Main illustration: Mark Weaver
Most businesses today are on the defensive. They fight to beat down their support channels, minimising and outsourcing them wherever possible.
The idea that you should talk to customers is met with derision by businesses. “Wait, we actually have to talk to these people?” is the common reply.
But talking to your customers isn’t about blindly spitting out messages to everyone, or counting every customer conversation as a “good thing”. Not all customers – nor all contacts – are of equal importance. Try talk to everyone and you’ll drown your team in a wave of valueless communications.
Instead, you need to focus your team on high value conversations, and come up with smart ways to minimise the meaningless ones.
Teaching customers to fish
Good customer support is all about the right type of conversations – not merely questions about forgotten passwords and the like. They have to add value, for you, and them.
For simple questions such as “Can you send me a receipt?”, it’s much easier for customers to quickly read a concise help article than reach out to your customer support team. Customers don’t need go-betweens to assist them with what should be simple tasks.
That’s where a help center comes in – it’s an area that customers can refer to over and over again. When your customer support team have good help articles to work with, they can point people in the right direction, so the next time they run into difficulty, they’ll know where to look.
It transforms what was a five paragraph conversation into a one line message, with a helpful help article attached (of course, Intercom’s Smart Suggestions feature makes attaching help articles even easier). Customers don’t have to wait for the support team to respond to them when they can get the answers themselves in a fraction of the time.
More importantly, customers will actually learn how to figure things out for themselves. By spoonfeeding customers the answer, they’ll only ever have a temporary solution. Teach them the principles that led you to that answer, and they will be able to create their own solutions in the future.
Giving higher value conversations to your team
As customer support teams are armed with quality help content, they’re able to focus on high impact work that grows your product and business, not dumb contacts.
Instead of spitting back rote answers to questions they’ve heard over and over again, they’ve bought themselves the capacity to have meaningful communications with your customers. “The reports feature is broken in your product.” “I’d love to see an analytics dashboard in your product”. “How do I upgrade to a new product?” All of these questions are far more meaningful than “Where do I change my profile photo?”
Remember: customer support time is expensive. If they’re wasting time on dumb contacts, it means they’re not having an impact elsewhere in your business.
When your customer team are having impact, whether that’s helping give customer feedback to the product team, qualitative ammunition to the research team, or passing on promising prospects to the sales team, your customer support team aren’t left to act as apologists, but become the engine for growing your business.