Businesses are growing up on the Internet, and more and more, customers are used to self-service online. Businesses increasingly handle customer service via chat and social media channels. It's changing how we do business, Richard White, CEO of UserVoice said at the inaugural UserConf this week.


All Your Customer Support Belongs to Us

White pointed out that exceptional customer service is not new -- we just call those companies luxury brands. But the majority of companies -- who aren't luxury brands -- have also seen their customers' expectations of service change.

"43 percent of people we surveyed said they could have solved a problem if they had the tools," White said. 

White's company, UserVoice is a startup that provides online forums and support systems for companies to better understand their customers. White founded the UserConf to gather people -- not from the sales management or IT departments -- who are focused on customer experience and let them share their ideas.

Traditional customer service is painful, and poor customer service is the #1 cause of customer attrition.

When we call our airlines or wireless companies, we expect to have to enter in our 10-digit account number, wait on hold and then have to give the number again to an agent, White said. In the future, agents will be better equipped to handle multiple channels, nearly all will respond to tweets and it will all be done in less than one day, he said. 

"As companies move to subscription-based models (Saas), customer support begins to look more like sales," White said.

Those customer support people aren't just solving problems but working with current customers to keep them coming back. The sales funnel indeed looks more like a loop in this scenario, but the kinds of problems being solved changes as well. In the subscription model, the more common problems are automated, so customer support is focused on dealing with more complex problems -- even if they have fewer to handle overall.

The Digital Marketing Land Rush is Over

Companies can't simply build a Facebook app that tricks 10,000 people into handing over their contact info, and then raise a ton of money based on a gimmick, White said. Google AdWords bring in less money while the keywords cost more, he pointed out. In other words, as the Internet has grown up, it's become harder to bring in new customers in ways no one else has thought of. According to White, that means companies have to go back to old school tactics -- like giving great customer service.

Editor's Note: For more insight into customer support strategies, read 5 Ways to Integrate Social Media Into Your Contact Center.