Customer Communities Reduce Support Costs: Customer Self-ServiceLong before customers turned to Facebook to ask questions, This is where support communities come in. When moderatedshare feedback, and connect with brands, business owners have and curated effectively, customer support communities can resultbeen faced with a common problem—how do you scale support, in serious savings for companies. We worked with Dr. Nataliewhile keeping company costs low and providing a great customer Petouhoff to identify three major areas where support communitiesexperience? Facebook alone has not had a huge impact on that can reduce costs and drive revenue by:issue (and isn’t growth the business problem to have?). In the socialera, it’s more important than ever to provide positive customer • Enabling excellent self-service for common issues,experiences. You simply can’t afford not to when people are • Improving agent workflow and efficiencyrelying so heavily on the opinions of their peers to make purchasedecisions, and any perceived misstep on your part is likely to result • Increasing customer retention and acquisitionin negative word-of-mouth with unprecedented reach. This eBook is the first in a three-post series explaining howThis can pose a challenge for a business that’s trying to scale customer communities can help companies realize significantsupport quickly. Agent salaries are the most expensive aspect savings and revenue, along with the metrics and calculations toof a support center, so keeping this cost low by understaffing the measure the value. This book focuses on the way companies canteam or resorting to static or automated responses is tempting. leverage community for customer self-service, freeing up agentsUnfortunately, these solutions also have a tendency to result to deal with more complicated, technical problems. Stay tuned forin lower satisfaction levels, negative word-of-mouth, and poor the next two, which will focus on the other ways you can leveragecustomer retention. community to improve agent efficiency and drive revenue. Customer Communities Reduce Support Costs: Customer Self-Service 2
Self-Service: The What and the WhyPerhaps you’re familiar with the expression: Customer service is your agents to deal with more complicated requests from otherthe new marketing. This doesn’t imply that your support agents will customers, and prevents your customers from having to wait in anow be responsible for crafting messaging, producing webinars, or phone queue or for an email response, when the answer to theircollecting customer testimonials. Rather, it suggests that providing question—“what is the average wait time for delivery,” for exampleconsumers with helpful, positive experiences at every touch point —is simple and readily available in your community.in the customer lifecycle is critical for creating the kind of loyalrelationships that are the foundation of all repeat business and Self-service support implies a variety of easy-to-find andbrand advocacy. understand resources, so your customers have access to up to date, accurate information. A solid self-service strategy doesn’tSo what does this mean for your company? Obviously you want to just benefit your support agents (although they will thank youensure that your support agents are friendly, helpful, and have a for implementing a good system). It’s extremely desirable forreasonable workload, so they can provide great service to everyone your customers, who are bound to be relieved if they can find thethat needs their help. A customer community may not help much answers to their questions themselves, instead of having to call orwith those first two requirements (although a number of companies email. This is especially true if your target market is made up ofdo hire top support agents by identifying brand advocates in their Millenials, but more and more it’s true of all generations. Peoplecommunity). would rather find the answers to their questions themselves than wait for a phone or email representative to help. Customers who have faith that their issues will be dealt with a way that is painlessA community can, however, greatly reduce the amount of one-off and effective are much more likely to bring their business back torequests your support agents get by making it easy for customers you next time they’re making a purchase.to self-service their own answers, especially the ones to simplequestions that get asked over and over again. This frees up Customer Communities Reduce Support Costs: Customer Self-Service 3
FAQs that really are Frequently AskedWhat’s a better source of FAQs than the real-time questions your You’ll want to seed your community with FAQs before you evencustomers are asking every day? Odds are these are changing as launch, so that it acts as a self-service resource for your customersyou release new products and features, the industry and market from the minute your community goes live. You can make this morechange, and consumers move through the customer lifecycle. You dynamic by creating a product category tag for FAQs. When you tagdon’t need to pay someone to constantly be anticipating what the other pieces of content with your FAQ label, they will be added tonext questions and issues will be. Instead, allow your community to the attention-grabbing tab on your community home page, in real-surface the logical questions, issues, and bugs that will inevitably time. (See figure 1 to the left)come up. Employees can also mark the status of questions that haveThere are some guiding curation best practices that will help you been answered by the community as “answered,” so that otherleverage your community as a dynamic, social place for FAQs. customers know which community responses are company“Social” isn’t just a buzzword here—it’s a key aspect to ensuring verified. By curating your community this way, your customers andthat the “frequently” part of FAQ holds true. You want to make sure prospects will have access to a great source of real-time questionsyour self-service is actively covering all the issues and questions and answers, with the authority of company sanctioned FAQs.your customers are having today, not just the ones you envisionedthem having when you launched two years ago. Use Get Satisfaction’s simple copy and paste code snippets (widgets, for you techies out there) to place FAQs and other community conversations anywhere you want on your website. This means that when people come to your home page, help site, or product pages, they’ll be able to see the topics people are having in real-time about your products and services. If they’re experiencing an issue that others are having as well, they’ll be able to self-serve their own answers right from your site. And you’ll be able to address all of them in one fell swoop as soon as there are updates. Remember, a key aspect of self-service is that answers are quick and easy to find and understand. If you have all the information your customers could need, but it’s buried in a support ghetto on a difficult-to-find to page on your website, it isn’t likely to improve anyone’s experience or reduce any workloads. Which brings us to our next point about self-service…Figure 1. Customer Communities Reduce Support Costs: Customer Self-Service 4
Search, the King of Self-ServiceThink about it. Where’s the first place you turn when you have aquestion or would like more information about something. Yourfavorite search engine, right? The same is true for your customers.You want to make sure that your self-service topics consistentlyturns up in top results when your customers turn search.Easy, effective searchability will perpetuate the success of yourself-service strategy exponentially. As customers search for theanswers to their questions and are brought to your community,your engagement levels and pageviews will go up. This, in turn,improves the ranking of these pages, driving even more customersthere to discover them as resources.A Get Satisfaction customer community is uniquely structuredto rank well in search. The URL of each community conversationhas the company name in it, as well as the topic title phrased in Figure 2. When customers search for guidance on connecting their Mint.com account with their bank, Get Satisfaction comes up in the top 3 resultsthe words of the person who asked the question. That meansthat each link is highly optimized for the company name and the Adding more pack to its SEO punch, Get Satisfaction is home tonatural, organic language that customers are using to ask questions more than 70,000 communities. Because of the sheer size of theand report problems. That’s important because the internal network, as well as the extent of customer-generated content andlanguage you use to refer to your products, features, and bugs engagement that takes place there, search engines crawl the entiredoesn’t necessarily map to the language your customers use. The Get Satisfaction platform constantly. User-generated content isdiscrepancy between your language and that of your customers viewed as authoritative by Google, so it ranks particularly well. Oncecan make it difficult for them to find the answers to their questions a topic is posted, it’s likely to start showing up in search almostin traditional FAQs and knowledge repositories, which were written immediately.internally by someone drinking your company Koolaide. Customer Communities Reduce Support Costs: Customer Self-Service 5
Community as the Best Way to Build a Great Customer Experience The more people of various backgrounds, experiences, and expertise levels you have interacting in your community, the more resources your customers will have. This can work in a number of ways. Perhaps yours is a highly technical community, bringing people together around bike purchases, for example. By connecting long-term bikers to mechanics, to bike salesmen, and to parents about to purchase Junior’s first bike, you’re exposing all of them to the unique perspectives of the others. Sometimes the self-service that occurs in a community was initially the result of a more traditional support request. If one customer has an issue that does require them to reach out to yourFigure 3. Community input provides the well-rounded insight necessary to get to the bottom of issues quickly. traditional support channels, forexample, she can then act as a resource for the rest of your customers in the community. Once that answer exists in the community, it livesthere for future customers to view as a resource to answer the same question or issue. Customer Communities Reduce Support Costs: Customer Self-Service 6
Extend the Shelf-Life of Social ConversationsWhen social first came on the scene as a business tool, manycompanies jumped on board, without being entirely sure how bestto use it. They treated Twitter and Facebook as support channels,without appreciating the shortcomings of these sites for thatpurpose.To be fair, there are some great points about Twitter and Facebookas channels for customer engagement and support. They’re easilyaccessible from multiple channels, and most consumers haveprofiles on at least one of these sites.But Facebook and Twitter alone are not sufficient resources foryour customers to self-serve their own answers. For one thing,posts on these social sites have short shelf lives, so they do nothingto reduce one-off common requests like FAQs and other simple-to-solve issues. For another thing, they’re not optimized to connect Figure 4.your customers to one another, which reduces the amount ofcollaboration and social support that can take place. can answer them more fully, and they’ll live on for much longer as a resource for others. By taking fleeting social media content andYou can improve self-service by using a customer community bringing the conversation into the community where it will havewith strong linkages to social networks. In this way, you can push a long shelf-life and can continue to evolve, your customers willcontent from the community out to social networks, and import be able to self-serve the answers to questions that are commonlyquestions from those networks into the community where you being asked in these social spaces. Customer Communities Reduce Support Costs: Customer Self-Service 7
The SavingsThese benefits are not just anecdotal. We worked with Dr, Natalie That’s quite a bit of savings for one company in a year just fromPetouhoff to calculate exactly how much the benefits of self-service support cost reductions!strategy can save a customer. Dr. Pethouoff examined a number ofGet Satisfaction customer case studies* to calculate estimates for Dr. Petouhoff examined another company to find the amount ofhow much money companies can save with a community. money saved by having a community create a social Knowledge Base (KB), instead of hiring a formal KB author to create aThe savings, which can be realized by reducing agent-related structured KB. The company in question was creating 10 new KBinteractions through the enablement of self-service, can be articles a month, and they were paying the author of these articlescalculated by multiplying the cost of each interaction by the ($25/hour). Assuming that each article took 3 hours to write, theyvolume of interactions each month, then factoring in the percent were spending $750 a month on KB articles. That’s equal to $9,000the community has reduced it. One example Dr. Petouhoff studied a year.has 3,000 support instances a month, at a cost of $8 each. Thatmeans the monthly cost these interactions have is $24,000. The $25 x 10 x 3 = $750/monthcompany in question* has reduced support interactions by 20% $750 x 12 = $9,000/yearthrough the self-service of their community, so they’re saving$4,800 a month. Multiple that by 12 to find that they’re saving With a social, community-based KB, the community writes the$57,600 a year. response or best practice, then the community manager certifies them as “answered” and belonging to the social KB. This process 3,000 interactions/month x $8/interaction = $24,000 eliminates the need for a formal KB author, meaning you free up $24,000 reduced by 20% → 24,000 x .2 = $4,800/month contractor dollars or employee time to focus on other issues. $4,800 x 12 = $57,600. *To respect the privacy of the companies analyzed for the study, names and identifying information has been removed. Customer Communities Reduce Support Costs: Customer Self-Service 8
Self-Service Support. Quantitatively and Qualitatively Impacting your Bottom Line.There you have it. Enabling self-service support drives real value answers they need quickly, easily and consistently. If it doesn’t haveby freeing up your agents to focus on more technical issues. the most current, up-to-date information, your customers will stillIt also improves customer experiences and satisfaction by be forced to contact an agent.empowering them to answer their own questions quickly, easily,and comprehensively. By making the support experience positive The good news is you don’t have to provide this alone. By leveragingfor your customers, you’re giving them a reason to come back to a customer community, you’re providing your customers with theyou again and again. tools they need to find the answers to simple questions all on their own. This is good for your support team, good for your company,For self-service support to truly be effective (and reduce agent- and (most importantly) satisfying for your customers.related support costs), it has to provide customers with the to schedule a demo, or visit us at https://getsatisfaction.com/corp/solutions/index 877-339-3997 Customer Communities Reduce Support Costs: Customer Self-Service 9
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