Is the Support Experience Part of Your CX Strategy?


Is the Support Experience Part of Your CX Strategy?

We have all felt the impact of the macro-level market shift towards what has been dubbed the “subscription economy.” As many businesses move towards a recurring revenue model, the priorities have shifted from “initial sales” to “customer retention and growth.”

This shift has major repercussions inside the contact centers and customer support organizations of the world. This is because this major market shift has also propelled a shift in how we must approach customer support.

We must move from reactive or “break fix” support models into taking a more proactive, “customer success” – driven approach to building and maintaining support teams.

Why? Because for many businesses, especially business-to-business (B2B) firms, the support center is where the most critical interactions take place. It is the true “front line” of the customer experience (CX), more so than sales or marketing. Where the reality of how customers interact with your products comes to light, and the insights derived from these support interactions can be game-changing.

Enter Support Experience (SX) Management

While support interactions may hold invaluable insights into business performance in the subscription (and retention) economy, the gold inside these interactions has seldom been mined. This is because these insights are typically trapped inside unstructured text: in the back-and-forth exchanges over the phone, emails, and chats between customers and agents.

For years, this unstructured data was wholly ignored by companies. There were few tools able to ingest, analyze, and recommend actions to take based on the data inside the high volumes of customer interactions. Many companies did not have the proper data storage and computer performance capabilities, as well as the analytical expertise, to spin this data into proverbial gold.

Thankfully, the proliferation of cloud computing models, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and a “democratization” of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) concepts has made it far easier to capture and act on the insights once held captive inside volumes of customer interactions.

As more and more businesses see the value of these insights, a new technology category is emerging, called Support Experience (SX) management. SX is a subset of CX technology that is aimed specifically at optimizing the customer support experience to help companies protect and grow critical recurring revenue streams in this new economy.

SX is a Company-Wide Initiative

A SX initiative can quickly transform a support team from being reactive to being proactive. Teams can swarm to potential customer issue escalations, attack cases in backlog with greater efficiency, and better coach every agent to be the best they can be.

But the real beauty of investing in SX technology is the dividends it pays to the entire organization. It is easy to see how the insights gleaned from support interactions feeds other departments.

One simple cross-functional use case is feeding customer success teams with SX insights. Since SX data is derived from actual interactions (and not arbitrary and disconnected customer surveys), customer success professionals can gain a very clear understanding of product usage, issues, and overall customer health.

This approach, with SX insights, can help drive more enlightened engagement strategies with the customers, thereby enabling these professionals to be more proactive and ensure higher renewal and upsell/cross-sell rates.

Similarly, product teams can learn a lot from the information extracted by SX solutions. For example, an SX tool could help them to make more informed decisions on when to sunset support for certain versions of a product, when to promote upgrades, and what bugs to prioritize.

The back-and-forth between agents and the customers can also unearth product feature requests and other product trends that can help product teams prioritize feature roadmaps and discover more inventive cross-sell models.

Purpose-Built AI/ML is Your Friend

The best SX offerings are going to be “AI/ML Native,” meaning they are modern, cloud-based toolsets that have been built with AI and ML elements at their cores.

These technologies make it possible to make fast sense of the unstructured data inside support interactions. But even more importantly, ML allows the system to learn over time and become more and more effective the more you use it.

Additionally, SX is a prime example of what is emerging in the world of application software: purpose-built AI. This means SaaS or cloud applications that leverage AI in a “ready to use” format.

In the early days of AI technology, the primary providers were platform plays: expensive and unwieldy pieces of technology that were not pre-configured for any particular use case. These offerings required a lot of not only expertise in AI and ML, but also the domain expertise in a particular business area to be able to design and configure the system to ingest and analyze data in a useful manner.

The best SX offerings are going to be “AI/ML Native,” meaning they are modern, cloud-based toolsets that have been built with AI and ML elements at their cores.

Today, there are dozens of purpose-built AI solutions, and the SX category has its share as well.

This is a good thing. By consuming AI/ML applications as a cloud service, it saves the users time and money. Deployments are fast, tuning the model can be active or passive, and the results accrue swiftly.

In the area of SX, there are many types of purpose-built AI capabilities of which users can take advantage. These include escalation prediction tools: where support and contact center managers can take advantage of an “early warning system” to nip any potential escalations in the bud.

Another huge AI-powered, purpose-built tool in the SX world is advanced churn analysis.

By analyzing the data in the context of, say a B2B subscription software business model, SX tools can inform support and customer success teams of potential churn risks early. This allows teams to take decisive action, solve the root cause of the risk, and secure precious revenue.

SX Time is Now

Now is the time to be investing in an SX initiative, for multiple reasons.

First, many businesses simply need to transform themselves to meet the needs of the new market realities brought on by the subscription economy as well as by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Investing in an enhanced SX initiative as part of a general CX initiative just makes fiscal sense. For example, a typical $1 billion company will make $775 million, according to the Temkin Group, over three years if they focus on building a better CX.

But to get there, support teams need a tech stack that includes the ability to extract customer signals and support workflows that proactively address customer needs.

Second, if you aren’t investing in SX, there’s a good chance your competitors are.

A recent study found that 80% of customers said that a great support experience is as important as the quality of the product. So you need to be providing the same proactive, enhanced support experience as your closest competitor or face the consequences.

Finally, it has never been easier to acquire and deploy SX technology. The cloud has been a great tool for making it easy to deploy what seems like highly complex technology.

And, as noted earlier, since the best SX tools are designed specifically for use inside support centers: the return on investment is swift and substantial.

Simply turn it on, start analyzing your support interactions, and begin taking advantage of the insights and recommendations the SX tool set provides.

As the market becomes more and more competitive, and customer retention becomes more and more of a priority, one thing is becoming clear. Investing in your customers’ support experience should be a cornerstone of your overarching CX strategy.

Martin Schneider

Martin Schneider is Chief Evangelist and Head of Solutions Marketing at SupportLogic.