Customer support is a battlefield; a place where only the strongest and most attuned brands survive.
One misstep can mean the difference between a loyal customer and one who tells 10+ friends never to give your business the time of the day.
While companies struggle to survive with price wars and product offerings, they often neglect to focus on the one thing that could be the biggest differentiator for their brand:
The customer experience.
60% of consumers have higher expectations for customer service now than they did just one year ago.
And, by 2020, the White House Office of Consumer Affairs predicts the customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiatior.
This spells out a massive opportunity for any business. Not only does support directly impact retention and advocacy, it provides a vehicle to lure customers away from your competitors.
Despite the bottom line importance, an insane number of companies are still making the same mistakes day after day that send their customers to the competition. In fact, 89% of consumers have quit doing business with a brand simply because of a shitty customer experience.
And the worst part? Everyone one of these mishaps is completely avoidable with a little awareness and effort.
But, it all starts with identify the root of the problem.
So, here are 9 customer support mishaps that are sending your customers to the competition, the common causes, and how to avoid them.
Data: A study by LIvePerson shows that 71% of visitors expect help within 5 minutes when making an online purchase. And, 45% of consumers in the US will drop an online transaction if they can’t get a timely resolution.
While speed isn’t always the most important factor in delivering good support, it is a factor.
We’re living in an on-demand world where people are used to getting the information they want, when they want it. Customer support is no different.
Common causes: Part of slow problem resolution stems from finding the right person who can handle the issue. A customer’s first point of contact may not have the necessary resources or authority to fix an issue, which means they need to transfer the problem to someone who does.A poor hand-off process can let issues slip through the cracks or not provide the assigned support rep with enough information to resolve the issue. This is a common issue when support teams are handling requests out of a shared email inbox.
How to fix it: As your support team grows, consider investing in a helpdesk solution that allows team members to triage, categorize and assign support tickets across the organization.
Tickets need to be assigned based on priority, with availability and level of expertise taken into account.
Support team members should not be sifting through email chains trying to piece together a support request. Reps need to be able to quickly access a customer’s prior interactions, across multiple support channels, in order to get context and personalize the support experience.
Automations can also be set up so that certain ticket categories (eg. feature requests, technical issues, billing errors etc..) are assigned to specific subject matter experts on your team. This ensures tickets are only being viewed by the people most qualified to resolve the issue.
In the world of customer support, context is everything, especially when it comes to resolution speed.
Data: In a study that asked customers what annoys them the most, 37% of participants mentioned they don’t like being “passed around.” That is, going from one rep to another, having to rehash the issue each time, without getting any closer to actually solving the problem.
We’ve all been there. And it’s frustrating as hell!
Common causes: In most cases it comes down to one of the following:
How to fix it: Use an automated tagging system to ensure all support requests are routed to the right support team member. For example, technical issues should not be sent to the billing department :)
Also, some problems are going to be more complex than others. Sometimes you’ll encounter an issue that is unprecedented, and will require input from multiple sources to reach a resolution.
In cases like this, it must be easy for your customers and agents to collaborate. Think of it as a live chat thread on every ticket. Customers can chat with staff, submit questions, screenshots and other information to help resolve the problem.
Similarly, agents can collaborate with one another directly within the ticket rather than assigning and reassigning the support ticket. This reduces the risk of key information slipping through the cracks.
At a bare minimum, all staff should be able to reassign tickets to proper personnel.
Data: A study from Bain and Company;discovered customers are four times more likely to buy from your competitor if their problem is service-related versus a price- or product-related issue.
The phrase, “no news is good news” does not hold true when it comes to customer support. Customers who have no idea if anything is being done to solve their problem are likely to feel neglected, frustrated and compelled to take their business elsewhere. .
Common causes:Support emails fall through the cracks.
As we already touched on, there are major limitations to using a shared inbox for customer support.
The biggest limitation?
Emails get lost, land in the spam folder, bounce or get accidentally deleted. And without proper assignment and tracking, no one is ever held accountable.
This problem compounds as support teams grow and tickets start to flood the inbox.
How to fix it: I don't want to sound like broken record, but...
Make sure every support ticket is assigned to the right person! Use category and tagging rules to automate the process.
More importantly, make sure support staff are able to get a universal view of the entire ticketing ecosystem in one place - conversation history, priority level, status updates, and due dates.
For example, a support manager might want to view only the tickets categorized as "in-progress", and see which reps are assigned to them. This level of transparency helps to keep the entire team accountable.
Data: In one study, 37% of customers felt better after a bad support experience when they were offered something of monetary value, such as a credit or refund. But when the company added an apology to the compensation, satisfaction rates doubled to 74%.
Common causes:Some companies believe offering an apology means admitting fault or acknowledging they’re providing bad service. Few people like to admit when they're wrong. No one likes to apologize when they know they didn’t do anything wrong.
How to fix it:Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, you can still be sorry about the way the customer feels.
Throw ego out the door.
You should be genuinely sorry when your customers are upset, whether it is your fault or not. Let them know that. Make this empathetic response a part of every negative support interaction.
Data: Half of consumers prefer to seek out their own answers, while 70% of customers expect a company to offer a self-service feature on their website.
(i.e Most people would rather avoid contacting a support rep to get their questions answered).
Common Causes: Companies don’t fully understand the most common support questions, or don’t have the budget and resources to develop and update a robust knowledge base.
How to fix it: Good self-service support is more than a static FAQ. Instead, try including a searchable knowledge base that will return relevant answers based on the keywords entered in the customer’s query.
Also, to ensure the knowledge base is continually updated, make it easy for support staff to answer a question and quickly post it to the knowledge base.
Data:Rude, incompetent, rushed service has been cited as the number one reason why customers abandon business with a company.
People want a better experience when dealing with real people – in fact, they expect it.
Common causes:Professionalism is often mistaken for formality, but it’s entirely possible to be both informal and professional. Many companies use scripts and guides to ensure their reps say the right things, which works for some purposes, but completely fails when it comes to sounding empathetic.
Bottom line: Using the right tone in customer service is critical.
But, the right tone is not always a casual tone.
65% of online customers - across all ages and genders - prefer a casual service tone over a formal one, but the numbers swing significantly in the opposite direction when a customer is being denied a request.
78% said an overly casual tone with slang has a negative impact on the customer experience when a rep is denying a request.
How to fix it: Pay attention to the context of your support interactions, and model tone accordingly.
For the most part, casual tone will perform better. But, in the cases you are dealing with a pissed off customer, switch to a more formal tone, acknowledge and empathize with the issue, and always make the customer feel like you are taking their request seriously.
Data: Mobile internet traffic has surpassed desktop, and the gap continues to widen.
WOW local marketing indicated 52% of customers are less likely to work with a company if they have a bad mobile experience.
Despite this, Software Advice reports 90% of customers mention having at least one poor experience getting support on a mobile device.
Common Causes:Companies are slow to adopt a mobile-first mindset.
How to fix it: Today’s customers use their mobile device for everything. From research and purchasing to customer support. Your mobile strategy needs to synchronize with the customer journey.
Adopt a mobile-first customer service approach, make sure your website is mobile-friendly (duh, Robbie!), and ensure all support channels - email, chat, web, knowledge base - are accessible across mobile devices.
Also - ensure your support staff are able to respond to tickets from any device
Data: For every customer who complains, there are about 26 others who don’t say a word. I.e. most businesses only hear from about 4% of unhappy customers.
Even worse, 13% of dissatisfied customerswill tell upwards of 15 people about a poor support experience.
Unhappy customers are silent assassins. Don’t let the silence fool you.
Common causes:Some customers will never tell you about a poor experience, even if you outright ask them.
But, often the lack of feedback is due to an inadequate However, more customers might be willing to share their thoughts if they knew how. Not every company uses a client feedback loop, and some of the ones who do don’t know how to leverage that data to make improvements.
How to fix it:Be proactive.
Don’t wait to put out the fires. Regularly collect feedback from your customers in order to gain insight into the performance of your support operations.
An NPS survey is a bare minimum.
If you find that someone had a negative experience with your company, be sure to reach out, apologize and do everything you can to make it right.
Customers who complain are giving you an insanely valuable gift: insight into what is making many more customers unhappy than just the ones who chose to inform you.
Data: 80% of companies believed they delivered excellent customer service.
But, only 8% of customers agreed.
How to fix it: Establish a clearly defined set of KPIs to measure support performance at each level of the organization - agent and organization.
Here are the metrics other support professionals are using.
Start by creating a customer feedback loop that solicits information from your customers.
Tracking things like resolution time can highlight efficiency. Monitoring ticket types can identify the areas in your company causing customers the most headaches - billing, technical issues etc. - so resources can be appropriately allocated.
Every company will be different, but remember, just because it is measureable does not mean it is meaningful.
82% of customers have left a company because of a bad customer service experience.
Just like great support is a magnet for new customers, crappy support will repel them before you even know they exist.
“Is a poor customer experience sending customers to my competition?”
Looking at the common mishaps shown above will likely give you the answer, and a solution to the problem.