It’s clearer than ever that customers (and businesses) prefer conversational support.
It’s quick, efficient, and personal, meaning that customers can get the answers they need, where and when they need them. And for your support team, using the right conversational support tool and framework allows them to maximize their resources, so they can focus on solving complex queries and building long-term customer relationships.
But conversational support doesn’t just benefit your support team. By capturing more data, enabling you to spot trends and opportunities, and improving the customer – and agent – experience, conversational support can be a game changer for every facet of your business.
Ready to turn your support function into an engine for growth for your entire business? Here’s how conversational support can impact every team.
What we talk about when we talk about conversational support
First of all, let’s cover the basics. Sure, you might have seen us talking about what “conversational” means, or how your next wave of growth will come from conversational relationships. But you may still be wondering: what exactly is conversational support?
What is conversational support?
Conversational support is the modern way to resolve customer questions through a digital-first, messaging-based interaction. This means that customers and agents can be connected in real time or asynchronously, and customers can stop and restart the conversation when it’s convenient – without ever losing context.
Conversational support is a digital-first, messenger-based approach to resolving customer queries. Because it’s messenger-based, it can be instantaneous – allowing for fast, efficient, in-the-moment answers – but it can also be asynchronous, meaning that it can be stopped and resumed at any time.
Not only does this allow both customers and agents to multitask instead of demanding all of their attention as they wait in painfully long queues, but it also means that every conversation becomes part of a larger customer history, allowing you to build stronger, more personalized, context-rich customer relationships.
“Conversational support combines the best of phone support with the best of email support to deliver something better than both”
In this way, it combines the best of phone support (real-time answers – if you ever get taken off hold) with the best of email support (written records, asynchronous communication) to deliver something that’s better than both.
With the addition of custom chatbots and automation to make your support workflow even more efficient and productive, conversational support allows you to supercharge your support and find the perfect balance between team efficiency and a great customer experience.
And with customer expectations at an all-time high, providing this kind of seamless, scalable support is essential to retaining customers and driving business growth.
How conversational support delivers value across your entire organization
In fact, when we engaged Forrester Consulting, an independent research firm, in April 2021 to explore how channel preferences are changing, they found that preference for messaging-based support has significantly grown since the beginning of the pandemic. Previously, it was ranked fifth for channel usage; now, it’s the second most used channel.
What’s more, Forrester’s study, Drive Conversational Experiences For A Future-Ready Customer Support Strategy, revealed how conversational support can fuel customer retention and business growth across the entire business. When asked about the key business benefits they’ve experienced from being able to scale conversational support across their organization, support leaders and decision makers reported:
- Improved customer retention (60%)
- Increased business efficiency (58%)
- Enhanced customer satisfaction (58%)
- Improved customer acquisition (54%)
- Increased ROI (54%)
Other listed benefits? Increased market share (42%), increased differentiation or advantage relative to competitors (32%), and better informed business and R&D decisions (29%).
With all these benefits, it’s clear that conversational support can transform so much more than just your support team. And as customer support becomes a critical strategic investment, the role of your customer support team becomes ever more central to your business.
5 cross-functional benefits of conversational support (and how to measure them)
1. Conversational support allows you to effortlessly capture important customer information up front
Teams that benefit: Sales, marketing.
With messenger-based conversational support, you can use customizable bots and automation to seamlessly capture and learn qualifying information about your customer’s query upfront, before your support team even gets involved.
Why does this matter? In addition to saving your customer support team precious time by removing the need for manual admin, it also means that you can use this information to get a deeper understanding of your customers – and create a better experience for them.
This context allows your team to provide tailored, personalized responses, taking unique factors like their company size, plan type, and use case into consideration.
And not only does this additional insight mean that you can provide more helpful, relevant support, but it also enables you to serve up targeted, relevant messages, for more impactful sales and marketing outreach. Using the data you’ve already captured, you can use outbound messages to onboard and activate customers at pivotal moments in their journey, and even pinpoint the right time to upsell customers to higher-tier plans or expand their product usage.
2. Conversational support helps you to identify trends for better business decisions
Teams that benefit: Product, research and development, product education, customer success, sales, marketing.
Because it’s messenger-based, the right conversational support tool becomes a powerful, searchable database. And with clever machine learning and AI, you can leverage this to quickly and effortlessly surface topics that customers have questions about or are experiencing confusion around.
This means you can not only see any surges in particular topics – giving you a deeper understanding of how frequently they appear, and in what contexts – but, thanks to powerful machine-learning analysis, you can also see auto-generated suggested topics to explore. This means you can proactively address emerging topics and spot opportunities to improve the customer experience.
This has positive implications for a number of teams:
- By identifying trends in incoming customer queries and issues, your product team can prioritize which bugs to fix or which new features to work on, based on customer feedback.
- By spotting recurring questions that slow down the sales process, your sales team can create additional sales collateral to proactively answer these questions and incorporate it into their messaging before prospects even ask.
- By highlighting common stumbling blocks that prevent product adoption, you can create additional content and resources that help people to get the most out of your product, leading to stickier users – great for product education teams, customer success teams, and product marketing teams.
3. Conversational support enables you to create a more seamless, convenient conversation flow
Teams that benefit: Sales, marketing, customer success.
Resolving customer queries can often be a more complicated path than simply A → B → C. Sometimes you need to loop in specific teams, like product or billing, to ensure customers are getting the right answers. At other times, a query might become a lead, and should be passed over to the sales team for qualification.
But regardless of what’s going on behind the scenes, no customer wants to be dragged around from A → K → C → Z while they wait for a response to their message. And no teammate wants to do that dragging, either – especially when it means wasting time switching between various tabs and tools.
Conversational support allows you to do all the work behind the scenes, making things simpler and easier for your customers. Using a conversational support tool, you can automatically assign specific conversation types to the right teams from the start. And if a conversation meant for another team lands in your support team’s inbox, it’s simple to reassign it to the relevant team or teammate with a few simple clicks.
“Other teams are able to analyze both sales and support conversations and notes to get a better understanding of our customers and the journeys they’ve taken up to that point, which saves us a lot of time”
Not only that, but thanks to all the data and information your bots captured at the outset, everyone viewing the conversation has all of the context they need to deliver faster, more personalized resolutions.
For Thibaut Davoult, Head of Growth at video engagement platform Livestorm, this allows for greater collaboration and alignment – and improves efficiency. “It’s super helpful that people from across the company can access the customer conversation history and account information that Intercom provides,” he says. “Other teams are able to analyze both sales and support conversations and notes to get a better understanding of our customers and the journeys they’ve taken up to that point, which saves us a lot of time.”
Vincent Terol, Head of Customer Success at Spendesk, agrees. “We’ve found Intercom to be a great way of getting people from different teams involved and aware of what’s going on with our customers,” he says. “We’re able to tag teammates in conversations to raise awareness of important issues, and also ensure we’re bringing the right people to the table to answer our customers’ questions.”
4. Conversational support leads to better customer satisfaction – and retention
Teams that benefit: Marketing, sales, customer success, revenue operations.
As Forrester’s study reveals, some of the greatest benefits of conversational support are the impacts it can have on customer satisfaction, retention, and acquisition.
Needless to say, these are essential levers for sales and marketing, with major implications for critical business success metrics like revenue and churn. So when we say they benefit every team, we really mean every team.
“Guru used conversational support to manage a 179% increase in inbound conversations while still maintaining an excellent customer satisfaction score of 95%”
So how has conversational support empowered businesses to maintain industry-leading customer satisfaction scores, even as they scale?
- Social advertising platform Smartly.io has experienced rapid growth over the last five years – and they credit conversational support with helping them to achieve an impressive 97% customer satisfaction score, rank as the number one tool in their category on software review site G2, and win big-name customers.
- Collaborative knowledge management solution Guru used conversational support to manage a 179% increase in inbound conversations while still maintaining an excellent customer satisfaction score of 95%.
- Since switching to conversational support, the team at tadoº has seen their overall CSAT score climb from 79% to 87%, maintaining a 90% chat satisfaction rate even as contact volumes have more than doubled.
5. Conversational support improves support team engagement and happiness
Teams that benefit: People operations.
Customer support can be a technically complex, emotionally demanding job. But for many support reps, repetitive tasks like resetting passwords can make it feel too much like Groundhog Day, and not enough like the challenging career path they signed up for. Doing the same monotonous things day in and day out is a recipe for career dissatisfaction – and eventual churn.
Not only is this bad for morale, but it’s bad for business: high support team turnover leads to mounting costs in hiring and training new employees to replace this knowledge loss. One report found that it costs employers on average 33% of an employee’s annual salary to hire a replacement if that employee leaves. And that’s only the direct cost of turnover: there are also significant indirect costs associated with recruiting, onboarding, and training new hires before they can hit their stride, not to mention the strain it puts on the team as they wait for a backfill.
“Conversational support allows for a better agent experience by reducing repetitive tasks and freeing up your support reps to tackle more fulfilling work”
Conversational support allows for a better agent experience by reducing these repetitive tasks and freeing up your support reps to tackle more fulfilling work. At Intercom, we developed a framework called the Conversational Support Funnel, which uses a combination of self-serve, proactive, and human support to deliver a fast, efficient support experience without burning out your support team.
Using this framework as part of your conversational support strategy, you can leverage bots and automation to handle the simple stuff, allowing your (human) support team to focus on areas where they can have a greater impact, like solving tricky problems and building long-term customer relationships.
This can lead to greater job satisfaction and employee engagement. “Conversational support allows us to connect with real people,” says Valentina Thörner, Head of Product at Klaus. “The main purpose is still solving the customer problem, and at the same time it allows us to add personality to the conversation – on both sides. This makes the conversations more interesting, and often more joyful for everyone involved. Ending a support interaction with an on-point GIF exchange feels great, and this feeling persists even after the conversation is over,” she says.
Conversational support supports your whole business
With Forrester’s study revealing that 71% of customer support leaders believe that scaling conversational support will allow their organization to stay competitive or make them an industry leader, it’s no surprise that conversational support is no longer just a nice-to-have – it’s make or break.
But while providing world-class customer support is a critical business goal in itself, conversational support can help you to do so much more.
Ready to change the conversation around support and show how it can be a major lever for growth? Check out Forrester’s study, Drive Conversational Experiences For A Future-Ready Customer Support Strategy, to learn more.