It’s no secret that your frontline customer support staff are a good source of information. The support team is likely responsible for a majority of the one-on-one communications that customers have with your organization. As such, support agents have great insight into what customers are experiencing. Companies focused on improving the customer experience leverage that knowledge by performing “root cause analysis” to determine what prompted the support call in the first place. Root cause analysis is an approach that helps determine the underlying cause of a problem. When it comes to support calls, examining trends and interviewing your frontline support team are two of the best ways to get to the bottom of your customers’ issues.
Analytics provide insights. Reporting captures a lot of valuable information and can be used to measure efficiency, quality, satisfaction, and a broad range of issues. What it doesn’t tell us is why: Why are customers experiencing issues? Why do they need support?
We can gain a better understanding of these issues by fine-tuning the data collection with more granular categorization, but you’ll want to be mindful of the level of details you request from a customer. Asking for information that can help segment their query into a pre-defined bucket is good practice. But if your automated program asks too much of the customer, they’ll sometimes just start clicking past things to get an answer. Or they may select a sub-category they know is wrong just because they don’t want to back out of a category and start over. Don’t overdo it.
Agents can pass along feedback. Customer support agents often understand the fundamental why that drives your customers to request support. Agents are able to ask probing, context-based questions to gather additional information. They’re well-positioned to collect anecdotal information when needed. When appropriate, use their first-person connections with those seeking support to help further your understanding of your customer base.
Use analytics and feedback to identify where to dig deeper. So how do we combine the empathy and detail of our agent interactions with the scale and efficiency of our analytics reporting? There are a few tools at our disposal. The first is an obvious step: Talk to the customer support agents. Hold advisor roundtable meetings. Ensure you have analytics and management representation, and come to the meeting with specific questions for the advisors and an open ear to the trends and information they share. Surveys and shift reports can also be useful methods of gathering feedback from your team.
To effectively gather information, combine advanced categorization with advisor feedback. This method, utilized during support interactions, will help you identify the root cause of the issues experienced by your customers:
- Select a specific question you’d like to gather more information on. Imagine the product owner was watching the support interaction. What would they need to know? Ask customers this question during relevant interactions.
- Create sub-categorization deep and granular enough to collect the info you need. You can make it as detailed as you like; remember, you’re not forcing customers through a phone tree. Instead, it’s the agents who will see this flow and will provide the necessary information. For example, customers could select a top-level category like “Account Issues,” and the agent could make the more detailed sub-category selections of “Login Issues” and “Attempted Account Takeover.”
- Collect this data for a finite number of contacts or amount of time. Set a target number of information-gathering sessions, and then revert to your standard support interaction once you’ve met your target.
This method allows you to leverage the support agent’s ability to collect detailed information without slowing down the overall support process or impacting the customer’s experience. You should be prepared to iterate on this process. Finding the right questions to ask can often be more important than the answers you collect.
While some extra effort is required, adding agent-level information to your ongoing analytics is a great way to develop more actionable, empathetic insights from your support reporting. Understanding the reasoning behind the support request — the root cause — takes your customer service to the next level and enables a stronger understanding of those customers.
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