Developing a More Human Approach to Customer Support

Philip Cleave
July 20, 2021

With today’s ever more competitive marketplace, it’s no longer enough for businesses to rely solely on product quality and the right price to stay competitive, as better-informed consumers are demanding a quality customer experience too.

Subsequently, more enlightened organizations have recognized the value of the human touch to creating a better customer experience and are nurturing a more human centric approach to their customer touchpoints and support channels.

We caught up with our resident Head of Support, Nathan Scott, to discover what he is doing to develop a more human customer support experience for our own customers, as well as gaining his thoughts on what organizations can do to better tackle support challenges within their own businesses.

Could you tell us more about your role, your vision for our customer support team and how you believe it will further benefit our customers?

When it comes to my role at SmartSurvey, I was principally brought in to create a more human customer support experience for our customers.

The best way to explain this is to look at the customer experience that is quite often provided at other companies. Rather than being customer focused, these businesses tend to be more tech led in their approach, which can lead to their customers being forgotten about.

So, the vision here is to create a more human centered experience, where customers don’t feel like they’re stuck in a rut, second to everything, forgotten about and essentially left feeling frustrated.

A good example, is the work we’re currently doing behind the scenes in putting in place various software tools that will further simplify and enhance our customer interactions. And we’re also inviting customers to feedback whenever they’ve had any interaction with our customer support teams, so we can monitor the progress of our customer experience.

We’re also making sure that our teams themselves are comfortable with the technology and software that we’re bringing in. We want them to feel as though they are developing and growing personally, which we believe will also further benefit our customers in the longer term through even higher levels of service quality.

When we’re talking about a human centered approach, it’s also important to point out that this doesn’t always involve talking to or having interactions with another human such as a customer support agent. So, in these situations we want customers to be able to find the answers they need easily, whether that’s through our website or through our app. Essentially, it’s about looking through the eyes of the customer and creating a customer first approach.

It’s also about providing a quality customer experience across all four elements that encapsulate it, namely brand, people, product and service, which when delivered effectively helps build trust and credibility in an organization.

When a customer signs up to SmartSurvey, regardless of the plan they are on, they will have certain expectations about what they expect to see and receive. Therefore, it’s really important that we understand what that expectation is and strive to meet and exceed it.

Are there any fresh developments on the horizon for customers contacting our support team and if yes, what could they expect to see?

Historically with a lot of customer support teams, one of the hardest things to do is offer first time resolution for customers. And that’s because traditionally the common support style has involved a lot of heavy textual instructions, such as a text ticket responses or reading a manual, which some customers struggle with.

A phot of a woman engaged in a video call.

So, one of the most exciting developments we have on the horizon for customers in the coming months, is for them to receive videos from our customer support teams. Narrated by one of our support team members, these videos will help customers to resolve the problem they are faced with, the issue that they see or the ‘how to’ of something.

The logic behind this is that the greatest percentage of humans are more visual and practical in their problem solving. Therefore, if you can actually see something being done, it’s much easier to get to grips with by doing it yourself. There’s also the added advantage of being able to stop and start the video at various points when you need extra clarification.

It’s one of the more advanced ways of thinking about customer support nowadays. The great thing about our videos, is that they will actually be bespoke to each individual customer query – helping to humanize and personalize the process for them.

Other things that are currently in the pipeline include live chat on our solution app, so customers don’t need to worry about phoning our support team separately to this whenever they have a support issue. We’re also continuing to explore simpler ways for our customers to contact us.

Looking at the wider industry, what do you believe to be the biggest customer service challenges currently facing organizations? And is there any advice you can offer to help them to overcome these challenges within their own businesses?

For me, I think one of the biggest customer service challenges facing any organization today is dealing with the many different ways in which a customer can contact you.

From the phone, email and social media to live chat and text. There’s just so many contact options, even within a channel itself such as social media, with platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. So, keeping control of these channels to ensure you’re not missing anything is a massive challenge.

An illustration showing multiple contact channels leading to support staff.

At SmartSurvey, we’ve taken the step of introducing software behind the scenes that enables us to capture every customer in each channel, so that we’re not missing a beat with them.

I think the biggest advice I can offer to any organization is that customer experience is an outcome of systems and processes. So, as long as you have a human centered process and systems in place that can change the culture and deliver better results, then you’re already breaking the back of any possible challenges you’re going to face with the different ways in which customers can contact you.

Of course, another challenge to come out of that, is that it can often be very difficult to show empathy and that you’re actively listening to a customer when they’re coming through a range of different contact mediums. For example, you could be speaking to someone on the phone, but they could be sending a message to you on Twitter.

So, the question here is, how do you ensure that your level of empathy with the problem your customer is experiencing matches how they feel?

I think the answer lies in humanizing your support. Essentially this is about demonstrating a high level of understanding. It’s also about being able to translate the resolution to their problems easily and in a way that they can identify with and feel that they’re being valued.

It’s also important to point out that given how instantaneous everything is these days, with someone able to say something within seconds that can damage your brand, that it’s essential to have systems in place that can capture and alert you to this feedback. Once you have this, it’s easier to resolve the source of that individual’s frustration in real-time.

What do you believe to be the biggest benefits organizations can gain from running customer surveys to improve service and support in their own businesses?

I think the best way to answer this is to draw on what I’ve introduced for our own customer support teams.

However, to provide some initial context, I think you need to consider the way that many customer support teams still operate. This is still very much reactionary, with many organizations finding it extremely challenging to speak to all of their customers proactively in order to provide a higher level of quality support.

Many see implementing a customer experience plan, as a solution to them delivering a more proactive and higher quality level of support. It is, however, it needs to be set up in the right way, and their needs to be an understanding that this is not a short-term fix, but instead something that needs to be carried out as a 3, 6, 12 month and beyond program, if you’re to see any results.

Depending on how proactive the customer support team already is within your organization, you would also need to decide whether to take an evolutionary or a revolutionary approach to changing your existing service, in order to make it more proactive.

The challenge with the latter is how do you do that if you have a large customer contact database and you can only get to a small subsection of those customers.

Well, the answer lies in proactively asking them to complete a survey.

You can then look to segment your database and select the customers you want to contact from each particular segment. Then once you have this you can start sending out NPS surveys, CSAT scores and collecting other relevant feedback in this area. And while you are concentrating on your proactive outreach, you can also be dealing with the more reactive side of your support, issuing more generic surveys to those customers to gather their feedback about how you are doing. This is something we are already doing and is working well at SmartSurvey.

When it comes to feedback, the key thing for any organization to remember, is to never be fearful about what a customer might say, as they are the only ones who can provide you with valuable intelligence about your business. While you may start at a fairly poor point in terms of how your customers perceive your brand or business when you initially collect their feedback, at least you’ll have something to work with. Through follow up surveys, you can then work to improve on the areas that are highlighted and watch your trend line of improvement move upwards. This also reinforces why it’s important for a customer experience program to be carried out over the long term, if you’re to realize the progress that you’re looking to achieve.

Ultimately, it’s about using surveys and the valuable insights that can be gained from them to drive positive changes in your business and increased benefits for your customers, which in our case is to provide a more human customer support experience.

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If you would like more information then please get in touch.