How to Nail Customer Support and Prevent Channel Switching

What’s worse than an unsatisfied customer? An unsatisfied customer who feels he or she is being ignored.

That’s no joke.

If a customer is already having problems with your product, the last thing you want is for that customer to become even more frustrated through a poor customer support experience.

Many brands often don’t even realise how many paint points they put their customers through. Consider what would be the first thing a customer who encounters an issue does. He’s probably going to check your website to see if he can resolve the issue himself. If that fails, he might send an email or open a ‘support ticket’. But this issue is urgent. He gets tired of waiting after an hour, so decides to reach out on Twitter, which is a pain but probably a safe bet for a speedy reply. Yet he still has to wait half an hour for someone to tweet back. The response? “Contact customer support via our website”.

Wow. That guy has had to reach out FOUR times. And the issue still hasn’t been resolved. This kind of scenario reminds me of this hilarious video I watched during the customer-brand relation module in Google Squared’s Digital Marketing course:

In Marketing terms, this is what’s known as the ‘First Moment of Truth’ (FMOT); is when a customer is at the point of purchasing a product. Clearly, this video illustrates exactly how it shouldn’t be!

But what our scenario above describes is the ‘Second Moment of Truth’ (SMOT); the moment when a customer attempts to communicate with a brand after making a purchase because he or she has encountered an issue. It is a crucial steppingstone in the customer journey. The purchase may have been made but the customer experience is far from over – fail them now and you could be on the receiving end of a very public and unpleasant social media takedown.

How can you prevent a negative SMOT?

To prevent a negative SMOT, every brand or business needs to have an efficient and user-friendly ‘customer support funnel’ in place. This will limit channel switching and ultimately, your customer churn rate.

The idea of a support funnel is that you guide customers to the most efficient channel for their particular need, using a series of prompts on your company website, and that you limit the number of support channels available. Self-guided support funnels generally work better than traditional systems since the issue – in theory – is resolved without the customer having to reach out directly.

Which companies have great Customer Support Funnel systems?


As a loyal customer, I find an excellent example of this is Bluehost. Being a Webmaster is no easy ride. I’ve suffered lots of downtime and inexplicable crawl errors on my websites and, naturally, the first thing I do is reach out to my hosting provider, Bluehost.

But I’ve seldom had to start a Live Chat due to the wealth of support-related content on their site. I almost always find the solution to my problem – or at the very least, instructions of what to do next – through its user-friendly, self-guided support funnel. And the best part from Bluehost’s perspective? They are the experts. They’ve anticipated my issue and already provided a solution.

If I can’t find what I’m looking for and have to start a Live Chat, the self-guided questions continue. This means when I’m put through to an agent, he or she couldn’t be better prepared to help me resolve the issue.

People Per Hour

Another noteworthy example is People Per Hour, a service I use almost every day. I remember when I set up my account I had to add bank details and images showing identity documents etc. Foolishly, I hadn’t done this before carrying out work, so I then had to wait while my details were pending before I could charge for my first job. After 2 days nothing had changed so I reached out to support. Before I submitted a ticket I was guided to existing threads that involved the same issue. I also discovered there was a Community Q&A forum, a User Feedback forum and a blog with all sorts of interesting and helpful content.

I was impressed, but wasn’t able to find a direct answer to my question. This is where I feel People Per Hour could improve their customer support service. They seem to have gone to the trouble of setting up a public support forum, but only answer queries by saying they have “opened up a ticket with customer support”. This means a lot of the self-guided prompts lead to dead ends and subsequently the need to submit your own ticket. Instead of doing this, PPH should post recommendations, step-by-step instructions or links to content which directly addresses the issue at hand.

Essentially, customers don’t care how a problem is resolved or what channel they have to use – as long as the problem is resolved quickly and painlessly, on as few channels as possible.

Preventing Channel Switching

For small businesses, a self-guided support funnel might be too tricky or costly to implement. Or perhaps you don’t receive enough support requests to justify setting one up. In any case, you’ll still want to prevent channel switching.

The key to achieving this lies in understanding clear symptoms of customer dissatisfaction. For example, a tweet saying “I opened up a ticket hours ago and still haven’t heard a thing” demonstrates an email was sent and the customer now feels he is being ignored. The solution? Set an expected reply time.

Similarly, tweets along the lines of “called in the end and spoke to Jane who solved my problem. Thanks Jane!” show the customer originally reached out on Twitter but gave up waiting and called. Bear in mind customers are far less patient on social and will switch channels sooner. The solution? Set up a social listening dashboard like Mention or Respond by Buffer which monitors all incoming tweets. This way you can respond as efficiently as possible.

So how can you nail your customer support from now on?

If you go on forcing your customers to switch channels they will quickly lose patience and any sense of loyalty. Your SMOT will fail miserably. By funnelling your customer queries and guiding them to where they need to be, you’ll improve the customer service experience considerably. Queries will be solved before they’ve become ordeals and your channels won’t be flooded with irate customers. The result? Everyone goes home happy!

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