Your support team is only privy to 3.8 percent of your customers’ problems. The rest are more likely to switch to a competitor than speak up.
Most customers don’t bother with support because they expect a repeat of terrible support experiences they’ve had in the past. They’ve been put on hold over and over again or, worse, never hear back about complaints they’ve issued. They know how frustrating customer support can be, so they avoid it at all costs.
At the same time, trying new products is easy. Free trials and samples sound a lot more appealing than drafting up an email you expect to be ignored. It’s no wonder that so few customers bother reaching out to your support team.
Lowering the barrier for support encourages your customers to speak up before giving up on your brand. Give them as many support options as possible, so they can reach out to you according to their preferences rather than yours. By making your support team easily accessible over multiple channels, customers can engage with them wherever they want to with relatively minimal effort.
Here are three underrated channels for support to add to your support stack.
1. The neglected SMS channel
Only 30% of customers interact with businesses through SMS. It’s the least popular platform among support teams, even though text messaging is still the most common consumer cell phone activity.
SMS has a distinct advantage over channels: the customer is likely to read every message. We don’t need to worry about our meticulously-drafted support email getting buried in an overflowing inbox or our missed call not being returned. Texting puts a quick, concise message right in front of your customers. Because customers are texting everyday, they’re much more likely to respond. **The customer response rate for SMS is more than seven times higher than that of email. **
Most US customers already use SMS as a primary means of communication — Americans spend 26 minutes everyday texting compared to only 6 minutes on calls. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to communicate with your business the way they do with anyone else.
Most support teams avoid SMS because they’re afraid to bother customers on what they perceive to be an intimate platform. While customers don’t want to be overwhelmed with spammy marketing messages, they *do *want relevant updates that cut through the noise of their daily lives. They want that notification that tells them when their bank funds are low or that their refund has been processed.
Leave the channel open for your customers to reach out to you, but only reach out to them first for time-sensitive messages:
Sending confirmations for bookings or charges.
Sending reminders for appointments or owed payments.
Alerting customers about changes to services or accounts.
SMS is a valuable and personal line to your customers. Connect with them on a platform that most businesses don’t venture into, and make interacting with you a natural part of their day-to-day. To get started, set up an API-ready phone number from a service like Sonar or Twilio. Send and respond to messages from those platforms, or Front makes it easy to respond to SMS messages alongside your other channels.
2. The underappreciated Facebook channel
Facebook has become much more than just a platform for connecting with friends; it’s an extension of our lives. We “check in” at events we attend, share pictures of how we spend our time, talk about our lives, and discover content and news. In fact, 1 in 5 mobile minutes are spent on Facebook.
Facebook Messenger has gone further to blur the line between our real and virtual lives. Facebook’s launch of a separate Messenger app made the chat experience real-time even when we were away from our computers. Without a phone number or even the real name of a person, you can instantly engage any of the one billion people using Messenger.
Facebook Messenger for Business adapts this real-time line of communication for companies. Customers find you the way they find anything on Facebook — typing your company’s name in the search engine. Since Messenger is an extension of Facebook, you quickly realize the value of this channel:
People can engage with you where they already spend their time.
You can directly engage people who leave positive or negative public comments.
Facebook also gives your business page more credibility when you’re responsive to customers via messenger. When you reach a 90% response rate of 15 minutes or less, you get a badge on your page telling your customers that you have great support.
To use Facebook Messenger for support, go to your company’s Facebook page, click “General Settings” and then “Messages.” Select “Edit,” and then select the checkbox that lets people contact your page privately. Integrate it with your support software using their API.
3. The deserted phone support channel
A few years ago, The New York Times observed that “tech is leaving phones behind.” Phone has traditionally been the go-to channel for support, but recent high profile abandonments of voice support imply that business is moving away from it. Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have killed their call centers (or never set them up to begin with), and many smaller companies are following suit.
Phone support, however, remains customers’ preferred medium for resolving an issue. Additionally, according to an HBR study, most businesses reported that it was easier to meet customers’ expectations on the phone than any other channel.
Most companies know that their customers would like to see a phone number at the top of their support page. But it’s hard to do phone support well — only 14% of support calls are answered without being placed on hold. Companies are giving up on it rather than risk delivering sub-par phone support. We disregard the fact that real-time voice communication is the fastest way to resolve an issue, and it’s the easiest way to placate a frustrated customer. Empathy is easiest to convey in the tone of your voice, rather than over carefully formulated text.
Rather than give up on phone support, find a way to incorporate it into your other support workflows. You don’t need to have a landline to offer phone support. At Front, we work with Aircall, which integrates a voice channel into your shared inbox. Easily follow up on any missed calls and voicemails, and you’ll be sent recordings of every call to reference later.
Transition to multi-channel support
If you’re not using these three channels of support, the problem isn’t that you’ve chosen the wrong channels — it’s that you have to choose at all. Your competitors’ marketing efforts are on every platform, while your support might be only available on a few. Make the choice to reach out to your support team instead of trying out a competitor as easy possible for your customers. Create support options that are an extension of how they already communicate.
The best part: more channels doesn’t necessarily mean you need a larger team. The future is in multi-channel support, where your team can collaborate on messages across every channel and get back to your customers faster.
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Written by Olivier Casassus
Originally Published: 17 April 2020