Businesses are used to answering customer support questions directly over the phone. Yet, as the products and services offered by business-to-business (B2B) organizations turn increasingly digital, their customers start treating support in a similar manner. An increasing number of customers turn to online methods like email, chat and social media to contact businesses with issues related to their products. It's up to B2B companies to make sure they observe all channels and customers in a timely and efficient manner.
MyCustomer cited research which found businesses in the U.K. neglect half of incoming customer service questions from online methods. A whopping 61 percent of customer service emails and 59 percent of queries via Twitter are left unanswered. In addition, businesses fail to respond to 36 percent of support requests coming directly from the company website.
This type of performance is bad news for a business. As Alok Chowdhury, content marketing manager for the community platform company Vanilla Forums, wrote, customers have high expectations of the service and support they receive. Failing to meet those expectations - especially by not responding to the customer at all - prompts many customers to find a competitor.
Responding to every question
For agents to be successful, they need the ability to respond to customers no matter how the latter chooses to contact support. Essentially, they must monitor every channel and platform and be quick to respond to customer queries. Doing so is difficult, both for agents with a heavy workload and businesses that simply don't have the resources to constantly track their social media pages.
Working in multiple platforms and having to manage different systems is time consuming, frustrating and provides potential for missed information or missed inquiries. This is where online support software is tremendously beneficial. These solutions integrate with platforms like email clients and Facebook, giving customers a new way to submit tickets. Incoming queries are immediately cataloged with tickets from other channels, collecting them in one database all reps have access to. When support requests all come to the same place, agents can work in one system and have access to all information, making them more efficient and less likely to miss customer queries.
Still, there's one area such software solutions can't exactly integrate with: Google. An increasing amount of customers turn to a search engine when they have issues with a product. According to Chowdhury, 98 percent of Vanilla's incoming customer support traffic came directly from Google itself. When factoring in competitors like Bing, Vanilla found 60 percent of its traffic came from search engines overall.
"Businesses need a support software solution that provides opportunities for self-service support."
These numbers indicate customers have a desire to find solutions on their own before contacting support desks. Therefore, in addition to customer support software that can monitor, collect and organize incoming tickets from various channels, businesses also need a solution that provides opportunities for self-service support.
One such opportunity is a knowledge base where customers find answers to simple or commonly asked questions. Instead of responding to the same query over and over again, agents can direct customers to one page with answers, tutorials and links to related topics. Software with ticket deflection and auto-suggest capabilities can direct customers to these answers when they first begin typing a support ticket, bypassing traditional support altogether.
Customers themselves are another great resource for self-service support, so businesses should provide them with a platform where they can interact with each other. Customer support software that creates and manages community forums lets customers help each other, asking questions and providing answers on both general issues and nuanced or individual ways to use the product.
Search engines pick up both knowledge bases and forums, so customers searching for answers through Google, Bing and others are led directly to available self-service support options.
Taking the time to provide quality support must be the priority of any business. Customer support is no longer confined to conversations via the phone or even email. These days, customers expect businesses to be available through the channels they use multiple times each day - email, social media, phone and even Google. It's up to businesses to go to the lengths necessary to meet customers on their terms and keep them satisfied.