The Future of Customer Support is Conversational
By: Bobby Stapleton, Director of Customer
Support at Intercom
Today, customer support is undergoing a
massive, irreversible change. Support teams are struggling to manage increasing
conversation volumes. Simultaneously, a survey we ran found 73% of support
leaders say customer expectations are rising, but only 42% are sure they’re
meeting those expectations.
Until recently, most support teams have faced
an impossible choice—stay personal with customers or get efficient. Staying
personal meant offering expensive, unscalable services like 1:1 phone calls or
24/7 real-time chat. Efficiency meant deflecting customer issues through
impersonal forms and “do not reply” emails.
This type of “good enough” support is now
longer good enough. A new customer experience movement is emerging with massive
implications for customer support—and it’s called getting conversational.
How to design a support experience that’s
The next-generation way to bridge the gap
between what customers want and what support teams can realistically deliver is
through conversational, messenger-based experiences. They provide customers
with the fast, personal support they need and help support teams get ahead of
known problems, automatically answer repetitive questions and quickly resolve
Unlike messaging support tools of the past,
conversational support is so much more than live chat – leveraging the power of
bots and automation, it provides a support experience that helps businesses
enhance their customer relationships, streamline processes and maintain high
CSAT (customer satisfaction) scores.
To design a support experience that’s
conversational, you should follow a clear framework with three different layers
of support. This ensures that you’re not just opening the floodgates to an
overwhelming volume of customer inquiries, but instead equipping your support
team with the resources they need to deliver fast, personal support without
increasing headcount, budget or hours logged.
Layer 1: Proactive support, your first line of
Proactive support helps you prevent issues
from occurring in the first place and get ahead of known problems before they
reach your support team. With proactive support tools like outbound messages or
banners, you can alert customers to issues like delivery delays, bugs in your
product or website downtime. You can also onboard and educate new customers
through tools like product tours, so they’re set up for success from day one
and can overcome common hurdles like configuring your app or installing it on
mobile. Proactive support can drastically reduce the number of conversations
that reach your team, all while increasing customer satisfaction and retention.
Layer 2: Self-serve support that empowers your
“How do I update my password?” “What’s your
cancellation policy?” Answering simple, repetitive questions like these can
feel like Groundhog Day for your team. It’s time-consuming and a heavy drain on
resources and morale. Self-serve support satisfies customers’ need for speed
and control, while scaling your support. Consider leveraging FAQ knowledge
bases and chatbots to instantly answer customers’ simple, repetitive questions.
This allows you to provide customers with the fast, immediate answers they
need, without upping your headcount or overstretching your support team.
Layer 3: Human support for complex
There are many customer questions that can
only be answered by a human or require an empathetic response. Not every answer
can or should be automated, because not even the best chatbot can calm an angry
customer, investigate a thorny issue, or build a rapport with high-value
customers. Human support is an essential part of any successful support
strategy, but the reality is it doesn’t scale and it’s expensive to operate.
Instead, free up your team’s workload so they can focus on high-value, complex
queries that make use of their product knowledge, technical expertise and
empathy skills, such as issues from VIP customers, emotionally-charged
complaints and complex troubleshooting issues. This helps your team provide the
right customers with the world-class, fast, personal support they deserve.
Turn your support team into revenue drivers
Equipped with the above framework, your
support team no longer gets stuck in the day-to-day work of establishing a
healthy baseline for customer experience and efficiency. Instead, they serve a
greater objective—to become a positive force on revenue. They can now focus on
stopping customer churn, helping VIP customers achieve success and solving deep
technical issues. Over time, this lets them focus on proactively growing the
business’ bottom line and improving customer loyalty.
With customer support rooted in conversational
experiences, the customer support role changes dramatically. Instead of being a
cost center focused primarily on answering repetitive questions and delivering
reactive support, with siloed work and lack of career growth opportunities,
customer support agents can now be value drivers who focus on resolving VIP and
complex queries, with an opportunity to expand to proactive support, learn new
skills and partner with other teams, and most importantly, grow their careers
The bottom line is conversational customer
experiences benefit both your customers and support teams. Customers receive
fast and personal support, while support teams can dig themselves out of
reactive support and have more time and resources to become strategic,
revenue-generating business partners. It’s really a win-win situation for