What makes great support? // 7 min reading time

Customer service expectations have shifted dramatically in recent years with the onset of digital communication tools and availability. We talk about Cedita's take on providing good customer support and service.

Are you satisfied with customer support?

Think about the last time you had to speak to a support team for anything, whether it's software (like our context) or even anything else such as your phone, bank or utility provider.

Was it a good experience? Did you feel satisfied with the service you got?

Unfortunately, the chance is that you probably didn't feel that way. In fact, 64% of customers report that they were unable to actually solve their problem by speaking to customer support teams.

The repercussions of bad service

According to various studies from a multitude of different bodies,

  • 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however 91% of those will simply leave and never come back (Glance)
  • Nearly 60% of customers feel that long holds and wait times are the most frustrating parts of a service experience (Zendesk Research)
  • 50% of consumers will switch to a competitor after one bad experience, and 80% will switch to a competitor after more than one bad experience (Zendesk)
  • 33% of customers are most frustrated by having to wait on hold, and 33% are most frustrated by having to repeat themselves to multiple support reps (Hubspot Research)
  • A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people (White House Office of Consumer Affairs)

Those statistics should be shocking enough for you to want to offer great customer service. Let's leave the negative in the past and move on to what makes up great customer support.

What makes up great support

Providing a great customer support experience can be summarised in just a few points:

  • Speed to contact (and resolution)
  • Knowledge (of the customer and in general of the support team)
  • Convenience
  • Consistency
  • Friendliness

We'll break these down (in no particular order or specificity) for the rest of this article, but it's important to keep these key, simple points at the forefront of your mind when considering your customer support.

Do it with a (virtual) smile

When a customer reaches out to customer support, it's generally that they are unhappy because they have an issue that they cannot resolve. They may have already read your knowledge base or FAQ areas and searched for solutions elsewhere without receiving a satisfactory result. At the point they come through to support they may be agitated or stressed that the platform, product or service is not meeting their expectations.

It is important then that starting the conversation from the customer support side with both a positive and authentic mindset will build up the necessary rapport with a customer to be able to identify and resolve whatever their issue may be. This helps to diffuse what started out as a possibly negative interaction and help with customer retention.

It may also go without saying, but the old adage of "the customer is always right" applies to this day. Customer support teams must have empathy and understanding towards whatever the customer's plight may be, ensuring that the customer is always treated with respect at every point of the conversation. Yes, even if they are slating your product.

Focus on happiness, not response metrics

If your metrics are based around "first response time" or "time to resolution" and nothing else, you are looking in the wrong place.

Here's the thing, it's great that you can respond within 10 minutes. But if that response gets you nowhere towards solving the customer's problem is there really any point in it?

Thanks for sending us this issue!

We are working on this and will reply to you soon.

How nice! But consider the problems.

  • This immediately shows a lack of empathy
  • The customer (hopefully) already knows that you've received their issue
  • It demonstrates a lack of product knowledge
  • Are you really working on it?

Perhaps we should explain the last 2 here as it may be unclear.

How many times has a customer's first issue report been able to satisfactorily lead to a resolution (unless it's something generic - "THIS CORE FEATURE IS NOT WORKING!!")? Chances are, not very often. So how is it then, that you are working on it already if the information required for a resolution is not provided?

Imagine if your next contact was this:

Could you explain what it is you were doing and what you would expect to happen instead?

A potentially useful reply to gather information yet in the customer's head you were working on the issue already, why was that not asked immediately?

Consider the following first response instead:

Thanks for sending this in, we are sorry to hear that [X] is not working the way you would expect!

Could you please share with us exactly what happened when you tried to [X] and got [Y] instead?

Immediately the buck is back with the customer, and they know that you care to try and understand enough what is happening to be able to help resolve the issue that they are having.

Make sure your support teams have the right knowledge (and tools, and support)

This point is much bigger than it may seem at first glance. It's one thing to know how a product should work, but it's another thing entirely to know how to resolve an issue with it.

In the software world it is inevitable that an issue will be received that requires developer or product owner intervention to resolve. The major point to identify in this is just how many issues require this at any level. If your developers (or the developer of a specific feature) are the only domain knowledge experts then how can you expect your support team to be able to, well, support it?

Your first line of issue handling should always have at least the following:

  • Documentation on the product they deal with
  • The ability to resolve common issues through their own access
  • The ability to see what the customer sees (typically this is delegated, time-limited access to a customer's resources with their permission)
  • Escalation ability for critical issues

Offer the channels that work for your business

As convenience was mentioned above it is common to assume that the more channels that are available to a customer, the better.

That thinking, however, leads to potential problems for your business.

60% of customers feel that long hold times on the phone or wait times on other channels are the most frustrating part of interacting with customer support.

If you are a small team that offers live chat, phone support, email support, Messenger support, SMS support and Whatsapp Support, how can you possibly manage all of the channels at once? Even with an omni-channel support solution, the issues can stack up and detract from one another.

Have you ever been frustrated by a Live Chat that says "Expected wait time 1 minute", yet you're still there 25 minutes later because the operator had a phone call they needed to deal with?

Consider the channels that you can operate effectively, and operate them well.

How does Cedita do support?

All of our support is over email. Why? Because it's the channel that works best for us and so in turn works best for our customers. It's also the most preferred channel for customer support.

100% satisfaction!

As an all remote business with distributed teams that each deal with different parts of the company at different levels, we don't work in the same way that most do. That means we don't have a support representative sat there manning the desk, firing issues off in every direction to see who might pick it up and help.

If you have ever spoken to us you'll know that we don't put a name against our support emails either. So far in this year we have handled over 430 issues in our support desk across our products, and the average number of people responding to them is 2.3. Because we are a hugely cohesive team with high collaboration mentality it's unlikely that the customers know they are speaking to different people, and changing names may actually have a negative effect. Why? Remember a statistic from earlier, “33% are most frustrated by having to repeat themselves to multiple support reps”. Customers feel that if their case is being handed off around to different team members that knowledge of the issue at each point may be diluted, think of the game telephone to understand why.

For each of our products our customer support team that initially handles responses has full documentation for each and every feature. We make a point of it and make sure that it's regularly updated by product owners. They also have access to their own dashboard that allows limited access to perform common resolution tasks that are just above what a customer can do, and just below what a developer would have access to. Every detail of a case is also logged within it for the rest of the team to have access to in case responsibility needs to switch for whatever reason.

As the image above shows we are immensely proud to have a satisfaction score of 100%! The only thing we wish for is a higher response rate to our surveys, but you can't have it all.

Some good news

We gave some horrific statistics at the start of this article, so let's end it on a high note with some positive ones about customer support. We hope that they might motivate you to look at your customer support function and improve it if necessary.

  • 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience (Salesforce)
  • 83% of customers cited good customer service as their most important criterion for deciding what to buy (Khoros)
  • 83% of customers agree that they feel more loyal to brands that respond and resolve their complaints (Khoros)
  • 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is just as necessary as its products or services (Salesforce)
  • 72% of customers will tell six or more people if they have a satisfying experience (Esteban Kolsky)
  • 70% of unhappy customers whose problems are resolved are willing to shop with a business again (Glance)

Remember, it's not all about customer support. The customer experience within your product or service is equally if not more important. If a customer doesn't need to contact support in the first instance then that is the best possible outcome for everyone involved!

Before you go

Customer support doesn't end after the issue has been resolved. Do you see what we did here?

Don't forget about following up with your customer after they have interacted with you, regardless of the outcome. This doesn't just mean asking them to provide feedback or a survey, but it shows that you genuinely care about the customer and are readily available if the problem returns or if a new one arises.

Just remember, every time you have an interaction with a customer there is an opportunity to deepen the relationship, trust and ultimately customer spend and retention when it's done right. Don't miss out on the opportunity with this essential touch point, and ensure that your operating procedures and tools offer the best customer support possible.