Customer support can often be an afterthought. Many businesses put so much energy into getting customers at the expense of supporting those same customers once they’re onboard. It’s a common and costly mistake. In a world where brand loyalty, trust and retention are critical drivers of customer-centric businesses, delivering exemplary customer service is an effective marketing strategy that I believe should be part of every growth plan.
My company recently conducted a study on consumer sentiment toward customer support among 1,000 Americans. The data revealed an overwhelming appreciation of strong customer support from brands. In fact, contrary to popular belief, good customer support gets people talking publicly more than a bad experience with a brand — 65% compared to 29%. Good customer support can result in people spending more money with a brand too — another study found that 68% of consumers would pay more for products and services from a brand known to offer good customer service experiences.
Beyond finding the importance of good customer support, our survey also explored what consumers believe good support looks like. Our findings can help you audit your current customer support function and paint a clear picture for where to prioritize improvements.
What makes for good customer support?
Address issues with a consistent voice.
The end goal for the customer in a support interaction is typically to have a question answered or problem solved. But how many times have you had to explain your challenge in detail during a customer support interaction because the person or bot you connected with had no context about your journey and history with the brand? It can be really frustrating. Addressing the issue is about more than just solving the problem.
Regardless of how you communicate with your customers, treat all interactions as a single conversation and add value at every turn. It’s critical to speak to customers wherever they are with a single consistent voice and from a holistic view so they get the same great, personalized experience during support interactions as they do from the marketing communications they receive. Too many businesses stumble because they have siloes — either by department or by channel. Check for siloes as a starting point in your audit.
Offer support via a range of channels for customer efficiency.
Customers use a range of communications channels in their personal lives, from email to text message to messaging apps. To stay competitive, offer a variety of channels for customers to choose from. Our study found SMS/text was the preferred channel for interacting with customer support for more than half (52%) of Americans, followed by chat apps at 33%. The ease of SMS-based customer support has helped it achieve mass appeal. According to another study, a majority of patients ages 65-84 actively engage with their healthcare providers via text reminders.
Unsurprisingly, the appeal of these channels is convenience. They provide a direct connection with a brand versus having to wait in a phone queue — something I’ve found people have increasingly less patience for. Plus, in these conversations, consumers can read the brand’s response and write a reply in their own time, working around their busy lives rather than worrying that a chat support window might time out or is only reachable during business hours.
Adopt an efficient omnichannel strategy to improve your customer support function. As mentioned above, you can offer all the channels under the sun, but if you aren’t able to weave them into one conversation seamlessly, your customer support experience will still fall short.
Make speed a priority.
The average response time to handle a customer service request is 12 hours and 10 minutes. Now contrast that with how long consumers are willing to wait for a support team member to respond to an inquiry over SMS/text or chat app. Around a third (35% and 38%) of respondents in our study said they believe waiting five minutes or less for a response from brands via those channels is acceptable. This shows many brands are waiting hours too long to respond to customers. If you can’t resolve the issue right away, consider sending out an automated message at the customer’s preferred channel that shows someone is on the case.
It only takes 1-3 poor customer support experiences for many consumers to stop spending with a brand. But on the other hand, exemplary customer support can make consumers rave about your business, spreading loyalty and brand visibility via the world’s oldest and most effective channel: word of mouth. That’s why customer advocacy should be the linchpin of marketing and growth for businesses. Just think about purchasing decisions you’ve made based on recommendations from friends, family or online communities who talked about how great a brand was to do business with.
If you haven’t already, I recommend making customer support a key part of your marketing and growth strategy to win over — and retain — the trust and business of your customers.