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The future of customer support

Customer support is changing. It was originally considered as a cost center. Today, most web companies view support as a way to engage and retain their users. As Slack’s CEO puts it: "every customer interaction is a marketing opportunity".

The whole customer success philosophy is the result of this change. The days of the rigid and standardized & verbose customer support are over.

Well, we think this change is just starting.

Customers expect more

Today, the switching cost between two similar web companies is very low. Imagine you have a food delivery subscription and last night, the quality of your dinner was not good. You’ll probably reach out to support and expect some kind of compensation. If you don’t get it today, I’m willing to bet you’ll order from another company next time. If you tweet the company, and the only response you get is "we don’t provide support through twitter, please call us 888-1292-1201 during business hours" (because marketing is in charge of twitter, and not support), same thing. Boom, this company has lost a customer.

Most customers now expect to get a response to their inquiries within a few hours, in a personalized fashion, through the communication channel of their choice. We want brands to be aware of our preference, of when was the last time we reached out to them, etc.

The classic approach businesses have to support usually fails here. The average response time for an online business is 24 hours, and most of them use robotic language. The thing is, as a customer, you’ve probably tried several on-demand food services, so you’ll just choose the one that offers the best quality food (of course), and the best customer support.

This is why support has to change. The bar is higher, and most companies need to improve the quality of their customer support to retain customers.

A glimpse at the future of support

The best way to leverage a customer interaction to convert them into an ambassador is to exceed their expectations. It means the response needs to be personalized and fast. How to achieve that?

The first challenge here is to reconcile all customer interaction in one place, so that the customer support agent knows the context of this customer and can personalize their response. Has they tweeted about us lately? When did they order for the last time? What’s their lifetime value?

Today, most SaaS help desks are focused on tickets. A customer request is a ticket that needs to be solved. That’s where the challenge is. SaaS help desks need to reinvent themselves to be customer-first. They need to integrate context about who the customer is (a VIP, a new customer), past interactions with the customer (whether those are tweets, text or emails) and information about what they did recently (last orders). That’s the only way to provide the customer with a unified experience with the company.

You may say, "this is great, it’s going to work for companies who have high value customers, but B2C businesses can’t afford it". That’s where machine learning & automation come into play.

Not all requests need to be personalized. Sometimes, if you’re wondering where your order is, you just want a response right now.

Some AI-bot already provide immediate response, such as Msg.ai, Presence.ai or DigitalGenius, but that’s only for chat. Most support teams have setup some basic automation here, but someone still has to manually prioritize messages. Requests prioritization will be fully handled by a machine, which will classify the messages based on urgency and on the importance of the customer.

The underlying benefit of having better message classification and better integration with customer support data is that it will take analytics to another level. Today, most support teams monitors metrics that are limited to the scope of support itself, such as the response time, or the satisfaction rate after a request has been solved.

What if you could assess the impact on customer retention of giving $10 refunds to people who had a first bad experience? Or the impact of free returns for loyal customers? We believe that support is going to be more and more similar to marketing. Teams will be able to AB test the way they handle requests, and will refine it over time.

At Gorgias, we’ve seen most of our customers dealing with those higher expectations and we’ve decided to build a help desk which focuses on data integration & automation of repetitive tasks. You can join our private beta here.

We’d be curious to hear what you think about how support is going to change!

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