In Praise of Chat & Online Communities

How FireEye Dramatically Improved Customer Support

Over the last few years, there has been a significant move away from how we access help and support for products or services. Traditionally there would be an instruction manual and more recently a website containing the support documentation for an organization. However, in a digital mobile-first world, we are much more likely to turn to a combination of people and technology to obtain instant answers to our questions.

Advances in technology are already responsible for creating new chat and online communities. I recently spoke with John Bauer, Senior Director, Customer Support Technology at FireEye to understand how they are reducing costs and increasing efficiency by implementing a chat solution.

FireEye set out to transform customer service into a profit center by minimizing the time and effort that it takes to resolve a case. Bauer told me how when he first started there was an emphasis on email, phone and web support. Ideally, you want to leverage your web support channel because it provides the most context and is very efficient, but Bauer also advised that its chat and online communities that are the least costly and most effective.

In our conversation, he also highlighted that smaller support teams would find it relatively easy to manage their workload without the need for analytics. But, Bauer warned, as you scale, it will quickly become apparent, just how much time, and money can be saved through by leveraging analytics.

What many fail to realize is that chat allows organizations to exchange information and, direct customers to articles and documentation, and close calls quicker than the phone, web, or email.  Online communities enable customers to help other customers, monitor discussions and input as required. And it requires far less personnel to maintain community interactions than email or phone support.

The value bombs quickly became apparent. Moving away from the phone to online chat provided 30% in cost savings and 30% faster resolutions. After previously investing in around 30 FTEs for knowledge creation purposes to deliver email and phone support at another organization, Bauer only needed 2-3 FTEs to create valuable content for their online communities.

Research by the team at FireEye enabled them to learn that when a customer needed help, approximately 50% of the time they would go to a knowledgebase article, 40% go to the community, and only 10% would ever head towards documentation.

A few years ago, many companies approached the invasion of social media with an element of fear. Equally, FireEye faced the same resistance internally when looking to embrace community features. On the one hand, it’s glaringly obvious that people want to communicate directly with a human to obtain an immediate answer to their questions, but on the other, employees are fearful about negative connotations that could arise from conflict and disputes voiced over social media

Some might argue that the risk of a disgruntled customer broadcasting negative stuff about you or your company would never end on a positive note. Replying to them rather than burying your heads in the sand seems much more progressive.  You should never underestimate the power of your community either. There is something quite beautiful about the moment when your own customers jump in to tackle challenging behavior in their community. Bauer, even stated, “With communities, you will find customers whose seemingly full-time job became being a champion.”

Once again, it was analytics that illustrated the strength of the case to deliver tangible results. 30% faster time to resolve cases, 30% less effort required. Yet, discovering that 90% of visitors to their community only consumed information from their communities also proved to be incredibly valuable to FireEye.

Although a community of any kind needs people to manage and nurture it, the most interesting aspect of their discovery was that is also delivered a much higher ROI. The FireEye community was measured against call avoidance, currently at 25% of support demand; the ultimate goal at FireEye was for customers to find their own answers, through a Self-Service model, and move away from the time-consuming process of logging a case through email or telephone.

However, Bauer also warned that implementing chat can only be successful if your community responds quickly. Failure to engage with a customer within one minute will cause your abandon rate to skyrocket and stop chat adoption in its tracks. For these reasons alone, Bauer needed a platform that he could entrust with FireEye’s reputation.

Bauer told me, “You need to be committed. Starting a community is like having a child. For most enterprises, it will take 12-24 months of commitment to building community before it starts to operate organically.” We often over complicate tech solutions by investing countless hours trying to introduce sophisticated functionality. However, the secret to the successful implementation and adoption of chat technology at FireEye seems to be the use of both chat and communities to solve a problem for the customer. Maybe this is a lesson we can all learn from.

Please share your thoughts and insights by commenting below.

Why The Customer Experience Should Be At The Heart Of Marketing and Selling Services

Consumers now reside in a digital world where instant gratification is the new currency. The rise of Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime Now and Uber ensures they can avoid any pain points and get what they want and when they want it in a new on demand economy.

However, the ‘we want it now’ consumer continues to evolve and now expects a personalized experience too. If online services know what their favorite movies, TV shows and music they like, surely retailers will know what they like too.

Tech savvy users are looking for businesses to lead the way with new technology that continues to treat them as unique individuals. A generic marketing e-mail with their name pasted at the top in a different font is no longer going to cut it.

The evolution of the customer experience has even given birth to the phrase Martech which is the blending of marketing and technology. Industries across multiple industries are all facing the same problem as the digital transformation of everything gathers pace.

Keeping up with all the latest trends across the digital landscape is no longer an option it should be compulsory for anyone serious about the future of their business. The good news is that you are not alone and the fact that 76% of field service providers were reportedly struggling to achieve revenue growth should be the only wake-up call that you need to take this seriously.

However, there are numerous field service winners here too. For example, in 2017 there are many organizations providing seamless digital experiences and delivering faster resolution times. It is often said that technology works best when it brings together and here is a selection of great examples.

The Value of Improving the Customer Journey

Personalization is much more than just another industry buzzword but a reaction to the demand driven by consumers. Providing the right experience at the right time is an art that many are still learning to master. But, the ability to increase 15% percent of revenue and lower the cost of serving customers by 20% is a language that every member of the boardroom will understand.

Do Not Underestimate the Importance of Customer Service

According to Microsoft, an incredible 97% of consumers advised customer service is critical to their choice or loyalty to a brand. But it’s also crucial to remember how this is across self-service, social, phone, mobile and a plethora of devices.

The divide between offline and online is disappearing. No matter what device we have at hand, wherever we are located and if we are using our keyboard, touchscreen or even voice, the experience should be the same.

Poor Customer Service Will Be Punished

It is well understood that it costs businesses more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Savvy consumers will happily shop around for the best deal. Ironically many companies seem to treat their current clients with contempt arrogantly and assume they will stay with them regardless.

The reality here in 2017 is that 64% of consumers have switched providers in at least one industry due to poor customer service according to Accenture. We no longer suffer fools gladly, and a lack of patience or frustration will ensure most consumers will switch providers after only one negative experience.

In this digital age, loyalty must now be earned rather than taken for granted. The only question that remains is what are you doing about it?

Time Is Money

An Amazon Prime account makes one-click ordering and delivery within 2 hours a reality. Maybe, we shouldn’t be too surprised how our time is becoming increasingly valuable. Forrester recently advised that 73% of consumers will happily admit that their time is the most important factor where businesses need to focus.

Pain points such as long-winded automated phone menus, cumbersome online chats or waiting around between 9 am and 6 pm for somebody to call you will no longer be tolerated. Organizations need to manage the expectations of their customers and remove friction to offer a truly simplified service in a timely manner.

Make Way for The Internet of Things (IoT)

With 50 Billion internet-connected devices by 2020, the time to take IoT seriously is right now. Consumers do not care about your product roadmaps; they now expect the same experience with any of their devices.

There is already a long line of competitors offering similar services. Failing to keep up will leave your brand looking like a tired Sears or J. C. Penney store that failed to keep up with the speed of hyper change across the digital landscape.

OVERALL

Advances in machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence have already made real-time personalization a reality. A dramatic rise in expectation levels means that users of all ages now demand the same experiences across multiple platforms.

Mainstream audiences are looking for businesses to lead the way and provide the wow factor through technology based solutions. However, sometimes, they just want greater digital interaction and to be treated as a unique individual from a fellow human being.

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Customer Service Success or Failure

customer service

Any company wishing to succeed must strive to provide great customer service.  With today’s culture demanding instant gratification, customers do not hesitate to take to social media to inform everyone of a company’s failure. So how does an organization arm itself not only to provide great service but to know what to do if they fail?  Here are some articles which discuss both success tactics and also give examples of failures and how to avoid them.

10 Reasons Organizations Fail To Deliver Great Customer Service
By Shep Hyken

Customer success or failure starts from company leadership.  This includes the company’s vision of how to provide great service, the training process including onboarding and ongoing training, and how employees are treated. In addition this article discusses the importance of hiring the right personnel to carry out the mission of great customer service and then celebrating their successes.

How Service Companies Can Earn Customer Trust and Keep It
By Leonard L. Berry

In this article Leonard Berry focuses on the idea of customer confidence which can be lost through poor customer service. Berry specifically cites the recent United Airline customer service incident which clearly failed on all accounts. He goes on to discuss ways to gain and to keep trust and also how to recover  that trust when it may be lost. He stresses the idea of being aware of and meeting a customer’s “perceived contract” and not just the actual contract.

NIGHTMARE: 7 Customer Service Blunders That Went Viral
By Patricia Laya

Patricia Laya outlines 7 customer service failures of both worldwide and regional companies who deal directly with consumers. She outlines how the companies responded and in many cases how their response changed after these consumers took to social media to get their story out to the public. Specifically she details the case of a musician who continued to write songs and make music videos about his terrible experience long after the incident.

The Power of Prevention In Customer Service
By Len Markidan

Len Markidan’s premise is that most customer service failures do not happen just once. If you are able to recognize the issues that recur and not only fix the individual situations, but also look for and fix the root problem, then you will experience greater success. Doing so gives your customers a better experience and saves your company time and money in the long run.

Why reactive service is a thing of the past?
By Sarah Nicastro

Historically, “service” had been viewed as something provided as a reaction to a problem identified by a customer.  More recently, we have seen a move to proactive service.  This article, first published on Field Technologies Online, was posted as a guest post from Sarah Nicastro on my blog site.  In the post she specifically discusses the importance and advantage of Machine to Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) as tools valuable to both the service provider and the customer.

First-Time Fix Rate: The DNA of Field Service
by Michael Blumberg

In this blog post, I discuss the importance of First-Time Fix Rates, (e.g., the rate at which a field service company can resolve or fix an issue on the first attempt). This important Key Performance Indicator can not only make or break the relationship with a customer but also have a tremendous impact on the company’s cost of providing the service. I also discuss ways to improve this rate.

I welcome you to join the discussion. Do you have any customer service failures or successes to share? What lessons did you or your company learn? How have you been able to make changes to give your customers a better experience?  If you are looking to evaluate your own company’s customer service capabilities or looking to find ways to improve your service, contact me and schedule a free 30 minute consultation.