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Frustration and Friction in Customer Support: Here's How One Company Solved for Both

By Matthew Vulpis February 11, 2021

In today's fast-paced world of on-demand services, entertainment, and products, customers' expectations have risen in regard to almost every aspect of a company, including the customer experience. All too often, help desk agents, whether in contact centers or manning online chat sessions, become the target of customers who are frustrated when their products don't work, when their billing is incorrect, when they regret a purchase and demand a return or a refund, and more. Oftentimes, intense emotions surface, and without a resolution strategy, boil over into unnecessary anger and hate towards a company by the consumer. While creating a frictionless customer experience is no easy task for a company, regardless of size, it has become essential for bringing in new consumers and retaining existing ones. However, there are strategies a business can use in order to make it easier for agents to decrease friction throughout the consumer experience.

A frictionless customer experience is all about creating a seamless buying and or signup experience. It's about identifying where friction exists in your entire customer journey and ruthlessly cutting it. The first thing any business must do in order to reduce its customer support friction is to merely identify all of the company's touchpoints. Customer touchpoints are simply your brand's points of customer contact throughout the purchasing and or signup process. Companies today try to make sure they have a myriad of touchpoints, such as websites, newsletters, social media platforms, surveys, and many more types of contact channels. With each touchpoint identified by a company, the goal is to make sure it engages with the customer, nurtures the customer, and then converts them into buying your product or service.

"When combing through your touchpoints, you may find that customers generally have a good experience when buying online through your website or app, but a poor experience if they are using your chatbot or some other channel," said Jeff Tropeano, Senior Director from Eventus, a business management consulting firm based out of Colorado. "Customers today have high expectations, and one of the most basic of expectations is consistency. Providing a consistent experience builds trust in your brand because it's how your customer is reminded that they're still dealing with your brand. You want them to always know that they are on a customer journey with your brand and to associate their positive customer experience with your brand. This is how you get customers coming back to you. "

After a business has identified all of its customer touchpoints, the next strategy would be to analyze these touchpoints, using new innovations in analysis technology to make sure they're as efficient and frictionless as possible. Since technology is the engine that powers frictionless engagements, network analysis has become increasingly important in identifying areas in customer support where efficiency can be increased with help from real-time insights. For example, many businesses find that deploying a software-defined network (SDN) and software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) provides the flexibility they need. SDNs can provide insights into network performance and capacity across the enterprise, easing management burden and freeing up employees to be more productive. This increase in network visibility also helps IT and networking professionals spot issues in real-time so they can be addressed even before a single customer is impacted. The result is more efficient operations at a lower overall cost.

"Since high-performance technology is critical to delivering a frictionless experience, the underlying network becomes even more important to ensure that different technologies, applications, databases, and users are connected in a way that streamlines how customers search for, buy, get, use and pay for services," said Tropeano. "To achieve these goals, businesses are increasingly replacing or augmenting existing legacy networks with gigabit connections that remove bandwidth constraints, enabling businesses to deliver consistently fast and reliable connections that can power frictionless interactions."

Once touchpoints have been identified and the technological side of the customer experience has been made as efficient as possible, the next strategies a company can take to create a frictionless customer support process all focus on the agents themselves. No matter where technology takes us, human interaction will always be necessary and will control the tone of every transaction and the consumer's perception of a company. Customers want to feel heard and understood and have their questions answered by knowledgeable, empathetic employees.

Firstly, all agents must be properly trained when it comes to the customer experience. Creating a quality training program for both existing agents and new ones that teaches empathy in sales is essential. For many people, making a purchase is an emotional act. If something goes wrong or is confusing, the customer needs the guidance of a real person. Everyone in your company, whether they interact with customers or not, should be trained properly and be educated in your company values so they can represent your business with pride. When an employee isn't happy, your customer won't be either.

Secondly, agents must be given the proper tools in order to make sure they can create as little friction throughout the customer support experience. This can mean a variety of different things, from software that will increase an agent's efficiency and make them feel fully supported when handling a customer's needs to merely giving them the power to make certain decisions.

"When every little decision has to be directed up the food chain, customers will wait longer for their problems to be solved," said Tropeano. "If you grant your front-line employees the power to make decisions in the customer's best interest, you will reduce friction along their buying journey and create happy, stress-free consumers."

Finally, to decrease friction in the customer support experience and increase the overall efficiency of the company, a business must always remember to simply reward agents for great behavior and exceptional work while showing daily appreciation for the work being done. Just because some think of customer support agents as faceless voices doesn't mean they are. Agents are people too, and staying motivated to keep performing at your very best can be a real challenge, especially when appreciation from the consumer is usually lacking. Small things such as positive feedback can not only make workers feel acknowledged and valued, but it also sets a standard that other employees look to achieve. Happier agents will create less friction in the customer support experience, leading to overall happier customers.

With the Covid-19 pandemic continuing to rage on, the ability to deliver a frictionless customer support experience through various channels will only continue to become more important, with any friction possibly spelling disaster for a business. Thankfully, by taking the right steps and putting some simple procedures into place, you can reduce the amount of friction along the buyer's journey, increase your sales, and gain loyal customers for life.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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