Issue complexity and urgency: Finding the right support channel matters

 

When customers contact your team, they're looking for solutions. Providing those solutions is the basis of a good customer experience. When you're able to connect with customers, provide them with personalized support, and interact in the support channel that best suits their current problem, that's an even better experience.

When you give customers a number of different ways to contact your team, whether it's phone, live chat, email, or social media, you give them more ways to get their problems solved. Offering that kind of omnichannel support is great for personalizing the customer experience, but it can come with some additional issues. How do you know which support channel is going to provide the best experience for a particular customer?

“The COMPLEXITY AND URGENCY OF THE ISSUE your customer is experiencing should dictate the channel and not the other way around. Your team needs to route customers to the support channels that will provide the best customer experience.” - Anand Janefalkar, UJET Founder and CEO

In this article, we'll talk through a number of different support channels and show you how each one can be used for different types of customer issues. The first thing you need to know is:

Customers don't care about support channels

When customers reach out to your team, they're not thinking about what channel is best suited to resolving their issues; they just want to find a way to solve a problem. It's up to your customer service software and team to ensure that customers are routed to the right channel. But how do you know which channel makes the most sense?

The complexity of a customer's issue, as well as how urgently it needs to be solved, will inform what channel is most likely to provide a quick and easy resolution.

Here's a quick breakdown:

  • Issue Complexity — This is a measure of how difficult it will be for your team to resolve an issue for the customer. The effort put in by customers and agents, the back and forth questioning, and the technical knowledge required to reach a solution all increase the complexity of an issue.

    • Example: A customer reaches out over the phone to let your team know they're having trouble installing the new router they've just purchased. Their current operating system does not recognize the new device and they can't figure out why. To resolve this issue an agent will need to not only know how the router is installed but find out a significant amount of information about the customer's computer. The interaction will require a number of different steps to determine the manufacturer, operating system, recent updates, ancillary software, network provider, etc.

  • Issue Urgency — This is a measure that is based on how quickly an issue needs to be solved. Small issues that are a nuisance but don't necessarily impede the customer's ability to do their work are less urgent than issues that significantly hinder the customer's ability to use your product or service.

    • Example: A customer reaches out on live chat and is upset about their recent purchase. They ordered formal wear for a wedding in two days and were shipped the wrong size. An agent will need to quickly apologize for the issue, clarify the correct size, and ship out the new item to the customer. The interaction does not require a complex series of troubleshooting questions but needs to be resolved ASAP.

When you start thinking about how to structure your team's interactions around these two ideas, it's important to recognize that as complexity and urgency increase, so will the effort your agents need to put forth to reach a solution.

A simple issue can be handled by any agent; a complex issue is more suited to someone who has the experience and technical knowledge to guide customers through the entire experience. As complexity increases, the potential for frustration does as well. Your agents will need to account for this during their interactions with the customer.

There is also a subjective element to these terms: For some customers, the issue at hand may feel more complex or more urgent based on their familiarity and history with the product. To provide customers with the best overall experience, your customer support agents will need to know which channel a customer is likely to use for every type of issue.

Not all support channels are created equal

The channel a customer uses to resolve issues will have a direct effect on their overall experience. Each support channel is intended to help customers in a specific way, and knowing which one to use is the first step in solving any issue.

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Low Complexity/High Urgency
Issues that are low complexity and high urgency are small problems that get in the way of a customer being able to use your product. An example might be a login issue or incorrect shirt size.
High Complexity/High Urgency
Issues that are high complexity and high urgency are big problems that need to be solved immediately. This could be a site crash or consumer product that is not broken but still functions incorrectly.
Low Complexity/Low Urgency
Issues that are low complexity and low urgency are things that the customer would like but don't have any immediate impact on the customer experience. Thin of this like a software feature request or new color of smartphone.
High Complexity/Low Urgency
Issues that are high complexity and low urgency are technical problems that require a lot of back and forth but do not block the customers ability to use the product. An example might be a bug that makes some integrations difficult to complete, or walking a customer through building an IKEA entertainment center.

Here, we'll look at support channels in order of least issue urgency and complexity to most.

Use Self-service content to supplement interactions.

Self-service content is not suited to complex issues. Directing customers to a Knowledge Base or FAQ section on your site for any complex issue is likely to cause frustration as the customer is looking for specific help on their problem. Self-service content should be used to help clarify any issue but works best as a supplemental support channel.

While self-service content can be used to explain both complex and simple tasks, customers will need to spend time to resolve an issue on their own. It is a great tool for your team as well as customers because your agents will be able to reference documentation that supports the solution they provide, and customers can read more about your product on their own time. Knowledge Base and FAQ articles can also be used to educate customers in best practices and tactics with your product.

Use email to communicate asynchronously

The offer of email support is a baseline feature in today's market. While this support channel is good for a number of issues, it should not be used for urgent issues that require an immediate reply. Due to the asynchronous nature of email communication, customers should only be sent to this channel when their issues don't need to be resolved immediately.

Working through difficult issues via email can also be frustrating. The back-and-forth replies can make it difficult for agents to parse difficult issues, and customers may have to reiterate parts of their issue to help provide clarity. For problems with high issue complexity, your team should offer the customer a phone call or a chat instead.

Use live chat to solve quick problems

Live chat is an excellent support channel for urgent issues. Customers can easily contact your team while working in their accounts without having to wait for an email reply. Your agent's ability to handle multiple interactions at the same time also helps alleviate the potential for longer wait times.

Offering live chat support also gives customers the ability to easily share documents and images. This can help reduce the time it takes to find a resolution, because agents will be able to see exactly what is going on in the customer's account. Issues with higher complexity will sometimes be difficult to resolve via live chat, but a skilled chat agent will have no problem handling most customer questions.

Use the phone for complicated conversations

When issue complexity and urgency are at their highest, your team should work to have the conversation over the phone. This kind of personalized interaction between customer and agent cannot be replicated in any other support channel, which is why 46% of customers prefer to talk to about complicated issues over the phone.

Because this support channel lends itself to issues that are more complex and urgent, the agents who staff this queue will need to be trained to mitigate potential frustration better than other channels. That said, it is also a great place to make personal connections with customers. There is no support channel that is better suited to building strong relationships with your customers.

Use social media to acknowledge issues

When customers use social media as a support channel, they want a prompt reply. Forty percent of customers who reach out on social media expect that reply within an hour. These posts are also public, so any unanswered posts will reflect negatively on the company.

The public nature of social media also makes this support channel ineffective for any sort of complex issue. Agents cannot share private information, so taking the conversation “offline” is more appropriate. Social media interactions should be thought of as a gateway to a better support channel; it's easy to offer the customer a quick call or chat to talk through issues they're having.

Don't let support channels get the in way of customer experience

Providing a streamlined customer experience is the best way to build stronger relationships with customers. When customers reach out to your team they're looking for the quickest solution to a problem. Your team needs to provide that to them.

Contact center managers need to determine which channels will be available and understand how customers will use them. When making those decisions it's important to consider how the urgency and complexity of any issue impacts the overall customer experience.