ll also find that your customers have more needs than you can promptly address. That’s fine. See what’s most pressing to them, and prioritize from there.
2. Answer Customers’ Questions
Generate content to address the various issues you’ve identified. Have your customer support team write up clear answers to questions that don’t offer simplistic “fixes.” This will give your customers the tools they need to learn new things and take their usage of your product to the next level.
When you’re generating this content, it’s important that you recognize the various constituencies in your customer base. Some will be novices; others will be professionals. Make sure you develop answers that meet each type of user on his or her appropriate level.
3. Put Your Content Somewhere
Now that you've got the support material written, your development team needs to cook up a place to put it. Keep these characteristics in mind as you develop your platform:
- Intuitive and Easy to Use – Your interface should be clean and easy to navigate. The last thing you want is for someone to get frustrated and give up on the process.
- Curated – Put your most frequently accessed content on the front page to save your customers the time they would otherwise spend searching for it.
- Searchable – Develop your search functionality in a way that not only makes it easy for people to find what they’re looking for, but intuitively pulls up related content.
- No Dead Ends – Every support article or FAQ should be accompanied by links to related content. Don’t send your customers back to square one after every article. Give them a trail to follow instead.
- Optimized for all Devices – About half your customers will access your self-support system via mobile. That said, you better make sure the platform works well on mobile.
If your customers use these characteristics to describe your system once it’s done, you’ve won.
4. Keep Making It Easy
The beauty of self-service—why it’s a win-win for both you and your customers—is that it makes it easy for them to get answers to their questions. By valuing not only your time, but the time of your customers, you’re sure to keep them satisfied with the self-service experience.
Never stop tweaking your self-service system. Review it regularly to find areas for improvement.
5. Tell People About It
What good is a self-support system if your customers don’t know it’s there?
Take every opportunity to let your customers know that you’ve made it easy for them to find answers to their most common problems. While you could accomplish this by any number of marketing channels or in-app notices, there’s a cleverer way to go about it.
Customers usually go through a process to request support (Home Page -> Customer Support -> Contact Form Completion -> Confirmation). Why not offer, at every step in that process, an opportunity for customers drop the request and handle the problem themselves?
Even better, design your ticket request system to display support content related to the customer's specific request. Odds are, they'll see something relevant and find their answer without taking up your precious customer support staff time.
Easier than you thought, isn’t it? Deliver your self-support service in line with customer expectations and not only will you save staff time, but you’ll boost customer satisfaction too; increasing customer loyalty and creating brand champions.
What's your company doing for ticket deflection and self-support? I'd love to hear what ideas have worked for you in the comments section below.