Why We Need A New Approach To Support Content
For self-service to really work, support content needs to become as dynamic and responsive as the product it’s supporting. We explore why current self-service solutions are failing, and how your content can truly help users help themselves - not leave them sending an SOS to customer support.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of a frustrating support experience when things just aren’t working out: whether scanning forums and threads, mashing buttons while navigating a phone tree, frantically typing things we hope a chatbot will understand, or yelling “speak to an agent” over and over again.
More often than not, we end up looking for an ‘escape hatch’ – a quick and easy way to speak to a human. Why? Because dealing directly with a customer support agent gives people the sense that they are getting the most up-to-date information, rather than the potentially outdated pointers found in forums and knowledge bases. This is one of the reasons why current self-service methods just aren’t working: people are trying to use them and then dropping out because they simply don’t trust them.
However, by applying some key software development principles to how support content is created and improved, we can increase the success rate of self-service content and cut down on costly support centre calls.
What is DevOps?
Coined in the early 2000s, DevOps is a set of principles and practices that guides software development and has allowed us to build and develop software faster.
We’ve all become familiar with the idea that software is a dynamic, shapeshifting thing. No longer packaged in a box and shipped with a manual, lean and agile methodologies have reduced the time to market to seconds in some cases.
A culture of collaboration between development teams (who are driven by wanting to change and improve the product) and operations teams (who want to keep it stable) is what allows this to happen in a fluid, continuous way.
Even if DevOps was never part of your product-development process, its principles can help you improve your support content dramatically.
Continuous Deployment, Continuous Improvement
Why do customer self-service systems fail? If your self-service solution isn’t good enough from day one, people are going to go back to the call centre.
Often, it comes down to not having a good process for rapidly iterating on your support content. If there is, say, a local outage affecting a broadband provider’s ability to deliver their service in a certain area, this information can be distributed across a call centre floor within minutes, and easily communicated to any customer that calls. At call centres, agents can mediate, close gaps and quickly figure things out themselves.
Is that true of the rest of your support content? How easy is it for a customer to find this information out without speaking to an agent? And how easy is it for you to update customer-facing content? More often than not, crucial knowledge and solutions pool at the call centre, and never filter out across the rest of your support content.
DevOps principles are designed to break down the silos between teams and allow them to work as one synchronized unit. Your support content should be doing the same.
The challenge here is going to be reducing the time between knowing there’s a new problem (or a new or improved solution to an existing problem) and getting that live in front of the customer in a self-service environment.
A DevOps approach to support content would see us having the best of product, best of support, and best of marketing working together cross-functionally to come up with a good answer. It means creating feedback loops that continually improve the content served to customers and help find support content blind spots.
Doing this well will cut down dramatically on the human cost of answering common questions, and reserve human intervention for where it works best: on trickier, multi-layered issues that require deeper investigation.
Support Content That Cares For Your Care Agents
Here at Sweepr, we believe in moving the point of triage from the call centre to the home. We believe that most people want to find a resolution in the quickest, easiest possible way – and that often doesn’t involve calling customer support.
But there will be times when something can’t be fixed by self-service, no matter how good your support content is, and your customer will need to speak to an agent. When that happens, how do we make sure the care agent is equipped with all the necessary context to help?
It’s crucial that we explore not just how our self-service solutions can support customers, but how they can empower customer support agents as well. A DevOps-inspired approach would allow companies to create a customer self-service solution that doesn’t leave your call centre agents in the dark or frustrate your customer.
If working with a product like Sweepr, that might look like your system pulling in information from our API that allows your support agent to see what the customer said when they first encountered the problem, or giving them an information-rich dashboard that lists everything the customer has done right up until making the call.
Having a system that provides context (what has the user asked and tried? What operating system and product are they using?) will empower the support agent and speed up resolution times.
It should be there for agents just as much as it is for the customer – cutting down on repetitive questions, giving them valuable insights into the customer’s problem and, crucially, passing through enough information so that the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves (in Microsoft’s 2017’s State of Global Customer Service report, 21 percent of US respondents and 31 per cent of UK ones felt that one of the most important aspects of a good customer experience was not having to repeat yourself).
Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Better
A culture that has adopted DevOps principles views their product (and their process) as an evolutionary thing: continuously trying to adapt, constantly failing, learning, fixing.
Great customer care teams often work in very similar ways. They sit together to collaborate and learn, dealing with the same problem or similar problems multiple times across the whole customer base.
With self-service, it will be individual customers who’ll be doing things. And the feedback itself will become much more dynamic as well. It won’t just be a five star rating, an emoji, or thumbs up or down to a “did this answer your question” line at the end of the support page or call. Soon, you won’t just be getting insights from the resolution stage, but real-time information about what’s happening right now, the whole away across the support pipeline.
Adding things like sentiment analysis to your interactions will allow you to find out not just whether the self-service solution offered to the customer solved their problem, but how they felt about that interaction.
Suddenly, you’ll have a much richer pool from which to learn, so you need a fast, agile way of harvesting and acting on those insights. A DevOps approach to support content would allow us to take the analytics and learnings from individual interactions to improve things across the platform as a whole.
Done poorly, self-service solutions can turn good customer relationships into bad ones. This is why we need to take everything we have learned about quickly developing, testing and deploying software and apply it to support content to better help customers help themselves. We need to get faster at failing, learning and adapting to feedback.
Truly great support content should make sure that the answer that you have available via self-service is the best answer that’s available in your business at this point in time. We have to get faster at taking what is being learned at the call centre and feeding it back into the self-service loop. We need to evolve the support model to make content much more responsive to market-facing problems that are happening in real time.
Better support content improves and optimizes the support experience across the board – for the customer, the agent and the company.