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Self-service customer support 5 min read

#NoAgents: The Future of Customer Service in B2B Software

Danielle Juson • March 11, 2019

What’s that? No more customer service agents? Hang on—what are we saying exactly?

Obviously we love our customer service reps, so we’re definitely not suggesting you get rid of them. There’s a place for helpful humans in any modern organization—providing they’re ultimately adding VALUE to the customer.

But, just for today, we’re going to use this edgy statement of #NoAgents to help us illustrate the technological trends that are growing across the world of B2B software: customer self-service.

We live in a self-service world. Here at inSided we’ve said it before and we’ll no doubt say it again: More and more customers find themselves in a new seat of power: Able to control the dealings they have with a business and its products. And that’s OK! Really? Yes, really!

Customers no longer wish to talk to a business on the phone for every little thing they need, and they like to be able to handle issues themselves—whenever they like and wherever they are.

You mean... customers don’t like us? :-(

To be perfectly honest: No.

But it’s not your fault!  

(Though, granted, many call center IVRs do seem to have the sole goal of annoying the caller just enough to give up and hang up.)

For many years, customers had no choice but to be in regular contact with customer service reps in order to get anything done when using your products or experiencing related issues.

We’re sure very few customers came away from this experience with a positive feeling. And let’s face it, the feeling was mutual. It was surely an equally unpleasant experience for the customer service reps answering the phone and dealing with the same old questions and complaints every day. Imagine!

Unpleasant… but necessary.

And that’s the real kicker here.

confused_customer_needs_helpYour customers are still in need. They continue to require your guidance on how to best use your product, and they still want answers to the questions they have while interacting with your software or product. The difference now is that you just need to be there for them in a different way.

Don’t focus on creating as many tickets as possible and handling them efficiently.

Focus on not creating any tickets at all.

Stopping what they’re doing to get in touch with your contact center and raise a support ticket isn’t streamlined. It breaks their user experience. So empower your customers to effectively service themselves while using your product and enable them to effortlessly find the answers they need. Your other customers are the real experts, aren’t they?

So what should you do next?

Luckily, in these modern, digital times there are several ways of empowering your customers to self-serve:

  1. Leverage a community: Build a community of your users, engage & activate them to contribute and make sure to learn from the questions they are asking (and the language they are using). Co-create, increase your Google-ranking with user-generated content and ultimately: scale your customer service via peer-to-peer support.
  2. Build a knowledge base: Make sure that everything your users need is findable online, at their leisure, and written in a language they actually understand (save your jargon!). Ask for feedback—or even better—include your customers while you’re building it so you can be sure to include the content they need.
  3. Build a chatbot: For transactional purposes, chatbots can actually work really well.
    Several airlines, for example, klm_chatbot_source_chatbotguideorg allow you to book tickets through an online chatbot: an overall pleasant and conversational experience. It’s not a real human, but in this case, it simply doesn’t matter.
  4. Adopt live chat as a channel: Overall, online live chat is a more scalable solution than a call center, but when it comes to the crunch, both suffer  from the same issues. Queues, impersonal replies, little time for the agent to focus on your problem alone, standardized answers… Not a recipe for customer success, in our experience.
  5. Use some form of smart search or artificial intelligence: Actually making sure your customers are able to find what they’re looking for—or better yet, what they don’t yet know they’re looking for—is one of the best places to start when implementing self-service support (and incidentally, where so many organizations fall down).

So, we just go ahead and choose one of the above? Problem solved?

The thing is, customers today expect a seamless experience. Effortless insights: Exactly when they need them and where they are most relevant. Simply using another platform or set of tooling won’t necessarily achieve this. To make it happen, you need to rethink your tech stack entirely.

Yes, you need a community. Yes, you also need a smart knowledge base. (We can’t stress it enough!) But you also need to be able to tie these together and deliver a great user experience by providing these self-service capabilities when your customers actually need them—when they’re actually logged in and using your product.

Making sure that all of your self-service content is seamlessly available to the user without interrupting their experience or the flow of product use is smart tactic numero uno for facilitating actual self-service.

Think about:

  • Contextual support: They are already in your product, so why not personalize the support journey to what they are working on at any given moment?
  • Smart search capabilities: Can customers find the right company or community content quickly?
  • Combine content for unrivaled coverage: Your company content and the wisdom of your other users should be working together to exceed your users’ service and support expectations.
  • Don’t forget about escalating tickets entirely: Like we already mentioned, sometimes a user really does need to speak to a real, live, actual human being. Don’t let your self-service efforts cause that to become even harder! Integrate your support channels.

A true customer success story is the ability for them to help themselves or others when they need to.

Hang on… does that mean my support agents have no future?

Absolutely not—they sure do. Humans like talking to humans when they feel they need to. Users will always need your support agents to help them through increasingly technical problems or to soothe their concerns during certain troubleshooting experiences. No technology can replace that connection.

Focusing on self service as a first line of defense for service queries is not to replace your support agents, but to empower them to add value and proactively drive your organization’s customer success effort. Imagine if the time your support agents currently spend answering basic, repetitive questions could instead be used for building premium user relationships and elongating the length and value of your customer contracts? What would the impact on your bottom line be?

If you’re curious to find out how your organization fares with your support agent : ARR ratio, go ahead and check using the Service Revenue Ratio Calculator. You’ll get an instant indication of how many service reps and customer success managers your organization needs to be functioning effectively and sustainably.

Picture of Danielle Juson

By Danielle Juson

Self-service community expert and writer at inSided. Passionate about sharing the value and impact of customer-driven help centers, and enabling brands to get it right. Connect on Linkedin

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