Reduce Support Costs with Customer Communities: Drive Customer Self-Service (Part 1)

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Customer Communities Reduce Support Costs: Customer Self-Service
Long before customers turned to Facebook to ask questions, share feedback, and connect with brands, business owners have been faced with a common problem—how do you scale support, while keeping company costs low and providing a great customer experience? Facebook alone has not had a huge impact on that issue (and isn’t growth the business problem to have?). In the social era, it’s more important than ever to provide positive customer experiences.

 

You simply can’t afford not to when people are relying so heavily on the opinions of their peers to make purchase decisions, and any perceived misstep on your part is likely to result in negative word-of-mouth with unprecedented reach. This can pose a challenge for a business that’s trying to scale support quickly. Agent salaries are the most expensive aspect of a support center, so keeping this cost low by understaffing the team or resorting to static or automated responses is tempting.
Unfortunately, these solutions also have a tendency to result in lower satisfaction levels, negative word-of-mouth, and poor customer retention.
This is where support communities come in. When moderated and curated effectively, customer support communities can result in serious savings for companies. I worked with GetSatisfaction to identify three major areas where support communities can reduce costs and drive revenue by:
• Enabling excellent self-service for common issues,
• Improving agent workflow and efficiency
• Increasing customer retention and acquisition
This eBook is the first in a three-post series explaining how customer communities can help companies realize significant savings and revenue, along with the metrics and calculations to measure the value. This book focuses on the way companies can leverage community for customer self-service, freeing up agents to deal with more complicated, technical problems. Stay tuned for the next two, which will focus on the other ways you can leverage community to improve agent efficiency and drive revenue.

 

Self-Service: The What and the Why
Perhaps you’re familiar with the expression: Customer service is the new marketing. This doesn’t imply that your support agents will now be responsible for crafting messaging, producing webinars, or collecting customer testimonials. Rather, it suggests that providing consumers with helpful, positive experiences at every touch point in the customer lifecycle is critical for creating the kind of loyal relationships that are the foundation of all repeat business and brand advocacy.
So what does this mean for your company? Obviously you want to ensure that your support agents are friendly, helpful, and have a reasonable workload, so they can provide great service to everyone that needs their help. A customer community may not help much with those first two requirements (although a number of companies do hire top support agents by identifying brand advocates in their community).
A community can, however, greatly reduce the amount of one-off requests your support agents get by making it easy for customers to self-service their own answers, especially the ones to simple questions that get asked over and over again. This frees up your agents to deal with more complicated requests from other customers, and prevents your customers from having to wait in a phone queue or for an email response, when the answer to their question—“what is the average wait time for delivery,” for example —is simple and readily available in your community. Self-service support implies a variety of easy-to-find and understand resources, so your customers have access to up to date, accurate information.

 

A solid self-service strategy doesn’t just benefit your support agents (although they will thank you for implementing a good system). It’s extremely desirable for your customers, who are bound to be relieved if they can find the answers to their questions themselves, instead of having to call or email. This is especially true if your target market is made up of Millenials, but more and more it’s true of all generations. People would rather find the answers to their questions themselves than wait for a phone or email representative to help. Customers who have faith that their issues will be dealt with a way that is painless and effective are much more likely to bring their business back to you next time they’re making a purchase.

(Stay tuned for part 2!)

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