How To Transform Your Digital Support Center Into A Customer Intelligence Hub

Learn about the 5 things you should look for in your support search provider to get the best insights possible — helping you turn your support center into an intelligence hub.

By Yext

Feb 24, 2023

8 min

Support centers are often half-jokingly referred to as "cost centers" because they can be difficult to manage effectively, and even more difficult to measure return on investment. But customer support is more than a necessary evil. Your support center affects everything from customer retention and loyalty to employee attrition. Even customers' perceptions of your brand are impacted by how effective your support center is – or isn't.

The insights from your digital support center go beyond tickets received and tickets closed. Businesses can – and should – leverage their support center as a customer intelligence tool, too.

What Is Customer Intelligence?

Customer intelligence is a form of business intelligence. Companies use data on customer interactions and experiences collected from a variety of channels to gain insights into their experience and satisfaction levels. Those insights inform any changes that can be made to positively impact the relationship between the business and its customers.

Your support center is considered a source of internal customer intelligence. However, businesses can also reference external sources of information when gathering intelligence, such as psychographics, demographics, and behavioral data.

What Insights Can You Expect From Your Support Center’s Search Experience?
1. General operational insights

Because your support center is a source of internal customer intelligence and insights, it provides some of your most reliable datapoints as you evaluate your customers' experiences. Your agents can shine a light on broken processes, as well as temporary solutions and future process optimizations.

Another insight comes from analyzing the problems encountered, not reported. Some businesses box themselves in by only looking to ticket types and quantities. Consider this: despite the fact that less than one-third of companies offer self-service, 69% of customers will try to troubleshoot issues themselves. If they're successful, and the customer doesn't submit a ticket or report an issue, how will you know about this potential source of frustration – or even the scope of people affected by it?

This is where your digital support center comes into play. In fact, your digital support center may be your best customer insight tool. You can look to analytics and insights from your help site search bar to uncover common issues. You can also cross-reference the amount of search queries with the amount of tickets reported to determine whether your documentation is helpful for your audience.

By tracking interactions like these, you gain important customer experience insights on what's happening before a support ticket is even submitted.

2. Learn what customers want

Customer expectations are evolving rapidly. It's not enough to just resolve the issue anymore. Today's customer service expectations include personalization, proactivity, and self-serve options, among other things. Thankfully, AI-powered site search enables businesses to keep up.

A Yext study found that 59% of customers would rather find support information on their own than contact your support center. Additionally, 89% are at least "somewhat likely" to go straight to a company's help site when they have an issue, as long as the search function is operational and returns their answer the first time they try it.

Businesses that prioritize support channels actually preferred by the customer are more likely to see higher customer satisfaction scores. And when that channel is a digital support center with a great search experience, businesses benefit from a new source of internal customer intelligence. That intelligence is a customer insight tool into better support solutions, increasing customer satisfaction.

And customer satisfaction during a recession is a high-value currency. It increases the likelihood of repeat business, renewals, and brand loyalty – which is at a low among the general consumer base. In times like these, retention, loyalty, and advocacy go far.

3. How to provide what agents need

Sometimes, you catch a break: when it comes to digital support centers that allow self-service, what customers want aligns with what your agents need.

Support agents aren't used to breaks. It's not difficult to work out: there are 25% less support centers following the pandemic, and 41% higher call volumes. Surely, this contributed to at least a handful of the 70% of customer service and support agents who considered quitting last year. Not equipped to do more work with less resources, support agents joined in on the Great Resignation in droves.

Your digital support center offers a reprieve for your agents. By allowing customers to self-serve, you can deflect tickets away from your overwhelmed agents.

But, even more importantly, those self-service options shed insight into where the customer experience fractures. This isn't always an issue with your customer service team, either. It could be a certain feature or integration that consistently causes confusion. Customer intelligence like this allows businesses to rectify those specific experiences. Example solutions include:

  • Adding tooltips in-platform

  • Amending user onboarding

  • Identifying areas where additional support would be useful, like integration troubleshooting

These insights can even be used to inform your product roadmap as you uncover features that are more well-received or used differently than you projected, or even collect new feature suggestions.

Compounding Benefits of a Digital Support Center

First, audit your supporting documentation. Once you've compiled all of your existing materials, separate them into internal and external categories. The external category contains customer-facing, self-serve materials. The internal category is documentation that you want to retain within your organization, but should still be accessible to your agents.

Then, consider how you can make these materials as easily available to their audience as possible. Site search is a popular solution because it allows businesses to maximize their existing assets in a low-lift, high-impact way. That said, consider your site search solution provider carefully.

Finally, make sure that your solution also provides analytics to support gathering customer intelligence. Take a proactive approach by heading off friction in the customer experience everywhere possible.

What Features To Look For In Support Search Solutions

Here are 5 features you should look for in your support search provider to get the best insights possible and turn your support center into an intelligence hub:

1. Search analytics

At its most basic, your provider should let you see what pages and search terms are surfacing in customer searches. To inform your support center's content strategy, it's critical for you to see what searches are returning no results. That way, you can create relevant pages or investigate why appropriate existing content is not surfacing. But if your provider's underlying search technology is subpar, the value is limited.

Ideally, your search analytics should show you exactly what questions your customers are asking along with the specific results they receive, so you can better understand how to improve their experience.

This is also a unique opportunity to use this intelligence to anticipate customer intent. When your search solution not only records but also analyzes historical search data, you can recommend resources to new users based on what has been most helpful for past users.

2. Inclusive, dynamic search results

If you include any kind of documentation on your help site – such as troubleshooting or API documentation – you will want to ask your search provider if document search is a feature they offer. This search experience is powered by extractive QA and allows the search engine to also reference long-form, unstructured content. This is a massive advantage for your support agents in particular, saving them time from manually scanning through resources.

For your customers, you should also consider features powered by machine learning and AI, such as dynamic re-ranking. Dynamic re-ranking is powered by a machine learning model that learns which answers are most helpful for customers, and promotes them accordingly. This saves your customers from spending time and energy sifting through multiple search results.

As an added bonus, you'll gain insights into which support resources are most helpful to your customers.

3. Search term clustering

It's important that your site search solution allows you to see both individual searches and popular searches. Search term clustering empowers businesses to see what topics are trending and may need attention, providing valuable insights into the customer experience.

The machine learning behind search term analysis 'clusters' groups of terms together so that you can understand trends in your help center's searches at scale. For example, a bank's searches for queries like "when is Bank X's Mission Hill branch open?" and "Bank X Mission Hill hours" could be overlooked individually if they surface only a few times, but when grouped it's clear that users want to know when the bank's Mission Hill branch is open. You can then ensure that the appropriate page is created.

4. Semantic search and understanding

Semantic text search can understand what users are searching for, even when they don't all use the same language. Your search technology should understand that "How do I track my order?" asks the same question as "Where is my package?" even though the queries use different words. Understanding that these kinds of queries mean the same thing is critical to grouping and gathering intelligence at scale.

5. A knowledge graph

How you store your data is the foundation of your site's natural language search experience. But data is unique to each organization, and it can feel daunting when you realize how much of it you really have.

Even worse: information changes. Not only do you need to store your data, you need to organize it, and keep it up to date. As your digital support center grows and your content evolves, you'll realize how difficult it can be to maintain a knowledge management system.

By storing your business' data on a knowledge graph, you can easily manage, track, analyze, and update your data. It integrates seamlessly with your search experience, improves the quality of the results returned, and provides valuable insights into your customers' support needs.

AI-powered search experiences combined with strong analytics will tell you exactly what your online customers are looking for — and whether they're currently able to find it on your help site.

By analyzing search queries, you can quickly find recurring scenarios where the customer journey may veer from the "happy path." You can use that information to review and optimize the digital interactions your customers are having with your brand.

An added bonus? You can also use this information to create support resources for your customers throughout their journey. As a result of this targeted, personalized experience, you can expect better CX metrics with fewer outreaches to your support team. It also gives your customers the self-service options they desire.

While traditional customer feedback in the form of surveys is useful, the indirect customer feedback from searches on your digital support center enables you to see what your customers want, whether their queries return results, and even whether or not they are satisfied.

With a great search provider, your support center transforms into an oasis of customer insights, available at scale with minimal effort from you.

Learn more about the true value of a CX investment in our recent infographic.

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