Customer support can be a thankless task. Let’s face it – our trusted staff are sometimes bombarded with a ton of queries which by their very nature, are primarily from disgruntled customers.
Solving queries and striving to represent the company in a positive light is a challenge. Yet with transactions taking place online, these support superstars are the only customer-facing people in many organisations. They ARE your brand – their interactions will represent the difference between having a loyal customer, or losing one. And in today’s world, where spreading a positive or negative comment is just a tweet away, it’s imperative that we put customer support at the center of our growth strategy.
It’s a little cliched at this stage, but I’ve always looked at customer support as an opportunity rather than a problem. Solve it, and you’ll turn a disgruntled customer into an advocate – a lifetime ambassador for your brand. A sale is never just a sale – it’s a customer. And happy customers come back again and again.
I’ve long sought after a mantra that describes our support ambitions – and have settled on this article’s title: ‘Be Quick, Be Right, Be Personable’ (Be You!).
The speed of a reply isn’t always high on the list of priorities when you think of excellent support.
But it should be. A typical eCommerce pre-sale query answered within one hour will elicit a very high conversion – people will allow time for an answer on whether the garment is available in blue, or the gadget comes with batteries. But after the hour is up, there is an increasing likelihood that the customer will continue their shopping journey elsewhere and the sale is lost.
I call this the platinum hour. If it’s possible we will always try to answer support queries within the platinum hour. We measure our response time and track our success against this metric over time. I find it’s a great single metric that defines how well we are doing. Today we are sitting at 83 percent – we’ve some work to do but we’ll continue to improve this metric.
Quite often in support, putting customers into a holding pattern is the chosen route. “We will look into your problem”, “can you further elaborate?” “can you provide examples?” “please photograph the damage” are typical responses that delay the process of resolution. Whilst in some cases these are necessary replies, often they are just a method to kick the stone along the road. It’s frustrating for the customer who may have started out a little disgruntled, but now finds they are further agitated.
It sounds strange that I’d call out what seems so logical. After all, it serves no use for us to deliver the wrong answer. And yet on some occasions, an agent, lacking confidence in their answer perhaps (more on this later), will offer a best guess or a link from a knowledge base rather than truly evaluating the issue.
Don’t do this!
Instead, evaluate the problem. Use all available data to provide the best possible solution for THIS customer. Two customers with identical problems may not warrant an identical reply. There are all sorts of reasons why this is true: repeat customer? What about the tone of their communication? What about the cost of replacement? Location will be a factor. Should we bother getting goods returned to us, or just issue a replacement or refund?
If I were to extend my “Be right” mantra it would be to “Be right first time”. In my opinion there is nothing more satisfying than having a support problem resolved first time. You’ve got me – I will forever be in your debt – a brand ambassador for life!
For the support agent, the sense of achievement is real. I’ve closed this one off. Another job well done. I’m good at what I do.
At xSellco we strive to be right first time. We’re moving to a scenario where we’ll reward our agents based on RFT – “Right First Time”.
Support is a people business, so we should allow support agents to bring a bit of their personality into their communication. An issue might be diffused by lightening the tone: “Hi Ray, I’ve taken a look and have found …” rather than “Dear Customer, We have researched your …”. The lighter, friendlier tone will also lead to a happier atmosphere within the support team.
And happy support folks make happy customers!