4 best practices of omnichannel customer support

By Hannah Bastian, Product marketing manager

Published March 4, 2020
Last updated September 14, 2020

Talking to customer support should feel no different than talking to a friend. Customers want to have the same kind of natural, human interactions they have in their personal lives—conversational, effortless, real—with a business. If they start a conversation in one channel and pick it up again in another, they expect to be able to do so without having to repeat themselves. The context of the conversation needs to persist.

At the same time, the agent needs to have a crystal clear view of the customer, so they can understand the conversation, their history, and preferences in a quick and efficient manner.

This is easy to say, but hard to do in practice.

But missing the opportunity to offer a great customer experience by streamlining that support could be costly, considering roughly half of customers we surveyed for the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 said they would switch to a competitor after just one bad customer service experience.

If you only have one shot, you have to make it count. That’s why we’ve updated our omnichannel support offering with the launch of the new Zendesk Support Suite. With the new Support Suite, businesses can have natural conversations with their customers, without exposing them to the complexities of their business. By combining all your channels in a unified experience, you can make the process of requesting a refund feel like a lively conversation with an old friend. Plus, you can unlock new and emerging social messaging channels like WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger to extend your experience even further, giving your customers even more freedom to engage with you when and where they want.

So how do you ensure that your support team has everything they need to delight customers with truly natural conversations? Read on for a few best practices for businesses that want to implement omnichannel service and see how the Support Suite can help you deliver natural conversations and best-in-class service to your customers.

1. Provide the best customer experience on every channel

With new channels emerging and gaining popularity, including social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, customers want to be able to choose how they communicate with your business. While traditional channels like phone and email remain popular across all generations, Millennials and Gen Z have shown an increasing preference for chat and social messaging apps. Similar to email, messages can be sent asynchronously, meaning a customer could fire off a quick message before they hit the gym and then return to the conversation later once an agent has responded.

While the Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 data shows customers want this flexibility, many companies aren’t living up to their expectations. Less than 30% said they offer chat or social messaging, according to the report. With omnichannel customer support, you can differentiate yourself from slow-to-adopt competitors and help your customers where they want to be helped.

But it’s not enough simply to provide the channels your customers care about, it has to be a seamless experience for the customer at every touchpoint and easy enough for your agents to manage. That’s why we redesigned our agent experience in the new Zendesk Support Suite. In the new Agent Workspace, agents can respond to customers across channels, including chat, email, phone and social messaging, from one place.

For example, an agent can respond to a chat and then follow up via email or phone—all from the one unified workspace. This saves agents time toggling between different dashboards to respond to customers across channels, which can help speed up response times. And by having relevant customer context as part of their workspace (our next best practice), the new Support suite makes it an even easier experience for omnichannel agents and a more personal one for customers.

Image showing a conversation with a customer in the Agent Workspace of the new Zendesk Support Suite


2. Harness customer data, so you can personalize your service

An omnichannel approach arms you with customer-centric data across platforms, so you can win your customers over with an experience that truly feels personal. Your team probably already has the customer data needed to provide personalized service, but it’s likely scattered across different tools or managed by different teams, which can leave the customer feeling like they are repeating themselves every time they talk to you.

The Support Suite gives you an understanding of who your customer is, including their contact information and location. You can also see when a customer has reached out to you and on what channels to help you get a sense of their previous interactions with your business. With an omnichannel platform like the Support Suite, you can provide the personalization that customers crave and scale it.

You can take it one step further by integrating external data sources using Zendesk Sunshine, such as past purchases and user profiles, so agents can deliver an even more tailored experience, all without ever leaving the platform. For example, retail support agents could see customer’s sizing information to help them identify the right fit for a pair of jeans because jeans shopping is hard enough as it is.

3. Give customers the most accurate answers by involving the right teams

It often takes teamwork to answer customer questions, but collaboration is easier said than done. Customer questions are often complex, requiring input from multiple stakeholders. Meanwhile, internal teams are siloed and communication can be slow. Many support teams lack the tools to quickly connect and collaborate. This presents a business challenge because behind-the-scenes collaboration is what customers have come to expect.

The Customer Experience Trends Report data showed that 70 percent of customers want companies to collaborate on their behalf, and 68 percent would go as far as to say they are annoyed when their calls are transferred between departments. We've made collaboration even easier with the paid Collaboration add-on, which allows agents to loop in other teams across email and Slack, without leaving the support ticket. By giving your team an easier way to reach out to other departments, you're able to streamline communication and internal workflows, giving agents the context they need faster to provide more responsive support.

4. Customize your support environment to increase productivity

Every support team has a unique process that defines their customer support experience, so the one-size-fits-all approach offered by many support platforms can be a constraint to providing exceptional service. Instead of designing your process to fit your support tool, give your agents a tool that they can design to fit their process. With the Support Suite, your admins are the architects. They can customize their support environment based on the use case or channel to improve productivity at scale.

This can all be done without manipulating any code, so it’s accessible to your entire support team without special training. Customizations could include app integrations, which can be accessed via the Zendesk Marketplace. For example, the Redaction app can be incorporated into your workspace to keep customer credit card numbers hidden from view, providing an extra layer of security to protect your customers’ most sensitive information. Agents can also update ticket fields and forms across channels to reduce wrap-up time. The Support Suite is a flexible solution that empowers your agents to do what they do best—help customers.

At the end of the day, customers just want to have a conversation with you. Implementing these four best practices allows businesses to offer more personal, convenient experiences across channels. And most importantly, this helps your agents treat your customers like humans, not tickets. Just as it should be.

Sign up for a free trial of the new Zendesk Support Suite today.

Build a customer experience brand

Find out how to create great customer experiences that will lead to loyal customers, improved word-of-mouth promotion, and increased revenue. Get started with our free guide.