The Number One Goal for Most Support Departments: Decrease the Overhead for Customer/User Support.
Companies face a large overhead tied to the amount of agents needed to field inbound requests- whether it be by email, phone or chat. Depending on the medium the customer uses to interact with the agent, the cost to the company can increase or decrease. Example: a phone call will usually cost more than an email exchange because it is easier to multi-task with email and you can pull from scripted responses.
The first step companies take to decrease their overhead is to cut the number of support agents. This typically results in poor customer satisfaction because there rarely are enough agents left to handle the volume of tickets.
Before Cutting Agents, First Understand the Lifecycle of a Customer “Issue”
A better way to approach this is to understand the customer issue lifecycle:
Looking at the Customer Issue Lifecycle above, “Self-Troubleshoot” is the number one step any customer takes when they have a question. When self-troubleshooting doesn’t work they continue on through the cycle until eventually the company’s support team gets involved.
A crucial component to this problem solving step is whether the user has access to helpful documentation.
If the documentation doesn’t evolve or grow with the needs of its users, then the users will become frustrated and will have to call/chat/email a support agent. Experience in this fields suggests users don’t prefer to contact support over finding the solution themselves. If the answer is available in documentation, it will always take less time for the user to consume the answer than from re-explaining the problem and working through a solution with a support agent.
How can You Control the Lifecycle of a Customer Issue?
Understanding that the first fallback point for a majority of customers is the documentation, or lack thereof, is a great place to start:
1) Provide a knowledge base that listens to your users.
That may sound like I’m personifying the KB, but with the proper tools in place it can learn what your users are looking for, what is working to solve their issues, and what information is missing. With analytics like this, you can maximize your documentation effort to push out content that will significantly decrease the number of support cases submitted as well as decrease the time for your sales force to close their deals because they can use the documentation as well.
2) Make your documentation easily accessible to your users.
You could have the best documentation in the world, with videos, pictures, and interactive walkthroughs, but if your users can’t access the info at the point in time when they have their issues, it is just adding another level of friction for them.
3) Remove the emphasis on submitting a ticket.
A majority of Help Centers/Support communities make it really easy to submit a support ticket. In fact sometimes it is too easy to the point where the user can submit a ticket easier than they can find the answer. While you may provide excellent customer support, there is no need to put it to the test. Provide as much information as you can to your users so they can self serve. Why is Wikipedia so popular? It isn’t because people are waiting for people to answer questions, it is because it is a constantly growing central repository of knowledge. Your product documentation should be the same. Think if your users used your product docs the same way the world uses Wikipedia. It will be the first location your users go.
With the steps above you will be able to effectively manage the lifecycle of the customer issue so that the questions that come into your helpdesk will be more focused on advanced functionality and it won’t penalize the users that self serve.