Self-service star: How to make valuable video tutorials for your customers

24th Jul 2014

While customers will often turn to telephone support or a company website if they have a query, for more technical issues nothing can quite replace the in-store experience. Unfortunately, a trip to the mall isn’t always possible, or the store may not be open when there is an urgent issue.

But a growing number of brands are now acknowledging the importance of visual support aids. And so when Amazon launched the Mayday button on its Kindle device last year, it not only delivered 24/7 support via video chat, but in the words of the ecommerce giant’s management team, it offered customers “a way to bring tech support from the mall to your living room”.

In an age when YouTube is the third most visited website in the world, the time is ripe for video customer support to come to the fore.

“In many cases, where consumer technologies or services offer very complex feature sets, video is by far the easiest way to demonstrate how customers can get the most out of their purchases,” suggests Michael Nagle, CEO of Mhub. “Furthermore, when a product or service has an appreciable learning curve, video can provide an invaluable opportunity for sales teams to convey some of their own enthusiasm to their customers, and to make sure that they persevere through the learning process until they get the most out of their purchase.

“The great thing about content of this type is that it need not be costly or time consuming to produce. In fact, the opposite is often the case, and it can prove more cost-effective than alternative formats that could be used to deliver such content.”

Matt Pierce, customer engagement manager at TechSmith, adds: “By using video, companies can create visual demonstrations and walkthroughs to explain new products and services. These videos enable businesses to provide ‘how to use’ references and answer questions in an innovative, easy to understand and efficient way.”

He continues: “Video content offers the opportunity for businesses to provide new and existing customers with an innovative, personal and interactive learning experience. For a new customer that is learning a particularly complex software feature, a short video can visually teach the learner how to use it in just a few minutes. James McQuivey from Forrester Research, believes that one minute of video is worth up to 1.8 million words. Also, as video tutorials are typically short by nature and part of a group of videos, they are able to ‘chunk’ information into more digestible and understandable sections.”

Types of video service

Video is presently being used in a number of different ways to support service. One of the most common and simple to execute are ‘self help’ tutorials, which can be added to the organisation’s website and/or uploaded to YouTube to provide a video-based customer help service.

“With a reported 65% of the population being visual learners, this option gives customers the opportunity of solving queries in their own time, allowing them to stop, start and pause when it suits them,” notes Polly Elliott, marketing manager at mplSystems. “Further to this, when providing easy to understand “how-to” videos it should enable the customer to resolve the problem without having to call the contact centre. This ultimately reduces the number of calls agents have to deal with and saves the business both time and money.”

Virgin Mobile TV in Australia has demonstrated how successful this can be, creating and promoting  video tutorials of 2-3 minutes to take customers through the entire set-up process step-by-step, and subsequently reporting a 4% reduction in support calls to its contact centre.

Pierce adds: “Businesses that create these types of video tutorials are able to mimic the characteristics of a physical face-to-face training session. Features such as call-outs that highlight specific parts of the video, background music, and a video of the presenter, are great ways to bring the content to life and make it more personable.

“When shared via an online portal, a company’s website or a video platform such as YouTube, customers can access the video content whenever and wherever they want to ‘on-demand’. With 71% of customers reportedly going online first whenever they have a problem with a product; hosting a video tutorial online makes sense. The video can also be viewed over and over and paused at any precise moment so the viewer can learn at a pace that suits them.”

A distinct form of video tutorial that brands can also use to help customers is screencasting. This involves using dedicated software to record a video of your computer screen to provide engaging video learning content. Most commonly used by software firms, screencasting records all on-screen activity, from mouse clicks to applications, with an audio commentary recorded and added to the video to provide further guidance.

“This is a cost-effective and efficient way to visually demonstrate any feature or benefit for a product or service,” says Pierce. “These videos can cover a number of different topics and demonstrate features that are difficult to describe verbally over the phone or in written copy.”

Gibraltar Labs is one business using screencasting to help support new customers implementing its software. The complex nature of its product made it difficult for managing director Gary Short to communicate its true benefits and how to use it to new customers. Short comments: “Screencasts are naturally visual, and allow you to communicate a lot of content in a relatively short space of time. They are far easier for clients to understand compared to written content. Many find watching a short video is much more palatable to pouring over pages of instructions to find the one paragraph they need to answer a question.”

A further video service innovation is live chat, something that has attracted a lot of attention since Amazon’s introduction of its Mayday functionality in its Kindles. While agent assistance via video stream isn’t strictly self-service, it is increasingly being used in conjunction with video tutorials.

As Michael Maoz, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Research, notes: “We’re seeing video chat and how-to videos combined, and used in the retail area, manufacturing and financial services, such as how to set up a credit card account. The use of video chat in self-service, or just plain old video, is amazing in how it impacts the user. They are attracted to this stuff and they are starting to expect it.”

Unsurprisingly, given the impact it would have on contact centre infrastructure and the staff, businesses are most hesitant about live video chat compared to the other video service capabilities.

Call Centre Helper recently completed a poll on their website that asked readers “Do you think that video will take off in the contact centre?” The results reported that 34% of readers said no, whilst an equal 34% said possibly. In comparison only 19% said yes to video in the contact centre and the remaining 12% simply didn’t know what to expect.

“It is clear that the industry have mixed views on video and are unsure of how it will be used and the benefit of using this channel in the contact centre,” says Elliott. “Although some businesses are capitalising on video as a customer support channel, many businesses (and agents!) aren’t ready to take such a big step just yet.”

Getting video right

As a fairly new service medium, businesses are still having to feel their way with video, whether that be tutorial videos or streaming support. So what should organisations bear in mind?

Ensure that video is right for your brand

The first step is to decide if video engagement is right for your specific business. Anand Subramaniam, VP of marketing, at eGain Corporation, explains: “Several factors such as your target customers’ digital maturity, what your competitors are doing, the types of products you sell, the services you provide, use cases specific to your business, industry regulations, and your company’s emphasis on customer engagement as a competitive differentiator should all be taken into account as you make this decision.”

Establish what and when you should video

It’s important to identify video use cases that are compelling from the standpoint of experience for the customer and value for your business. Subramaniam provides a few examples:

  • Insurance: Video chatting two-way with the customer to quickly and efficiently assess damage to an auto or other property in the claims fulfillment process.
  • Retail: Show merchandise to an online shopper and answer questions to accelerate a purchase.
  • Hi-tech: Show a customer how to fix a problem with a device.
  • Healthcare: Video chat with the patient for remote diagnosis and prescription, showing what to do and how.

Strike an appropriate tone in the videos

“Video content for user engagement benefits unequivocally from an informal or relaxed style - most consumers will relate well to this, while a highly-produced, obviously corporate style may be alienating,” recommends Nagle. “However, it's important that video content appears professional, in the sense that it reflects the values and tone of the organisation. The difference between a video that has been made simply, and one that has been made badly, is immediately apparent and the latter is likely to make do more harm than good.”

To that end, Nagle provides the following tips for producing ‘how-to’ videos:

  • Get the length right. More than 90 seconds of video requires more concentration than most customers are willing to give, and, if your goal is to build enthusiasm, then a lengthy film may do the opposite.
  • Provide the right blend of product and people shots. A face is good, and adds a personal touch, but this should not come at the expense of showing important product action.
  • Pay attention to lighting and sound quality. This doesn’t mean professional equipment, but it does mean a decent microphone and not, for example, talking to camera with the light behind you.
  • Issue very clear guidelines on the brand voice. While a relaxed tone can be positive, it’s important to make sure that video doesn't become the wild west of the corporate communications estate.
  • Make a strict rule that nothing is sent without first being watched. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than receiving a personalised video message - and then finding that the maker’s thumb obscures the crucial details!

Ensure that video isn’t an isolated channel

“When customers went social, many businesses rushed to follow with siloed social products that were not integrated with other interaction channels across rules, interactions, workflow, knowledge, analytics or administration. This resulted in more customer frustration, damaging the brand’s social equity, while driving up total cost of ownership,” warns Subramaniam.

As with other self-service channels, it is important to provide the ability to segue to assisted service if the video does not solve the customer’s query.

Give customers a voice

Expertise in your company’s products doesn’t just reside within the organisation’s four walls, customers also want to share their knowledge about how to get the most from the goods as well. And sometimes these customer contributions will be addressing product issues that you may not have even been aware of.

Therefore, you should support and incentivise customers to submit and share videos. Feature the best ones on the website, think of ways to reward them, and send thanks for their contributions.

Promote the videos to ensure there is customer awareness

Creating the right content is a waste of time and resources if customers are unaware that it exists, so ensure that you flag it up on the company website, index the content for the site’s search engine, and also post the videos on YouTube for customers that will go there first.

With all of this taken on board, your brand gives itself the best possible chance of squaring off what is rapidly becoming one of the most popular self-service channels for consumers.

“Everything done by how-to videos sees a tremendous pop in customer satisfaction,” says Maoz. “But at the same time, people are starting to really expect it. So if you don’t do it, then people are wondering what’s wrong with you.”

Nagle adds: “Video is not the panacea that some technologists will claim (usually when trying to sell the latest all-singing, all dancing solution) but it can add a powerful extra dimension to customer service activities. While it is crucial that this is well-managed, and that the relevant personnel are well-trained, video content can go a long way towards securing the customer relationship, helping users to get the most out of their purchase, and making sure that they come back to make their next one.”

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