Customer support is the backbone of any business. It provides a direct link between the customer and the company, and can often make or break a business relationship. To cultivate a culture that incorporates a strong customer support system, you need a strategy.
This article explores what a customer support strategy is, considerations when building one, examples from well-known companies, and how to maintain the system over time.
What is a Customer Support Strategy?
A customer support strategy outlines how a company will interact with its customers throughout their journey. It involves understanding customer needs, preferences, and expectations. Once you understand these aspects, you can tailor support services to meet those expectations. This includes everything from the initial contact to post-sale support. The main goal is to enhance customer satisfaction, loyalty, and long-term engagement.
What to Keep in Mind When Developing a Strategy
When crafting a customer support strategy, it is essential to consider certain aspects:
- Understanding Customer Needs: Identifying what customers need and expect from your support is a fundamental aspect of customer support that needs to be the priority of every support strategy. Whenever a customer reaches out to your team for support, they want quick, efficient support that can remedy their problem in as few interactions as possible. One way to more clearly understand what a customer might be asking is to attain a record of previously resolved tickets. Look at the problems that are arising most frequently and create standardized, clarifying questions and detailed solutions to assist your customer. When you analyze what customers are typically asking of you and your team, you can resolve their issues faster.
- Selecting the Right Channels: Choosing the channels that your customers prefer, whether it’s email, chat, or phone, can be a valuable way to remedy situations. Having multiple channels of communication can be beneficial to the customer because they can now reach you at whatever is most convenient to them; however, if you do have a multi-channeled support system, you need to maintain organization. Have only some members of your team take calls and the other members take emails. Additionally, this can be helpful for your representatives. If some of them type faster or communicate better through the written word, they should be on the email side of the team. If someone is better at communicating when they cannot see the visuals over the phone, they can be on the phone team. Selecting the correct channels helps both your team and your customers.
- Training and Development: Equipping your team with the necessary skills is one of the most important aspects of creating a support strategy. To have customer support that is up to your company’s standards, you need to display that standard to your employees. When you incorporate a standardized training process that occurs before a representative even takes his or her first call, you can rest assured that you have informed them to the best of your ability what is expected of them.
- Setting Metrics and KPIs: Establishing clear measures for success to evaluate and refine the strategy is a way to improve representatives’ performance once they have been on the job for long enough. Some KPIs that might be useful in the customer support realm are average ticket resolution time, customer satisfaction that can be measured by surveys, first-call resolutions, and cost per resolution. Establishing these enables representatives to know what you expect from them and what to improve on.
Examples of World-Class Customer Support Strategies
- Multi-Channel Support with AI Integration: Multi-Channel Support often involves offering customer service through various channels like email, phone, live chat, social media, and self-service portals. By implementing such a system, companies can meet customers where they are, providing more convenient, accessible, and effective support. Additionally, Amazon has utilized AI to automate basic and common queries that customers have presented. Using this model has allowed Amazon to cut costs because of the automation, improve customer satisfaction because they can choose whichever channel best suits their needs, and provide a consistent experience that leaves customers trusting the system set in place.
- In-Person Support with Educational Resources: Apple is known for creating a robust in-person customer support system through its Apple Stores, which feature the Genius Bar for technical support and repairs. Of course, to implement this strategy, you would need to have a brick-and-mortar location. However, if you do, you can greatly improve your customer support experience. If your product is complicated or becoming more complicated, this strategy could help your business. Apple recognized that as its product lineup grew more sophisticated, customers might need in-person support to resolve issues, understand features, and get the most out of their purchases. If you do not have an in-person location that could be used for instruction, create resources that customers could use to educate themselves on the operation and features of your product. Using these resources can allow them to feel more empowered with your product and more ready to recommend it to others.
- Personalized Support with Tiered Support Levels: American Express (Amex) is widely recognized for its strong customer service ethos. While there may not be publicly available detailed information on how exactly American Express designed its personalized support system, several strategies and principles have been integral to its approach to customer service. They offer high-value and in-depth support to all of their customers; however, their support is also tiered based on your loyalty or card type. This tiered system allows for a more personalized and prioritized service to high-value or long-term customers. This system works because it encourages loyalty to your business while still providing great service to all of your customers.
How to Maintain the Strategy Over Time
- Regular Training: Continuous education ensures that your team is up-to-date with products, tools, and techniques. Becoming closely associated and comfortable with your day-to-day operations makes accomplishing goals easier and faster. Training employees whenever something new is expected of them ensures that they can be ready for the following phases and responsibilities of their work.
- Feedback Loop: Encourage customer feedback and take their opinions into account for improvements. Utilizing a customer feedback loop enables representatives to self-evaluate how they can improve their communication with customers to minimize confusion and maximize efficiency. This loop can also be used for supervision purposes. Supervisors can overlook customer feedback about each representative on their team and work with representatives to better understand how to best convey information to the customer.
- Technological Updates: Stay ahead by implementing the latest tools and technologies that align with customer needs. Adding different customer service apps to your repertoire can improve your, and your team’s, productivity and time management. Whether you feel that you need better note-taking abilities or better ways to communicate with your customers, technology has been revolutionizing the customer support field for years now. There are varieties of apps that can improve your work and efficiency.
- Monitor KPIs: Regularly track performance against the set KPIs, and adjust the strategy as required. Setting KPIs can provide a quantifiable measure to a sometimes unquantifiable problem: how satisfied is my customer? However, once you set these metrics, you need to also set up a system to measure them. Measuring these statistics can allow you to meet with representatives and discuss what issues they may be having and what ways they could be remedied. Having these measurable statistics as ways to interpret how someone is performing can enable you to help guide representatives to their goals.
A well-designed customer support strategy is vital in the current competitive landscape. Developing a robust customer support strategy is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that demands attention, innovation, and adaptability. Refining and improving your strategy comes with monitoring and commitment.
By understanding the unique needs of your customers, aligning your resources, learning from real-world examples, and committing to continuous improvement, you can build a customer support system that delights customers, builds lasting relationships, and stands out in today’s competitive market.