In many industries, customers have more contact with customer support than they do any other department. For that reason alone, support teams have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction. But it’s not just the volume of support interactions that makes customer support so integral to the customer experience. Customer support touchpoints also tend to happen under stressful circumstances, when customers are more irritable and more likely to conflate their experiences into extreme opinions about the company.
For good reason, companies often look first to customer support when searching for gaps in the customer experience, but they rarely look in the right places. They see support metrics—like time to first response and customer satisfaction score—and attribute them to agent performance alone, when they should consider the support experience as a whole.
From start to finish, support is made up of many micro-experiences that leave a lasting impression on customers. For example, a customer might visit the knowledge base, read an FAQ article, fill out a contact form, and even search a customer community before they actual speak to a support agent. If any portion of that experience is confusing, unhelpful, or just lackluster, it will negatively impact the customer’s overall support experience.
Let’s take a look at four common customer support touchpoints that may need work—and how you can do them better.
4 Customer Support Touchpoints That Deserve More Attention
1. Auto-Reply Emails
Online shopping has trained consumers to expect immediate acknowledgment when they submit something online. Whether they just made a purchase or completed a contact form, people expect a confirmation message in their browser and their inbox. If they don’t see an auto-reply email including when they can expect a response and where they can go to find answers. When done well, auto-reply emails are incredibly powerful. They can deflect support questions, direct customers straight to self-serve resources, and help manage expectations. Essentially, they cut costs and make things easier for everyone.
But auto-reply emails aren’t just efficiency-boosters. They’re key touchpoints that give your customers a sense of how much you care about them. As Groove put it, “In some cases, your support email auto-reply is the first time a customer will ever receive an email response from you. It’s their first opportunity to see who you—as a business, and as a team—really are.” But many companies miss that opportunity by sending impersonal, uninformative acknowledgements that do the bare minimum. Luckily, it’s a quick fix—and an easy win.
A good auto-reply email:
- Has a personalized, descriptive subject line
- Opens with a friendly message that addresses the customer as a person, not a case number
- Describes the action that took place (e.g. the order that was placed, the support request that was submitted, etc.)
- Gives an expected wait time (e.g. shipping time, response time, etc.)
- Tells customers how to contact the company with questions or problems
- Includes links to frequently asked questions or other relevant articles
To cover yourself, make sure you also automate your auto-reply emails so they deliver as soon as customers submit requests. Also, be sure to clearly state whether or not customers can reply to the email with questions. If you’re using a do-not-reply email address, their follow-questions are likely bouncing.
2. Contact Forms
As with auto-reply emails, bad contact forms lead to bad customer support experiences. As a customer, you expect a contact form to act as a direct route to support, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you fill out the required fields, type out your question, hit submit, and you’re directed to a knowledge base article that doesn’t even address your question. This experience is common, and it’s usually the byproduct of a poor case deflection strategy. In other words, the company is trying to deflect cases, but they’re doing it at the expense of the customer.
Instead of thinking about how contact forms can reduce case volume, you should think about how they can optimize your support flow. As a customer, being directed to a knowledge base article isn’t a bad thing if it answers my question. In fact, I’d actually prefer it over an email back-and-forth with support. But if it doesn’t answer my question, I want the option to keep submitting my question without starting over. On the other side of things, companies want to gather as much info as they can and ask as few questions as possible. This is where a smart contact form can make everyone happy.
A good contact form:
- Integrates with your CRM, so it can intelligently pull contact information based on identifiers the customer supplies (like email address)
- Uses dependent questions or logic to avoid asking irrelevant questions (i.e. only ask for the order number if the customer selects “Questions about an order”)
- Avoids too many categorical questions (these often pigeonhole customers into selecting the option that seems close enough, which just clouds your data)
- Serves up relevant content without forcing customers to read it
- Automatically creates a support case when completed
Beyond all that, make sure your contact form is easy to find and on brand. Ideally, you can use the same contact form across your site, in emails, and in-app to cut down on maintenance. Check out our website survey widget, which you can use as a lead form, contact form, and more.
3. Macros & Templates
Macros, email templates, canned responses… they’re all synonyms for the same thing, and they’re huge time-savers for support teams. They decrease response time, help new agents learn the ropes, and ensure repeat questions get handled in the same manner. Many companies have such well-crafted copy in their support macros that it’s hard to even tell they’re generic. However, macros have a dark side. Nothing makes a customer angrier than an obviously-canned response to a carefully worded question. It’s happened to all of us. We take time to explain what’s happening, and the response sounds like someone just copied, pasted, and hit Send.
Companies that prioritize fast response times and quick resolutions often overuse macros, and they end up working against their own goals. But that doesn’t have to be the case. You can use macros to maintain efficiency and service quality by treating them as customizable templates with many moving parts.
A good macro:
- Starts by clearly addressing or reiterating the customer’s problem
- Explains solutions or actions in detail, using numbered or bulleted lists when possible
- Predicts follow-up questions, and proactively answers them
- Includes links to additional content that might help
- Invites the customer to reply back if their problem still isn’t solved
Of course, macros are only as good as the agents that use them. Train your team to focus on solving the problems at hand, not just resolving the case. It’s helpful to add fields to your macros that the agent has to complete in order to send. For example, if I’m creating a macro for login issues, I’d probably include a blank space for the agent to fill in the customer’s username.
4. Customer Feedback Asks
Customer feedback is key to any company’s success. It reveals procedural gaps, inspires innovation, and ultimately helps companies deliver better customer experiences. But to get quality feedback, you have to give customers a convenient channel to voice their thoughts. Whether it’s a periodic email survey, a feedback form on your site, or just an open dialogue with your customers, the method you choose will dictate how and when customers share their opinions.
When you make it easy for your customers to speak up, you foster stronger relationships with them. Rather than taking to social media to air their grievances, customers know they can go to you directly and be heard. But to reach that point, you have to carefully consider how you ask for feedback and what you’ll do with it once you get it. A strategic customer feedback program can streamline your support processes and increase customer satisfaction over time.
A good customer feedback ask:
- Thanks customers for sharing their thoughts
- Asks for contact info in order to follow up
- Specifies what will happen next (i.e. who will review their feedback and when they can expect to hear back on it)
- Includes relevant links to the knowledge base or other customer resources
- Asks for qualitative and quantitative feedback
Remember, the value of feedback hinges on how you use it. Before you begin collecting customer feedback, you should consider how you’ll analyze and act on it. Customers expect their thoughts to get tossed in a suggestion box and forgotten about. If you can prove their voices are heard and appreciated, you’ll set your company apart from the pack.
Customers are your number one asset as a business, and customer support is their lifeline. Today, the support experience isn’t as simple as an agent-customer interaction—it’s a series of small but impactful interactions that often get overlooked. The customer support touchpoints outlined above may seem like minor details in the grand scheme of things, but they can make or break a customer’s experience with your company. Improve each one, and you’ll radically improve customer support as a whole.
Ultimately, the less energy your customers have to put in, the happier they’ll be. But it’s not just about happy customers—minimizing customer effort also means upping efficiency. The quicker they get answers, the less time your support team spends putting out fires. It’s a simple approach, but it can make an incredible difference in the long run.
An end-to-end customer feedback program can help you reduce customer effort, boost customer satisfaction, and create better customer experiences. Learn how.