3 Customer Support Channels You Need to Master in 2018

February 21, 2018 Rusty Langford

Brands should be sure to master well-established customer support channels before moving on to new and impressive technologies.

Remember that old cliché, don’t put the cart before the horse? In other words, don’t get ahead of yourself.

There’s a lot of talk about using new and impressive technologies—like artificial intelligence-driven chatbots and virtual reality—to improve support and the customer experience. But there are well-established communication channels that brands should (and in many cases, need to) focus on mastering first.

While email and chat have mostly been conquered, there’s a good chance your brand still needs to optimize the use of channels like social, online self-help and video before venturing (with your horse and cart) off to the wild frontier of virtual reality (VR) adventures.

In this three-part series we’ll present the unique challenges of each of these channels, as well as some tips for better using them to support your customers. Giddy-up!

Social Customer Support

The first of these essential channels is social media. It continues to be the fastest-growing method of communication for citizens around the globe, from tweeting toddlers to Googling grandmas. More customers than ever are utilizing social media channels for their support issues—an estimated 67% of consumers now use social media networks like Twitter and Facebook to seek resolution. And they tend to spend 20% to 40% more with companies that engage and respond via the social networks. 

By setting up a social media support channel, you give customers the option to engage with others about their issues when they want and how they want. BUT with social support, the goal is not just customer satisfaction, it's about benefitting your followers and hopefully creating content they will endorse and share.

Challenges of Social Customer Support

Customers may want you to engage with them socially on their support issues, but there are some challenges posed by this ever-changing realm.

It’s a public platform. 

There’s a potential for mass sharing of responses—both positive and negative. You’ll need a well-versed team ready to respond appropriately, consistently AND on brand. This includes knowing how to respond publicly as well as when to request that the customer move to direct message or even another channel to resolve the issue when appropriate.

Near real-time response required. 

Social channels and the customers who use them have different expectations for turnaround time. Jay Baer says his social research indicates that rapid reaction from a brand is becoming the norm. 32% of customers who have contacted a brand on social media expect a response within 30 minutes. An additional 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. 57% of respondents expect the same response time at night on the weekends as during normal business hours.

This may expand coverage hours for the support team beyond what would be required for email or phone support. If your customers expect you to be available 24/7, you may need to rethink your staffing approach or clear set support boundaries. 

Time and budget constraints.

Like any good customer experience endeavor, you must have a good strategy in place for social support, and it must align corporate goals while addressing customer needs and align with your corporate goals. Because companies may need to look at 24/7 customer support to properly execute social customer support, it's important to realistically consider their budgetary limitations for staffing. The key is to align your goals with customer expectations. It's critical to listen to your customers but optimizing your budget is key to proper support.

How to Make the Most of Social Support

Got the basics down? Here are some ways to get more out of your social customer support program.

Don’t Wait to Communicate.

Proactive communication to customers drives a higher satisfaction with the potential to reduce interaction volume. Also, sending meaningful one-to-many messages to proactively address a known solution reduces the number of times a customer will reach out which ultimately will drive down cost.

Learn from Your Customers.

Generate real-time reporting on customer sentiment and behaviors to help tailor and customize product enhancements, promotions, policies. Done right and in a real-time fashion with meaningful data, this can increase customer satisfaction, build loyalty and potentially reduce cost.

Watch, Listen and Learn.

Maintain regular (even weekly) calibrations to review responses. Check for accuracy, timeliness and that the voice of the customer aligns with your goals.

Social Support Done Right

Chase Bank is known for solid social support. One of our own Harte Hanks employees was having trouble resolving an issue with her escrowed property taxes by phone (the struggle is real with phone trees and transfers to different agents). But after tweeting Chase for help, they quickly responded with a request for DM and helped her track down the issue. Chase support agents sign each of their tweets with their initials—you know you're talking to a real human. Chase agents also make it clear when users can expect them to be online and available by tweeting their arrival and departure each day (reducing the need for always-on agents).

 

 

T-Mobile also does a really good job of striking the balance between consistent brand experience while allowing agents to be human beings. During interactions, customers understand that they're talking to a person, and that it’s not just a script being read. It’s a real and helpful conversation providing a consistent experience via a “human” voice.

Don’t get too overzealous in your humanity though. One trend that may be fun and gets attention isn't necessarily great support. Exhibit A: Wendy's Twitter feed. They’re a family-friendly fast food restaurant, but their social voice is notoriously snarky. It’s a riot when you just want a laugh, but not when you’re seeking assistance because they messed up your order at the drive-thru.

Hashtag: that’s a wrap on social media as a customer support channel for now. Check out our next post in this series to have a look at web-based knowledge and self-help customer support platforms.

About the Author

Rusty Langford

In his twenty-five plus years in the customer services industries, Rusty has been involved in all aspects of direct marketing and customer management. He is currently responsible for client management for all contact center programs at Harte Hanks. He has a broad array of customer experiences, including traditional customer support, multichannel support (including social support programs), lead management and web-based initiatives for clients like Samsung, Microsoft, Major League Baseball, HBO and Barnes & Nobel.

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