Why Customer Support Teams Need Extra Love
It’s probably not surprising that the best customer support experience I’ve ever had was with Amazon. The company is known for setting the bar on customer delight, and with good reason.
The Royal Customer Treatment
In this particular instance, my order was marked “delivered”, yet was nowhere to be found. I had just treated myself to a stylish new leather backpack. Of course the one thing to ever go missing was worth hundreds of dollars!So, I went into my online Amazon account and asked for help. Less than five minutes later, I was on the phone with a representative. The agent knew my name and the order item I was calling about. I told him my panicked story of how this big-ticket item never arrived and asked whether I could get a refund or a new backpack.
That’s when the agent said: “I can see you’re a loyal customer, so I’ll do both.” You read that right. I got a full refund and a new backpack shipped to me immediately. Less than ten minutes after hanging up, I could see this change reflected in my Amazon account. My mood quickly shifted from frustration to being one very happy camper.
I realize that I’ve been spoiled by companies like Amazon and Netflix (haven't we all?) but I’ve come to expect this level of service. I don’t mean getting free stuff, but clear help directions. I don’t want to call more than once and talk to more than one person. The agent on the line should be able to identify me and my problem fast.
However, working in the CX world has also made me acutely aware of how much effort it takes to make all that happen. Behind the scenes, customer support teams and contact center agents are fighting a hard battle to meet the demands of impatient, exacting customers like yours truly.
Not many companies can compete with Amazon’s sheer size and resources, but even so, almost all businesses are expected to meet this standard of customer care. The only way to keep up is to support and invest in customer-facing teams.
Customer support behind the scenes
Today, the customer support department is no longer seen as a cost center. It’s not an inconvenient tax of doing business, but rather the key to retention. Consider that 67% of customer churn could be avoided if the business resolved the customer’s issue during the first interaction. Effective service is crucial. According to Deloitte, 46% of businesses answered that in two years, customer satisfaction would be most important, even above revenue.
Meanwhile, the subscription-based business model has been gaining traction, both for software and physical products. As many as 15% of online shoppers have signed up for one or more subscriptions to receive products on a recurring basis. With this new business model comes an emphasis on up-selling and cross-selling. Each interaction is make-or-break when customers can easily leave at any time, or choose to forego additional services.
These changes put pressure on customer-facing teams to delight customers and keep up with evolving trends and expectations, faster.
The evolving customer support role
Back in the days of yore, agents were just expected to answer routine questions. The most successful agents could answer a huge volume of repetitive inquiries while remaining empathetic in the face of often demanding or irate customers.Now, agents have to resolve more complex, high-stakes problems. Products, services and customers are all getting increasingly sophisticated, so reps must do the same. Just think back to the last time you had a pressing problem as a customer: it wasn’t because you didn’t visit the company website or try to solve things yourself. You need a person to help you when technology — and all else — fails.
In response, customer support teams are using more and more software systems. For instance, two-thirds of the agents surveyed in this contact center study use at least five software programs. This constant multitasking equates to less focus on any given task and can also lead to burnout. A staggering 74% of contact center agents are at risk of burnout.
It’s not that software tools are inherently evil, they’re just not a complete solution. To succeed, agents need their employer to stand behind them, providing support, training and trust. Agents must have easy access to all relevant information so they can respond to customer inquiries quickly and accurately. According to the Microsoft State of Global Customer Service report, the most frustrating aspect of a poor customer service experience is an agent that lacks the knowledge or ability to solve the customer’s issue.
This is why knowledge management systems like Guru are in high demand. Instead of sifting through multiple programs, agents have access to all the actionable information they need quickly, from one single source.
A company-wide conversation
As support agents answer complex questions, they often spend more time with each customer, taking them through step-by-step processes or creating custom solutions. This kind of close engagement with customers means frontline agents possess unique business insights.
For example, the CEO of TaskUs, a customer experience outsourcing company, explained that his employees are a source of regular feedback. TaskUs customer support agents provide the basis for advising businesses on how to improve products and efficiency.
“Today, people are looking for their outsourcing partner to add value, because we are the ones on the front lines talking to customers,”
- Jaspar Weir, CEO of TaskUs
Inviting agents into broader company strategy planning opens the door to innovation, not just from the top-down. Since customer preferences change at the speed of a TikTok dance routine, companies need to get their information straight from the source.
Permission to Fail
Going beyond simply listening to agent feedback, adaptable companies trust customer-facing teams to experiment and even fail.
Weir said that his company “hosts regular hack-a-thons” where contact center agents are encouraged to automate their own workstreams. After all, no one has a better understanding of what takes the most time and energy when serving customers.
This approach has to be endorsed by company leadership, allowing the customer service department to make suggestions and adjustments to processes. For example, with the advent of low-code platforms like Airkit, these teams can even be part of creating new digital customer experiences. Whereas before, new customer apps might have taken months to deploy, this technology allows for launch in only days. Companies can capitalize on customer feedback by testing and iterating different tools and experiences, to arrive at the most efficient strategy.
No matter what tools your company adopts, dedicating care and resources to your customer support team should be a cornerstone. It’s an investment bound to pay off.