This is a guest post about the customer support funnel by Sarah Chambers, Head of Support at Kayako.
Yoga teacher, self-diagnosed Twitter junkie, and recent import to London via Vancouver. Sarah is passionate about keeping customers loyal through amazing customer service. Give her some love on Twitter.
One of the top challenges that we’ve heard from customer support managers is the pain of scaling personalized support as the business grows, while keeping costs in check.
How can you ensure you’re spending your most expensive resource – your time – on the right, high value customer interactions?
We like to think about the customer’s journey through the customer support funnel. Similar to the sales funnel, you want to guide customers through their experience with your company, qualifying them as you go. This ensures that everyone gets what they need, but no additional resources are wasted when not needed
What is the customer support funnel?
A customer support funnel consists of a series of guided choices to efficiently direct a customer to information they need to be successful.
When customers are free to choose their own support path, they choose the path of least effort a shockingly low 20% of the time.
The customer support funnel starts off with the least effort service path (usually a knowledge base or in-product assistance) and moves through one to many support, and finally ends in a one to one interaction with a dedicated support agent.
Low value vs High value interactions
If your customers are forcing high effort interactions by calling for every question, two things are going to happen.
First of all, you’re going to pull your hair out trying to budget for staffing your phone lines.
Secondly – your customers are going to churn. They really don’t want to call you if they don’t have to.
Kate Leggett has the research to back this up – self service is quickly becoming the most popular form of support.
There’s two scales we need to look at for support – the Effort Scale and the Interaction Value scale.
You want low value interactions to be low effort, and your high effort interactions to be high value. What does this actually mean though?
Low Value – any interaction that doesn’t improve your relationship with your customers. These are the “updating billing information” “how do I do this simple thing” type questions. They don’t provide a WOW moment, and there’s very little room for delight
You want your customers to be able to perform these interactions with very little effort – which is where self service comes in.
High Value – interactions which positively increases your customer’s perception of your company or product. These can be webinars, training sessions, proactive support or in person meetups
Often these things are neglected in support because of the perceived high cost of providing this level of service.
However, if you’re automating your low value interactions, it frees up the time for your agents to engage in these high value services.
If you’ve setup your customer support funnel properly, you’ll find that most of your customers hang out in the top section, where answers are easy to find and require little of your support team’s time.
Measuring your customer support funnel
So how do you know if your customer support funnel is working effectively? There’s a few metrics that you can track.
Customer Effort Score 2.0 (CES)– this metric was introduced by CEB in their book Effortless Experience, and widely adopted by SaaS companies
It poses one agree/disagree statement to customers after a support interaction: “The company made it easy for me to handle my issue.” A scale of 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 7 (Strongly agree).
While intuitively, you want to make it as easy as possible for a customer to resolve their issue, you actually want to look at the distribution of replies.
If too many of your customers say it’s very easy to contact you and get help – your funnel may actually look like a pyramid, with more customers contacting you than self serving. These customers should be directed to a knowledge base instead of defaulting to a low value human interaction.
Remember that this survey is only sent after support interactions – when customers have had to contact you to resolve an issue. If you’re looking to improve the customer support funnel, we want to decrease the number of times customers need to contact you. Which is why you may want to see how many customers have been able to help themselves, and the point of our next metric.
Self-service views to contact ratio – this ratio compares the number of customers who are able to get help themselves with the number that needed to contact a human
By making this a ratio, you account for the overall volume of customers looking to get help. For example – if you were just measuring the number of views of your knowledge base, you’d likely see it increase on busy weeks.
While you might be excited to see that more people are using your knowledge base, if an equal increase of calls were received, you didn’t actually shift anyone to self service… it was a normal increase in volume. Ratios are a great way to balance out metrics and see what the underlying trend is.
Overall, you want to see this ratio increase as more customers are encouraged and able to self serve themselves. This keeps the top of your funnel wide, and frees up more human time for those high value interactions.
Find more helpful support metrics for all levels of the customer support funnel, and how to calculate them in our recently published guide to customer support metrics. I’d love to hear more about how you’ve setup your customer support funnel. Have you mapped out how hard customers have to work to get in touch with you?
In the meanwhile