Providing exceptional online customer service is now essential for technology companies (really all companies in all industries) to satisfy and retain users in an increasingly digital world. However, delivering seamless support across websites, mobile apps, social media, webchat, help centers and emerging channels is complex. Yet at the same time, it is demanded by hyper-connected customers.
With customer expectations rising and new technologies advancing rapidly, support organizations are struggling to keep pace. Those that can, are reaping the rewards of higher levels of customer loyalty and profitability, while reducing customer service costs. While companies that aren’t reacting as quickly are being punished. As customers become more accustomed to using digital and online tools, they appreciate the speed and delivery of information and experiences. That expectation will extend to all elements of the online experience, including customer service and support.
This comprehensive guide explores proven strategies and best practices for technology companies to optimize online customer service delivery in today’s omnichannel environment.
Conduct In-Depth Customer Journey Mapping
Customer Journey Mapping involves mapping out the path that a customer takes from first becoming aware of your product, to purchasing it. This link gives you a good breakdown and definition of customer journey mapping. The advantage of mapping the customer journey from a support perspective is it helps you identify potential pain points in the purchase process for the customer. Once the potential problem areas are known, they can be addressed and responses can be proactively created. Considerations include:
- Creating detailed journey maps for key processes including onboarding, adoption, training, troubleshooting and escalation. This helps you identify friction points at each step from the user perspective. Knowing those potential pain points makes it much easier to address them, leading to higher levels of customer loyalty.
- Conducting extensive ethnographic research through surveys, interviews and observations to uncover unmet needs and grievances directly from customers. Customer feedback is vital to optimizing and improving support processes.
- Completing comprehensive audits examining support metrics across platforms – response times, wait times, resolution quality, customer satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS) and more. Tracking metrics throughout the customer journey allows your technology company to identify strengths and weaknesses throughout the process. Once identified, weaknesses can be corrected and strengths magnified.
- Analyzing support case topics and types to reveal knowledge gaps. Expand help content to address common questions. This is where tracking satisfaction with support as well as time spent with agents can reveal potential problem areas. Consistent problems could point to a need to invest in training and/or the hiring of SMEs.
If leveraged correctly, these insights will inform an omnichannel customer service optimization roadmap tailored to your customers’ needs.
Design Integrated Omnichannel Experiences
Today’s consumers expect unified support experiences across the web, mobile apps, social media, email, chat, and emerging channels. Eliminate friction through thoughtful omnichannel design:
- Define optimal roles for each channel based on strengths. Chat for convenience, phone for urgent issues, forums for troubleshooting. This also helps you consider the needs of the customer, for instance forums should have access to SMEs who can answer questions that are often involving a more complex issue. One answer from a SME could potentially deflect multiple CS calls, which would be a cost savings that would continue to be realized as long as the answer appeared on the forum.
- Craft tight channel integration, such as website support forms prefilled with user data for contextual experiences. Make sure to collect only the data that customers have consented for collction, and carefully explain to customers which data will be collected. This helps address privacy concerns and works to establish trust.
- Enable smooth cross-channel transitions, such as handing off conversations between agents without repetitive explanations. Remember that the customer assumes the entire interaction with CS is being conducted by a team that’s on the same page, not disjointed employees. The customer doesn’t expect to have to start over with a fresh explanation of the problem every time a new agent is involved.
- Connect steps into one seamless, consistent and personalized cross-channel customer journey.
Contextual, continuous omnichannel experiences satisfy users and improve efficiency while increasing loyalty.
Evaluate and Adopt New Service Channels
The digital service landscape evolves quickly. Continuously evaluate and pilot new channels and innovations such as:
- Artificial Intelligence powered chatbots equipped with natural language capabilities, sentiment analysis and escalation for automated conversations. This post has a detailed breakdown of how technology companies can leverage AI in customer support. AI can be used to deliver customer support directly, and it can also be leveraged to analyze customer data to enhance the support experience.
- Augmented reality that allows remote visual issue diagnosis through overlays and annotations. This is especially useful in the field service spac, where a remote worker can use AR to diagnose and fix a problem directly, or be connected to a SME (Subject Matter Expert) who can help the technician deliver support on site, saving time for both the customer and service vendor.
- In-product communications via embedded commentary forms or help widgets. QR are a useful example of this, allowing both the customer and the service technician to get relevant product information at the site.
- Proactive assistance powered by machine learning models that predict issues. This ties into the first point about AI, machine-learning can also be utilized to predict potential problems, turning costly repairs into preventative maintenance.
Assess new technologies based on your capabilities and customers’ evolving needs. Adopt channels that provide high value.
Incentivize Use of Self-Service Options
Deflecting common inquiries to self-help resources reduces human support costs. Boost adoption by:
- Identifying key opportunities to augment or replace live service, such as leveraging virtual agents or community forums. Pro-Tip: Publish some of the most engaging forum answers on your website’s homepage. This is a great way to promote the availability of the forum as a way for the user to self-troubleshoot problems. Remember that one answer from a SME on a forum could help countless users solve the same problem. Every time a user can solve their own problem via a forum, that deflects a call or chat with a CS agent. Which saves you money.
- Designing stellar help centers, FAQs, chat bots, online communities, and in-product self-service. Make sure every level of service is provided for the user. If the user needs 101-level help, provide FAQs, if they need a bit more instruction, give them easy access to chat bots and forums.
- Driving awareness through promotions, in-product prompts, and informational content. Users can’t access help if they don’t know it’s available. Providing exceptional online customer service is about giving customers the ability to choose the type of experience that’s most helpful and convenient for them.
- Continuously optimizing self-service content and functionality based on analytics and user feedback. Constantly monitor for roadblocks and bottlenecks in the process. Survey users post-ticket to identify areas for improvement.
Giving customers self-service options that work leads to higher customer loyalty and satisfaction, as well as reduces costs for your technology company.
Experiment, Iterate and Innovate
Customer service cannot remain stagnant as user expectations rapidly evolve. Continually optimize by:
- A/B testing new features and support processes to improve key metrics. Leverage community forums and give the most active participants the chance to test new features. You will often find that frequent contributors to forums will jump at such an opportunity.
- Monitoring emerging innovations in service delivery from competitors. Be aware of what the competition is doing, and what is working for them. This can give you ideas for improvement in your own CS processes.
- Interviewing users to identify desired improvements and pain points. Lean on feedback from users throughout the customer support process. You will often find that users will be happy to provide feedback and stay in contact with your CS team to help implement their suggestions.
- Proactively journey mapping to uncover friction opportunities. Find and identify pain points for users along the CS journey, and eliminate them.
- Piloting enhancements, measuring impact based on data, and iterating. Pro-tip: Rollout changes first to your forum members or loyalty program members. If you will be providing a new features in your customer support efforts, give limited advance access to certain user segments. This will be viewed as a perk by the group, and will result in better feedback and higher levels of satisfaction and loyalty as a result.
The best brands continually and proactively adapt based on customer needs and feedback.
Achieving Excellent Online Customer Service
Providing superior omnichannel customer service is challenging yet invaluable. Applying the strategies outlined equips technology companies to meet, and even exceed, rising user expectations.