The Evolution in Customer-Driven Support

By Tricina Elliker

Video-centric and customer-driven support is transforming the way customers and brands interact. Customers are demanding more control in the buying, shipping, and support of their products, triggering smart brands to find ways to accommodate this desire. That’s the good news. Now at the same time, organizations are not taking advantage of some of the best technologies available.

Video support is at the top of that list. It has been poised to overtake all other methods for a couple of years now, but industries hesitant to jump on this new technology, have neglected to jump on the opportunity. And the result has been lost customer loyalty and absurd customer support costs. A Gartner report from the beginning of 2015 predicted that by 2018, 20% of the largest global businesses would offer video support. Still it appears these enterprises are dragging their heels.

If getting customer videos that capture the problem, save time, money and frustration — what’s the hold up? First, let’s look at how customers are taking part in their support experience.

Customer-Controlled Support Saves Dollars and Feels Good

One Harvard Business Review post outlines a story where a single industrial equipment company discovered they could save $10 million if 1-in-12 customers handled technical issues themselves. The company implemented a number of different ways for customers to fix problems as they arose, without needing a visit from a technician, drastically reducing their time to resolution.

Giving customers a way to start the solution process eases their frustration and makes them feel more confident that they’re on their way to a permanent fix.

Taking care of issues fast also improves customer satisfaction. A 2015 Forrester survey found that 73% of consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good customer service.

And one of the most valuable findings about customer support is the part speed plays. As you’d expect, customers prefer faster resolutions rather than slower. But beginning the support process faster also boosts customer satisfaction. So even when a specific product issue can’t be solved instantly or by the customer at all and a technician still needs to come out and fix the problem, simply giving the customer a chance to begin and play an active role in the resolution process makes them feel something on their to-do list is getting done. In other words, even if you can’t resolve a customer’s issues right away, letting your customer start the support process generates satisfaction on its own.

Still many industries seem hesitant to implement this kind of support, even though their customers don’t share that wariness. In one survey, 67% of consumers said they actually prefer “self-service” customer support which shows the importance customers place on getting proactive to speed up their service.

In fact, most publications addressing “self-service” support discuss the benefits of resolving an issue without any interaction with a representative, but the self-service approach is useful even in circumstances where the issue can’t be resolved immediately or without any representative intervention. For instance guided recordings, a technology that allows customers to record and submit videos of their problem any time from anywhere, giving customers the control over the products and services they purchase.

When customers are able to take the first step toward resolving an issue, they’re more optimistic about the outcome.

The other way that video is poised to make a large contribution to customer satisfaction is less direct, but just as important. The videos themselves — whether that’s web real-time communications (WebRTC) videos or a pre-recorded video — offer an immense amount of rich information that other departments desperately want. Areas like quality assurance and product development are always eager for better information about how their customers actually interact with the products. Video gives brands a better window than ever before into how their products are actually used in the real world, helping them create better products in the future.

Video Puts the Human Touch Back in Customer Support

When presented with a new technological leap in customer support, why is it the focus always seems to be on using that technology to replace human interaction, rather than a way to augment and increase the human element?

Phone trees, virtual assistants, and other clumsy attempts to increase customer support efficiency have taught customers that new tech in this space is likely to be clunky, buggy, and generally a big waste of their time. Customers hate your attempts at automating their customer support experiences for two reasons: One, it’s usually not done very well; and two, customers actually prefer more of a human element, especially if they can save time while having a better support experience.

Chat, voice, and email all leave out a lot of information, forcing the customer to make up for that lack of data by describing what they see or hear, while the representative is left trying to make sense of that information and figure out what’s happening. With video, that pressure is lifted: The representative can see and hear what the customer sees and hears, removing a long list of communication issues and knowledge gaps.

For simple issues, this can greatly reduce frustration, especially when interacting with customers who already have a short fuse. Customers can get feedback that they’ve set up a device incorrectly or are skipping an important step when trying to use the product. For more complicated issues, and for products with more intricate design that require extensive expert support to look over every problem, guided recordings might not cut it. And that’s okay. That’s where live video provides immense value. Representatives can guide customers in real time and get more information so field technicians are prepared with the parts and time needed to fix the problem during the first visit.

Video Support’s Biggest Obstacles are People

So if guided recordings have so much to offer, why haven’t Gartner’s predictions come true? Well, it takes a lot of time and work to make the shift to new technologies. It requires investments, both in terms of direct costs as well as the cost of training employees — even when the switch would save money in the long run, organizations are often reluctant to embrace big changes. Consider the fact that 77% of American adults own a smartphone, and yet customer support with real, usable mobile options are only beginning to emerge. And that’s despite research that high performing customer support teams are five times more likely to use mobile in their support strategy.

Employees might be nervous that the technology won’t integrate seamlessly, or that training will be frustrating and difficult. Leadership at these brands might worry about the potential cost of such a big overhaul to the way they currently provide support and resolve issues. But by focusing on vague worries, everyone is missing out on the potential. Video is the best option for gathering rich data for machine learning and designing better products, resolving issues faster, making customers feel more in control, and saving money.

Representatives are ready to add video to their customer support toolbox, and customers are eager for new, faster ways to fix their products and move on with their lives. Brands looking to improve their customer support strategy should look into incorporating guided recordings and real-time video support. Consumers are ready. They’re openly asking to be more involved in the support process, we just have to give them intuitive, no-frustration tools to do that.


Originally published at www.mirror.me.