Customer support is a range of customer services to assist customers in making cost effective and correct use of a product. It includes assistance in planning, installation, training, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading, and disposal of a product.
Regarding technology products such as mobile phones, televisions, computers, software products or other electronic or mechanical goods, it is termed technical support.
Customer support is considered as one of the main data channels for customer satisfaction research and a way to increase customer retention.
Automation of service organizations aims to achieve, for example, a lower mean time to repair (MTTR).
Customer support automation involves the building of a knowledge base of known issues and their resolution to support incidents with delivery mechanisms, often by expert systems. A service automation platform includes a suite of support solutions including proactive support, assisted support and self-support.
With automated support, service organizations can make their services available to their customers 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, by monitoring alarms, identifying problems at an early stage and resolving issues before they become problems. Automated assisted support enables remote access to sites that need instant problem solving. By automating the collection of information of devices and applications coexisting with the supported application, problems can be quickly detected and fixed.
Automated self-support, automates the self-support process, freeing users from self-help diagnostics and troubleshooting from on-line libraries or knowledge bases.
Support automation solutions can be integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) systems and network management systems (NMS), and provide full customer reports to management tallying problems and incidents that were solved mechanically ensuring compliance to industry regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley, 21 CFR part 11, and HIPAA.
- Proactive Support Automation refers to support automation solutions that minimize downtime and enable 24x7 availability. This is achieved by constant health check tracking with diagnostic procedures to enable issue monitoring and problem solving. Emerging analytics techniques including machine learning and machine reasoning further enable proactive support capabilities.
- Preemptive Support Automation refers to a support solution that utilizes information that is either generated or culled from an application or service, e.g. log files, database queries, configuration changes, etc. This information can then be exploited to predict service degradations or interruptions. The upshot of this is a higher level of service/application availability for the underlying application. Preemptive activities have helped best-in-class organizations to take cost control and customer experience to new levels, building trust and customer loyalty. The preemptive outcome effect is a sustained positive service continuity and performance effect on the targeted product(s) behavior.
- Self Support Automation is the term organizations give to their support structures that provide on-line libraries and tools for self-help and easy troubleshooting solutions to automatically and precisely diagnose and resolve problems and incidents. Emerging technologies for self-help include chatbots and digital virtual assistants.
- Assisted Support Automation is the software that enables support personnel to remotely access their customers desktop or server for diagnostics and trouble ticket resolution.
Channels of communication that companies may offer to customers for support:
- Phone support
- Customers speak directly to customer support representatives over the phone. For inbound calls, an IVR (Integrated Voice Response) can be programmed to route captured calls in a variety of ways with the potential goal of quickest resolution of a customer's request/problem.
- Phone Support is often used for order taking, pre-sales queries, upselling and cross-selling, troubleshooting etc.
- Outbound calls are calls made to customers from the call center to give or take information.
- Online chat
- With online chat a web visitor seeks assistance, a text chat session is started by clicking on a link on the provider's website. The customer support representative interacts with the web visitor, understands the requirements, resolves the query and closes the interaction. Alternatively, based on the requirements the customer support representative could also trigger a chat session with the web visitor. Chat support assists with language barriers as both parties involved in the chat session may be able to use an online translation service to communicate. It is also considered less intrusive than phone support.
Live chat support is often used for lead generation and fulfillment, campaign management, pre-sales and post-sales enquiries, complaint registration, tech support etc.
- Email support
- Email is the primary means to offer web-based assistance for your customers when matters do not require an immediate answer. Low-cost, non-intrusive and anywhere-anytime access are some of the advantages of email-based communications. Trouble Ticketing System and CRM Applications help keep track of a series of follow-up correspondence with a particular customer. Services offered via email response management is claims processing, polling/media analysis, subscription services, troubleshooting, complaint registrations etc.
- Remote support
- Solving problems of a computer at a particular location from a computer at another location is remote support. Companies can save considerable amounts of money on logistics through remote support. IT technicians are empowered with several tools that allow them to gain access to customers' computers at various parts of the world. They are able to gain access and repair software related problems from remote locations. The need for a technician to visit the customers' premises is mitigated. With the movement of applications from the desktop to the cloud, newer forms of browser based remote support have developed such as Cobrowsing.
- On-site support
- On-site support is the opposite of remote support. Certain kinds of assistance cannot be rendered remotely, like, hardware related problems. repairing a TV, replacing a spare part, servicing of air conditioners etc. In some occasions, a service provider might choose to take devices or gadgets back to their warehouse for repair.
- Social media
- Since the arrival of social media platforms like Facebook & Twitter, service providers have found that many of their customers spend plenty of time on them daily. To make it convenient to customers, many service providers have set up a webcare team as support channel on their social media profiles. Customers are able to ask questions, register complaints, clarify doubts etc. by interacting with the company's staff through these social media platforms. With millions of users now gaining access to social media, this platform has become as prominent as traditional media like phone, live chat and email.