Up until about 20 years ago, businesses had to be personal to be successful.
Because of the limited scale any business could operate in – a scale which was literally dictated by their location – it was relatively easy for them to build personal relationships with customers. People did business face-to-face, shaking hands, smiling, and building meaningful relationships. And even when it wasn’t face-to-face, it was still personal: mostly phone calls, or letters with hand-written signatures on them.
Then the internet came and changed that forever. Suddenly you could sell and market to millions of people, anywhere in the world. And with that explosion in addressable market came an explosion in customer service requests. Suddenly it became increasingly difficult to manage increasing volumes of customers and hang on to those personal relationships.
“These technologies may have helped businesses scale, but it sent relationships that customers had with businesses back to the dark ages”
To deal with this scale, a new generation of technology companies emerged introducing ticketing systems and concepts like “do-not-reply” emails. They helped companies cope with the volume of support queries they were receiving, but it came with a cost. These systems worked by bypassing people, and thus removing the personal nature of business.
So while these technologies may have helped businesses scale, it sent relationships that customers had with businesses back to the dark ages.
The challenges of customer support today
In the support world, we still have a long way to go to rebuild these customer relationships. For many customers, today’s support is time-consuming and frustrating. According to research from HubSpot, 33% of customers find waiting on hold to be the biggest frustration when getting help, while another 33% say the biggest frustration is having to repeat your details to different support representatives.
It’s clear that many companies are still miles away from creating the personal customer relationships we know we need. But why is it particularly hard in support? There have been a number of shifts that have affected support leaders and teams.
1. Customer expectations are higher than ever
We know that customer expectations are now sky high. As well as wanting to be treated personally, customers want fast, effective support, and they want it now. Many of the old-fashioned ways support teams have delivered support in the past – such as using “do-not-reply” emails and keeping customers on hold for hours – just don’t cut it anymore.
2. Poor support tools and tech stacks are slowing teams down
The tools that support teams use are often clunky and outdated. Although we’ve seen consumer software improve in leaps and bounds in the last few years, legacy support software just hasn’t kept up.
“44% of businesses say that siloed efforts with no collaboration are one of the biggest impediments to successful customer engagement”
3. Information silos create poor customer experiences
Clunky legacy support tools make it hard for support agents to find the right information quickly. This leads to impersonal, disconnected support experiences where customers are passed from one teammate to another, continually having to repeat themselves to (re)provide essential context, and getting more and more frustrated. In fact, 44% of businesses say that siloed efforts with no collaboration are one of the biggest impediments to successful customer engagement.
4. Support teams are still reactive, not proactive
As a result of all of the above, support teams are often racing to keep up and struggle to move beyond being reactive as they’re flooded with issues. They don’t have time to be more proactive, or share their valuable customer insights with the rest of the business.
There is a better way
We’ve seen many, many support teams turn things around and crack these problems. They’ve reached a place where every support conversation becomes an opportunity to drive loyalty and growth and they’ve unlocked huge benefits for their business as a result. As many of us know from personal experience, there’s a knock-on effect at play here, because:
- Excellent support builds relationships…
- Which grows loyalty…
- Which improves retention and grows revenue…
- Plus it’s an amazing way to differentiate against the competition.
These teams have pulled this off by adopting a different approach to delivering support, shaped by four foundational beliefs around how support will change over the next few years.
4 beliefs about the future of customer support
When we think about the future of support, there are four things that support leaders – and business leaders in general – need to focus on. These four beliefs are shaping next-generation support and leading to happier customers, reduced churn, and long-term loyalty.
1. In-context support is the future of customer service
When it comes to delivering efficient, effective customer service, in-context support is the way forward. Businesses need to move to primarily delivering support through in-context messaging; that is, solving customer problems where and when they have them, whether that’s in your product, app, or on your website.
The companies that are truly thriving are those that deliver highly personalized and contextualized support. A key way of doing this is by using a business messenger. Messengers have sharply risen in popularity: they’re now the second most-used support channel, leapfrogging both phone and in-person support.
“With a messenger, you can gather crucial qualifying information to build rich customer profiles, target different content to different types of customers, and customize the messenger to suit your brand”
This is because they’re vastly superior for both customers and companies. Customers love messengers because they’re personalized, fast, convenient, and highly effective – resulting in industry-leading customer satisfaction scores. Smartly.io, for example, was able to achieve an impressive 97% CSAT score.
And for support teams, messengers offer unparalleled flexibility. You can gather crucial qualifying information to build rich customer profiles, target different content to different types of customers, and customize the messenger to suit your brand. Not only that, but messengers unlock the broadest set of tools – bots, product tours, and integrations – to provide instant help, so you can support your customers wherever, whenever.
To help businesses leverage the power of messenger-based support, we recently launched Switch, a product designed to help companies shift support query volume from phone to messenger. Phone support is expensive and difficult to scale, but with Switch, customers can seamlessly move from a phone call to a chat conversation. This allows support teams to reduce costs by increasing efficiency whilst improving the customer experience by reducing on-hold frustration and providing faster (but still personalized) answers.
2. Support teams should be supplemented with the right tools to enable self-serve support
Study after study has shown that consumers would rather self-serve than talk to a support rep. As a result, most companies are using chatbots and knowledge bases to resolve customers’ queries without involving their teams.
For now, these tools are solving fairly basic, repetitive questions. But as AI improves, they’ll be able to handle more complex issues and bots will increasingly be chosen by consumers as the most convenient and time-saving solution for a wider range of queries. As part of this, we’ll see more companies adopting self-serve support and proactive messaging using dynamic, personalized content to anticipate issues before they happen.
“Customers who adopt this next-generation way of providing support get it all: greater efficiency, more satisfied customers, and a happier team”
In order to provide this support, support teams will need to use a tool with both powerful automation and outbound capabilities to manage and streamline high-volume workloads. The right tool will enable support teams to:
- Proactively get ahead of known issues before customers even start reaching out for help. For example, if you have scheduled maintenance coming up or are experiencing an outage, you could proactively notify customers with a banner message before the inbound conversations start streaming in. Or if you launch a new product or feature, you could show customers around with a product tour or in-context tool tips to answer any questions they may have – before they have to ask.
- Empower customers to find their own answers with 24/7 self-service support, facilitated by bots and knowledge bases. Help customers to help themselves, right when and where they need it – in the context of your website or app. Or put bots to work for your team resolving simple, repetitive queries, freeing up your human support team to solve more complex issues.
- Have greater impact by delivering personalized, human support when and where it’s most effective. Because more queries can be solved by proactive and self-serve support, when a support rep does need to get involved – whether that’s because there’s a complex issue, or perhaps a VIP customer that goes directly to a human regardless – support reps are better equipped to help them quickly and efficiently. For this to work efficiently, it’s important to have powerful workflows behind the scenes to automate processes such as routing, assignment, and SLAs – taking manual work off support reps plates.
We call this model the support funnel. Customers who adopt this next-generation way of providing support get it all: greater efficiency, more satisfied customers, and a happier team.
3. Employee experience is linked to customer experience
We believe that teams using next-gen support software are happier, and that happier teams deliver better support – and that better support creates happier, more loyal customers.
But while consumer software has improved in leaps and bounds, support software just hasn’t kept up. This just doesn’t make sense: support teams spend their whole day in the inbox, day in, day out, yet often they’re stuck working with some of the most complicated and clunky software on the planet. We believe that support teams deserve – and will demand – consumer-grade, low-code software that makes it easy to deliver personal, delightful support at scale, with powerful automation and immense configurability built in.
“Efficiency gains are passed on from support teams to their customers, helping them to get the answers they need even faster and improving their experience with your business”
We recently launched a next-generation Inbox with the employee experience in mind. We’re proud to say that it has a modern, beautiful design that teams will actually enjoy logging into every day. It doesn’t look like it’s from the 1990s like many other tools used today; it’s custom-built for the 2020s using the latest cutting-edge technology.
- It’s completely keyboard-first, so teammates can perform actions and find any information in seconds – saving time and improving efficiency.
- It’s highly configurable, allowing agents, teams, and managers to set up the Inbox just the way they want. This gives them the freedom to work however they want: in dark mode, in their language, in their preferred view, and more.
- It’s blazingly fast, built for internet scale – which means no loading screens, no spinners, and no waiting. Every action is immediate so your team can give your customers faster answers and increase customer satisfaction.
These efficiency gains are passed on from support teams to their customers, helping them to get the answers they need even faster and improving their experience with your business.
4. Great customer service experiences are fuelled by data
Our fourth belief is that in order to deliver first-class customer service, teams need to harness the power of data. With the right insights, you can provide targeted, personalized support to every customer, amplifying third-party data with live first-party data.
“When leveraged properly, the rich customer data collected by the support team can be used to improve how support, sales, and marketing teams proactively engage with their customers”
This doesn’t just help your business to provide better customer support. When leveraged properly, this rich customer data collected by the support team can be used to improve how support, sales, and marketing teams proactively engage with their customers.
Qonto, an all-in-one finance management solution, achieved this by bringing their product, marketing, tech, and support teams into Intercom, because it’s one tool that spans the entire customer journey. This has allowed them to work more closely together to create a seamless, holistic communication experience for their customers. They onboard and engage customers with personalized walkthroughs of their product, offer stellar proactive and self-serve support with targeted messages and bots, and drive increased team efficiency with a powerful Inbox to achieve best-in-class results – all driven by customer data.
Next-generation customer support deserves a next-generation customer support tool
Building customer support experiences around these four beliefs allows you to unlock the benefits of next-generation support: greater customer satisfaction, improved efficiency, deeper engagement, and happier support teams.
Fuelled by a modern support solution that allows you to deliver in-context support, leverage bots and automation, and enhance your teams’ workflows, every support conversation becomes an opportunity to drive customer loyalty and business growth.