Customer support is about more than assisting customers in their time of need. It’s more than an online chat, FAQ bot, or open phone line. It’s more than employees with feet on the ground in retail locations.
The true essence of customer support is the customer experience throughout the entirety of the relationship lifecycle.
Matt Dale, VP of Customer Support at Illuminate Education, brings 15 years of experience in customer support and success. Matt brings dynamic insights to the world of customer support through building high-functioning support and data service teams in b2b Sass environments.
Diving in and sharing his experience, Matt Dale offers a path to enlightenment regarding the actual composition and focus of a highly effective and successful customer support system.
There’s a common misconception that customer support teams exist solely to address issues and extinguish fires. While that is a single but significant role that CX teams play, it is only one facet of customer support responsibilities.
While the reactive role of de-escalation and problem response is vital in CX teams, it’s also essential to recognize the proactive responsibilities in customer support.
In fact, customer support often serves as the face of an organization, meaning they play a pivotal role in building the brand.
“For us on client-facing teams and customer-facing teams, we are the face of the brand.”
— Matt Dale
From the moment a customer walks through the door, opens a website chat, or dials in, CX takes on the task of shaping customer experiences. These experiences will determine whether a customer will return, whether they will recommend the brand to others, and how the brand is perceived.
A brand risks its image and reputation without proactive and excellent customer support at the front lines.
Approaching customer support as if they are only firefighters against the flames of customer crisis truly undermines their role in establishing organizational success and image.
The role of support professionals includes an extensive list that is often ill-defined. For example, while de-escalation and problem solving are key responsibilities that come to mind when assessing the customer support role, the position requires much more.
While addressing the customer's concerns is essential, it is more technical. Perhaps even more important than solving the problem is human connection.
“It's our job as support professionals to listen.”
— Matt Dale
Working customer support means that you often experience the brunt of negative experiences. Customers are often frustrated, the product isn’t working correctly, the systems don’t align, or software updates have disrupted performance. Many times, CX teams can adequately fix the problems experienced. However, this isn’t always the case.
Unfortunately, not every problem is fixable. This means that CX specialists can be met with greater frustration, angry customers, and overall dissatisfaction.
While there is no end-all-be-all solution, Matt Dale explains the essential building blocks to robust customer support that improves customer experience, regardless of communication outcome.
Truly listening to the customer and offering empathy and understanding will take the CX role to an entirely new level.
Ideally, a customer support team will be capable of offering human connection and understanding to each customer. First, however, the organization must equip employees with the right tools and environments to enable this connection.
The customer support system should be designed to meet the needs of a specific organization and its target customers. Businesses want their customers to have an experience like no other, so they must offer unparalleled support that meets their distinct needs.
Matt Dale argues that one of the biggest mistakes businesses make regarding customer support is the approach of minimizing costs at the expense of customer experience. Rather than building support into the business to address needs expressed by actual consumers, these organizations offer table-stakes of difficult-to-reach, bare-minimum, purely responsive support teams.
Not only does this damage the customer experience and negatively impact the perception of the brand, but it also fails to enable support specialists to make human connections.
“Be very intentional about choosing what channels you're going to offer support on based on your client base.”
— Matt Dale
To improve customer experience and create a support team and system that elevates your brand, tailoring systems, and channels to your organizational context is essential.
CX should be staffed and prepared across channels that customers are using. For example, some organizations are taking advantage of omnichannel systems, where customers can reach out in whatever way they are comfortable. While this approach is not a one-size-fits-all, it does offer the illustration of adaptive design.
Customer support is essential to the experiences that build the image of every single brand. Ensuring that the proper professionals build support teams and are enabled through systems and processes to achieve human connection with customers can offer immediate tangible benefits for all businesses.
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