The rise of do-it-yourself customer support

One of the strangest consumer trends to emerge on social media is the rise of “unboxing”. Some videos of this phenomenon, where viewers tune in to watch an influencer unbox their latest purchase, have reached over 105 million views.

Part of the reason for their popularity is that these videos tap into that moment of anticipation as we tear the wrapper off of something we’ve been eagerly awaiting to open. If the experience and what is inside does not meet our expectations, we can feel very disappointed.

Why is this important? Well, businesses tend to focus their investment in customer experience on the path to conversion. But it is too often the aftermarket where the battle for loyalty is really won. In PwC Pulse of Insights on Consumers investigation, reliability was most likely to build brand loyalty, cited by 46% of consumers surveyed, ahead of product availability by 31%. Exceptional customer service was the third highest criterion, at 26%.

These data suggest that reliability and customer service clearly go hand in hand. This is especially the case with today’s electronic devices, which can be manufactured to the strictest specifications, but which are also becoming increasingly complex.

This complexity of devices can leave customers unsure of the best way to configure or use their devices. And if this information cannot be easily found as part of the setup experience or online, it can lead to a deluge of calls and emails to the manufacturer’s contact center. It is therefore imperative to ensure that customers have the right information, making consumer education the first line of defense in customer service, while the line is the battleground.

One company that tackles this area of ​​customer service is TP-Link Wi-Fi network company. Its UK chief executive, Will Liu, explains how the company aims to minimize unnecessary support calls by offering an intuitive setup experience that prompts users to download an app to guide them through the process.

“To help customers configure their home or office well, we have developed applications for complex products such as routers and wireless access points. Apps are second nature to consumers, even “boomers” [those aged 57 to 75]. Our knowledge of the application ecosystem means that we can use our technical know-how to guide less tech-savvy consumers through the network setup process, ”he said.

Designing a complete ‘out of the box’ experience is so important because of the impact it can have on the customer experience and the brand reputation that comes with it. Liu says the number of support calls he receives for setting up his routers has dropped by more than 6% since the app was introduced, while reviews on Amazon and Reevoo are now more positive.

For retailer and mobile carrier Three, making the most of all of its communication channels is critical to staying in close contact with customers during the critical first days and weeks of using their device. It also offers customers an app, while directing people to digital content on its website that can help with setup and use.

“During the first few weeks, we are very keen to ensure that customers are supported and we provide an ongoing communication program with tips and tricks,” says Jon Davies, Digital Director of Three. “If they have problems, they can chat, pick up the phone or go to the store. We will continue to make this more sophisticated as we gain a better understanding of how customers use the devices.

Encouraging customers to access self-service information is an essential pillar of customer service. Not only does it have the potential to be more efficient and more satisfying for the customer, it also reduces service costs for the business and allows customer service teams to focus on more complex needs. But for this to be effective, organizations need to make sure their systems are up to par.

Quite simply, we strive to provide the customer with the ability to perform as much as possible on their own. That’s what they told us they wanna do

“There are many use cases, especially if the customer is changing their device or operating system, where we are investing in improving search capability to make it easier for them to find information. A large cohort of customers will use Google as their first point of contact, so we need to optimize our pages to make sure they’re visible there, ”says Davies. “The service side is just as important to make sure these pages are visible and optimized. “

Companies are increasingly aware of the need to be available on the same channels as customers. Some people will always want to talk to someone in a contact center, no matter how sophisticated the self-service channels are. This means that businesses need to ensure that support options are readily available whenever it is relevant.

“There is usually a triage approach. Here is the content if you want to do it yourself but we will promote the chat and have a chatbot who will also do their best to support the customer. If he can’t fix the problem, he will put them back [to an agent]. It’s becoming more and more context sensitive as to when is the right time to push them in that direction, ”says Davies.

Technology to increase service expertise

While being available on the right channel is critical, so is understanding the request and the level of help that might be needed. Some customers can just get in touch to find out when their bill is due. Others may want answers to much more complex questions.

For this reason, TP-Link offers several possibilities for customer support, while its customer service staff are trained to handle calls from those with low technical skills who want the personal touch and those who are extremely technical and therefore cannot. not find an answer to their query by other means.

“Because one-on-one support sits at both ends of the spectrum, our support team is made up of highly trained network engineers who understand the implications of other environmental factors and the potential ripple effect on the customer experience. », He explains. .

To be able to provide optimal customer service, agents need to be able to access the most recent information and, most importantly, have the technology to do it quickly. Based on data from Call center help, the technology and device industry standard average processing time (the time it takes to process a request) is six minutes and 10 seconds. First-call resolution is considered the gold standard of customer service because it eliminates the need to call the customer back or assign them to a more experienced staff member.

This level of customer support is often the reason customers look for specialty retailers. Who? Magazine named Richer Sounds the best place to buy tech products, partly because of the price but also because of its reputation, customer service and warranty. Its customers cite “quality products with very good honest information [and] knowledgeable and helpful staff ‘as their reasons for giving it a high rating.

Nathan Kennaugh, the retailer’s human resources manager, explains that one of the reasons he doesn’t open his stores to the public until noon is that between 9 a.m. and noon his staff are on Zoom calls and receive training. on specialized technologies of manufacturers. It also has a database of training materials and links to manufacturer videos so staff can keep their knowledge up to date.

“Training is an integral part of what we do; we want our colleagues to have the knowledge and to be specialists, ”he says. “We place great importance on training and technical contact, and our colleagues have access to training resource sites and electronic portals. It’s a resource that covers the daily queries we may receive, but we still need the technical contacts for the weird and wonderful things that appear once in a blue moon. We never want to keep a customer waiting for a resolution.

Kennaugh admits the company relies heavily on its customers being more tech savvy than the average consumer and more willing to partner with store staff to resolve a problem, rather than wait for an instant resolution. . He also notes that the company is not yet looking to wholesale adoption of automated customer service solutions.

“We’ve been exploring chatbots, but on the customer service side, we’re pretty old school. With chatbots, we ask ourselves if they can really understand the ins and outs of a nuanced problem and we don’t want to cause more frustration with an already upset customer, ”he says.

For retailers and specialty manufacturers, the direct route to human customer service agents who are enabled and augmented by technology may always be the most effective option. But for large consumer tech companies, and especially for manufacturers that rely on third-party resellers, the issue of managing brand reputation through customer service is one that prompts some to act.

For TP-Link, this means working with retailers such as Currys PC world or Amazon to provide their staff with the technical knowledge necessary to sell and offer basic customer support, as well as leverage their customer relationship management processes. . But it also clearly marks its own support options on the packaging and offers quick installation guides.

Three’s Davies believes there are more and more opportunities to use technology to enable both business support staff and enhanced self-service options. For example, its app allows customers to self-assess if, for example, the screen or the battery is not working. A customer service agent can then pick it up and pass the problem on to the logistics team.

“We’re in pretty good shape with a knowledge management capability that straddles both human and digital channels,” he says.

“Quite simply, we strive to provide the customer with the ability to perform as much as possible himself. That’s what they told us they wanted to do.

Joseph P. Harris