How can tech companies improve support?
My recent post about how information and communications companies lead the feedback movement and rank highest in the list of “digitally advanced” sectors, got me thinking. If technology companies have the most effective tools to build quality relationships with customers, why is tech support something that so many organizations still struggle with?
Sidebar: Clicktools excels in technical support. Just check out our Salesforce AppExchange page to see 400+ customer reviews that often call out our Customer Success and Support teams for going above and beyond the call of duty.
But back to the subject at hand: Just today, with the launch of the iPhone 7, Apple faces an influx of complaints and questions about how to use and charge the proprietary wireless earphones, after choosing to completely eliminate the standard 3.5mm audio jack from the phone. Even one of the most beloved companies on Earth seems to have a hard time delivering consistent technical information and support. To be fair, the company usually gets high marks for technical support for its in-store Genius Bars, but its phone and online support tend to face criticism, scoring a “disappointing” rating on customerservicescorecard.com and others such as www.consumeraffairs.com.
That’s tame compared to the recent support debacle that resulted from Samsung’s confusing recall of 2.5 million devices (the largest in smartphone history), due to reports that the phones were catching on fire. US regulators issued warnings advising consumers not to turn on their Galaxy 7s on airplanes and, if possible, not to use them at all.
Let’s hope our support situations never get that dire, but what can we do to strengthen our support channels to drive greater customer loyalty and commitment. Here are four ideas:
- Create a culture of accountability. To use the Samsung example again, the company did receive some praise for quickly stepping up and admitting that the recalled phones were faulty. There is no greater PR (and potential legal) mistake than claiming that there’s nothing wrong, when you (and your customers) know something doesn’t work properly. As Jeanne Bliss states in her article The MBA of Customer Love: “If you’ve got egg on your face, for whatever the reason, admit it. Then right the wrong. There’s nothing more grossly frustrating to customers than a company who does something wrong then is either clueless about what they did or won’t admit that they faltered.” Your support agents should be trained on how to politely admit and apologize for failures.
- Multi-channel is a must. Some people like sending an email via your support form, some prefer to pick up the phone; some enjoy the convenience of online chat; some dig digging through your FAQs, forums, and other self-help options. The point is: give them what they want by offering multiple channels. Be sure the channels are integrated on the back end, so that agents can pick up where the last interaction left off, rather than having to start the conversation from the beginning. This drives customers crazy. Depending on the size and complexity of your company and its offerings, present a minimum of three different support channels and be sure to clearly show their availability (e.g. phone support hours) and how long it should take to get a response.
- Let your customers do the talking. Your customers possess a wealth of knowledge that should be shared to help the community. Create a portal or forum where customers and employees can answer questions publicly that will serve other future customers with the same or similar questions. This also reduces costs and encourages engagement. Of course, you can supplement the site with professionally produced guides, tutorials, and videos, but the bulk of information should be customer and employee-generated to create a more natural, authentic environment (i.e. not sales or marketing-driven) that makes people feel comfortable and casual, but most importantly, part of a community. Also, be smart in how you group and label the information and without exception — the whole thing needs to be searchable.
- Close the loop on cases. Using a feedback solution like Clicktools, you can automate Closed Case Surveys to go out immediately (or at whatever time frame you deem appropriate) after an issue is resolved. These surveys provide the insights you need to know if the case is truly closed or whether it needs to be re-opened or escalated. The Closed Case data will reveal common problem areas that should be addressed, whether tied to product, process, or personnel. It also increases customer engagement and satisfaction by showing them that you value their input and sincerely want to know if anything else needs to be done to get them back up and running with your product.