6 Ways to Improve Customer Support With Technology

customer-support-technology_1-01_large2Customer support has traditionally been one of the most high-touch areas of operation for many businesses, conjuring up images of call centers full of live operators, on-site service visits from expert technicians and other people-intensive activities. And while those scenarios continue to play an important role in successful customer support, they’re increasingly being supplemented by – and sometimes even supplanted by – technology. The right technology can help improve the support you provide and, at the same time, reduce your cost to provide it.

Here are six examples of how you can use technology to enrich your customer support capabilities.

1. Build an online knowledge base.

When customers have questions or problems related to products or services, they appreciate being able to find answers or solutions quickly, without having to wait on hold for a representative, call back during regular business hours or schedule a service call. By building an online knowledge base, you provide a convenient source of help and information to customers. And as you enrich the knowledge base by adding more answers over time, you improve your ability to address their needs both effectively and cost-efficiently. For example, our Answerbase product has an “auto suggest” feature that reaches into the growing base of information to quickly present possible answers when users submit new inquiries. Among our clients, we’ve found that 30% of online questions on average are answered this way.

2. Provide social support.

Customers are increasingly engaging with companies on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media for customer service. In fact, 39-43% of consumers 18-49 years old use social media for service interactions. It’s well worth devoting resources to monitor and provide speedy responses to customers’ questions and concerns on social media. This may be a dedicated community manager or, for smaller companies, someone who performs the job along with other responsibilities. In either case, this is another area in which a knowledge base can help deliver service both effectively and cost-efficiently, by having answers to common questions organized for easy reference in a social media interaction.

3. Consider online chat.

Online chat with service representatives can be extremely satisfying for customers who are engaging with your company online. In fact, live chat has a 73% satisfaction rating for customer service, more than email or phone. But it only works if you do it right – which means making sure representatives are available when customers need them and not being too eager to contact customers proactively. Otherwise, online chat can backfire as customers become impatient and irritated. When done right, however, online chat can improve the support experience. And, along with traditional phone support, it’s definitely an area where a complementary knowledge base software will help deliver a satisfying experience by enabling service representatives to find information for customers quickly.

4. Enhance phone support.

Phone support may not be the first support channel you think of when you think of technology, but technology does provide new ways to enhance this traditional and necessary channel for support, as well as to help control the costs associated with it. Like online chat, phone support is a double-edged sword – embraced by customers when it’s done right and loathed by them when it’s not. Certainly not every company can afford the luxury of answering every call with a live operator, but today’s contact center technology can help take phone support up a notch without breaking the bank. Even something as simple as providing the option for a callback, or advising callers how long their hold time will be, can make a big difference.

5. Use analytics to your advantage.

One of the great advantages of technology-driven customer support is that you have a digital record of so many interactions. That’s data you can use to track and analyze how you’re doing. You can determine which channels are working, which aren’t and why; identify your highest (and lowest) performing team members and take steps to reward or motivate them; measure costs against results; and much more. It can be hard to know where to start if you haven’t done customer service analytics before, but don’t get overwhelmed – there’s helpful information available to assist in identifying and applying key metrics. As you consider different options for support software – whether for online, phone or social support – be sure that any solution you choose makes it easy to retrieve the data from customer support interactions.

6. Motivate your team.

Technology can help keep your support team in top form. Providing tech-driven resources to help people do their jobs more effectively and efficiently – as described in the first four points above – can be a major morale booster. You can also use analytics to reallocate workloads in a more balanced way, which not only makes operations more efficient but helps avoid inadvertently overworking teams. And incorporating gamification into incentive programs is a great way to provide daily motivation.

Today, technology is making it possible to deliver customer support in more ways than ever – and to deliver it better and at a lower cost. Take maximum advantage of this new reality with a multi-channel approach that combines tech-defined channels like social support and live chat with traditional (but tech-enhanced) phone support. You’ll give customers the support choices they want, and you won’t go broke doing it.