Customers want answers — and they want them fast.
That’s what we learned from our Customer Experience Trends Report 2020. Consumers told us that they consider quickly resolving an issue to be the most important aspect of a good customer service experience. What’s considered quick? Over half of the consumers said they expected a response in under five minutes on the phone, and 28% said the same for live chat.
To work this quickly, support agents need help accelerating. Empower your customer service teams with a variety of support tools that will speed things up for your agents and your customers.
Communication channels are essential tools for connecting customers with your support team. Each one serves a different purpose. The channels you prioritize should be based on the nature of your company and your customers’ preferences.
Email is one of the top ways that customers choose to contact businesses. In fact, 49% of consumers Zendesk surveyed said email was their preferred customer service channel.
It’s usually the first channel a business gets up and running. It takes little effort and is pretty universal.
“As a blanket, you want to have email,” says Abhiroop Basu, Zendesk Director of Product Marketing. “All your customers will have an email address, so it's a natural starting point for customer support.”
With email messages, set expectations up front. For example, if it usually takes four hours or less for your team to handle a support email, set up automatic email replies that will tell people their message has been received and should be resolved within the next four hours. If people are given a time frame, they’ll be less impatient.
Voice is the only channel more popular with customers than email. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they typically resolved issues with a company over the phone.
It’s not too surprising that the more traditional the channel, the more deeply it’s ingrained as a customer expectation. A lot of customers like being able to get a real-time answer, from a real human being, over the phone. This is especially true if your company sells a product or service that’s pretty technical, and your customers require more hand-holding.
Speed is also an important factor. Live channels, like phone, are almost 13 times faster than email. If you want your company to be known for providing speedy customer service (and you should), invest in your call center.
Only 24% of customers typically use live chat to communicate with a company. With that said, it’s a channel that’s becoming increasingly popular with consumers.
Chat has been the fastest-growing channel for the last five years among companies that use Zendesk. More than four times as many customers are using chat in 2020 than did in 2015.
Embedding live chat on your website is especially important for ecommerce companies. After all, it’s basically a virtual version of a shopkeeper you can always ask questions of while you’re browsing the store.
As a company gets larger, they may be overwhelmed by live chat conversations and need to rely on artificial intelligence to handle some of those interactions. You can use a chatbot tool to automate responses to common questions, gather information, and seamlessly transition more complicated conversations from bots to live agents.
Messaging differs from chat by not requiring customers to wait on the website or chat widget for a response. Since the conversation doesn’t have to happen in real time, it’s more convenient for both the customer and the support agent.
Though relatively new, and less common than channels like phone and email, messaging apps were found to have the highest customer satisfaction (CSAT) ratings of any communication channel, according to our study.
Research your customer base to determine which social messaging platforms are most relevant to them. For example, we found that messaging has become especially common among companies in Central and South America. In that part of the world, the popularity of social messaging apps like WhatsApp has led businesses to adopt it as a service channel.
“In countries like Brazil, social messaging apps, and WhatsApp specifically, have become the de facto method of communication for everyone,” says Basu. “So, it's no surprise that nearly every company in Brazil offers a WhatsApp number for support.”
Being able to interact with support agents is important, but customers also want you to help them help themselves.
Your knowledge base provides customers with the self-service option that the majority of them prefer.
A knowledge base organizes helpful customer resources—frequently asked questions, product details, policies—in one easily accessible place. It empowers your customers with the answers they’re looking for and provides your support reps with a pretty handy cheat sheet. Often, a customer will call in with an issue that an agent can easily look up in the knowledge base.
“I mean, ‘Let me Google that for you’ is a joke, but it’s true,” Basu says.
But since many customers do take the initiative to find info on their own, a knowledge base will spare your support team a lot of unnecessary interactions. When Reverb used the Zendesk Guide support tool to create their help desk, the increase in deflections dropped their number of customer service emails from over 350 a day to just 150.
Maintaining a comprehensive collection of helpful articles also gives you a leg up on the competition. According to our survey of CX teams, only 28% of them currently offer a knowledge base.
Like knowledge bases, community forums help customers find their own solutions and lessen the burden on your support team. In fact, community forums are even bigger time-savers for your company, because you’re not responsible for building the content.
“Instead of your team creating all the content, you can have your team of passionate users write articles and share tips—and that’s the birth of the forum,” Basu explains. “Now, your customers can use the forum to get their questions answered by their peers.”
At Zendesk, we have just a handful of internal admins on staff to manage the forum community for us. These admins rely on volunteer moderators: experienced and dedicated Zendesk customers who are active on the forums and can respond to other customers. In some cases, we’ve made them official moderators and given them rewards to show our appreciation.
With a community tools like Guide, you can create a forum and then let your customers do the rest.
Measuring your customer service team’s success is crucial to understanding where you’re succeeding and where you need improvement.
Customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys gauge the quality of your customer service interactions and help you set objectives for improving them.
Zendesk automatically sends customer satisfaction surveys 24 hours after every support interaction. Our CSAT surveys simply ask whether the experience was “Good” or “Bad.” That doesn’t leave a lot of room for nuance, but the shortness of the questionnaire maximizes response rates.
Segmenting CSAT scores can tell you a lot about your business. Which communication channels are people most satisfied with, and which ones are frustrating customers? Which support agents have the happiest customers, and which agents need some more training?
CSAT scores are especially important to younger businesses that are still building their customer base.
“If you’re a new startup that's competing with larger, more established incumbents, you probably care a lot about customer satisfaction,” Basu says. “You want to measure your customer satisfaction and make sure it stays high.”
As your company grows larger, efficiency might overtake customer satisfaction as your chief concern. You need performance reports on your customer support team to see what’s working well and what could be optimized.
You’ll want to record certain customer support metrics that speak to the efficiency of your support agents. What are the average response times for your agents? How many interactions are they solving? Is volume increasing or decreasing?
Measure both individual agent performance and the productivity of your entire support team. That way, you can zero in on general areas of improvement as well as specific support agents who may be struggling.
Most companies seek out a tool that combines a lot of the most critical customer support tools. When sizing up support solutions, there are a few key features you don’t want to be without.
At a minimum, your tool should provide your support agents with easy access to all communication channels, all customer information, and all fellow employees.
The best thing you can do for your support agents is to give them the convenience of a unified workspace, where every customer interaction is at their fingertips. Your conversations may be happening over phone, email, or chat—or even switching from one to the other. No matter the channel, all interactions need to be easily accessible for your customer service team.
“If you’re offering all these channels, you don’t want your agents switching between different tools or dashboards to support the customer,” Basu says. “To stay efficient, you want your agents in a single unified workspace that lets them have a continuous conversation with the customer, even when it moves across multiple channels.”
Use customizable tools to build a workspace that will automatically surface the most relevant tools for solving the support ticket in question.
With Zendesk Support’s contextual workspaces, you can set conditions for specific types of support tickets. For example, whenever an agent opens a return request ticket, all the necessary forms, macros, and apps will immediately appear.
To give agents the information they need, your tool should tell them two things: who is this customer they’re interacting with, and what is their relationship with the company?
When an agent handles a customer support ticket, they should be able to quickly scan
some basic information about the customer. With Zendesk Support’s Customer Context feature, you’re able to see the customer’s phone number, email address, and location as you’re interacting with them.
The tool also shows you all of the past interactions that the customer has had with your company, from purchases to website visits.
“Customer context lets your agent see when a customer has made an order, viewed an article in your help center, or even when they’ve had a previous conversation,’” Basu says.
Having that history is key to providing seamless support. Customers hate being transferred and having to explain themselves multiple times. You need a tool that will show support agents everything the customer has already been through.
More than 70% of customers expect companies to collaborate on their behalf. Your agents should be working with fellow team members to resolve customer issues as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“Imagine you need to refund something to a customer,” Basu says. “You might need to talk to your finance team to get approval. How do you do that efficiently? You need the tools to be able to collaborate across departments without having to switch between multiple platforms or apps.”
Zendesk Support has a Collaboration add-on that allows agents to efficiently communicate with other teams via email or Slack, without leaving their workspace.
The “Side Conversations” feature allows agents to start a stand-alone side conversation with anyone in the company while they’re still speaking with the customer.
Agents can find the right answer without having to transfer customers or put them on hold.
Empower your agents with these support tools
Give service reps the customer support tools they need to collaborate and support one another. With the right support tool, you can make it easier for your agents to do their jobs and to work together on resolving especially thorny issues.
Help your support team help each other help customers—and let Zendesk Support give you all a helping hand.