Your Customers Don’t Want To Call You For Support

Your customers just want an accurate, relevant, and complete answer to their question upon first contact so they can get back to what they were doing before the issue arose. Our data backs this up: 53% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question; 73% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.

It’s no wonder that customers increasingly leverage self-service and agent-assisted digital communication channels for customer service, as these channels have the least amount of friction. Our recent data from December 2015 shows that:

1. Web and mobile self-service interactions overtake all other channels. For the second year running, survey respondents reported using web or mobile self-service more than speaking with an agent over the phone. Use of help or FAQs on a company’s website increased from 67% in 2012 to 81% in 2015 among US online adults.

2. Other self-service channels are also on the rise. We see a rise in adoption across all self-service communication channels — not only web or mobile self-service. For example, fo US online adults,online forum/community use jumped from 31% in 2012 to 56% in 2015.

3. Web chat grows because it provides a low-friction channel to interact with an agent. Online chat adoption among US online adults seeking customer service has significantly risen in the past several years  Chat offers many benefits to the customer: companies can quickly connect customers to an agent with the right skills to answer the question without them having to navigate an arduous interactive voice response (IVR), they can succinctly resolve questions in near-real time, and agents can leverage customer behavior on the website to move the conversation forward instead of rediscovering information that has already been communicated to the customer.

4. Voice increasingly evolve to be an escalation— not a primary service — channel. Phone use for customer service has steadily decreased over the past six years, and we predict it will dip even further as customers increasingly adopt digital channels. Today, customers resolve straightforward customer service interactions via self-service, leaving complex issues like account closure, booking a complex multicity set of flights, or an explanation of smart metering billing policies for a phone conversation. These questions often take longer to resolve and are opportunities to build positive customer relationships with an end goal of increased customer retention.

Your Next Moves

What should you do about these trends? Here are the first steps to focus on:

1. Double down on web  and mobile self service. Customers don’t want to wade through a laundry list of answers; they want self-service sites to serve up the one right answer to their question. To do this, organizations must strengthen the foundations of their knowledge management programs so that content is easily findable and contextualized to the customer’s situation. They must use modern knowledge solutions with learning and analytics to measure and optimize the value of content.

2. Link customer communities to web and mobile self-service. Peer-generated community content enhances and complements the power of online self-service. Question-and-answer community threads create a massive volume of content that a company’s customer service, product, and marketing teams cannot hope to match internally.

3. Extend knowledge management into the contact center. Customers expect complete, contextual answers to their questions, which should be delivered consistently across communication channels. Agents who field the more complex questions that cannot be easily answered via self-service must be able to access knowledge base content to reliably answer customer questions.

Next steps, after you have the foundations of knowledge and communities in place, can be found here.

Let me know what you think. Comments are always welcome.

Kate Leggett is VP, principal analyst at Forrester Research, serving application development and delivery professionals. Read more Forrester Research blogs here.

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    Shael Risman:

    We had put our money on number 4 long ago – spending time and $$ on training the client base to only use the phone as an escalation only. At the beginning we got some pushback (who likes change?), but we quickly got to a place where 93% of our reactive support comes through our web portal rather than phone. Countless times I heard from peers that they couldn’t turn their client base around because the response times through phone seemed faster to them. The solution for us was simple – when you tell people they will get quicker satisfaction through web and mobile support as opposed to phone – IT ACTUALLY HAS TO BE TRUE. Funny how that usually work… 🙂

      Joe Panettieri:

      Hey Shael: Four years ahead of the curve… and finally the market is talking about catching up with you 😉


    Gary Pica:

    Great article Joe. So many providers think their clients prefer to call but they really just call because they think they will get better support. Once they are retrained everyone is happy and service is better. Good job Shael for showing us the way.

      Joe Panettieri:

      Hey Gary: All the credit goes to Forrester Research’s Kate Leggett on this one. Happy to share her views with the ChannelE2E readership.

      PS: Looking forward to Schnizzfest 2016.

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