Like many core business operations, customer support is constantly being transformed by new technology. For companies that deliver business-to-business customer service, customer communication used to be conducted primarily via phone or email, but now there are multiple other channels involved, including chat, portals and social media. It’s great to have a variety of ways to interact with customers, but it can also spread support operations thin as agents try to cover all the channels.
Another problem is that in a multichannel environment, service history and customer data are often stored in separate silos, so agents have to access multiple platforms to see the big picture. Customer support software can help companies bring all their channels under a single umbrella, using one platform to automate ticketing functions, centralize and expand access to data and, most importantly, enable collaboration across teams.
With greater efficiency and expanded functionalities, customer support software can save companies at least three hours per support agent per week, which can translate into a minimum of $3,000 a year per employee. But the benefits of a more unified, collaborative approach aren’t measured in dollars alone. The right customer support software can also significantly improve the customer experience, increase agent productivity and satisfaction, and give companies a better way to manage the overall relationship with their business customers.
Using new channels to expand choices and curtail costs
As the channels customers use to access support have expanded, customer support teams face both opportunities and challenges. The opportunity lies in giving customers more choices, which improves satisfaction. It also lies in deploying automated solutions, which reduce the volume of agent interactions through ticket deflection while giving customers 24/7 access to answers via knowledge bases, FAQs, how-to guides and other self-service tools.
Video, including screen recordings or video captured by a camera, can also be an extremely effective support tool. With the right software solution, customers can record their software issues onscreen with a screen recording function and embed it as a video directly into a trouble ticket or send it through a portal or social media channel so agents can view it and work on a solution. Agents can respond with a screen recording or other instructional video of their own, complete with an audio of narrated steps to a solution.
This saves everyone a lot of time by eliminating the need to write out lengthy instructions. It can also help agents build more personal relationships with customers by allowing them to put a face with a name. A comprehensive software solution can enable text, audio and video communication via multiple channels and consolidate all data so everyone can access it.
Improving agent satisfaction through collaboration
The best customer support agents are happiest when they’re solving customer problems. For a highly motivated agent, nothing is more demoralizing than being stumped by a customer’s issue and unable to resolve it. But many companies set up tiered support systems that practically guarantee that agents will soon exhaust their store of knowledge and have to transfer customers to higher levels of support for complex issues. In tiered environments, agents are frequently moved to a new tier just when they become great at their current jobs.
A better approach is to give employees a platform that enables everyone to work together to resolve customer issues. This allows agents to work with subject matter experts to solve complex problems while honing their own skills on the job. It also gives them the satisfaction of knowing that they fixed the customer’s issue, which tends to improve overall job satisfaction.
With the right software solution, agents can view the customer’s entire service history to spot patterns and get clues from past resolutions that will be helpful in addressing the current issue. A well-designed platform gives everyone in the company access to the same service history and customer database, including information on contacts, product use and much more, eliminating data silos so everyone is on the same page.
Building better customer relationships
Virtually everyone has been a customer trying to solve a product issue at some point. Most of us can tell horror stories about endless automated voice response menus or being passed from one agent to the next and no one being able to resolve the issue. With a more collaborative approach using a comprehensive software solution, companies can deliver a better experience.
Instead of shuffling customers from agent to agent to resolve complex issues (more common in business-to-business service delivery), agents can collaborate with colleagues in real time to find a fix. Customers don’t have to keep repeating their name, company name, products used, issue description, etc. — all that information is accessible to everyone via the platform.
With expanded channels, customers can get help in the manner they prefer, whether by chat, phone, portal, email or social media. Agents can view photos of customers to put a face with a name and access company information for context. And by exchanging video clips to describe and resolve issues, customers and agents can develop interpersonal relationships that strengthen cooperation between the two companies.
In sum, a more collaborative, personalized approach means happier customers, and that translates into a growing customer base, fewer customers lost to attrition and more revenue.
Continuously improving products and service
In addition to delivering significant savings — from approximately 10% to 20% of yearly support costs — a well-designed support software solution can give companies incredible insights into emerging marketplace needs and existing product effectiveness. Business-to-business support is unique because companies that deliver it can’t just focus on resolving tickets; they need to manage the relationships with the businesses they serve as a whole in addition to the individual contacts.
A collaborative platform is ideal for business-to-business support delivery because it can enable report generation so managers can spot trends and improve service with how-to guides and other forms of customer education. Ideally, it will also provide a way to run reports by customer, industry and other verticals as well as overall performance data. And cross-departmental collaboration features enable every department to gain insight into customer issues in real time to continuously improve products and services.
Companies that deliver service to business customers have evolved along with the technology that drives customer communication. They’re covering more channels and adapting to customer preferences. But the rapidly changing nature of customer communication can leave agents spread thin. A customer support solution that centralizes data and powers collaboration is the answer. Companies that find a way to leverage their collective knowledge and serve customers efficiently not only generate significant savings, they can deliver a superior customer experience and gain a marketplace advantage.
— Robert C. Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of TeamSupport (www.teamsupport.com), a cloud-based, B2B software application built to help customer-facing support teams serve clients better through stronger collaboration, superior teamwork and faster issue resolution. A seasoned executive and entrepreneur who has founded and invested in numerous software and high-tech companies, Johnson’s industry experience as a business leader and a customer inspired him to create TeamSupport to give support desk teams the tools and best practices to enhance customer loyalty and positively affect product sales. Prior to founding TeamSupport, Johnson was President and CEO of Sundance Digital, one of the world’s leading providers of automation software to television and cable broadcasters. The company was sold in 2006 to Avid Technology (Nasdaq: AVID).