The customer-for-life software suite
By Use Case
Many factors play a role in how effectively each team within your company is able to carry out their responsibilities. And while those factors can sometimes vary by team, two of the most important for every team are:
The first factor requires little explanation. The more skilled, experienced, and motivated your employees, the better they’ll perform at their jobs, and the more success they’ll bring your company.But the best employees need the right tools to do their best work. Manufacturing teams need top-of-the-line equipment, delivery drivers need reliable trucks, chefs need sharp knives, and so on. In-office employees are no exception. And although the “tools” they use tend to be software and not heavy machinery, those tools are just as important in enabling them to complete their day-to-day tasks.
And in the case of your customer service team, the most important tool is customer support software. This software is essential for managing and resolving customer inquiries — and that’s especially true of enterprise-level companies. But selecting the right one isn’t always a straightforward process. And that’s why we created this resource. In this report, you’ll learn how enterprise support needs differ from those of small businesses, as well as the features you should look for in enterprise support software. Our goal is that by the time you finish reading, you’ll have all of the information you need to select the customer support platform that’s right for your business — and to start delivering the level of service your customers want.
This guide is intended to serve as a resource for enterprises looking to find the right customer support software for their needs. But what makes enterprise support needs any different from the needs of any other business?
After all, enterprise-level companies aren’t alone in their need for customer support software. Customer support is an essential function in every business, regardless of size or scope.
In fact, customers base 70% of buying experiences today on how they feel they’re being treated. This means that your support has a more significant impact on how customers feel about your brand than any other factor — including the quality of your products or services.
Plus, 86% of consumers in one survey said they’d pay more for a better customer experience.
So from a financial standpoint, there’s absolutely no reason not to offer your customers the best service you can. Unfortunately, the same survey found that only 1% of consumers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. This indicates that there’s a lot of room for improvement in the average level of service a business provides today. And it also means that a lot of brands are missing out on revenue because their support isn’t up to par.
That’s where customer support software comes into play. These tools help businesses track inquiries, communicate with customers, and provide resolutions more efficiently. And when equipped with the right software, support teams have the opportunity to drastically improve both the level of service they provide, as well as overall customer satisfaction. The challenge, then, is choosing the right one.
Today, there are many options to choose from when it comes to customer support software. This means that every company from small, local, businesses to enterprise-level brands, is almost guaranteed to find a solution that meets their needs and budget.
On the flip side, it can make the decision-making process a difficult one. But the best way to find the right software for your business is to determine what your needs are up front — then evaluate your options based on those criteria. And those needs tend to be slightly different for enterprises. The biggest difference, of course, is scale. Enterprises handle more tickets, employ more support agents, and often operate in more countries and time zones than their small business counterparts. This means that the platform they choose needs to be able to handle high ticket volume and provide the tools that support agents need to address all of those tickets.
It’s also important to note that there’s very little room for inefficiency in enterprise support teams. Although a minor bug that adds a few extra seconds to each interaction is no big deal for companies that only engage with a handful of customers every day, those extra seconds can quickly add up for those that receive dozens (or even hundreds) of tickets per day.
Finally, enterprises should always consider scalability when evaluating software. As a company grows and evolves, so do its support needs — and it would be unwise to invest in a platform you could outgrow within a few years. Of course, this isn’t to say that all enterprise-level companies have the same support needs. Depending on your customer base and customer service strategy, some of the features listed in this guide may not even be necessary for your business. And ultimately, the goal is to find a solution that fits your needs — not a general idea of “enterprise support needs.”
If you’ve used support software in the past, your experience can serve as a starting point for identifying what those needs are. Which features did you like or consider essential? Which slowed down your workflows? And what was lacking? The answers to these questions can help you form a clear idea of what your ideal support software looks like, and which elements are non-negotiable.
If you haven’t used support software in the past, it’s still a good idea to start your search with a general idea of what you want the platform you choose to accomplish. And whether you already know what your company’s support needs are or not, it’s also wise to consider the factors that matter to consumers.
Today, the most important factors in a customer’s support experience are short response times (75%) and cross-channel consistency (55%). Of course, your ability to meet your customers’ expectations is largely dependent on your agents. But as you evaluate your options, keep these priorities in mind — and aim to find a solution that will help your team deliver on those expectations with ease.
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One of the most important factors to consider when selecting customer support software is collaboration. Although you likely assign each inquiry your company receives to a single agent, customer support is ultimately a team effort. After all, even the most skilled, experienced agents can’t handle every issue on their own. When customers ask questions to which they don’t know the answer, they’ll need to consult another member of your team for assistance.
In some cases, this simply requires contacting another support agent who’s dealt with a similar question or situation in the past. That agent can then use their own experience to provide a much faster resolution.
In other cases, customers’ needs will go beyond the scope of your support team’s knowledge. For example, let’s say a customer contacts an ecommerce store’s support team because a website bug is preventing them from making a purchase. Unless the agent they reach happens to have web development experience, that agent is unlikely to be able to provide a quick fix. But they can pass the customer’s issue along to a developer so that they can resolve it. The same holds true for issues that concern any other department within your company. And your customer support software needs to make this process as seamless as possible.
From a customer standpoint, the most crucial element is the ability to share information. In fact, 72% of customers blame their bad customer service experience on having to explain a problem to multiple people. Customers don’t want to waste their time repeating themselves to multiple employees within your company. This means that your agents need a way to describe inquiries in detail before passing them along to other members of your team.
Now, you might be wondering whether this is really an essential function of support software, given that email and instant messaging exist. And while smaller teams sometimes use these channels for collaboration (or even communicate in person, if their office is in the same location), this can quickly become confusing for larger teams.
Information can easily get lost in email threads. Plus, since there’s no way to indicate ticket status, customer inquiries can go unresolved altogether. Customer support software that’s designed for collaboration can eliminate these issues. And though the exact ways in which different platforms enable collaboration vary, the most important feature to look for is the ability to communicate directly on individual tickets.
This way, if an agent needs assistance finding a resolution for a ticket, they can simply tag another agent on that ticket and start a conversation.
Keeping these threads separate eliminates the risk of confusing or losing track of inquiries. Plus, many support tools now allow for shared ownership of tickets — so that if an agent asks for assistance, both parties can see the ticket’s status and share the responsibility of finding a resolution. With these features, your team can easily share and access the details they need to assist your customers, without leaving your support platform. This way, they can focus their efforts on providing excellent service — and not on digging up old email threads with customer information.
A decade or so ago, the average consumer’s only options for getting in touch with companies were calling a customer service phone number or visiting a physical store location or office. That is, of course, no longer the case. Businesses can now offer their customers a variety of support channels.
Today, email and phone support are widely considered standard channels and the bare minimum that every company should provide. Beyond that, many businesses also assist their customers via live chat, social media platforms, SMS (text messages), and self-service resources.
And customers want these options.
One survey found that consumers’ preferred support channel varies by need. While consumers are just as likely to use email support as a phone call to “investigate products/services,” the preference for phone support drastically increases if they’re looking for urgent technical assistance.
This means that it’s in every company’s best interest to offer several support channels. And while the exact channels you use depends on your audience’s preferences and needs, the support software you use needs to help your team provide seamless customer service across each of them. But that doesn’t just mean that it should offer support tools for multiple channels. If the inquiries made on each channel are kept separate, you can quickly frustrate your customers and create problems for your team’s workflow.
Imagine, for example, that a customer calls your company’s customer support line because they received the incorrect item in an online order. The phone support agent apologizes and gets in touch with your warehouse team to have the correct item sent as quickly as possible. That’s great! But what if the customer never receives a shipping confirmation, and reaches out via email to ask for a tracking number?
If your support channels operate independently of one another, the agent who receives their email may not have access to any record of the previous call. So before providing an answer, they’ll need to ask the customer for their name and order information and have them explain their issue from the beginning. It’s easy to see how this could frustrate the customer — and, as a result, damage their perception of the brand. But these kinds of issues can be avoided altogether with omnichannel customer support software. Omnichannel platforms combine inquiries from all channels into a single, combined dashboard.
This way, agents can easily access all of the information they need to assist a customer, regardless of the channel on which they get in touch. And instead of asking customers to repeat the details they already explained to another agent, they can use those details to provide a fast response.
This platform also ensures consistency across all support channels. When your team has access to the answers and resolutions provided on every channel, they can ensure that they’re not contradicting one another on different channels.
Finally, omnichannel support is essential for effective collaboration. Your agents should always be able to assist one another in finding solutions for your customers, and removing barriers between channels is an essential step in making this happen.
Automation is a popular topic with many different areas of business, as many of the tedious processes that used to require hours of employee time can now be handled entirely by computers and algorithms. And it’s not difficult to see how this is beneficial.
From an employee standpoint, automation means spending less time on mind-numbing tasks and having more time to allocate to interesting, complex ones. And from an employer standpoint, automation means that they can complete certain tasks at much lower costs. While there are typically costs involved in purchasing, setting up, and maintaining the platforms that drive automation, the work those platforms do for free can quickly exceed that investment.
This makes its value especially clear when compared to the cost of paying an hourly employee to complete the same tasks. It makes sense, then, that in a recent survey of businesses using automation, cost reduction was the most cited benefit. But it wasn’t the only benefit.
Businesses also reported seeing improvements in productivity, availability, reliability, and performance. And while you can see these benefits as the result of many different uses of automation, one of the best places to incorporate it is in customer support software.
Today, most helpdesk platforms are designed to automatically assign an agent to each ticket as they come in. This way, there’s no question as to who’s responsible for assisting a customer and no risk of overlap between agents. But while many support ticketing systems assign tickets based solely on a goal of giving the same number to each agent, automation can make the process much more efficient.
First, automation can be used to determine the task associated with each ticket. For example, if a user includes the word “return” in their inquiry, their question likely has to do with a return. But if they include the word “invoice,” they probably have a billing question. Based on these inferences, platforms with automation can prioritize these tickets and route them to the correct agents based on skill and experience. This can speed up the process of getting each ticket to someone who’s qualified to resolve it.
Automated ticketing can also be used to distribute the workload evenly among your team so that none of your agents are overwhelmed by an unmanageable number of tickets.
Not every support inquiry can get resolved within one interaction. This means that in many cases, agents will need to follow up on tickets with either the customer or another employee at your company.
But for busy support agents, remembering which tickets require additional work can be almost impossible.
Of course, some agents might take a proactive approach by setting reminders for themselves in calendars and other third-party tools. And though these may only take a few seconds to create, those seconds can quickly add up over time for agents handling dozens of tickets per day.
Automation removes that need. Support platforms with automated reminders make it easy for agents to know when they need to follow up on an issue, escalate a ticket, or close a ticket that gets resolved by a third party.
These reminders can be either time-triggered or event-triggered, depending on the nature of the ticket. This way, agents never have to worry about forgetting a customer and can rest assured that when a ticket needs work, it will bring it to their attention.
When done correctly, these knowledge bases enable them to find answers and solutions without the help of a support agent. And they’re becoming an increasingly common part of online support strategies. That’s largely because customers want these resources. One study found that 91% of people would gladly use a self-service knowledge base if one were available, and 75% of people consider a self-service portal a convenient way to resolve a support issue.
There’s no denying, then, that these resources are beneficial to customers. But they’re even more beneficial to the businesses that publish them. In the same survey, 40% of respondents said they check for a self-service knowledge base before calling a support number. This means that companies who offer self-service resources and effectively address customers’ questions can drastically reduce their overall ticket volume. And considering that the tickets eliminated by a self-service resource tend to be simple, straightforward questions, it also means that your agents can focus their efforts on more complex inquiries that truly require their assistance. Plus, as the volume of unnecessary tickets decreases, so do the wait times for customers with more pressing issues.
These are all significant benefits for any company looking to improve their support team’s efficiency and productivity. So while creating a comprehensive knowledge base typically requires considerable investments of time up front, the time it saves teams, in the long run, makes that investment worth it. In addition to official resources created by an in-house team (or freelance copywriters), many businesses also opt to add community support forums to their self-service resources. This way, if an article doesn’t fully answer a customer’s question or provide a resolution, they can ask for assistance from other customers.
Of course, these forums aren’t intended to serve as a replacement for support teams. Even the most experienced users don’t have access to developers or other departments for answers and fixes, and companies that add forums should make it clear that users looking for a response from a support agent should contact the team directly. Instead, they give customers a place to discuss products, ask questions, and crowdsource support. That said, it’s essential that any company considering adding a forum is willing to take the time to monitor it. Because forums give users free reign to post and comment, it’s essential to moderate for inappropriate content.
But beyond that, user-run forums can also be a valuable source of feedback and suggestions. If multiple customers are struggling with a product or complaining about the lack of a specific feature, this indicates that there’s room for improvement. And even if those customers don’t bring their issues directly to the attention of a support team, their feedback can be used to improve products, services, and overall customer satisfaction.
Data is essential for driving improvement and growth. It’s the best way to get concrete benchmarks for team performance, identify areas with room for improvement, and set accurate goals.
Unfortunately, some areas of business are more difficult to quantify than others — and customer support is one of them.
Marketing teams, for example, can determine exactly how much they spent on any given campaign, as well as the amount of revenue generated as a result. Then, they can use that data to calculate their return on investment and compare that return to previous campaigns. This process isn’t as straightforward for customer service teams. The quality of a support interaction can be somewhat subjective and depends mostly on the customer’s needs.
One inquiry an agent receives could be straightforward and resolved within a matter of seconds. Another might require them to spend half an hour walking a customer through a process or feature. But does that mean they were any less efficient in handling the second ticket? Not necessarily. Plus, though it’s possible to quantify the time “investments” agents make with each ticket, the “returns” they see typically aren’t in the form of direct revenue. But, of course, that’s not to say that their interactions don’t bring value. Support can have a significant impact on customer satisfaction, and be the determining factor in whether someone writes off a brand altogether, or becomes a loyal customer for years to come.
So — how can an enterprise-level business determine whether their team is providing the kind of service that achieves the latter outcome?
The answer is with comprehensive reporting features. Although there’s no way to measure elements like empathy and attentiveness, there are metrics that can bring a level of objectivity to these somewhat subjective tasks. Response time and resolution time, for example, can give a sense of how efficient a team is at resolving inquiries. Metrics like ticket volume and peak hours, then, can provide context and make it easier to determine whether that level of efficiency makes sense. And on the other end of the spectrum, metrics like customer satisfaction score (CSAT) and net promoter score (NPS) indicate how happy customers are with the level of support they receive, as well as with a brand as a whole.
All of these metrics combined can paint a clear picture of a support team’s performance. And when reviewed on a regular basis, they can indicate where opportunities for improvement lie, as well as how overall performance trends over time.
This means that for any business that’s serious about measuring and improving customer service, comprehensive reporting features are an essential feature to look for in support software. So as you evaluate your options, determine which metrics you intend to use to evaluate your support team’s performance, and make sure that the platforms you’re considering include them. It’s also worth noting that some platforms offer advanced reporting features to simplify the process, like scheduled reports and SLA management. Of course, the exact reporting features you look for depends on your preferences for measuring and analyzing performance — but making sure that you include them from the start is the first step in assessing and improving the quality of your customer support.
Customer satisfaction is ultimately the most important metric when it comes to measuring support performance. No matter how fast an agent can respond to a ticket, or how many tickets they’re able to resolve per shift, they aren’t having a positive impact unless those customers are happy with the service and resolutions they receive.
That’s because their happiness can have a significant impact on retention, revenue, and other key business goals.
In fact, 89% of consumers say they’ve stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service, and 70% of consumers cite poor customer service as a reason for not buying from a brand. It’s clear, then, that maintaining high levels of service is a necessity. So while some support platforms lump customer satisfaction in with other reporting metrics, it’s essential for support teams to understand how they measure it. And for teams that want to make measuring and improving customer satisfaction a priority, the best option is built-in, fully integrated customer support satisfaction surveys.
Although customer surveys that gauge overall satisfaction with a brand or product are now common practice, they’re not the most effective way to determine how satisfied customers are with your support, specifically. Support satisfaction surveys, on the other hand, are designed solely to uncover how happy your customers are with the service they receive. That’s because they can be automated, and appear in users’ inboxes closely following their support experience.
This way, their interaction is still fresh in their mind, and they can provide an accurate account of its quality. And these surveys can be as simple or as complex as needed. Some businesses, for example, simply ask customers to rate their overall experience on a five- or seven-point scale. Others take it a step further by asking customers for feedback on the service they received, or suggestions as to how it could’ve been better. But regardless of the exact setup and questions, the most helpful part of these surveys is that because they’re sent directly by the support platform, it’s easy to analyze the results.
Businesses can not only gauge the overall sentiment toward their customer support team but also monitor the performance of individual agents. That’s because even if a customer forgets the name of the agent assigned to their ticket, the support platform tracks that information. This way, support managers can get a clear idea of what’s contributing to their overall satisfaction levels, and address any issues if need be. Plus, if all of this information gets tracked within the support software, it’s easy to monitor trends over time. This way, teams can get an at-a-glance look at how their customer satisfaction levels have improved (or not) and set reasonable goals moving forward.
So as you evaluate support software for your enterprise-level business, make sure to fully understand how metrics like customer satisfaction are measured. Although it can be a difficult element to quantify, having a clear process in place makes it much easier to establish benchmarks and find opportunities for improvement.
Most businesses rely on dozens of tools and platforms on a daily basis. From communication channels and sales tools to ecommerce solutions and analytics platforms, they all play an essential role in keeping operations running smoothly. And in many cases, they might also need to play a role in resolving customer questions and issues.
If a customer reaches out because of a billing issue, for example, the assigned agent will need to be able to access their billing account and history. And if a customer has a question about product availability, the agent will need to pull that information from an inventory platform.
And depending on how their support software is set up, those tasks can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming. If the software doesn’t allow for integrations, they’ll need to open a new tab or window, navigate to the correct tool, find the information they need, then return to the support platform to share it with the customer. That’s not exactly efficient.
Fortunately, many support platforms now integrate with an extensive number of third-party tools. With these integrations, agents can find all of the information they need to assist a customer right within the support software’s interface. This means less time spent navigating through multiple login screens and websites, and faster resolution times for customers. So for any enterprise business looking to choose a support platform that will streamline processes and boost efficiency, it’s essential to consider integrations.
Start by making a list of all of the third-party programs your support team uses on a regular basis. These might include tools for productivity, chat and messaging, billing, ecommerce management, file sharing, analytics, social media, time tracking, and many other tasks. Then, make sure that the support software you’re considering integrates with these tools — and if it doesn’t, make sure you have a plan in place to work around that lack of integration.If the benefits of a platform outweigh the fact that it doesn’t work with the tools you’re already using, you should be willing to switch to new tools that it does integrate with, and to train your team on those tools.
But if you’re set on sticking with the tools your team is familiar with, switching to a support platform that doesn’t work well with those tools is a recipe for inefficiency. Take the time to plan for cross-platform tasks in advance, and you’ll save your team a lot of time in the long run.
Selecting enterprise customer support software isn’t a decision to take lightly. Although your agents are ultimately the most important factor in the level of service you provide, support software is an essential tool for enabling them to do their best work. This means that the platform you choose needs to accommodate both your support team and your customers’ needs and preferences. It needs to help your team deliver fast, helpful resolutions across several support channels, and enable them to do their jobs as efficiently as possible. And it needs to do all of this not only now, but also as your company grows and scales.
So while there are plenty of options available to enterprise-level support teams, it’s important to spend the time selecting the best match for your needs and goals.
And today, leading support platforms help businesses reach their support goals with features for collaboration, omnichannel support, automation, self-service tools, reporting, customer satisfaction surveys, and third-party integrations.
So before you decide which support software is the right one for your business, it’s in your best interest to determine which of these features you need, and which you might need in the future.
Then, as you evaluate your options, you can select a tool that has everything you need to serve your customers, drive team productivity, and easily accommodate business growth.
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