We’ve all been there as customers — you need help with a product or service and reach out to customer support. After keying in a lengthy account number and navigating an automated voice response menu, you reach a person who asks for your account number and requests a description of the product and the problem. Then it turns out that person can’t help you, so you’re transferred to higher tier support unit, where the entire infuriating process repeats itself. It’s enough to make you sick.
The symptoms of unhealthy customer support don’t just affect the customer — they make support agents feel ill too. Agents want to fix problems and make customers happy, and if they don’t have the tools and information they need, they’re caught up in an unhealthy support relationship with the customer. If the person who’s reaching out for support represents a business customer, the sickness may spread throughout the company too, which can lead to lost revenue and even a substantial impact on the bottom line.
The Prescription for Healthy Customer Support
So, what’s the prescription to cure unhealthy customer support? The right support software can help, and the formula will depend on what kind of support you’re providing. Most customer support software is designed for the business-to-consumer (B2C) support environment. Business-to-business (B2B) support is typically more complex, and it involves an ongoing relationship between the two companies that includes multiple people.
It’s important to choose the right technology for your industry to build a healthier customer support relationship — B2B support agents need software designed with their unique challenges in mind. But the right software alone isn’t all it takes to cure an unhealthy support relationship. Agents must be empowered with the information and tools they need to collaborate.
When support agents can collaborate with colleagues across the organization, they can resolve customer issues thoroughly and accurately while providing a superior customer experience. By empowering agents with information (including customer and product data, access to past support records, a knowledge database, etc.) and facilitating collaboration, companies can ensure they are providing customers the right prescription, regardless of the issue.
Monitoring the Health of the Support Relationship
The right software has the right tools to give support agents access to information and enable collaboration, putting the support relationship on the path to good health. But just as it’s a good idea to monitor patient health during recovery from an illness, customer support teams should constantly keep an eye on their customers’ health. For B2B support teams, it’s important to pinpoint if a problem is localized to a single contact or widespread, infecting an entire company.
Technology can help. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be particularly useful in a monitoring role, analyzing sentiment in customer messages to identify distress and prepare agents to handle the problem appropriately. AI can also keep customer support relationships on the right track by telling customers when they’re showing signs of “sickness” — even before they realize there’s a problem. That kind of proactive notice is a valuable tool in fostering a healthy customer support relationship.
Preventive Medicine to Keep the Relationship Healthy
When you’ve restored your customer support relationship to good health, it’s time to ensure that the relationship remains healthy going forward, and that takes preventive medicine. Just as a primary care doctor manages a patient’s overall health through wellness visits, support leaders must manage the overall customer relationship, and that requires two-way communication.
Since individual preferences vary, it’s a good idea to provide multiple channels for customer communication. Some customers prefer telephone calls, while others rely on email or chat. Self-service tools are a valuable resource because they allow you to track customer interactions. These solutions can identify potential problems by evaluating what pages or content a customer has visited (and how often) so you can determine if proactive communication is needed. The key is to offer multiple channels and use a system that can capture communication across various platforms so that no issues fall through the cracks.
In summary, if customer support is making you sick, find a cure. Make sure the support software you’re using is designed for your support environment (B2B or B2C). Give support agents access to the information they need to help customers. Provide tools that facilitate collaboration so that the entire company’s collective knowledge can be leveraged to resolve customer issues. Lastly, don’t forget to be proactive with customer communication and provide multiple channels to reach you. By pursuing all of these ventures, you can cure unhealthy support as well as create and maintain healthy relationships with your customers.
About Robert C Johnson
Robert C. Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of TeamSupport.com, a cloud-based, B2B software application built to help customer-facing support teams serve clients better through stronger collaboration, superior teamwork, and faster issue resolution. A seasoned executive and entrepreneur who has founded and invested in numerous software and high-tech companies, Robert’s industry experience as a business leader and a customer inspired him to create TeamSupport to give Support Desk teams the tools and best practices to enhance customer loyalty and positively impact product sales.
Prior to founding TeamSupport, Robert was President and CEO of Sundance Digital, one of the world’s leading providers of automation software to television and cable broadcasters. The company was sold in 2006 to Avid Technology (Nasdaq: AVID).