By Matthew Klein

August 28th, 2015

  • +78%

    Growth for CX leaders over last 7 years

  • +7%

    YOY revenue per contact for SM support leaders

  • 97%

    Fail to manage cross-channel support

The value of positive customer support interactions is enormous for most businesses. Brands that do social support well see a 6.7% increase in year over year revenue per contact, and those that don’t see a 12% decrease. Companies at the top of their industry in terms of overall customer experience across channels have seen 78% growth in market capitalization over the last seven years. Yet 97% of brands can’t switch between support channels seamlessly. An approach to driving value through your customer engagement strategy. 

On the macro level, the most important shift in business right now is the one towards a greater focus on customer needs.

Marketers are looking more at how they can provide value to their audience—how they can educate, entertain and engage. Product design is growing more empathetic. Businesses are making serious efforts to understand how customers experience their brand and how they can improve that experience.

In an increasingly competitive landscape, understanding your customers is key to retaining them and improving CLV, which have a huge impact on your business’s bottom line.

One of the primary battlegrounds for retaining customers is engaging with them in a support context.

"A one point increase in customer service satisfaction (on a scale of one to five) yielded a 5% increase in retention rate."

Bain & Company study

As marketers look to maximize value and meet customer needs across the customer journey, the high-level priorities of the CMO and the head of CS begin to converge; how your brand handles any issues customers raise can make or break a customer relationship and their lifetime value to your brand.

A Bain & Company study of online retailers showed that a one point increase in customer service satisfaction (on a scale of one to five) yielded a five percent increase in retention rate.

This is as true on social media as elsewhere: according to McKinsey, brands that are able to get care right on social media have a major advantage in terms of per-customer value than those that don’t.

“We found that companies that have developed social care capabilities to do this well—in a personal, non-invasive, and relevant way—improved year-over-year revenue per contact by 6.7% (those that didn’t saw a corresponding 12.1% decline).”

More and more possible touchpoints

As it gains importance, customer care is also becoming more complex. Social media has become a critical arena for customer service, with leading brands like Whole Foods supporting up to 40% of support interactions over social media, according to the company’s Head of CRM, Social and Customer Care, Natanya Anderson.

New areas where brands need to support customers continue to crop up. Facebook recently announced that they would release tools to enable brands to support customers via Messenger, and brands are already handling support via WhatsApp. Customers are even looking to brand presences on Instagram for support—to customers, any channel your brand is on is a possible channel for support.

On top of all this, customer expectations are only getting higher for service. As more businesses attempt to make customer service a differentiator, people will demand speedier, more effective responses from support: research has shown that 72% of customers who complain to a brand on social media expect a response within an hour.

What needs to happen to make customer support a driver of business value in this complex environment?


Make great interactions the standard

A lot of businesses aren’t succeeding in this area. Of 362 companies surveyed by Bain & Company, 80 % believed they provided a “superior” customer service experience. Of those companies’ customers, how many thought the same? Only 8 %.

One example of why this might be happening: At a conference I attended, an executive for a very large American cable provider asked a question. He was the company head for a region with a population of around 50 million, of which, conservatively, one quarter were customers of his company.

He prefaced his question by saying his company was “making a major push for better customer service.” He said he wanted to handle service complaints over social media. The issue, he said, was that he only had two people who would be working on support over social media, and he wanted to know what he could do to help them be as efficient as possible.

Two people to cover social service for millions of customers, in an industry that has a high volume of service needs, does not suggest that customer engagement was anything of a real priority for that company.

The first step in creating positive engagement is taking it seriously. Doing that means considering not just the cost of customer service, but the returns, in terms of the impact it can have on the overall customer journey and brand loyalty.

And it can have a major impact: according to Forrester, companies that lead in terms of customer experience outperform others in the market: They’ve seen an average of 78% growth in the last seven years, compared to a three percent decline for companies with subpar CX. 

Creating customer interactions that drive value for your brand needs to start with a consideration of what the customer is hoping to get out of them.

What do people want from customer service? They want it to be available, effective, and friendly. If your customers find it very easy to reach you about support questions, if their issues are resolved quickly and completely, and if the person doing it (ideally, the same person throughout the whole experience) is warm and personable, they will be satisfied.

The aim is that your customers feel good after a service interaction, both about your brand and in general. That positive feeling from a good interaction is what makes your brand top of mind for a customer when they’re purchasing again.

Accomplishing it across channels

On a high level, creating positive customer support experiences is best accomplished by focusing on overall success factors ahead of individual channels.

Determine broad goals for support experiences. Goals should include not only issue resolution, but also satisfaction with support, and, to the extent you can track it, repeat purchasing by customers who interact with support agents.

The specific channels where you provide support should be based on two things—the channels your customers are trying to reach you on, and your ability to accomplish those goals there.

And for the instances where you may need to switch between support channels, you need to figure out how to manage the transition between channels effectively.

Forrester found that only 3% of companies are extremely effective at supporting customer handoffs between channels seamlessly.

While separating out social customer service from telephone, for example, may be necessary for some brands, ideally, you should have one team. If that is impossible, at least work to get your teams side by side, operating to provide the same high level of service whatever channel they’re on.

Customer care shows people what your true brand priorities are. The ones that can create positive experiences across multiple channels are the ones that stand the best chance of building more valuable relationships with their customers and stronger brands.

Effective Social Customer Service

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