Humanize Your Support With Data
Illustration by Sonny Ross

You’ve already explained the whole story to two different people and now you’re being transferred for the third time. The pinky-plinky hold music cuts off and…

“Hello, can I start with your full name please?”

Rage. At Help Scout we’re true believers in human-powered support, but right at that moment we’d happily replace human customer service teams with a couple of Daleks. Fortunately, we don’t need to go that far. Modern customer service and help desk software allows each customer interaction to be presented in a broader context of information, meaning customer service staff can be faster, more effective, and less repetitive.

Contextual data creates better, more human customer service

When you better understand who you're trying to help, what their past experiences have been, and what options they have available, you can shape your answer in a way that AI tools just can't match for the foreseeable future.

  • Faster answers – When you don’t need to look in 12 different places for the customer’s account details or their service history, you can find the right answer and get back to the customer much more quickly.

  • More completely understood questions — The same question can mean very different things, depending on who is asking. A non-technical newcomer probably has a different idea of what “an easy way to export data” is than a veteran integration developer does.

  • Customized answers for specific scenarios — If you understand your customer’s own business and goals, you can craft your answer to fit their particular needs, rather than use a one-size-fits-all approach.

  • Reduced customer effort — Don’t force your customers to repeat themselves, handing over information you already have elsewhere in your systems. Inform yourself and save them the time and stress.

  • Faster resolution times — By removing the need to wait for your customers to collect and send information to you, you can reduce the amount of back-and-forth required, no matter which channel you are on.

  • Better queue prioritization — Use contextual data to quickly identify the most urgent or most important conversations, and use workflows and tags to raise those to the attention of available team members.

  • Improved customer retention — Help your team spot customers who might be considering leaving by including information like renewal dates, logins, and recent account activity alongside their question. Early intervention might help reduce your churn rates.

  • More successful customers — Make it easier for your team to spot customers who aren't using useful features or getting the full value from your service, and train them to offer helpful product education in addition to the initial answer.

Fast, low-effort access to a broader picture of your customers gives your support team the chance to deliver truly helpful service more quickly. What does that look like in practice? Read on below for examples of information that you may want to make available to your team.

Determine which information is most helpful to your team

In Help Scout, contextual information relating to a particular conversation or customer can be extracted from external sources and presented in the sidebar. Without too much effort, you can populate the right-hand column with whatever details are most useful to you.

Here are some examples of data that we've seen our customers add to their sidebars:

  • Quick links to access internal accounts or records — Speed up support by including deep links to your internal systems, rather than having staff run a separate search manually.

  • Length of time as a customer — This is helpful as a signal for their lifetime value, level of experience with your service, and their knowledge of particular features.

  • Payment plan or account type — This not only represents their financial importance to your business, but it often determines which features or services they have access to.

  • Next renewal date — Are they about to decide whether to stay on? Is now a great time to review their usage and make some suggestions?

  • Features or products being used — This is important for understanding what vague questions are referring to, and it’s often an opportunity to educate and deliver more value.

  • Assigned account owner or internal owner — Is there someone in your company who should be looped in?

  • Last login date and location — This is useful for security reviews, and it can also be a flag for handling as a possible churn risk in the context of SaaS.

  • Version number of your product being used — This detail is helpful in troubleshooting, and it’ll make certain your answer is relevant and accurate.

  • Recent order history — Personalize your responses, and if there have been recent issues relating to those products, consider varying your answers.

  • Recent support conversations — Have they been experiencing a rough run of issues? Have they contacted you about this particular issue before? Once you know, you can craft an appropriate response.

In addition to adding content to a sidebar, Help Scout and other help desk tools also include custom fields, which is another way to make valuable data about your customer, their account, and their company visible and actionable.

6 steps for adding contextual information to your help desk

Changing what your team sees in the help desk application they use every day should be handled cautiously. Here is a simple, 6-step process for a successful rollout:

  1. Investigate your help desk tools and figure out what contextual data features you have available.

  2. Determine if you’ll need a specialist’s help or if you have the right skills to implement changes on your own.

  3. Identify the set of contextual data you can potentially include.

  4. Prioritize that list by 1.) usefulness to your team and 2.) ease of access.

  5. Roll out the first few contextual items.

  6. Work with your customer-facing staff to help them integrate that data into their processes for helping customers.

Once you've had some success with the initial trial, consider adding further data for your team to use. Too much information could actually slow service down, so keep an eye on your key metrics (like CSAT and time to resolution) to decide when to stop and review.

By arming your team with helpful contextual information, you're allowing them to spend more of their time connecting with your customers and helping them as individuals. That's a win for everyone!

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