White close button
>
>

7 Tips for Building a Multi-Channel Customer Support Strategy

Jun 16, 2022
  |  
Customer Service
  |  
11 min read
multi-channel-customer-support-strategy
close

8000+ teams use Hiver to delight their customers!

No credit card required
Hiver demo popup mobile

8000+ teams use Hiver to delight their customers!

Request a Demo

It’s common knowledge that customer support is critical to the success of any business.

The trouble is, 80% of businesses think they deliver a fantastic customer experience – of which support plays a major part – but only 8% of customers agree.

The motivation for businesses to get this right is simple. 

Happy customers return. Unhappy customers don’t. 

According to research by Moz, 1 in 20 customers who receive a less than satisfactory experience, will leave a negative review online. 

On its own, this doesn’t sound like it matters too much, but when 90% of potential new customers read reviews and 67.7% of buying decisions are then impacted by reviews, it’s clear – negative support experiences have a significant knock on effect

multi-channel-customer-support-strategy
Data revealing the importance of online reviews

In fact, a staggering $62 billion is lost annually thanks to poor quality customer service. 

So, it’s clear that a customer service strategy isn’t just a ‘nice to have’, it’s mission critical to your business.

But what is a support strategy, and why should it be multichannel? 

Let’s find out!

Table of Contents

What is a support strategy?

Put simply, your support strategy should center around a clear set of plans, actions, and goals to help you manage the customer support function of your business.

This is going to include (but definitely not be limited to), things like:

  • Who should get support?
  • How are you going to deliver support?
  • What are your opening hours and SLAs?
  • How are you going to measure support activities?
  • What does ‘good’ customer support look like?
  • Who on your team is responsible for support?
  • How will tiers or levels of support cascade through your business?

Once you have these thoughts and processes in place, the next step is to consider a multi-channel customer engagement approach.

What part does multi-channel play in my support strategy?

It doesn’t matter what sort of business you run – whether it’s an e-commerce store like MyProtein, a B2B SaaS app like Notion, an online marketplace like Etsy, or something else entirely –  support isn’t a one dimensional function. 

These days it has multiple touchpoints.

multi-channel-customer-support-strategy
The different touchpoints in multichannel customer support

Once the preserve of big corporations, now companies of all shapes and sizes manage support using multiple customer communication channels.

This means your multi-channel support strategy could have at least two of the following channels:

  • Email 
  • Telephone
  • Call center
  • SMS
  • Video 
  • Live chat and AI chatbot
  • Social media 
  • Post / Letter 
  • In-person or in-store
  • Knowledge base

Is multi-channel enough, what about omnichannel support?

The key to a successful multi-channel support strategy isn’t just to have multiple channels and hope for the best.

Instead, the secret is to manage these different channels effectively, so that it becomes a seamless omnichannel experience.

Sounds good, but what does that mean?

It means that you should work hard to ensure that the experience your customers receive from your support function is just as good regardless of the channel, throughout the customer journey.

Afterall, it’s no good having great telephone support, if your live chat delivers a poor experience.

By thinking about support as an omnichannel experience, you’ll be able to centrally manage it so that it’s consistently excellent and continuous regardless of your customer’s preferred channel.

This neatly leads us on to our first tip for designing a multi-channel strategy.

How to build a multichannel customer support strategy

1. Remove silos and unify your approach to support

Did you know that 70% of companies are a long way from having truly integrated support channels?

In most cases, your helpdesk is a silo

This means, if you want to be part of the best in class 30%, the bar is actually set pretty low at this stage, for you to gain an unfair advantage on your competitors.

To achieve integration of your support channels, one of things you could consider is operating via a customer service solution that doesn’t silo information. By doing so, regardless of whether you’re receiving emails or live chat messages, they’re all under one roof for your team to manage.

multi-channel-customer-support-strategy
Manage email and live chat from one single platform

Don’t stop here though. Once you’ve removed your silos, it’s time to unify your approach.

The best support teams will design their customer interactions against 3 specific goals:

  1. First or initial response as fast as humanly possible.
  2. Being able to resolve the issue in a single interaction where possible.
  3. Ensuring SLAs are met. Every time.

By unifying your support channels against these specific goals, you’ll be well on your way to providing a consistently high quality multichannel customer service experience. 

2. Integrate support with your product

Within the field of User Experience design, there’s a legendary book which forms the cornerstone for effective design.

The title of that book? Don’t make me think.

However, if you think about it, it’s not just a design principle, but a rule for life.

In this case, we can apply not making customers think to the decisions on how and where you deliver support.

You might have the best support offering ever, but if your customers can’t find where to access it, does it even exist?

Your customers shouldn’t need to hunt around your website, or even worse Google it, to find your support channels.

How? Take Zappos for example. 

Zappos are notorious for delivering support that WOW’s customers.

And if you visit their website, the first thing you will notice is a link to their customer service options (and yes, they offer multi-channel support). It’s not hidden in the footer or on a page that no one visits. It’s top left, above their company logo. You can’t miss it!

multi-channel-customer-support-strategy
Zappos’ home page

Another way to make support information easy to find:

Integrate them directly into your product.

This means you should have links in key menus, chatbot functionality in every possible digital channel, have live chat windows pop up on screen, or do anything else you need to make sure support is front and center in your product. 

(Want to chat directly with the Hiver team? Click the chat icon on the right. We’re ready to talk).

3. Go to where your customers are at

It’s important to consider your customers’ goals when it comes to support, in order to meet their expectations.

Not only is it all about making sure your support reps are hitting targets or unifying the approach – you’ve also got to offer the most appropriate channel at the most appropriate time for the customer.

This means that while live chat can be up to 50% cheaper for you to operate than phone support, and will even allow you to solve some issues in 40 seconds, it’s not always appropriate.

multi-channel-customer-support-strategy
The approximate difference in cost per contact between call center support and live chat

Support channels shouldn’t be one size fits all. You need to tailor your approach according to the circumstance. 

For example, if your customer has a quick query on how to do something in your app, then great, Live Chat is going to be an effective channel to provide real-time support for both you and the customer.

However, if your customer has a complex enquiry all about the finer points of integrating with your API – then instead of a quickfire live chat, you can initiate a conversation with the customer via email.

Likewise, if your customer wants to talk about refunds, upgrades, or other financial transaction-related issues, then there really is no substitute other than speaking to someone on the phone.

Put simply, it’s all about taking your unified, multichannel approach to support, and putting yourself in the customer’s shoes to make sure it’s available in the right place at the right time, every time.

4. Get smart and pre-empt support before it’s needed

The best support isn’t just about picking up the pieces after an issue has occurred. 

Instead, the best form of support is one that is proactive and anticipates where customers might come unstuck, before they come unstuck. 

This doesn’t mean hovering over your users and watching them use your product, waiting for a glitch to happen.

It means using what you know to help your customers help themselves.

Because 77% of people will stop using a platform in as little as one week – especially if they find it frustrating to use – it’s important to get this right. 

Any support team worth their salt will recognise the areas of your product that customers trip over on, time and time again – causing frustration, support issues, and even churn. 

The best support teams, however, will feed this information back into the product as things like tooltips on your website, mobile app, or desktop software. 

There are several ways you could use tooltips. It could be the ‘choose a password’ screen for example, or even be part of your user onboarding.

Whatever you do, make sure that the tooltips you use are WCAG compliant to make sure they’re accessible, and therefore helpful, for all users.

multi-channel-customer-support-strategy

5. Use support to drive helpful content

Because 48% of all support issues are ‘how to’ questions, it presents a fantastic opportunity for both support teams and their companies.

By spotting trends and patterns within these ‘how to’ questions, it enables savvy companies to develop content to solve these questions before they become support issues.

We talked about tooltips earlier, but this is just the start of what is possible when it comes to content produced from support trends, which could include:

  • Email newsletters – Many online companies use support issues as the basis for regular ‘support roundup’ or ‘how to’ email newsletters. In fact, it’s the first topic suggested in this list of newsletter ideas.
  • Knowledge base articles and FAQs – It almost goes without saying, but as you solve new issues for customers, the content could and should be repurposed and used in your self-service knowledge base portal.
  • Webinars and video – Sometimes there’s no substitute for showing someone exactly how to solve an issue. Using a webinar or series of pre-recorded videos is a great way to provide supportive content to your customers. 
  • Ebooks and guides – If you have a lot of information to convey on a particular topic, especially if it’s complex, then you might want to combine it all into an ebook or user guide. You can make this documentation available for download on your website, as well as encourage your support team to share it with customers. 

Not only will this content help your customers, but the upside for your company is a likely reduction in the number of support tickets and support costs.

It’s also likely to increase customer retention and customer loyalty, too.

6. Timing is everything, be known for quick responses

When it comes to support, timing really is everything.

82% of customers say that quick support means good support, whilst 36% of customers don’t contact support at all if they fear poor or slow service.

The trouble is, many companies continue to believe that poor quality support is acceptable.

Of course, it’s not – but it presents you and your multichannel strategy with an opportunity to do better…

…Make sure you are known for timely, helpful support.

It sounds simple when you say it out loud, but how can you achieve it? 

There are three things you can focus on:

  • SLAs: Develop a realistic Service Level Agreement that your customers will accept and you can realistically stick to. This is a set of targets for metrics like response time and resolution time. based on the severity and priority order of support issues. 
  • Reporting and Metrics: Use reporting within your support tools to understand if and when you’re meeting your SLA targets. Monitor this religiously to manage the performance of your support team. 
  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys: As you continue to improve your response times, you’ll want evidence that this is delighting your customers. Use CSAT or Customer Satisfaction surveys after each support interaction to gather customer feedback and understand how happy (or otherwise) your customers were with the service they received.

Recommended Reading

multi-channel-customer-support-strategy

7. Organize support requests for the best outcomes for customers

As we all know, the pandemic meant that products and services became more ‘digital first’ than ever before. 

Because of this, the average support ticket volume that companies now receive has shot up 16% – and shows no signs of slowing down.

multi-channel-customer-support-strategy
The changes in average ticket volume before and during the pandemic

This means, it’s more important than ever to make sure your support offering is well organized and becomes a culture within your organization, rather than being siloed to one team.

Support teams shouldn’t feel they have to answer every ticket themselves, and your systems and processes should accommodate that.

For example, it should be easy for them to collaborate with other internal teams (i.e. engineering when it relates to software issues), ensuring a speedy resolution.

Another example:

You should be able to bring in subject matter experts, or escalate specific issues to specific departments, in order to deliver a seamless experience.

To help you do all this, make use of workflow functionalities such as automation and tagging in your customer support software.

Conclusion

Building a multichannel customer support strategy doesn’t need to be complicated.

Ultimately, it’s about helping your customers in a timely fashion, delivering a consistent experience, and using what you learn to keep improving what you’re doing. 

By following our 7 tips and focusing on doing the simple things well, you’ll set yourself apart from your competitors and can retain your customers in the long run.

Book a demo today to see how you can deliver multi-channel customer support with Hiver.

Resources you’ll love:

Hiver HQ
Steven Macdonald is a digital marketer based in Tallinn, Estonia.
Subscribe