Traditionally, the Customer Support function has been the unsung hero of business, for a very simple reason: the customer neither sees nor envisages a problem at the point they hand over their money.
When you get a mortgage, buy a dress or book a flight, you don’t exhaustively assess a business for its quality of service. At this stage, we are still much more likely to think about price, product quality and features as our main points of comparison.
But anyone who has worked in a call centre or on a helpdesk knows how important the support function is; often the last opportunity to rescue a negative situation and lock down a customer for life.
However, the role of Customer Support as a hidden asset has been changing for much of the last decade.
Amplification and Subscription
First, and very much thanks to social media, companies are recognising that their support function is an opinion amplifier. Most customer don’t really mind when something goes wrong – they know that nobody’s perfect. What matters is how a brand goes about fixing things. Get it right and what was once a problem can create your biggest evangelists (, ). Get it wrong and you can turn one angry customer into thousands (, ).
Most customer don’t really mind when something goes wrong – they know that nobody’s perfect. What matters is how a brand goes about fixing things.
Secondly, particularly in the as-a-Service world, where businesses are being re-invented on a subscription model and success is judged in annual recurring revenues (ARR), looking after customers is a business priority. In fact, smart businesses are culturally investing wholesale in their customers’ outcomes – which is why Customer Support is evolving into a new function: Customer Success.
“Customer acquisition is only the very first step in what must be a long-term, scientifically engineered, and professionally directed strategy. The mission of a Customer Success Team [is] to build more proven value faster for both the customers and your company”.
Convenience is addictive
But with a more visible role comes new expectations. Just as consumers , they also want convenience on other channels, indeed they demand instant attention on their channel of choice.
To find out why, we must remember that Customer Support is part of a brand’s promise. For example, take the world’s most successful retailer: Amazon. Do you remember the first time you had a product delivered the very next day? Or the first time you realized that Amazon doesn’t even ask you to enter a CVV code – that irritating little number on the back of your credit card?
Amazon is built on making it easy to buy; and it’s allowed the company to eat the rest of retail’s breakfast. After all, who do you think invented ‘one click’ buying? (Bonus fact: they invented it all the way back in 1997 – before today’s college kids were even born. Which is why .)
In the of consumer investment site, Investopedia, “Convenience is addictive. Today, Amazon.com Inc. has found a way to monetize convenience culture and to provide us with ample opportunities to do as little as possible.”
Uber (taxis) and Deliveroo (takeaway food) are also giants which have similarly triumphed by making participation ridiculously easy. The word used by analysts is “seamlessness”: whatever our problem, if the pathway to a solution is seamless, we are more likely to buy our way out of the issue. So if getting a taxi is as simple as three clicks on a smartphone, then that’s a lot easier than making a phone call – or walking home.
“seamlessness”: whatever our problem, if the pathway to a solution is seamless, we are more likely to buy our way out of the issue.
Bringing seamlessness to customer service
Unfortunately, seamlessness is no longer a nice-to-have, the hallmark of pioneering market leaders like Amazon and Uber. And it doesn’t just apply to the purchase process. Brand values apply to every aspect of the customer experience, and the expectation is that support should be seamless, too. Groove, a helpdesk business, “in a survey of more than 75,000 consumers, the number one most important factor in a customer’s loyalty is reducing their effort (the work they must do to get their problem solved).”
You see, whilst we typically use the example of an ‘angry customer’ in support scenarios, customer support is more often better described as customers just wanting to get stuff done satisfactorily. Sometimes they’re angry; but most of the time they just want a minor – or even ‘line of business’ – issue resolved.
We also know that whilst it may be a minor issue, it’s likely to be one with some complexity – because nowadays almost every customer knows how to find answers to questions which are easy to articulate online – on a company’s website. So people who contact Support are already missing a degree of seamlessness.
This teaches us two things. First, the customer support function in any business should feed back into the delivery roadmap. Every time a customer cannot either self-serve or at least have their challenge resolved rapidly, it should be treated as a cost to the business. That’s not to say the customer is always right – they’re not. But to fail to learn from real use cases is a commercial mistake.
Second, it teaches us that if customers are already in an ‘unseamless’ process to have contacted your support service, the support function itself had better be seamless in order to compensate. And yet, it often has .
Language barriers = barriers to seamlessness
Language is, of course, a potential barrier to seamlessness. But offer linguistic support and you are removing that barrier and making progress towards meeting or even exceeding the customer’s service expectations. That’s why the International Customer Management Institute found that:
“72% said support in a customer’s native language increased their satisfaction with customer support, while 58% said it increased loyalty to the brand… “Over half realize that offering support in a customer’s native language is a competitive differentiator”.
Communicating in the right language is only one component of seamlessness – you may need to provide support in multiple time zones and across different channels. But just ‘muddling through’ linguistically when your team may have to respond in near-real-time to a global audience across anything from email to Twitter… should be unacceptable.
Shep Hyken is the Wall Street Journal best-selling author of “Amaze Every Customer Every Time”. In his , one of his top 3 predictions was that:
“Value and experience continue to trump price. Unless a company wants to be recognized as a low-cost provider, the value proposition of good customer service can make price less relevant. This concept is not limited to retail. It crosses into all types of businesses and industries.”
Support teams are rapidly being recognised as an essential part of that customer experience – because happy customers are profitable, and dissatisfied purchasers tell their friends. And eventually, almost every customer will need some sort of help.
In a globalised market for products and services, every business needs to be able to offer that help seamlessly: fast, effectively, and as though they were in the same town.
To find out more about how Unbabel delivers seamless, scalable and trustworthy translations of customer communications for companies like Pinterest, Skyscanner, and Under Armour, check out our integrations with , and .