Customer Support Nirvana: Are We There Yet?

Kevin Bardos.

Kevin Bardos

November 14, 2018


It’s an age-old story.  Customer support teams are caught between improving operational efficiency and increasing customer satisfaction.  It feels like an impossible balance.  After all, reducing costs often has a ripple effect that impacts the customer experience, and on the flip side, solutions that help deliver a better customer experience often increase costs.  And while history shows us that reducing costs tends nearly always wins out, times they are a changin’.

We are now in the age of the customer.  Customers have more choice than ever before and one bad support experience can send them to the competition.  Companies can no longer afford to sacrifice the support experience for the sake of budgets.  At the same time, it’s not like budgets are automatically growing because customers are demanding more.  So how can support teams deliver the experience their customers want without making the finance team crazy?  First let’s define what a great tech support experience today looks like:

  • It’s Frictionless – there’s nothing worse than asking already frustrated customers to jump through hoops to get a support session up and running.  When a customer needs support, they want it with as little “homework” as possible.

  • It’s Tailored to the Need – Not all support experiences require full-on remote control session. A great experience is one where the customer support teams understand the issue at hand and deploys the appropriate level of support for that issue.  This ensures each experience is as light and fast as possible.

  • It’s Automated (where appropriate) – For, frequently asked, simple questions, customers shouldn’t have to wait on hold. AI-powered tools are helping customers self-serve – getting them answers quicker and freeing up support teams to handle more complex issues. Also, chatbots never take a vacation, so AI is helping ensure customers are supported all day, every day.

That’s customer support nirvana, but why aren’t we there yet?

The truth is that while the jobs of support professionals have changed dramatically in the last few years (consumers are adopting new technologies at a record pace), the tools and technologies that support teams use, haven’t.  Technologies – like AI – are quickly changing how customers want to work with businesses and as these expectations increase, companies feeling to pressure to reinvent their CX.  And as the race for CX supremacy continues, companies getting on board will not only have to meet the bar set by innovators, but raise it, and everyone else will be left behind.

Is AI the Answer?

Not completely, but it certainly is a key component.   AI-powered self-service solutions are quite literally transforming how support teams operate.

Today, customer support agents can feel a bit like they simply a cog in a machine.  Answering the same questions, fixing the same problems day in and day out.   There are a ton of repetitive tasks in the customer support world.  Whether it’s answering repetitive questions or gathering discovery data on a customer at the beginning of every call, agents spend a lot of their day doing mundane, administrative tasks.  They are so bogged down in these simple support tickets, they don’t have the time to dig into more complex, higher- value calls that come in.  Agents are under pressure to deliver fast time to resolution, managers are under pressure to keep costs down and the entire organization is under pressure to deliver high customer satisfaction. AI-powered self-service tools are acting like a pressure relief valve. They can handle FAQs, lightening the burden for overloaded agents and getting customers the answers they need quickly.  In addition, AI in self-service is helping agents by collecting contextual information before they even engage the customer – when they do get involved, they already have a great sense of the problem and can employ the best method to solve it.

Now, I know you’re probably wondering how fast can this future get here? While it’s important to start responding to these trends and adapting to new technologies, I will advise that this is an iterative process.  Start with a use case that allows you to test, iterate and get it right before you upend your entire support structure.  Grandiose plans increase complexity and can annihilate results if not implemented correctly.  Find the right fit for your organization and you’ll be well on your way.

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