The Ultimate Guide to Using Content in Customer Service
Your content can do a lot more than generate leads. Here’s how to use it to increase customer happiness and retention.
Note from Len: James Scherer is a content strategist at Wishpond. I'm a big fan of James and his team's tips on lead generation and marketing, and I'm excited to share this post with you. In it, James explains how your business can use content to deliver awesome customer service.
About a year ago the company I work for approached me with a quandary:
Our support team, experts in the field of “our products”, were being hit day in, day out with best practice and strategy questions, and they were somewhat flummoxed (not to mention extremely pressed for time).
Below is the strategy we implemented to answer this quandary — a strategy that has decreased our business’ churn rate by about 30%. The recommendations I make below are based on numerous conversations with our support team and the successes they’ve found.
With that out of the way, we can get moving. This article will focus on the four primary ways you can incorporate content into your support and customer retention strategy.
Step 1: Introduction to Content Creation as a Support Strategy
Nobody knows better than your support team what your customers and visitors want from your business. Nobody hears more complaints, more recommendations, or more “Why can’t your tool/product do X, Y, Z?” Nobody gets more best practice queries, more unsolicited requests for advice.
So why is that support team so disconnected from your content creators?
Your content is written to answer all the questions your target market has. It’s created to pre-empt their questions, anticipating what they need to know before they know they need it.
Sound like your support team?
Using content for support delivers value to your leads and clients. It increases the chance of them converting to a paid subscription or staying with your business and becoming loyal customers.
It also puts your support team in the position of an expert. Constant interaction with educational content increases their own expertise and makes them more capable of doing their job exceptionally.
But how does it fit in?
Step 2: Using Blog Content in a Support Situation
[Content] takes the pressure off of me having to tell [customers and visitors] exactly what to do. Instead I can make them do a bit of the work and figure it out themselves, by reading the tips and applying it to their own cases.
Paige Tibble, Customer Support Lead at Wishpond
Blog content is new, accurate, and written by people your clients or site visitors trust. It’s full of facts, statistics, and insight that would take hours for your support team to communicate.
Here’s a step-by-step of how we introduced blog content into our support strategy:
- Identify the top 10 questions your support team receives on any given day
- Identify the blog articles that correspond (and answer) those 10 questions
- If there are any answers outstanding, prioritize their creation
- Compile those articles into a easily-utilized resource
- Be sure your support team has read the articles and understands what they mean as well as why they answer your client or visitor’s question
- Anticipate follow-up questions and create ready-to-answer responses
Here’s a real-world example from our support chat window.
Hopefully you’ll notice in this exchange that Paige hasn’t come across as a mindless computer, and retained her level of professional personality. I’ll talk more about doing this in Step 5.
Step 3: Promoting Content in a Support Situation
Does your marketing team have an upcoming webinar or recently published ebook?
Are these pieces of content email-gated or optimized to generate leads?
Why not send a visitor with a question to that lead generating content?
They become more educated about a subject they’re interested in, start seeing your business as an authority, and also just happen to become a lead.
Your support team already knows that part of their role is to send people on chat further down your sales funnel. Email-gated content is the ideal way to do this.
And it’s not hard. People who have gone out of their way to contact your support team are clearly already interested in your business’ subject. Rather than forcing them into a sales situation (like a one-on-one demo), consider a softer sell.
Send them to:
- An upcoming webinar that covers their question (introduce it in terms of their exact question, even if the subject matter is more general)
- A previous podcast in which your marketing team discussed their question
- An email-gated ebook, comprehensively answering everything they don’t even know they need to know
- Your Facebook Page, where they will receive daily tips related to their subject
- Your blog subscription page, where they will receive exclusive insight into their subject of interest
Step 4: Using an If/Then Table in a Support Situation
If your platform has a live chat option, you know that most of the questions you get are about how exactly to best use your tool.
Some of the questions are straightforward, requiring only a “Great question! Just click the video icon, copy your video’s URL and you can add a video to your landing page.” You can also send visitors or clients to (if you use it) a Knowledge Base platform with FAQ’s and your corresponding answers.
Other questions are a bit more complicated, and that’s where your how-to content and case studies come into play.
Here’s an example of an If/Then table that your customer support team could have available to them at all times:
A table like this should be constantly updated, reflecting the most popular questions visitors are asking, newly-released tools, and new content that works best for each question.
Another table might reflect questions that are most in need of being answered, but haven’t been. I recommend that once a question has been asked at least five times your team communicate with your content creators to prioritize answering it.
If/Then tables are not only handy for a support team short on time, but also for newcomers to your team and employees that step into and out of a support role.
Step 5: Ensuring Your Support Team Isn’t Robotic
When you start running your support team off a template like the one above, you run the risk of coming across as robotic, something you want to avoid at all costs.
There’s a well-known study from the Journal of Applied Psychology which found that waiters who returned to their customer’s tables with a second set of mints increased tips by 23%. They concluded that (rather than the mints themselves having any real value) it was the creation of “a feeling of a personalized experience” which impacted so intensely on those customer’s happiness and, it can be assumed, loyalty to the restaurant.
Your support team is to your business as waiters are to their restaurant. Their personalities and uniqueness are what set you apart from your competitors.
Don’t lose that.
You’ll notice in the table above that many of the responses have a bit of a personalized intro. The last thing you want to do is simply throw content at someone without telling them why, how it’s applicable to their question, or before they’ve already been charmed.
How about I give you a few formulas you can use to communicate personality while promoting and delivering your content? Yes, I recognize the hypocrisy here. Just go with it.
5 Ways to Promote Your Content without Getting Robotic:
- Excellent question [name of visitor]! Honestly I’d probably need a blackboard and teaching certificate to explain it fully to you, and we have a resource (<here>) that breaks it down into bite size pieces. If there’s anything you’d like me to explain just send me an email at [firstname.lastname@example.org].
- We just wrote a comihensive guide on [the subject of their question]! At the moment it’s exclusively available to our current customers but I’ll see what I can do. Could you give me an email address I can use?
- We have a guide that goes through answering [their question] step by step. Not sure if you’ve read any of our blog yet but [your content creator] really knows their stuff (he’s over my shoulder right now making me write that!). Seriously though, you can see it <here> and I’m sure it’ll answer all your questions.
- So I could spend the next hour and a half bumbling my way through explaining [their question’s answer] to you, or you could just download our free ebook on the subject and we could both go get a cup of coffee. What do you think?
- I’m not going to beat around the bush here [name of visitor], I can save both of us a huge amount of time and energy if you just download our comihensive guide on that subject (available <here>) and you and I can move on to talking about [recent sporting event].
If you’re looking for a few more tone best practices check out Buffer’s “Tone Guide”. Broken up into subjects like “salutations,” “formality,” “apologies,” and “fault,” this guide gives you recommendations and reminders that frame Buffer’s famed communication with both clients and (as importantly) everyone else.
Groove recently found that, of the more than 2,000 customers surveyed, 65% of them prefered a casual tone in customer service over a formal one. That said, they also found that 78% of respondents felt that an “overly casual tone” (like using slang or emoticons) has a negative impact on a customer’s experience when their request is being denied.
So be aware that the best tone for your business’ customer service is entirely based on your target market, the subject of your visitor or customer’s query, and the sector you’re in. Test it for yourself!
How to Get Started
I wouldn’t have written this article before we tested all these strategies for ourselves. The fact is, Wishpond has found great success with using our content to retain customers and nurture leads. We’ve increased the efficacy of our support team and seen a measurable impact on our retention.
My primary recommendation would be to uncover the 10 most frequently asked questions and not only answer them on your website but also create friendly, personable (stock) responses that your support team can use. Use these responses as a foundation from which your customer support team can use their own personalities and preferences to build a relationship and impress. It makes it all so much easier.