It’s time to start thinking about your customer support department as a funnel. Marketing, sales and human resources teams all build department processes around a funnel. Marketing and sales funnels guide leads to customers, human resources guides applicants to employees.
A well designed support funnel guides new customers to success and brand loyalty.
A funnel can help direct customers to the right solution. The CEB, documented in The Effortless Experience, has found that the number one driver of disloyalty is a “high effort” experience.
High effort resolutions can be defined as requiring a disproportionate amount of work by the customer to resolve. Usually companies are well aware of the best method to resolve issues (ie. using self service to update account info, and calling support for complex billing issues).
However, these best methods aren’t immediately clear to customers.
By carefully directing users to the right solution, you’re reducing their effort levels and saving time. When customers are free to choose their own support path, they choose the path of least effort a shockingly low 20% of the time.
When support interactions are guided through task based choices, this improves to 66%. Task based means positioning choices according to what the customer is trying to do. Low effort isn’t just good for an efficient help team.
In fact, self-service audits and intuitive in-product guides take time and skill from your support team. Low effort also means happier, more loyal customers.
By incorporating the support funnel (Self Service -> Resolution -> High Value Interactions), you can ensure you’re providing the right service to the right customer. Using this theory helps optimize each type of interaction for the lowest amount of effort necessary to resolve the issue at hand.
The first interaction a customer has when using your product is almost always self-service. This might be checking an in-product tip, the ability to see past invoices or reading a help center article.
Customers don’t immediately want to talk to someone when they encounter an issue or when they’re learning to use the product. They likely want to overcome any questions and get back to their workday.
Set up your self-service options so that they lead from least to most amount of effort. Start within product help, make the Help Center easily accessible, and reduce the number of choices customers need to make to find the right information.
The key is having the right choice available for the customer at any time. Think of it as a “call to action” for support. Click here for help. Enter your question here. Live chat with “What can I help you with?”.
Not all problems can be solved without a human. At the end of the day, people still like talking to people – and support agents tend to be better than articles at resolving complex issues. Support professionals aren’t going anywhere soon.
If a customer decides they need to contact you directly for assistance, make it clear which path they should take to get the best answer. HubSpot does a great job of this by “recommending” one contact channel over another.
In the middle level of the funnel, it’s important to focus solely on issue resolution, and next issue avoidance. If support muddies the interaction with trying to upsell, or educate the customer, it’s adding more effort to the customer’s path to success. They really just want to get back to what they were doing before the issue arose – using your product.
Eventually, you’ll want to have a high-value interaction with your customer. High-value interactions give them further insight into how to use your product, and increases their loyalty to your brand over time.
This kind of interaction is really difficult to do in reactive support. Usually when a customer has reached out, it’s because there is an insurmountable problem they weren’t able to overcome. Often the best outcome for a support case is to get the customer back to a neutral position – neither upset, nor overwhelmingly happy.
Proactive support is the best way to lead customers to a value adding interaction.
If you see a customer using a new functionality, send them an invite to an upcoming webinar on how to be successful. If you know that a delivery is going to be late, reach out with tracking code and an early apology. Nice surprises in good times are more effective than surprises when the customer is already pissed.
If you already have a relationship with a customer after a support experience, you may be able to move them along the support funnel following issue resolution. A few days after resolution, send over a relevant guide or resource to what they were working on before. By helping your customers be more successful, you’re making them more loyal.
See how deep your customer interactions go into the funnel today. How much effort are customers spending on your product support today? Are customers starting in self-service, able to contact you when they need to, and receiving value added services?
By ensuring that each interaction includes an appropriate level of effort for resolution, you’ll make your customer happier and more loyal than ever.