How many businesses have stopped to consider whether their support styles are actually as customer-centric as they intend? While support teams always have the best customer-first intentions in mind, companies can develop some bad habits that end up complicating the customer experience in unnecessary ways. If your business still engages in either tiered support or scripted phone support, it's time to make some changes to remain competitive. Here's why:
Arranging your agents in tiers according to their skill level makes sense in theory - you want to match customers who have complex issues with knowledgeable agents while leaving new hires to solve simple queries. However, tiered support systems often end up shuffling customers from one rep to another.
Consider a customer who creates a ticket because of a problem with their custom plugin. Because of a recent update to the existing software, the plugin no longer functions correctly. A junior agent wouldn't be able to solve this problem, and the customer would be passed to someone who can. The customer could switch agents numerous times before finally finding one who can address the issue and help with the plugin.
All of the switching increases the time it takes to find a solution and get the software working again. Customers also have to repeat themselves to each agent only to be shuffled along to the next one.
"Your business should allow agents to collaborate and share knowledge."
Instead of using a tiered structure, allow agents to collaborate and share knowledge so one agent can stay with a customer as long as their ticket is open. Collaborative customer support software has built-in features that help agents share ideas and resolve support issues faster. Knowledge bases are also valuable resources for new agents or those who need a quick refresher on a particular topic, while chat capabilities let agents connect with each other and ask questions in real time.
Imagine one of your reps is currently on the phone with a customer but doesn't know how to solve their issue. With collaborative customer support software they can chat with a fellow agent who knows the answer and get back to the customer without ending or transferring the phone conversation. Not only does the agent learn something new, but the customer never has to suffer the time-consuming process of repeating information and switching agents.
With these resources, junior agents can stay with a ticket until it's completed, preparing them to face similar issues in the future. Even if they do have to switch agents for an unforeseen reason, they can still access the information and answers the new agent provides, increasing their skill and preparing them for more tickets.
Scripted phone support
As Shep Hyken noted, good and personable telephone skills are essential for strengthening relationships with customers who prefer to call in their tickets instead of submitting them online. Some organizations use scripted responses to ensure their agents are courteous and collect all of the information necessary to help. This can eliminate mistakes like forgetting to ask when the issue started or who on the customer's end is authorized to access the software in question. However, scripts add a robotic quality to a person's speech and prevent reps from using creative problem-solving skills. Agents are expected to follow a specific set of questions and statements instead of thinking critically. Because they're so unnatural, scripted conversations make agents seem less personable and not as invested in the customer's problem. This makes customers feel disrespected and unimportant.
Instead of relying on scripts, your business should encourage agents to act naturally - yet professionally - with customers. You can detail this kind of etiquette and other guidelines in internal documents your agents can access and are trained to use within your support software. Put emphasis on making your business feel friendly and approachable so customers are more willing to engage with your company in other ways. A good support experience could lead to repeat business and even referral opportunities.
Customer-centric support via technology
Customer support software does more than enhance tiered or scripted phone support strategies with more customer-friendly alternatives. Here's how the right technology helps businesses go above and beyond to help their B2B customers and rise above the competition:
- It tells agents what products and inventory a particular customer has, so reps never have to ask and customers don't have to repeat themselves.
- Integration with other customer relationship management (CRM) applications lets agents stay up-to-date on any changes made by sales staff, software developers, and other employees. This way, reps don't accidentally use old information when helping customers.
- Customized reports provide an overview of how your support team performs. You can quickly see your average resolution time, ratio of unsolved tickets, common queries, and more. This, along with customer distress indexes that compile data from ticket histories, lets you gauge the satisfaction of your customers so you can identify new ways to optimize the support process to your advantage.
If your business uses tiered structures or scripted responses, you can get back on track by encouraging critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving. Pairing these skills with the right customer support software helps your agents exceed customer expectations.