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According to data from Forrester Research, almost two-thirds of interactions between a customer and a company take place through the Customer Service department. Customers often turn to Customer Service or Customer Support teams for help throughout the customer journey. From onboarding challenges, to user experience difficulties, to product misfires, the Customer Support or Customer Service agent is often the customer’s “first responder.”

The quality of Customer Support interactions is a big factor in customer satisfaction, yet too often agents aren’t equipped with the customer data they need to do their best work. With the right tools, Customer Support teams can become agents of Customer Success, and their work can lead to increased customer satisfaction, customer retention, and bottom-line growth.

The current state of Customer Support

Customer Service/Support teams do the important work of serving customers at the most trying of times: when the product is not working as expected. The customer opens a support ticket and the assigned agent begins the process of resolving the issue as quickly as possible.

KPIs for Customer Support teams typically include the number of incidents resolved, average time to incident resolution, number of incidents created per user, and customer satisfaction scores.

Most often, Customer Support teams are considered to be in the “cost center” column rather than the “profit center” column. The goal of the business is to increase revenues and decrease costs. Therefore, according to the current paradigm, the leaner the Customer Support team operates, the better.

Are we expecting enough from Customer Support?

Is achieving excellence as measured by the usual KPIs enough? Given their role as the primary personal face of the company for most customers, are we expecting enough from Customer Support teams?

When interviewed about their roles, Customer Support executives often express that they wish their position enabled them to have a bigger impact on the organization. They know that Customer Support teams interact with customers at key points in the relationship. They know that their teams play a crucial role in maintaining customer satisfaction. What if they could actually contribute positively to the bottom line by identifying new opportunities during their interactions? What if they had the insights to be able to proactively identify risks presented by the company’s products or services before they affected the bottom line? What if customer support teams could play a major role in increasing customer retention rates, improving customer satisfaction, and contributing to revenue growth?

Customer Support vs. Customer Success

What Customer Support executives are talking about when they express the desire to make more of a difference in the customer journey is a pivot from the classic Customer Support model toward the Customer Success paradigm.

In the book “Farm Don’t Hunt: The Definitive Guide to Customer Success,” author Guy Nirpaz describes the differences between Customer Success and business-as-usual customer management. The new paradigm has evolved in response to three market factors which have developed and grown more prominent with the increased proliferation of digital technologies:

1. The rise of recurring revenue business models

Everything from software applications to the entire infrastructure stack is available on a subscription basis. Instead of being locked in to a particular customer relationship for the typical multi-year life span of an on-premise software contract, customers often have the power to switch to a competitor every month.

2. Digitization of the customer experience

Customers have a plethora of options for finding out about a company, product, or service before they decide to buy, and even more platforms for providing ratings and commentary about their ongoing experience after they have invested in a product or service.

3. Increased Customer Expectations

Digital-first B2C companies such as Amazon, Uber, and Lyft have set the bar high for an intuitive and responsive customer experience. Customers expect that their experiences with B2B companies should have similar levels of convenience and satisfaction as those they experience in their “civilian” life.

These three market forces are the same ones in play in the shift towards “Digital Transformation,” the evolution of business models, operations, and strategies to take advantage of increasing data about customers and markets. Companies with a higher level of “Digital Maturity,” those led by teams which have taken advantage of the power of new data integrations in their decision-making, outperform those who haven’t.

Customer Support is reactive without the right data

Customer Support is, in its natural state, a reactive endeavor. There is no activity until a customer reaches out with a question or problem. Typically, each ticket is logged as a separate event in the ticketing system. Support agents are most often unaware of prior tickets initiated either by the same user or the same customer.

As measured by standard KPIs, an effectively-managed support case is one in which the complaint is resolved as quickly as possible and the follow-up survey indicates a positive customer satisfaction rating. The Support team is fulfilling its mandate as measured, but this mandate is reactive rather than proactive.

Pivoting from Reactive to Proactive, from Customer Support to Customer Success

What happens when a dose of real-time data is added to the support equation? When the support agent is able to view customer information in addition to ticket information, the support agent is better equipped to ask the right questions to resolve the ticket faster. More importantly, the support agent can provide a more personalized, smarter level of service which leaves the customer feeling more confident about the solution, perhaps even turning the customer into a raving fan. This investment in data-driven resources to strengthen the customer relationship is at the heart of the Customer Success paradigm.

Give Support reps real-time data with Totango Zoe for ServiceNow

Totango Zoe is a certified Customer Success application for ServiceNow. It easily pulls in relevant data from all customer-related applications into the ServiceNow dashboard. By implementing Totango Zoe for ServiceNow, Support teams can share information with other account stakeholders in order to better serve the customer. This in turn improves the long-term customer relationship, leading to higher retention rates.

The support agent can view the data needed to spot areas of weakness in the customer relationship, identify possible upsell opportunities, and uncover potential needs for professional services or training. The support agent can add new data to the shared system, such as updating contact information, logging positive or negative feedback, and recording suggestions for improvements to onboarding and training processes. Aggregated support ticket data and other statistics from the platform can be used to make Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) more effective.

This two-way information sharing between the Customer Support team and other business units helps to expand the influence and impact of the Customer Support team. This in turn can lead to more job satisfaction, less turnover, and a better outcome for all.