July 7, 2020

Crafting your support channel strategy

Joe Lindsay

Most support teams evolve organically, starting with a single email inbox and adding new channels and hours of operation haphazardly as the company grows. But with an ever-expanding set of channels and a constantly evolving set of support tactics, it’s crucial to have a strategy in place and return to it early and often as your team grows in numbers and geographies.

A support channel strategy is the first step in defining your customer experience. It details your company's intended approach to to allow customers to reach you.

Below, we’ve outlined a few of the critical components for you to consider as you develop your channel strategy. Feel free to copy and paste this list and adapt it to your own team's specific needs.

Do you want to allow customers to reach you in real time (chat, phone, SMS, etc.)?
  • Do your customers need timely support[0]?
  • Beyond coverage, what's the value of real-time support to revenue, brand or product[1]?
  • Have you invested enough in customer-facing documentation, so users are trained to self-serve before reaching out?
  • Will the real-time volume take away from other channels or will it be additive? (Hint: it will almost always be more additive than you think.)
If customers will reach you in real time, research what it takes to staff a real-time channel:
  • What are your intended business hours?
  • Will you staff support across timezones or operate from a single support center?
  • What’s the minimum staffing coverage per hour?
  • How will you structure team schedules to ensure proper coverage?
For teams that rely on email:
  • How will you treat different issue types?
  • Which issues are particularly high urgency and should be addressed as soon as possible? How do you plan to identify these issues as they come in?
  • How will you measure agent performance?
  • How will you handle backlog?
What are your customer experience goals?
  • What are the targets you will set to describe your customer experience goals?
  • How will you measure these targets and how often will you review your progress?
  • Where will you set your service level and response time goals?
  • Will you split your customers into any groups with different goals?

A support channel strategy like the one above helps to elucidate the components of the support experience that your team and your customers care about most deeply. This not only helps you stay focused in the long run but helps ensure that your team will not lose sight of its goals and sink money into spinning up channels that don’t match up with your team’s and your customers' priorities.

Finally, a support channel strategy should be viewed as a living document. You should return to it on a cadence that makes sense for your team—whether that's annually, quarterly or more frequently—and ensure that your underlying assumptions and considerations are still valid. If your channel strategy no longer matches your customers’ or your company’s needs as times change and conditions evolve, it should be modified for the next stage of your team's growth.

[0] For certain businesses that deal with sensitive customer issues like fin-tech or medical services, timely support is non-optional.

[1] The most progressive consumer-facing companies we've worked with view timely support as a tenant of their customer experience. Why? 1) Revenue: Realtime channels allow you to proactively persuade customers who are discovering your brand for the first time. 2) Brand risk: Bad customer support experience are more likely to end up in social media for consumer brands.

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