Fact: your customers don’t want to talk to you. They don’t want to call, chat, email, text, tweet, or any of the myriad other ways they might be able to reach your company.
Think about it. When’s the last time you called the cable company because you wanted to?
The customer of the cable company just wants their service to work — and that goes for your customers as well. Once those of us focused on serving customers accept this as truth, we can instead shift our focus to empowering our customers to solve their own issues.
Better yet, let’s aim to prevent those issues in the first place. Wouldn’t the cable customer rather spend more time watching television or surfing the web and less time waiting on hold?
You get the point.
In this post, I’ll share three critical areas of focus as you work to help customers more easily solve their issues.
1. Build an intuitive user interface (and never stop improving it)
Do you know why your customers contact your company?
Chances are that they are contacting you because they can’t accomplish something on their own. Or perhaps you’ve created a tool for them but it’s either hidden or poorly documented.
It’s one thing to know the issues customers contact you about. It’s another thing to continuously improve your user interface in a way that customers no longer need to contact you.
For example, our customers at NumberBarn are required to push a button in the “Messages” section of the control panel to activate text messaging for their telephone numbers. While analyzing some customer emails, we found that they were searching for this button in their “Number Settings,” and contacting us when they realized there was no button to be found.
What did we do in response? We added the “Activate SMS” button to the “Number Settings” in hopes that more customers will be able to activate text messaging without having to contact our customer support team.
As you dig into your contact drivers, you will find many similar opportunities to make your user interface more intuitive and make life easier for your customers.
2. Build a robust knowledge base (and never stop improving it)
It’s pretty standard nowadays for companies to have an FAQ or knowledge base that answers common questions.
But how often do these become static pages with no one actively updating content and removing any old, irrelevant information? Having the best knowledge base software won’t do you any good if you aren’t updating it regularly.
When you consider that many customers search the knowledge base BEFORE contacting support, you can ill afford to get this wrong.
At NumberBarn, we challenge ourselves to move beyond simply answering customer questions. Each member of our team is encouraged to do the following when they receive a question from a customer:
- Search for a knowledge article that best answers that customer’s question.
- If an article doesn’t exist, we have a workflow in our implementation of Zendesk for creating a new article.
- If an article does exist but is out of date or missing information, they can flag it to be updated for the future.
- Finally, they can send the article to the customer as part of their answer.
By doing this, we not only provide consistently accurate answers to our customers, but we also introduce them to the NumberBarn Help Center where they can find answers to their current and future questions.
3. Use AI in smart ways to help customers find answers faster
Once you have your knowledge base up and running, the next step is to use it strategically so customers are presented with solutions when they need them most. This is where applications that harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) come into play.
We are avid users of Answer Bot by Zendesk in a couple of different ways.
First, any time a customer sends an email to our customer support team, Answer Bot uses a technology called Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand the question the customer asked and then pair it up with the most relevant answer. The customer receives an email with those results, and if they find the solution to their problem, they can actually close their own ticket.
Another way we use Answer Bot is in the support widget on our website. Customers can ask questions, see relevant results, and indicate if they found a solution. And the customer can simply click an option to open a support ticket at any point.
Notice that our focus is on helping customers find answers, NOT on preventing them from contacting our customer support team.
Answer Bot also gives us a robust set of analytics so we can see whether or not customers find our answers helpful.
Going back to the first recommendation in this article, customers often note that articles telling them to contact customer support are not helpful. In response, we’ve created tools to allow them to accomplish more of what they want on their own.
And in accordance with the second recommendation, we can easily find articles that either aren’t helpful or need to be improved for future customers.
An effortless customer experience
What it all comes down to is the experience customers have and finding ways to make that experience better. One of my favorite books on the topic of customer experience is The Effortless Experience. In it, the authors found that companies offering a low-effort experience are 50% more successful than their peers.
When we come to grips with the fact that most customers do not want to contact us, we can then focus on making it easier for them to solve their own issues. That’s the kind of company we continuously aim to be and become at NumberBarn.