Last year only 1% of consumers surveyed reported that their expectations for a good customer experience were always met. The same survey reports that 89% said they moved their business to a competitor after a single poor experience. It should be noted that that rate of consumer defection is up 21% since 2006. Two things are clear here. First, consumers’ expectations for great customer service and experiences are rising, and second, companies that don’t invest in the customer experience can expect to lose their customers to those that do. The first step to take toward creating tangible customer centricity is actually often over-looked by a good number of companies, and it’s the most critical step: Product documentation and help. (Note I didn’t say tech support)
Consumers Want to Hold the Map
More than 75% of digital device and software users report that they prefer not to contact a support agent, but would rather have searchable access to product documentation and a community of subject matter experts. For companies that haven’t invested in a social product help umbrella for their customers, the prospect of gaining actionable insight into whether or not their customers’ expectations are being met is nil and absent the opportunity to proactively manage the consumer product experience companies are helpless to reverse negative experience trends.
The Cost of Blindness
The impact of remaining blind to this self-support trend is staggering. Recent studies concluded by Greenfield Online, Datamonitor, Ovum analysts and Genesys, concluded that companies in the United States lose about $83 billion annually in product abandonment, customer churn and defections due to customer support failures. Globally, across the 16 largest economies, the total loss to support failure was $338 billion annually. The main reason these losses continue is a lack of actionable insight to the consumers’ support expectations and the real customer experience with products.
The Rise of Badvocacy
Customer Experience experts now widely agree that companies using static support architectures, commonly referred to as Help 1.0 environments, are most vulnerable to consumer defection because they fail to engage the consumer and thus they’re blind to the consumer’s sense of product and product help fulfillment and thrust consumers into a support frontier dominated by 3rd party forums, blogs, “review” sites and communities that are anything but brand friendly and, more often than not, tend to promote competitive alternatives. Sites like these represent slightly more than 20% of the internet landscape. Product and marketing teams refer to these rat’s nests as “badvocate” sites, and on average, according to the public relations firm Weber Shandwick, reach an estimated 14 million people each.
Here’s two easy steps you can accomplish quickly to start winning against Badvocates:
1) Give Documentation and Knowledge Base Assets a Life on the Web
Badvocates are well entrenched on the internet however their chief vulnerability is SEO. Badvocate sites prey on brands whose product documentation and knowledge base assets are closely held by their companies by filling the SEO void with huge amounts of “crowd sourced” content. The single most important step you can take to win back your search engine ranking is to give your documentation and knowledge base assets a life on the web. Consumers want information from the most credible source available, and that’s your company. By optimizing your help content for the web you’ll win critical ground back from Badvocates.
2) Build an Engaging Self-Service Community
Over 90% of consumers report that they almost always look for the help they need on brand sites first. Clearly, the rise of badvocate sites is due in no small part to the lack of effective proprietary self-serve help sites. The key here is effectiveness. In order for your brand to win against badvocacy your help site must be effective in these key areas:
a) Usability: Your site must be easy to navigate and powered by an adaptive search engine that surfaces highly relevant information to your customer along with other meaningful collateral information that deepens the expertise of the product user.
b) Feedback: You need to know how engaged and satisfied your customers are with the information, help and documentation your providing them. Offering the opportunity to the customer to offer feedback around your product gives you the opportunity not only to engage the customer when they need help, but also provides a stream that feeds continuous improvement of the customer experience.
c) Active Brand Participation: Users of your self-serve community have to know you’re actively listening to them and paying attention to their needs in your support channel. Although your customers may be served well by your documentation or your user community, you’ll magnify the consumer experience by actively participating with the community, recognizing and rewarding productive participation, even if it’s only to acknowledge a members contribution toward solving another’s problem.
d) Analytics: Having continuous visibility into the performance of your self-serve community is a must to drive continuous improvement while keeping your customers’ needs in focus. It’s also essential because often the early warning signs of support hot-spots will surface within your analytics, enabling you to respond quickly and directly. Analytics will also provide actionable information regarding your customers’ sense of product fulfillment and provides a means by which to tune into and respond to consumers’ desires for certain product features or improvements.
e) Escape Hatch: There will be times when either your documentation or your community won’t have the right answer or your customer simply needs someone to walk them through a crisis. When that happens your customer needs an escape route directly to you and your support team. This can be via phone, email, or live chat.
With these five elements in place along with opening up your product documentation to the web, you’re well on your way to winning the Customer Experience war against “Badvocacy”
For a quick look at a self-service help site that accomplishes all these goals, take a look at CAD software giant Autodesk. Here is a video produced by them that introduces their MindTouch powered help site to their users. Autodesk and MindTouch have won CS/CX awards for this site: