When I have an issue with your product or just want to know when my shipment will arrive, I don’t want to call and talk to you or your chatbot. I just want to find the answer I’m looking for online. And I want to find it quickly, without any hassle. While I’m willing to spend some time trying to find what I’m searching for, the longer I spend, the more frustrated I’ll become. Eventually, I’ll be angry at you and will share my frustration with others—damaging your brand and costing you new or repeat business.

Customer support + service = customer success

First, let’s be clear about what I’m looking for, since terminology can get confusing. Many companies use customer success and customer service or online customer support interchangeably. However, just being able to log a support trouble ticket to get help is neither customer service nor does it yield customer success.

Basic customer support or trouble ticket servicing like this only represents about 20 percent of my interactions with you—and this it’s a very reactive model. What’s missing is about 80 percent of my overall experience with your company—that is, your opportunity to be proactive. Moreover, if I’m in a vertical industry like manufacturing or high tech, that’s particularly true. In my ideal world, support + service = customer success.

Supporting your customer is the easy part

While customer success is the end goal, there’s no minimizing the importance of customer support. There are two types of customer support: peer-to-peer (which requires a large, active community) and self-help or self-service (applications include how you log a trouble ticket). While either can be useful, they’re missing 80 percent of what is needed for customer success—that is, everything beyond simple trouble ticketing.

What does “success” look like?

Once I’ve placed an order, I want to know “where’s my stuff?” –and that may include tracking numbers, a link to log into their subscription, access to financial data, including how to change credit card information, access to balance on their accounts, and more. And I don’t really want to communicate via email, chatbots, dashboards, and the like.

Customer service shouldn’t be reactive. What I want is a robust customer community. When I place an order, I need to know my tracking number, be able to access and change my credit card information, find my account balance, be informed of upcoming renewals, and find out anything else related to my order. In short, I need a holistic view of my entire suite of my interactions with you… the total end-to-end “experience”—via a robust customer community portal.

Why go the portal route? Because I don’t want to talk to you….and that’s OK

If you provide me with what I need via your portal, I’m a happy customer. You’ll have addressed both my customer support needs and my desire for full-function customer service: that’s customer success! And that means that I’ll

  • Get answers to my question much faster
  • Give you much higher customer satisfaction ratings
  • Have a better customer experience and be more likely to stay with you and recommend you to friends and colleagues

And while I’m a happy customer, you’ll be a much happier provider by leveraging a customer community portal versus having the more labor-intensive human intervention to deal with my issues. What’s in it for you if you implement the portal?

  • It’s significantly less costly
  • The portal is more efficient (1: to many, rather than 1:1)
  • You can answer the question once and make that answer available, so you know all of your customers are getting consistent information
  • Your customers are happier, because they don’t have to wait in a queue for the “next available operator”
  • It frees your team to focus on more value drivers for your customers 

So why not just give me what I’m looking for? Put me in the driver’s seat when it comes to accessing my data. Not only will we both be happier, but you’ll save money and brand reputation in the process.

Steve Baines