How to Ensure That Your Customer Service Chatbots Meet Customers’ Expectations: 5 Tips and Considerations

Keeping up with your customers’ demand gets tougher without automations such as customer service chatbots. As your business starts to grow, without the right tools, your customer service can suffer. And you might end up losing your customers in the process.

If you struggle to accommodate their needs, it’s a sign that you have to level up your customer service. You need customer service chatbot software to automate your operations.

What are Customer Service Chatbots?

Customer Service Chatbots are programs that automate conversations and interactions with customers through messaging platforms. You usually encounter them when visiting a business website via a pop-up message that would appear on the bottom of your screen.

Other businesses also use chatbots to man their help desk ticketing systems, customer support channels, and even their social media accounts.

With today’s technology, a chatbot can serve as a stand-in for live agents. It can effectively assist customers in solving issues, answering queries, and recommending relevant products.

It has even come to a point where customers won’t notice they are talking to a chatbot instead of a live customer representative. This allows you to automate your customer service operations and make them more efficient. With that, 78% of businesses are integrating chatbots into their customer service operations.

Why Do You Need Customer Service Chatbots?

Nowadays, automation is critical for business growth. It ensures you can keep up with changing demands as you attract more customers to your business, especially in customer service.

Customers can easily get frustrated and impatient if they have to wait too long for a customer representative to assist them. Fortunately, customer service chatbots can greatly reduce waiting time for your customers and improve the overall customer experience.

You can use it to man your help desk and automatically provide support upon demand. In fact, some of the best helpdesk software already has a chatbot feature to help you save up on time and operation costs.

Chatbots do more than just automate your customer service.

You can also use it to collect and leverage data from your customers. It can extract and store data from its interactions and conversations with customers which you can then turn into valuable insights for your business. This allows you to understand your customers better, learn about their behaviors, and more. Improving your customer service through chatbots can also boost sales. It can help promote your products and services to website visitors and keep customers engaged with your brand. You can use it to become more proactive with your customer service instead of just waiting for your customers to come to you.

 

How to Implement Customer Service Chatbots?

1. Take Advantage of AI

More customer service chatbots use AI and machine learning technology to improve customer interactions. This feature allows the chatbot to learn from past conversations by studying customer behaviors, speech patterns, and reactions.

It processes such information and implements changes in its system so that it can adjust its behavior accordingly. The best perk of using AI-powered chatbots is that they can do all these with minimal human intervention. According to Statista, 57% of businesses have adopted AI-powered and machine learning software solutions to improve their customer service. Compared to rule-based chatbots, AI-powered ones have the capacity to expand their capabilities to accommodate your customers’ demands. So even when conversations stray from their usual programming and pre-defined rules, they can adjust accordingly.

2. Give your customer service chatbot character

Customers may find it uncomfortable when they realize they are talking to a machine instead of a live agent. So it’s best if you add enough personality and character to your bot to make them sound natural and casual.

You can do this by programming your chatbot to speak and behave in certain ways. For example, you can make your chatbot use emojis when interacting with customers. You can also personalize their responses so that they would be different depending on what type of customer they are talking to. For instance, you can make them sound more sympathetic in case of complaints or cheerful when promoting a product.

Some customer service chatbot software allows you to create a definite character for your bot. You can give it a name, an avatar, and a personality. Just remember that your chatbots are usually the first touchpoints that customers would encounter with your brand. Make sure that when creating your chatbot’s character, it would capture your company’s brand and identity.

3. Add extensive protocols

Before you start using your customer service chatbot, it’s important that you set it up first. You do this by inputting different protocols, commands, and responses into its system which it would use in its interactions with customers.

Fortunately, this doesn’t require extensive knowledge in programming and coding. Chatbot software makes it easier to add these protocols to your chatbot. So don’t skimp out when adding responses and commands to your chatbot. Make it as comprehensive and in-depth as you can get. This way, your chatbot can handle even complex cases and questions.

Likewise, don’t forget to update your protocols every now and then. This means adding new responses especially if these are answers to frequently asked questions. You can also update the way your customer service chatbot speaks and behaves so that it can build better rapport with your customers. You can also use data to find out how you can improve customer support and your help desk via your chatbot.

4. Provide human backup

There can be instances where your customers’ concerns are too complex for your chatbot to handle. So when a conversation starts to shift beyond your chatbot’s programming, it’s best if you hand the customer over to a live agent. This way, you can avoid wasting your customer’s time and focus on resolving the issue at hand.

Having human-based support for your chatbot ensures that you can fully accommodate your customers’ needs. Your live agents serve as a backup in case things get hairy between your chatbot and customer.

Some customer service chatbot software can automatically transfer the conversation to your live agent upon the demand of the customer. This can be done via a set of conditions or triggers during the conversation itself. Once these conditions are met, the software will hand the customer over to your support team. It can even route it to agents depending on how many customers they currently have to accommodate or how good they are at solving issues. This automated feature can also help you create more proactive customer service.

5. Integrate with other solutions

A chatbot can be a great source of data for your business. Integrating it with other business solutions allows you to maximize the use of that data for other aspects of your operations. For example, you can integrate your chatbot with your other tools like your help desk software, marketing software, or customer relationship management system.

Integration is one of the best help desk software migration tips that you can do. Through integration, migrating your data from your chatbot’s interactions with customers to your help desk software is a lot more seamless and faster. This also applies to other software as well. So even when you are using multiple tools for your customer service, you’re sure that you are using the same information across all your platforms.

Consider integrating your chatbots with platforms where your customers tend to contact you. For example, you can integrate it with your website or your social media channel. You can also connect your chatbot to your virtual help desk. You can check out which help desk solutions are compatible with chatbot software by comparing help desk tools.

Choosing the right software for your business

There are various customer service chatbot software available in the market. Each one offers different features that could help improve your customer service. But keep in mind that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all software. So when choosing the right chatbot for your business, make sure to find one that would fit your organization.

Choose a software that is compatible with your current customer service system and help desk system. And if you think that your current help desk system is too outdated to support chatbots, you can check out a guide to switching help desks.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and see what chatbots have to offer to your business.

Why Is Frontline Support Important to Drive Sales?

You may think that customers are the backbone of your business, and you’d be right. But you’re forgetting the frontline support, the people who make your customers satisfied with their purchases.

These people are called frontline support workers and are responsible for maintaining brand image, answering customer queries, and managing all issues related to customer satisfaction.

Without these valuable workers, your business couldn’t maintain its brand equity. But if frontline workers are so important, can anyone be a frontline support worker, or can people with training in customer service only act as frontline workers?

In this post, we’ll understand the role of frontline support workers, realize why they are essential to your company, and who can become a frontline worker.

 

Who Are Frontline Support Workers?

Frontline support refers to the support agents of your customer service department that customers get in direct contact with. These agents are a tremendous asset to any company, representing your whole organization in real-time.

They allow your brand to retain customers, reduce churn, maintain equity, and ensure return on investment (ROI).

 

What Are the Responsibilities of Frontline Support Workers?

Frontline support workers have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, including:

  • They Act as Brand Representatives

Frontline workers need to give customers a good impression of the company and be knowledgeable in all possible company domains.

As a result, they must be generalists and have a broad understanding of the company’s products and related problems, queries, and general procedures.

  • They Answer Customer Queries

Frontline workers answer customers contacting the company’s help desk for any complaints. Moreover, these support agents also screen questions before transferring them to other departments if needed.

  • They Collect Customer Information and Feedback

Frontline support agents convey relevant customer information to the concerned departments. They are also responsible for getting customer feedback.

 

The Importance of Frontline Support

Frontline support is the backbone of good customer service in any company. Good customer support sets you apart from your competition in a cutthroat market.

When one-third of the consumers say that they would consider switching companies because of one bad customer service experience, and 39% say they will avoid a company for two years after a bad customer service experience, the need for frontline support becomes evident.

However, frontline support workers usually do not get the due recognition or support they require from their companies. Many frontline staff is present in a company, and often, they are left alone to deal with the wide range of customers on their own.

According to Harvard Business School’s report, 43% of the companies are not empowering their support workers with adequate tools for their business needs, and only 7% of organizations shared that they do have some tools for their customer services practices.

So, how do companies ensure that they support their frontline support staff and that the rich communication resource that the support workers handle is not just ignored or forgotten when it comes to company growth and bettering customer relations?

The answer is bringing the experience of frontline support work to everyone within the company. Rotating out this role for a limited time to everyone has massive benefits for the company’s ideology towards customer support, ensuring everyone is on the same page about the company’s vision.

 

Why Should Every Employee Have Frontline Support Experience?

There are several reasons why every employee in your company should have frontline support experience, including:

  • It Allows Brands to Provide Better Customer Service

A huge plus of letting all employees serve in customer service at some point is the improvement in the customer service department.

Dedicated frontline workers have traditionally been carrying the weight of providing excellent customer support. Still, this support can be enhanced through the knowledge and different perspectives of employees from other departments.

A product engineer, for example, could go beyond the customer service script and “how-to guides” and provide more in-depth solutions to possible customers’ problems and confusions.

  • It Helps Brands to Gain Invaluable Insights

Another advantage of having workers from different departments working on the frontline support is closing the customer gap, allowing the employees to connect with the users.

These connections lead to real-life learning and invaluable feedback to the company. For example, a marketing officer will learn more about the nuances of selling the product to the customers if they are given a chance to deal with customer queries.

Similarly, engineers can learn what customers want from their products and directly use these insights to make upgrades in the product roadmaps.

  • It Makes Customer Support More Efficient

In customer service and all other departments, we know that routine procedures can become traditions, even obsolete ones, leaving no room for innovation.

So, having different people with various skill sets work as frontline support helps new and improved methods emerge.

This change can come from product developers improving solution guides to marketers enhancing the call script to attract customers in a better way.

  • It Aids Brands in Recognizing the Importance of Frontline Workers

Another unmatched advantage of having all employees try frontline support work is its impact on the company culture. The frontline workers get the recognition and respect that they deserve.

All departments come to appreciate customer services and, in the future, be more mindful of what the frontline workers require from them.

 

The Takeaway

Frontline support is crucial for any business, as it allows them to gain valuable insights, quickly satisfy customer complaints and queries, and realize which customer pain points to target.

But when everyone in the company undergoes a temporary frontline customer service experience, the insights gained from customer-company interaction aren’t just limited to the CS sphere.

Engineers can gain insights that make their designs better suited to the market, marketers realize the customer pain points they need to target to drive brand equity, and customers get all their technical queries answered.

So, ultimately, having all workers try frontline support drives the company forward from all angles.

How B2B start-ups should approach customer support

Delivering customer support, particularly for B2B start-ups, is an incredibly difficult thing to get right and implement well. Supporting customers is vastly different in the B2C than it is in the B2B and requires completely different strategies and tools for your customers to have a great experience.

Let’s talk about a few key approaches to support that your start-up should take when implementing your support department.

In a B2B start-up, customer support is the frontline to understanding your customer’s experience with your brand and your product (and will ultimately dictate sales/revenue). It drives how you build solutions, how you market your business, how you sell and position your platform, and if you are really good at it, creates customers that do the selling for you by creating reviews, blogging, and sharing their stories about you on social media.

The most important decision to make at the start is how your customers should reach you. The way your customers reach you is called a communication channel. The one key learning I have found is to pick one and only one channel for customers to reach you and dominate on that channel. The reason for this is that each method of communication has its benefits and drawbacks and requires a different set of skills and as a start-up, to maximize resources, you want to focus on one skill set.

For instance:

Phone conversations require someone who is outgoing, can handle conversations well, and can think under pressure.

Live chat requires someone with good soft skills in spelling, and grammar, who can think on their feet, and multi-task.

Email requires someone with good communication skills in spelling, grammar, and time management, and who can methodically create responses to problems that anyone can understand and follow.

By picking one channel to focus on, you can effectively control it, improve on it, and most importantly set your customers’ expectations on how their relationship is going to be with you. Your customers will notice and appreciate knowing exactly what to expect and when and not the channel itself.

Most B2B businesses toy with phone and chat as a primary channel, but soon find it’s not a scalable solution and quickly goes back to what almost all B2B businesses rely on: email. Email allows you to focus on priority issues, gives you time to gather the right information, set customer expectations, and record the solution to be used later.

Focusing on one channel, will:

  • – Let your team shine in one particular skill set and improve on it.
  • – Set your customers’ expectations by funneling them into a place you can control.
  • – Allow you to scale that channel.

 

The second most important aspect to implement is knowledge storage. In the same way, Sales has CRMs to track purchase history, Ticketing systems must track conversational history. The recording and

keeping of all Support related problems and their solutions are integral to building institutional knowledge that is passed down to new employees, product managers, salespeople, and even customers.

Building knowledge helps your team:

  • – get up to speed with your products faster.
  • – not re-invent solutions over and over again.
  • – deflect customers by allowing them to find answers on their own.

 

Thirdly as a B2B start-up, customer health is hugely important and needs to be measured and tracked as relationships have a direct correlation with churn.

85% of consumers churn because of poor service that could have been prevented. (Kolsky)

B2B businesses typically have higher value customers who pay more for their products/services and have long-term relationships with them. Customer support agents in B2B will know intimate things about the people support: whether they’re married or have children, what sports teams they cheer for, and many more things you wouldn’t expect them to know. I knew someone so well, that years after I left a company, they visited my city and they looked me up to go for a drink. Because of these close relationships, it is vital you know how your team is supporting them, how positive these interactions are, where you are failing, and get notified if something changes in those relationships.

Track your relationships by:

  • – Collecting net promoter scores
  • – Gathering customer satisfaction scores
  • – Recording customer effort scores
  • – Analyzing sentiment and emotional responses from customers
  • – Analyzing KPIs such as response and resolution times
  • – Keeping notes on customer behavior

 

Keeping track and building this type of institutional knowledge seems like a lot, but if you plan for and implement a solution that can handle these complexities at the start, it’s easy to build and grow into.

The key takeaways are:

  • – Choose one channel to support your customers and dominate that channel.
  • – Store as much knowledge as possible on answered customer questions within a knowledge base.
  • – Customer support is a key business pillar and is direct insight into your customer relationships and revenue retention.

 

Author: Eric Klimuk, CTO and founder of Supportbench. Customer support and retention platform specializing in the B2B

Leveraging the Power of Proactive Customer Service

The first step in resolving any proactive customer service complaint is to set up a relationship with the company. If your company employees are always calling, emailing, or texting complaining customers, their relationship with you isn’t ideal.

They’re the only ones who know your company’s standard and want to make your business an easy place to work. The first step to fixing a customer ‘s relationship with your company is establishing a relationship and asking questions.

1. Set up a system to investigate complaints.

Make sure that your company is taking the time to set up a complaint investigation process and make sure you have a system in place to hand it out to customers when they call in a complaint. The complainant and the first party will be the focus, but as a business owner, your company must be on the same page.

Use different timelines for different parts of the investigation. For example, if a complaint is called in at 1 p.m. and you’re still late to the office at 6 p.m., they may still get support from you. “Set up a system for monitoring actions you take to make complaints less likely to occur in the future,” says Michael Schneier, Head of Operations at Hilliard Brands Group. “This allows you to take proactive steps to address issues in a timely manner to make those complaints less likely to occur in the future. ”

Take notes of what your employees are doing, and reference the written procedures that specify when and how they will respond to customers who have issues. In addition, find ways to assist the complainant and make sure that they have a voice in the decision-making process.

Take notes of what does and doesn’t sit right with a company representative.

2. Stand behind your IT systems and procedures.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: IT should be the first line of defense for your company. Your IT department should be aware of everything that you are doing to your customer service infrastructure. “To the extent that your IT is present and helpfully supporting your company , your customers will hopefully be benefiting,” says Jason Park, Director of Operations at Freshness Software, a provider of software solutions.

3. Track complaints internally.

The same goes for customers. They need to be aware of any problems they have with the customer service process. This will be the first step in resolving the customer’s relationship with your company. Locate the complaints that your customers have to go through and track what happens within the system, according to Park.

When your business is ready to address the complaints, the issue can be identified, either as “happy-hour” or “problem-solving” depending on how the customer does their job, say the experts.

Do this before you write any notes or recommendations to your manager in order to improve a proactive customer service

4. Respond quickly.

If you don’t find your customers’ problems solved within the first 24 hours after receiving a complaint, you’ll need to be fast to solve the issue. There’s nothing more annoying than waiting several days for help to arrive or when they appear to be receiving a lot of complaints. These excuses will generally be unfounded, and if a customer can’t be right all the time, they’ll turn to you.

5. Show your understanding.

If your customers keep complaining and the brand doesn’t understand their concerns, or even tries to hide them, your customers aren’t likely to keep coming back. Some companies don’t share their real feelings when dealing with customers, but your company should do so. If they don’t, you should respond to them often and without the need for intermediaries. If a customer does call your company in a complaint, let them know the truth.

Even if they feel helpless, they can still voice a concern and you will hear back.

6. Refer questions to other departments.

If a company starts to have issues with their customer service, consider outsourcing some of the skills they’re hiring as employees. You should also get help from other departments that can help you develop an appropriate response for customers.

7. Be transparent about situations.

When a company gets ready to fix the same issues with their customers, it’s important to give them some time to react and test their processes. They’ll likely have a lengthy message to send, so it’s important to notify them as soon as they have their first feedback.

Supportbench unifies customer support, success, experience, knowledge management, and account management into one simple platform. Do more, with less, to maximize your retention.

Ready to provide excellent customer support and proactive customer service? Contact us today!

7 Skills that Every Customer Service Rep Should Have

A customer service rep might not be immediately good at his job, especially when he has no previous experience dealing with customers. It’s a good thing that customer service skills can be developed, with proper training and guidance you can have an outstanding customer service team that you’ll be proud of.
When conducting training for your team, here are 10 essential skills that they should learn to become successful in their role

1. Be Attentive

To know the real concern of a customer, a representative should have the ability to truly listen. This can only be done by paying attention. Some customers don’t say their problems outright so a rep should be able to pick up on what they are telling without directly saying it.

For example, a client may say, “Your website design is confusing,” instead of asking for help to find a certain feature, like the search tab.

Keep their feedback into consideration but by asking the right questions you would able to give the assistance that they need.

2. Patience

Patience is one of the most crucial skills that a customer service professional needs. It is not uncommon to encounter customers who feel overwhelmed and confused. Customers need your support rep to be patient to alleviate their frustration.

There is a tendency for customers to lay all their frustrations on the customer service representative. A good rep should not take this personally, instead he should listen to the grievances of the customer, take the time to listen and fully understand why the customer is acting that way.

When customers feel that they are being listened to, not only will the rep be able to address their concerns, the good service of the rep will also be instrumental in building a good relationship between customers and the company.

3. Communicate clearly

Miscommunication can be a big problem that is why it’s important to be mindful of how some of your communication habits translate to customers. Err on the side of caution whenever you find yourself uncertain about a situation.

It is best to uncomplicate how you explain things to customers and make sure that they understood your explanation before you end your conversation with them. You can do this by a quick summary of the problem and the suggested solution or by asking them if they have any more questions regarding their concern.

4. Become knowledgeable of the product

It is imperative for a customer service professional to understand how their company’s product or service works. It would be difficult to give assistance on something that you know nothing about. Knowing a product inside and out will help reps address customer issues when they run into problems.

When customers are assisted to navigate the most complex situations, they become your company’s strongest advocate.

5. Using positive language

Improving your customer service rep means language is a crucial part of persuasion and as a representative of the company, your message will affect how customers view the company’s reputation. Your language can be the basis of people’s perception of you and the company you represent.

It isn’t just the tone of your voice that can express the cheerfulness or positivity of your message. Your choice of words, how you phrase them, can also matter significantly.

Here’s a difference between a message with and without a positive message:

Without positive language: “I’m sorry but the perfume you are looking for is out of stock. It is back ordered and will be available next month.”

With positive language: “I’m sorry but the perfume you are looking for is currently out of stock however I can place the order for you right now and once we have it in our warehouse, we’ll make sure to deliver it to you.”

None of those messages are negative per se, but with a few adjustments, you were able to provide a solution for what the client is looking for.

6. Time management skills

As mentioned before, it is important to be patient and spend some time listening to what the customer’s concern really is, however, spending too much time talking, can be wasteful not only of your time but also the customer’s.

While it is encouraged to be patient, it is also imperative to be efficient, especially when you have more than one inquiry lined up.

There might be times when a customer asks you a question that you do not know the answer to even after searching for it in your databases, it is better if you escalate the call to someone more knowledgeable about the issue on hand. You might end wasting a lot of time that you could’ve used to assist other customers who also have concerns.

7. Ability to handle surprises

We know that in life everything does not always go according to plan. Same goes for customer service-related problems, sometimes you get surprised with questions or issues that you have no answer to.

Keeping calm and having your wits about is the best way to deal with situation like these. Accept that you are not all-knowing and that from time to time you really have to ask for assistance from others.

While this is probably the most general skill on this list, being able to handle surprises is one of the most important. After all, eagerness to learn is the basis for growing your skills as a customer service professional.

Supportbench unifies customer support, success, experience, knowledge management, and account management into one simple platform. Do more, with less, to maximize your retention.

Ready to provide excellent customer support and create a good customer service rep? Contact us today!

A quick look at the customer support future

Customer support was once confined to in-person, one-on-one interactions. It has come a long way since then, and there is more to come on the horizon. Now, new software promises some changes in the customer support future.

With the advent of technology such as bots, artificial intelligence (AI), and much more, customer support will transform significantly over the next few years. Gartner predicted that by 2020, 85% of all customer interactions with a company will be handled without human involvement.

The technology that will transform customer support is already all around us. Let’s take a look at the technologies that will help pave the way for the future of customer support.

 

Artificial intelligence (AI)

AI takes massive amounts of data from multiple touchpoints, filters, analyzes, and ultimately learns from the information. AI does all that with two capabilities:

1. Machine learning

is how AI learns from data. It processes mountains of data to learn from it. Everyday applications of AI include spam email folders and Facebook suggestions.

2. Natural language processing (NLP)

is AI’s ability to understand, process, and interpret both spoken and written speech. Some examples of well-known NLP applications are Apple’s Siri and Google’s Alexa.

AI is the best student because it never stops learning; it only gets smarter the more data it’s given. This technology will help enhance customer support because it takes all that data (previous interactions, saved preferences, etc.) to paint a complete and cohesive understanding of what the customer wants, needs, and expects. With this deeper understanding, AI will help businesses anticipate, predict, and better cater to their customers’ needs. 32% of executives believe that AI will help guide their sales, marketing, or customer service functions by 2020.

 

Chatbots

Chatbots marry AI’s machine learning and NLP together in an instant, personalized experience for your customers. They’re logic technology wrapped up in a conversational user interface. Everyday examples of bots are iMessage or Facebook Messenger.

A lot of the same issues often come up and as a result, support agents spend a lot of their time repeating answers to common questions – bots can help automate this process, enabling agents to focus on more complex support issues. 79% of support agents feel they have a bigger impact when chatbots take on the easy questions.

Customers these days seek support on multiple channels. The challenge for businesses to to provide an omnichannel support system and meet customers at each touch point, ready to help. More and more businesses have been building chatbots into their messaging platforms. Chatbots combine data and the machine learning of AI and uses data to deliver a personalized experience when their customers reach out for support. Research has found that chatbots messages have a high response rate; private messages sent by businesses have a 96% response rate.

Chatbots benefits

    • 24/7 support. They’re always on, allowing you to offer around the clock support
    • Scalable support. Even the fastest agents can only help one customer at a time, but with bots, you can automate responses for mass simple inquiries.
    • Reduced costs. You also save on the costs of hiring and training more agents as you grow.

While chatbots are not able to tackle the more complicated support issues, the customer support future can be taught to escalate cases that require a live agent’s help.

 

Self-service support

The customer now expects more self-service options like a knowledge base when they reach out for support.

Self-service support is a brilliant change in the customer support future because it reduces your operating costs (customers are enabled to find answers themselves), as well as provides a method that meets your customers’ evolving expectations of support. These days, customers want to figure it out themselves; 72% of millennials feel that calling support isn’t the best way to resolve their issue.

 

Face-to-face support

Big brands and industry-leading companies such as Amazon have started providing webcam-facilitated support.

Amazon launched a Mayday button on their Kindle Fire tablets and phones that connects users and support agent with webcams. Among tablet owners, 75% of customer service interactions come from the button, and the average response time is 9.75 seconds.

A common misnomer is that machines will replace humans but that’s not the case. These new technologies automate mundane, routine tasks, which frees up your support agents to concentrate on finding the answers to the customers’ issues quickly, delivering the most value to your customers. Customer support is primed to become one of the main competitive advantages in winning customers’ businesses and new technology will help businesses get there.

Ready to provide excellent customer support? Contact us today!

What does a customer support agent do?

Rarely is a role one-note, and a customer support agent is no exception. Customer support agents don’t only provide support. This role is nuanced with various duties and functions that an agent is responsible for. From providing support to cross-selling to providing valuable feedback, the support agent wears many hats.

Awesome support agents are crucial to providing your customers with an excellent customer experience. Below are five jobs a customer support agent is typically responsible for.

1. RESOLVING ISSUES

First and foremost, a customer support agent is responsible for resolving issues. That is what the bulk of the role will entail. Agents are reactive in that they respond when customers reach out for help, as opposed to the proactive nature of customer success agents.

When customers are reaching out, it’s because they have a problem or issue that need to be resolved. It’s not uncommon for agents to deal with irate customers, so resolving issues require customer support agents to use tact and exercise patience.

On top of providing efficient and effective support, agents have to be fast. Customers these days expect fast service and will give their money to the companies that can provide that speed.

2. CROSS-SELLING

While support agents are not a part of the sales department, there are a plethora of sales opportunities that fall under the domain of a customer support agent.

Cross-selling is the practice of encouraging customers to purchase related or complementary products or services.

Because agents are perfectly positioned to know what customers want and more importantly, need, they have a prime opportunity to suggest other products or services that a customer may benefit from.

But it has to be done right so that the customer doesn’t feel that you’re trying to squeeze more money from them. By getting to know the customers’ pain points, your agents will be able to organically but strategically make product recommendations that provide the most value and deepen relationships with customers.

3. EDUCATING CUSTOMERS

Support agents not only resolve issues, but they also have to educate customers on what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it.

This includes distilling complex technical information into digestible, clear instructions that help customers resolve their issues quickly. This can also mean crafting comprehensive, well-structured knowledge base articles to cater to customers who prefer self-service support.

4. PROVIDING FEEDBACK

Your support agents are on the front lines every day. This means that they have a direct line of sight into what customers are struggling with.

This means that they can provide invaluable insight. Customer support agents can flag bugs, identify gaps in both internal workflows, and external procedures, and recommend solutions on how to improve the product or service.

5. RETAINING CUSTOMERS

Finally, support agents also actively prevent customer churn.

When support agents interact with customers, it’s because customer have a problem or issue that needs resolving. Sometimes, customers can get frustrated enough that they consider cancelling their services.

So it’s up to customer support agents to not only resolve the issue but to do so in a way that turns the bad experience into one that will make the customer reconsider leaving.

This takes an intricate mix of fast response time, active listening, empathy, exceeding customer expectations, and efficient resolution.

It’s a such a crucial job to ensure that customers have a memorable support experience because it’s not only what will retain customers in danger of leaving but also turn them into brand advocates.

Customer support agents do a lot. They are professional multi-taskers, often juggling many cases and roles at once. Their jobs are extremely dynamic, and as always, it boils down to how agents can provide customers with the best possible experience.

Ready to provide excellent customer support. Contact us today!

5 ways to use data to improve customer support

Customer support has come a long way. Technology has made interactions with customers more accessible and automated to easily improve customer support. With these advancements in technology comes the opportunity to gather information that helps you understand the needs of your customers and makes it easier to better support them. There is valuable insight that you can obtain from each customer interaction. Here are five ways that you can use data to improve your customer support.

Get to know your customers

In today’s day and age, customers expect fast, personalized, and efficient service. So it’s not enough to just gather customer data from your interactions, you need to use it to improve your customer experience – and to do that you need to understand what your customers need.

To better understand what your customers need, you need to understand how your customers interact with you and gather data at each touchpoint. You can then use the data you’ve gathered to identify patterns, segment your customer base, determine preferred channels, and more. The more information you have about your customers, the easier you will be able to understand how to cater to their needs, better support them, and ultimately turn them into happy advocates of your brand.

Improve processes

With data, you can learn track your agents’ performances and identify potential bottlenecks in your processes. More than 90% of customers say that customer service is key in who they give their business to so it’s crucial to improve your customer support processes so customers have a great experience. To gather data that can help you improve, look at data such as:

  • Response rates
  • Hold times
  • Abandonment rates
  • Resolution times
  • Reasons for reaching out

Customer satisfaction surveys can also help you to uncover insights into which internal processes are working and which are not.

The data might identify patterns and reveal processes that you didn’t even know needed improvement. For example, if you find that a lot of customers are reaching out about the same issue, you may want to create knowledge base articles to encourage self-service support.

Personalize the experience

While there are less one-to-one interactions in modern customer support, customers today still expect personalization, and analytics can help you provide it.

Once you use data to gain a firm understanding of your customers, you can determine the best way to deliver that personalized experience.

Data can help you anticipate your customers’ needs when they reach out for support. You can better assess and predict which additional services or value-add offerings to recommend to a customer based on their previous purchases and activities.

Personalizing the customer experience will help increase customer retention and strengthen customer loyalty.

Supportbench offer omnichannel icons image

 

Provide an omnichannel experience

Customers typically encounter a lot of friction when they reach out for support. Customers do not care how your company is structured or departments are set up – all they care about is the quickest way to resolve their issue and how seamless the experience is. In other words, they want an omnichannel support experience.

It’s valuable to look at all of the customer touchpoints as it provides a more holistic look into their interactions with your company. Customers these days reach out to companies over multiple channels and expect one seamless interaction. With the data of a customer’s previous interactions, your agents are better equipped to field questions and resolve issues faster.

Support these days has to be multi-channel. Some of your customers may prefer traditional phone support, while others may prefer live chat, email, or even social media. While it’s not feasible to offer every support channel under the sun, it’s important to use data to determine which channels your customer uses. And then in order to provide omnichannel support, you need to keep your support channels equally efficient.

Provide faster support

Customers these days expect speedy service – especially if they need help with a product or service. Fast responses to complaints on social media can increase customer advocacy by up to 25%.

Use data to calculate response times across multiple channels and determine which channels have areas for improvement. You can also determine times of peak traffic and staff accordingly to ensure there are no bottlenecks or delays.

Gathering data, interpreting it, and actioning on your data and analytics will help you improve your customer support to stand out from your competition and keep your customers happy.

Ready to provide excellent customer support? Get in touch with us today!

Customer service as a competitive advantage

A company’s competitive advantages are typically their price points or product offerings, but another aspect of the business that has the ability to get a company a significant competitive boost is customer service.

Customer service is generally considered reactive – a customer reaches out because they need help or have questions. Great customer service has the potential to convince your existing customers to stay and even refer their family and friends, expanding your customer base.

Customer service done right has the power to increase brand loyalty, customer advocacy, and increased revenue. 86% of customers say that they would pay more for a better customer experience.

In today’s competitive and crowded market, it’s not enough to have a good product, you need to have great customer service as well to stand out.

These days, there are so many choices to choose from that customers often suffer from decision fatigue. To differentiate yourself from competitors, you have gain customers’ loyalties and turn them into advocates of your brand.

There are typically three types of customer service loyalty; a combination of all three will produce strong loyalties to your brand:

1. Behavioral loyalty

The customer is loyal primarily out of convenience (i.e. proximity or price).

2. Rational loyalty

The customer is loyal as long as the brand provides the most value (i.e. loyalty programs, discounts).

3. Emotional loyalty 

The customer is loyal because of a preference or attachment to the brand (i.e. the brand resonates with the customer’s own personal values or aspirations).

behavioral rational emotional loyalty

While all three types are important, an emotional bond is crucial for customers to form strong brand attachments. Customer experience is largely emotional, with 70% of purchasing experiences are based on how the customer feels like they’re being treated.

According to Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions, there are eight main positive/negative emotions that drive responses: sadness and joy, disgust and trust, anger and fear, as well as surprise and anticipation. Loyalty is more easily gained if you can invoke a positive emotion from your customer. According to CustomerThink, 74% of customers with positive emotions will become advocates, while 63% will remain customers.

Customer loyalty and brand advocacy are extremely important to a company and shows a good customer service.

Just as a great customer experience can encourage loyalty (a 5% increase in customer retention has been shown to increase revenues by up to 95%), a bad experience can exponentially damage your brand – especially in this digital age of social media. Customers who have a negative experience are two times more likely to share their experience than those who had positive ones

So great customer service can give your brand a competitive advantage, but how do you go about providing great customer service? Below are a few tips:

  • Anticipate customers needs
  • Provide a seamless experience (omnichannel support)
  • Be available 24/7 and respond quickly
  • Offer self-service support
  • Set realistic expectations for your customers
  • Hire awesome agents
  • Actively listen to your customers and use the feedback to improve processes

Don’t underestimate the value of excellent customer service – it all comes down to creating a memorable experience for your customers. Great customer service as a competitive advantage will increase loyalty, bring in new customers, increase revenue, and help you stand out from the pack.

Ready to provide better customer service? Get in touch today!

Differences in customer support and customer success

Customer support (or service) and customer success are often used interchangeably. While there are differences between the two, customer support and customer success should work hand in hand to provide the best experience to customers; companies lose about $62 billion a year because of a poor customer experience.

Let’s take a look at the differences between customer support and customer success.

Purposes

The two have very slight purposes within a company. Customer support is often thought to be reactive, responding to problems that customers reach out about, resolving issues, and keeping customers happy.

On the other hand, success is more proactive. Success agents aim to understand and anticipate customer needs in order to increase customer satisfaction and decrease churn. Customer success teams proactively reach out to customers, initiating conversations first.

Another way to distinguish the two is simply from the names. Customer support provides support to customers ad hoc (whenever customers reach out for support). Success is dedicated to the success of customers, so they identify needs and reach out to customers. It’s for this reason that onboarding typically falls under the domain of customer success. During onboarding, customer success agents ensure customers are educated about everything they need to know to successfully use the product or service..

Success is responsible for:

Support is responsible for:

  • Deepening customer relationships to foster loyalty
  • Improving processes to enhance the customer experience
  • Preemptively anticipating customer needs (i.e. up-selling)
  • Monitoring customer health and engagement
  • Reducing churn
  • Billing inquiries
  • Technical problems
  • Resolving issues that customers call in about
  • Turning bad experiences into positive ones
  • Ensuring customer satisfaction
  • Reducing churn

Interactions

Customer support interactions are initiated by the customer and are transactional, meaning they have a beginning and an end.

Interactions with customer teams don’t necessarily have an end date. It’s an ongoing relationship over time that continues as long as the user is a customer.  

 

Metrics

Because customer support and support teams have different functions, they have different metrics to look at.

Customer support metrics typically measure the quality and speed of the resolution, whereas customer success metrics are more concerned with the long-term business goals so they look at things such as the lifestyle value of the customer. Success works to prevent customer churn and uses indicators like product usage to identify and reach out to customers who are in danger of churning.

Success metrics include:

Support metrics include:

  • Customer churn rate
  • Expansion revenue
  • Customer retention
  • Repeat purchase rate
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT surveys)
  • Net promoter scores (NPS surveys)
  • Average resolution time
  • First response times

 

 

The rise of customer success

This idea of customer success was really only born in the last few years. Part of the reason that there was this need for customer success came from the rise of software as a service (SaaS) companies which made customer satisfaction and loyalty more crucial than ever. Enter customer success.

B2B companies saw the value of customer teams as well. Companies across industries started to focus on nurturing existing customers and strengthening advocacy – this helped increase customer retention and loyalty over time.

 

Support and success need to be complementary

In many companies, customer success and support often work in silos. While customer success and support have different functions, the two teams should work in tandem in a company because at the end of the day, both teams ultimately have the same end goal: providing the best experience possible for their shared customers.

They need to work hand-in-hand to provide a cohesive experience to the customer because 70% of purchasing experiences are based on how the customer feels like they’re being treated. Customers don’t care whether they’re talking to someone from customer success or customer support; they’re only concerned with resolving their issue, getting the most value, and how seamless that interaction is.

Supportbench can help you deliver excellent customer support. Get in touch with us today!

8 helpful tools for your customer support team

Customer service is crucial to the health of your business, which means the customer support team has a tough job.

A good customer support software can streamline the team’s workflow and processes with multi-channel ticket management, customizable SLAs, and customer satisfaction surveys.

But in addition to reliable customer support software, there are many other tools that can help streamline your day-to-day tasks. From grammar checks to reminders to take breaks, here are eight tools that help increase productivity and maximize your time.

1. Slack

Slack is a communication tool that is great for cutting down on emails. You can create private and public channels, as well as message team members directly. Slack is not only great for team communication, but it’s also helpful in creating a sense of community, especially if you have remote workers. For example, you can create a virtual water cooler with a #general or #funny channel.

2. Skype or Google Hangouts

Speaking of remote workers, if your whole team or even part of your team works remotely, it’s important to check in with them – both for regular team huddles as well as one-on-ones. Since you don’t have the luxury of popping into a meeting room to have a face-to-face conversation, you can use online conversation tools such as Skype or Google Hangouts to talk virtually. It’s important to have these check-ins with remote workers so they feel connected and supported as customer support team members.

3. Zapier

Zapier is a tool that integrates with thousands of applications and helps you automate apps that you use every day. You set up “zaps” so that when a “trigger” (when your company is mentioned on social media) occurs, certain actions will happen automatically (a ticket is automatically created or it goes to a Slack channel feed).

The possibilities with Zapier are endless. You can set it up so that tasks are automatically created in project management tools or customer information is automatically synced with your CRM system.

4. Boomerang for Gmail

Many support technologies allow you to send and schedule emails directly from the platform. If your support software doesn’t have this functionality, Boomerang is a helpful extension that lets you schedule emails to send at a later date. This is super handy if you need to send follow-up emails because you can prep them to be sent on a particular day and time – just set it and forget it.

5. Docusign

As you help customers resolve their issues, you may need to get a customer to sign documents from time to time. The electronic signature application DocuSign makes it super easy and seamless to send documents to customers for e-signature.

DocuSign also has a Chrome app that lets you quickly send out documents for signature by right-clicking a file. And with the DocuSign extension, customers can conveniently sign the PDFs right from Gmail.

6. Trello

Trello is an extremely easy-to-use project management tool with features such as drag and drop, color-coding, and deadlines. Your team can use Trello to keep track of projects that they’re working on or to brainstorm ideas for knowledge base articles.

7. Grammarly

When writing emails to customers, it’s important to make sure the communication is free of mistakes such as typos or grammatical errors. This is where Grammarly comes in, you can plop your email into the app and it will catch any grammar errors that you might have missed. It will also suggest another word if the one you have used seems out of context.

If you want to go one step further and eliminate the need to copy and paste your email, Grammarly has an extension that will automatically check as you type.

8. Stretchy

A customer support team job means sitting down for most of the day. It can be easy to lose track of time and by the end of the day, you might be burnt out. Getting up every so often to stretch your legs or take a coffee break has been known to increase productivity. Stretchy is a desktop app that reminds you to take breaks throughout the day. You can customize the reminder times (i.e. 20-second breaks every hour). And you have the choice to skip the break if it’s not a convenient time or you’re right in the middle of a call.

These tips will help take some of the unnecessary friction and frustration out of the day-to-day tasks and make providing excellent customer support easier.

Ready to talk about how Supportbench can help you provide better customer support? Get in touch today!

How to write effective knowledge base articles

With multiple ways for a customer to seek support these days, more and more prefer knowledge base articles and self-service options. In fact, 70% of customers expect self-help options from a company when they reach out for support.

Self-service support options include community forums, FAQ pages, and knowledge bases. These options are appealing to customers because it allows them to access the information they need anytime they want. Knowledge bases can be customer-facing, internal, or both.

An effective knowledge base article serves two purposes:

  • To enable customers to find the information needed to resolve their issue fast
  • To reduce the number of support calls made

If you notice a high volume of tickets on a particular topic or certain recurring search terms, consider turning these topics into knowledge base articles.

We’ve got four tips to help you write effective knowledge base articles.

Tip 1: Follow a structure

Using a template ensures consistency and clarity across all of your knowledge base articles. Think of the template as a recipe and to whip up an effective knowledge base article, you need these ingredients:

  • Title: When you’re writing a support article title, keep in mind what the customer would search for when seeking help (i.e. “How to change my password”). You want to make it as easy as possible for them to find the article.
  • Table of contents: If it’s a long article, consider adding a table of contents at the beginning that allows customers to jump to the section they want to read.
  • Problem: Next, describe the problem or issue and include as much detail as possible, (i.e specific error messages, common triggers).
  • Step-by-step solution: Once you’ve outlined the problem then tell customers how to solve it with step-by-step instructions. Keep it clear, concise, and properly structured with numbered steps that are easy to follow.
  • Screenshots: A picture tells a thousand words. Use screenshots wherever possible to provide additional clarity.
  • Next steps: At the end knowledge base article, include links to other relevant support resources.

 

Tip 2: Write for the web

In addition to following a structured template, remember to also write for the web. A good rule of thumb to follow is to make the support article scannable:

  • Use proper titles, subtitles, and headings that summarize the paragraphs below it
  • Use short paragraphs and plenty of white space to break up content
  • Use callouts, bullet points, tables, and visuals to highlight important information

 

Tip 3: Clarity over creativity

When it comes to knowledge base articles, always choose clarity over creativity. Find a balance between engaging content that keeps customers reading and clear content so customers can solve the issue themselves. Do this by:

  • Avoiding technical jargon
  • Using simple language
  • Writing how your customers talk (use words and phrases that they would search for)
  • Focusing on features instead of benefits. Support material is the opposite of marketing copy – the purpose is to help and solve, not to convince and sell
  • Being consistent with product names
  • Being thorough, no detail is too tiny. The reader doesn’t have the luxury of a support agent walking them through a solution so the article needs to be as informative as possible
  • Writing so that both a beginner and a more advanced user will understand. If the difference between the two audiences is too great, consider writing two versions of the article – one for beginners and one for advanced users.

 

Tip 4: Make it easily findable

If a support article is written but no one can find it, does it really exist? You’ve created a super helpful knowledge base article, now you need to make sure that customers can find it.

  • Group your articles under logical and intuitive categories so that when customers are browsing your knowledge base, they can easily find the article
  • Identify keywords that your customers might use to find a specific article and include them in your article
  • Use those keywords as tags so the article is searchable within your support software
  • Write a good search summary so customers know at a glance that the article contains the information that they are looking for
  • Invest time in SEO for your knowledge base articles so that when customers are searching for solutions, your articles will show up in Google results.

The beauty of knowledge bases is that you can continuously add to it and improve the content. After you’ve created your knowledge base articles, monitor how effective they are by looking at your analytics. Have your support articles reduced the number of questions and calls about the problems? If the common questions you decided to tackle are still frequently appearing in support tickets, you need to revisit your support articles and revise.