“Guiding users thoughtfully through your documentation can be a great way to lower their effort, and heighten next issue avoidance.”

Customers want to work with companies and brands that make doing what they need to do easy. They love it even more when something’s gone wrong, and you make it easy to fix.

If you make it tricky for a customer to get help for what they need, or make them reach out multiple times to get to the right answer, they’re probably not going to come back. Especially if it happens several times. In fact, 96% of people who have a high-effort experience with a company, are unlikely to come back, according to the CEB.

In order to reduce high effort experiences, customer support teams should keep in mind the four pillars of effortless experience.

These pillars are:

In this article, we dive deeply into why next issue avoidance is so important, and some ways that you can measure and implement it within your own team.

What is next issue avoidanceWhat is next issue avoidance?

Have you ever reached out to a customer support team, had an amazing experience, gotten most of the way through implementing the suggestions that they gave you, and then realized that you didn’t know how to move on to the next part of it?

A great example of this for me was when I was trying to set up a new shop on a web-hosting service. I wanted to sell goods online attached to my website, but for some reason the option to do so was greyed out for me.

So, I reached out to their support team. Their chat support was on point. The agent was friendly, making puns, and helped me understand that I needed to upgrade my account in order to have access to the sales front option. I did so, it was no longer greyed out, I went along my merry way.

Then, 10 minutes later, I realized that I still didn’t actually know how to do anything in the storefront, and I had to go hunting down docs on how to even get started.

Wouldn’t it have been awesome if the customer service representative had said something like “Glad we got you set up to use that storefront. Just as an FYI, here are some docs to help you get started.” It would have saved me and them tons of time from the amount of tickets that i sent in.

That is what differentiates First Contact Resolution (FCR) from Next Issue Avoidance (NIA): the agent did a great job at boosting the company’s FCR metric, but did not do so well with NIA. I reached back out again shortly thereafter asking for more help.

FCR does not measure happiness- next issue avoidanceFCR doesn’t measure happiness

If a customer reaches out to you and gets an answer right off the bat, they’re probably going to be happy, especially if it’s the right answer. But, what FCR fails to measure is when, a couple of hours or days later, they reach back out with more questions. For most teams, this would be measured as a second “ticket” or incident, but it’s actually still the same “issue,” the rep just failed to preemptively address or pick-up on additional questions.

Companies frequently report their super-high contact resolution scores, sometimes as high at 90%, but do not consider that about 40% of them aren’t actually being resolved and will instead return, like zombies, with new questions tangentially linked to the first.

Zombies are scary, both in real life and in the inbox. While in the situation of a new ticket coming through and being marked as resolved on first contact it seems like the company is doing a great job and are doing best by their customers. It fails to take into consideration that the customer could have just never sent that second ticket.

If they hadn’t had to reach out again, wouldn’t that have been better? Wouldn’t they have been happier? The answer is yes. 75% of people would rather not reach out to support at all, so why not give them the next best thing and help them not reach out again?

save time and money- next issue avoidanceSave time (and money) by taking time

Save time for the customer and time for your team. When your agents are in such a hurry to solve for FCR metrics, they might not be focusing on the longer-term effects that giving just a little extra information can have.

CEB writes: “Companies practicing next issue avoidance dramatically reduce the likelihood of another 3- to 5-minute phone call (with an upset customer, no less) by taking an extra 15 to 30 seconds to simply forewarn the customer.”

Similarly, according to HBR, the average cost of a live service contact jumped from $7 in 2009 to nearly $10 five years later and has continued to grow since then.

If each additional ticket is costing your company $10 or more, dropping your customer’s satisfaction levels, and bumping up the amount of time your agents are spending responding to tickets, it sounds like it might be time for a change. So, what are some of the best ways to start focusing on lowering customer effort and customers reaching out about follow issues? We’ve got you covered.

Preemptively offer information

It takes little-to-no time to provide tangentially-related information to what your customer is asking about.

In my example above, with the web-hosting company, my agent could have offered more guidance documentation on the features of the storefront functionality that I’d just unlocked through my subscription. That being said, it’s not always going to be so easy to uncovered information about what your customers doesn’t know.

Try to use your historical knowledge from other tickets, and any contextual knowledge that you have of this customer (for example, looking at previous conversations) to dig a big deeper in ways you might be able to help.

For example, if you are a online sales company and your customer is asking you about shipping rates, you might also want to send them documentation about your policies for delivery, or the different carriers that you ship through.

Try to follow your customer’s path and use your experience to always be one step ahead of them, that way you can offer your hand to have them step over any puddles and avoid muddying their shoes.

Cover related issues in your documentation

While it’s not directly related to an individual ticket, guiding users thoughtfully through your documentation can be a great way to lower their effort, and heighten next issue avoidance.

Most help desk and documentation suites offer the ability to show related content at the bottom of your documentation. Take advantage of that!

Instead of using the AI or machine-generated suggestions, take the knowledge that you and your team have cultivated. Mark related articles that actually do relate to the content at hand, or can help the customer in the next step that they will need to take in their journey.

For example, if they are looking at a document on how to create something within your platform, one recommended document could be on how to then customize it. Don’t miss out on this easy opportunity to point your customers in the right direction.

Ask for more information

I don’t know about you, but I’m for sure guilty of seeing a feature request email come into the inbox, hitting the “Feature Request” workflow, adding a card to Trello and then calling it a day. Don’t look at me like that! Not every time, but sometimes that’s what I’m inclined to do.

Instead, though, I could ask for more information about what the person is looking to accomplish. While I might not be able to offer a workaround, and I certainly can’t provide what they are asking for. So, I might be able to point them in the direction of documentation that is related to what they want to do.

That could look something like “That’s a great question! We actually don’t have something like that currently available, but I’ll let our team know there’s some interest. That being said, it sounds like XYZ functionality might be useful for you? You might want to read a bit more about it here: [link].”

Try to follow your customer’s path and use your experience to always be one step ahead of them, that way you can offer your hand to have them step over any puddles and avoid muddying their shoes. Click To Tweet

This preemptively addresses the follow-up question of “Bummer that you don’t have it. Do you have anything else?” and also points them in the right direction to read more.

next issue avoidance
Like ESP, but not.

No one wants to spend their life emailing back and forth with support people. No one even really wants to email once with a support person. So, when you get that one chance to talk with them, go the extra mile and give them a bit more information than they know they need.

Make like you’ve got ESP and preemptively get the customer additional information so that you can avoid that next issue (or several) coming into the inbox. We won’t tell them you don’t have magic powers if you don’t; your secret’s safe with us.


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About the author: 

Mercer

Mercer Smith-Looper

Mercer is the Head of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at mercenator.com and on Twitter at @mercenator.

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