Navigating Challenges and Future Trends in Customer Service

The Future of Customer Service

We had the opportunity to speak with Charles Coaxum, Former Head of Customer Success Security at Cisco, an early adopter of AptEdge.

We discussed the challenges and future trends in support. We explored how the rapid evolution and proliferation of products increase the pressure on agents to stay informed and provide accurate information quickly to customers. We address the growing impatience of customers and the importance of quick resolutions, highlighting the role of generative AI to enhance support efficiency, emphasizing its critical impact on customer retention and business growth. Enjoy the transcription below or watch the Full Conversation <-here.

Navigating Challenges, Embracing Technology, and Shaping the Future with Charles Coaxum

Aakrit: We're moving to a future where products are changing faster and faster. What does that mean for the world of support? 

Charles: I laughed a little bit when you said that because I've had that same experience multiple times. I think the challenge is you're seeing more and more products. Not just product evolution, but more and more products coming into the space. Especially the space I'm in, which is security.

And the challenge, of course, that the support organization faces is enabling the agents to be able to speak effectively about those products. And certainly, with product launches, you see an influx of questions and queries that come. And so how do you handle those types of things? A solution like AptEdge has helped us. 

The enablement process becomes, taking content that exists and being able to quickly get it into the hands of the agents. I think more and more support organizations are going to continue to see that challenge of, as more products come, as more products evolve, how do you train those agents up so they're able to answer those questions?

How do you create content so you can share that knowledge quickly through various means it's an omni channel, right? That those queries are coming. How do you serve those, whether that be through chat, a phone call, email, or even an IVR? 

Aakrit: It's interesting when you share the training and we continue to see this trend of knowledge is only proliferating.

There's more knowledge being created every day. We talk about more knowledge being created in the next two, three years in the history of knowledge. How does that translate to the world of support when agents are expected to access more information, more knowledge, and more systems, and then keep up with all of it? What do you see happening in the next five to ten years? 

Charles: I think it… They'll just be more, right? More information, more access to information that's out there, and more wrong information that's out there. And that's really part of the challenge is just because there is so much knowledge, how do you parse through that so you can get accurate information?

“How do you parse through that (Knowledge Base) so you can get accurate information?”

How do you have solutions that'll help score the accuracy of the information, and see the satisfaction levels of the information that's being presented to the end user, so that you're surfacing those right answers to the top of the pile?

The other thing is it affects employees from a satisfaction level. If they're having to parse through all this data on their own and send that out to the customer, it's very challenging for them. It's frustrating to them and it hurts their confidence level in terms of being able to absorb all of that.

And it's just not possible from a human level. From a machine level, it's certainly possible. And so surfacing that over to the agents also helps from an employee satisfaction level as well. And we all know if you're more satisfied in doing your job, it comes through whether that's verbally or written to the customers.

Aakrit: It kind of sounds almost like, we don't know what we don't know. And what if there's an article that was just published somewhere that helps me solve an issue? I may not know where that is. 

Charles: Well, I think that's a great point, and I think it's also making sure that you're not in a closed-end system as well when you're surfacing that knowledge, right? There's disparate data sources that we're using, and so having solutions that can pull from those disparate sources also helps you ensure that you're getting the freshest information and the most accurate information.

Aakrit: This is another interesting piece that we often hear about is that customers are also getting more impatient. We think about where the world was 10-20-30 years ago. People would be fine waiting a little while for the answer if they're on hold, or they're sending an email to get a response waiting a few days.

That's changed a lot in the past 10-15 years. People want answers now. They want the issue fixed quickly. And if it's not fixed, then they start to escalate.

Where do you see that trend changing? How do you feel that might change the importance of support in the future?

Charles: I don't think we're going to see anything reduced, right? People want answers immediately because we live in a society of instant gratification, my patience level has probably gone down as well over time with seeking answers when I'm going out, querying on support issues.

And so I think that becomes more and more important that companies invest in solutions that can get those answers quickly. Sometimes I even see escalations that occur and it's not about whether or not they got the right answer. It's how quickly did I get that answer. It's that time-to-resolution and bringing that down as immediately as possible.

“…important that companies invest in solutions that can get those answers quickly.”

So anything we can do to provide and invest for our customers to be able to get those answers as quickly as possible. Certainly, they need to be right, but as quickly as possible is just going to help from a satisfaction level and help from an overall branding perspective. 

Aakrit: Yeah. We continuously hear that.

There's that metric out there floating that 30% of customers are looking to churn after one or more bad experiences, right? And that's from a bad support experience. So how do we tackle that and empower our teams to deliver that best experience every time? And at the heart of that is the resolution speed.

How quickly are we solving their problem where they're leaving a really great CSAT and getting the best experience possible? 

Charles: Yeah, I think from a customer success standpoint, if you look at the customer success journey, we always talk about time-to-value or first value.

And if you don't get to that first value as quickly as possible, your turn rate is going up. I think it's the same thing on the customer support side, is that the first and final resolution is becoming more and more important over time. I believe in the support world that's kind of fell to the back and now it's coming back to the forefront.

That very first time getting that answer, getting the right answer at the right time as immediately as possible becomes more and more important and that feeds into your customer success journey and that feeds into your retention rates. 

“...getting the right answer at the right time…”

Aakrit: I've continued to see that. The importance of generative AI technologies has actually elevated the importance of support.

It's allowed support to be supercharged, to be able to access knowledge more quickly, be able to get responses and resolutions more quickly. Support used to be often thought of as a cost center. And now we're in a subscription economy where products are being renewed monthly or annually. And support is a key reason for that renewal happening, customers renew and expand when they have great customer experiences.

Charles: From a support perspective, I think it's really important for organizations to lead with that and think about support more of a care center than just a support center because it's really an accelerator of business from a retention perspective, from an upsell perspective. People walk away from that support experience, feeling either more good about the organization or feeling bad about the brand and certainly we want them feeling good and the better that support is, the more we invest in support, the more likely you're going to have that higher retention. 

Aakrit: We continue to see these metrics on great support leads to renewals, expansions, customer happiness, and sure that's reflected in metrics like CSAT, and NPS, but that's an opportunity where you have support experiences leading to businesses bringing more value to their customers and figuring out where they can continue to expand and deliver more value. 

One of the other topics that I wanted to touch on a little bit was, in the world of support operations, we're now seeing a different macro climate. And the person at the top that's really trying to drive the efficiency hammer is the CFO. 

How do you see the narrative of generative AI and support efficiency playing into the world of a CFO today?

Charles: Yeah, I think in a couple of different areas we look at things that are important to the CFO, right? And the cost of agents in general, you know, is high, and being able to staff and handle the volumes that are out there. So anything we can do from a technology standpoint to help offset that is really important.

The other thing that's a big cost investment is the training of those agents. And so anything we can do to reduce the time it takes to train those agents in enablement is going to help from a cost perspective and be music to a CFO's ear. There is some investment. So one thing I would say is that it's really important to invest in technology to be able to reap the rewards and the benefits that come from that.

And I'm really glad from my perspective that we met and I invested in AptEdge early and it has provided those benefits to us.

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