I believe than some companies tend to have a mismatch for each of their support channels between the needs of the customers who prefer that channel, and the support actually delivered by that channel.

For example, some companies:

  • Provide the only the most basic, frequently asked questions via their website (the eSupport Channel)
  • Use the least skilled support agents for live chat support
  • Use the most skilled support agents for phone support

Why do companies make these choices? Well, online support content can get messy for complex issues, and it’s tough for a company with limited internal to generate all the long tail support content they would need to tackle every issue that customers face.

And when it comes to chat versus phone, companies can sometimes get away with less-well paid agents for chat support because the company does not have to pay a premium for good verbal English skills (written English skills are less demanding). Of course, those good verbal English skills may frequently correlate with higher overall agent effectiveness and communication skills. So in effect, the chat agents may be less effective than the phone agents. Of course, companies can validate this for themselves: how does your resolution rate compare between chat and phone?

So why is all of this problematic? Look at the profile for two segments of customers:

Techie customers:

  • Solve basic issues themselves using simple troubleshooting skills they innately possess
  • Need online support for advanced issues
  • Strongly prefer email or chat support if they must get human assistance

Non-technical customers:

  • Need help solving basic issues
  • Strongly prefer calling if when they must contact the company
  • Avoid online self-support and online chat/email support

What we end up with is a mismatch between the customer needs and the support channels:

Technie customers:

  • Need advanced help online, but can’t find it there.
  • They end up with the perception that companies never have the help they need. (because they don’t need the help that companies provide online.)
  • When they result to human support (chat/email), they get bad assistance which confirms the fact that companies are clueless.

Non-techie customers

  • Need the most basic help and end up with the most knowledgeable and expensive agents who end up spending hours working one on one to walk a customer through the process of installing software from a CDROM.

There are some simplifications here. But at the root of it all, there is definitely a mismatch. Because of this mismatch, companies over-invest in support for customers who need more basic help (wasting resources), while under-investing in support for customers who need more advanced help (leaving dissatisfied customers).