If there’s one area that can get your business ahead of the competition, it’s truly exceptional customer service. That’s no surprise — Tech support can be a painful experience for customers. If your brand can resolve issues quickly and effectively, customer support can deliver substantial benefits, value, and returns for your business.
Customer service helps you differentiate yourself — It creates happier customers and builds a positive reputation that you truly care. Done well, great customer service will lead to advocacy and referrals, improving your turnover and bottom line.
The question is, just how do you enhance your customer service and support functions to make them as good as they can be? While there are hundreds of ways you can tweak and enhance customer service, it’s all based on one foundation
Truly Understanding Your Customers and Their Needs
Although this seems obvious, it’s surprising how many businesses just don’t get it right.
Perhaps customer service and marketing should talk?
One area that can really help you polish your customer service is to look at your marketing department. Your marketing operation is completely focussed on understanding your customers and their needs, and they invest a great deal of time, effort, and money into getting that right.
It might be time for your support team to take a look at what marketing are doing and see if it might work for them. You can do this through:
- Building “personas” for the type of customers you’re supporting.
- Collecting datasets about your personas and using “big data analytics” to improve and deliver more personalized, better streamlined technical support.
Building Personas in Customer Service
If you’ve ever been involved with marketing, you understand the concept of customer personas. Simply put, they’re a way to define a segment of your customer base through identifying traits and behaviour patterns.
Personas shouldn’t just be limited to marketing. Building them for the types of people who use customer support can be incredibly helpful as well. It gives you a better understanding of a customer’s service needs, and ensures you meet them effectively in a personalized way
Three Examples of Customer Support Personas
James — An Entrepreneur Starting Up His First Business
James just needs the products and services he uses to work, and they need to work now. He’s relying on them to build his business, and even small issues cause him big problems. He’s distracted by a thousand things and needs a fix, and fast. He’s constantly glued to his smartphone, and doesn’t have time to call customer service and – spend time on hold, only to be passed around. He wants to report an issue online, get it sorted out ASAP, and be notified on his phone as soon as it’s fixed.
Sarah — An Undergrad Student Studying Away from Home
Sarah is deeply involved in her academic studies. She spends much of her days in front of a computer screen. Sara is a typical Millennial — Tech savvy, and if something goes wrong she will do everything she can to avoid contacting support. She will do her own research, restart the device, go through FAQ pages, see troubleshooting videos and seek out advice. She believes she can handle 99% of tech problems faster than calling tech support, and she is right. By the time Sarah gets to contact your support through Twitter it’s because she thinks your self service doesn’t work and she is upset.
Clare — A Stay-at-Home Mom
Clare is a stay-at-home mom in her early thirties, with a toddler and an infant child. There are huge demands on her time and she is constantly busy. When she needs support she goes directly to the phone and does it with an infant on her other hand. She has no time for Google, or two hands for chat. She waits on hold while she is boiling water and won’t get off the phone with the representative until her wifi connection is back up.
Clare, James & Sarah are three examples of support personas — Each of them has specific traits, needs, and patterns of support. Once you identify them, you can predict the best path to resolution for each. This means you should tweak your customer support processes to respond to their needs and create a satisfying experience for them.
Using Big Data to Find Out About Your Customers
Big data analytics is the process of analyzing very large datasets and pulling out trends and insight that can drive good business decisions. It’s the process to use when building your customer personas.
You already collect a wealth of information about your customers — Their name, age, gender, contact preferences, home and work address, marital and employment status, product purchase, and support patterns. This information is the first step towards getting your customer support personas right.
Here are some examples on how you can define and explore your customer data to help understand your customer personas:
- The customer’s method for contacting support — Whether it’s by phone, email, chat, social media, your app or website. A customer’s first point of engagement when contacting support is a strong differentiator between the different personas. Different personas will prefer different channels.
- The customer’s location when contacting support as well as their home address — Upscale business districts will have different patterns to universities and residential areas. Calls coming from Silicon Valley will be different to the ones coming from Madison, Wisconsin.
- The customer’s age and gender — Men and women have different approaches to customer service, and there can also be a generational divide.
- The customer’s social and economic status — Income level, occupation, employment history, marital status and so forth are all relevant information.
The more information you have, and the more accurate your analysis is, the greater insight you will gain into predicting your personas support needs.
Using Existing Customer Support Data
One of the most important aspects of personas is understanding how they’re supported already. That means collecting data about support patterns & history. For each engagement you need to gather as much information as you can:
- Initial description of the problem.
- Analysis and troubleshooting steps.
- The path to resolution and final fix.
- Channels used to contact customer service.
By combining customer data with support patterns you can come up with powerful insights about your customers and their needs. This lets you deliver a more responsive, personalized, and successful support experience.
Here are two major areas to focus in when it comes to personalizing your customer support processes.
How do you direct the customer’s initial engagement when they contact customer service? How do you direct different personas to the right support channel? You could use IVR, live agents, chatbots, call back systems, knowledge bases, social media monitoring, or any one of dozens of options.
What solutions and resources are best for the customer in a given situation? While some customers respond well to advanced technologies (such as visual support or chatbots) others may not. While some customers like advanced self-service options others may prefer a live agent.
What will integrating customer personas into your customer support look like?
Remember Sarah, the university student? Here’s how you could support her.
The next time Sarah connects via chat from Stanford University, your insights show that a user who engage via chat, at midnight PST, who is in their early 20s, and has an @stanford.edu email are likely to have a complicated problem.
You will direct her straightway to a tier 2 expert. He will assume she’s gone through self service and will offer visual support connection to analyze the issue and get Sarah up and running within minutes. This superior support journey sends Sarah right back to Twitter, reporting her excellent experience to her 4000 followers…
Using big data analytics isn’t easy, but each small improvement will move the needle a little. It’s a process of continual improvement — Identifying your personas, finding the right data, analyzing that data, making improvements, and measuring again. Once you identify customer support patterns and get the right interactions and touch points in place and incorporate them in real time into your CRM, you can deliver truly outstanding customer service.
That means standing out from your competitors, building trust in your brand, creating a great reputation, getting customer advocates, and ultimately selling more products and services.
Stay tuned for our next post on the subject to learn who are the companies that today are shaping the future of big data analytics in call centers.