Stellar customer support is incredibly important. If your company isn't able to solve the problems your audience faces in an efficient manner, you'll quickly develop a bad reputation, experience churn, and lose revenue.
Fortunately, all of this can be avoided by implementing asynchronous communication into your customer support workflows.
Keep reading to learn what asynchronous communication is, why it's important, and how to use this form of communication to better serve your audience. By the end of the article, you'll have the knowledge you need to become a rockstar customer support specialist.
Let's get started!
What is Asynchronous Communication?
The technical definition of asynchronous communication is:
"The transmission of data, generally without the use of an external clock signal, where data can be transmitted intermittently rather than in a steady stream."
In other words, async communication happens when two or more people exchange messages without expecting immediate responses in return. When it comes to customer support, email, text messages, and website support forms are common asynchronous channels.
Synchronous communication, on the other hand, is any form of communication that happens in real time. Phone calls and live website chat both qualify.
Asynchronous communication, while advantageous in many ways, isn't necessarily better than synchronous communication. In fact, many companies should consider using both support channels to serve customers.
Benefits of Asynchronous Communication For Customer Support
Asynchronous communication can be quite beneficial — for both companies and customers. Here are three distinct benefits associated with this form of communication:
1. Gives the Customer Control
Your customers are busy people. As such, they probably don't have time to call you on the phone or chat with a support representative online. Instead, they'll want to shoot your company a quick question, then read and respond to your reply when it suits them.
The ability to have open-ended conversations is a huge benefit of asynchronous communication. It gives customers the control to receive support the way they want to receive it.
2. Keeps Complete Support Records
Because asynchronous communication does not happen in real time, it's easy to document your interactions with customers. Every email, text, and web query should be safely stored in your customer support software of choice.
Because the details of prior interactions are always at hand, your customers won't have to repeat information to support specialists — a task that quickly grows tiresome.
3. Costs Less Than Synchronous Support
Asynchronous support channels are also more cost effective than their synchronous counterparts, which makes sense when you think about it. If your support team is able to answer customer queries asynchronously, you won't have to hire as many employees.
You can employ a few, top-notch specialists instead, who can bounce from customer to customer, answering their questions as soon as they're able to get to them.
Disadvantages of Asynchronous Communication For Customer Support
Unfortunately, asynchronous communication does have a couple of disadvantages. Here are the two most prominent ones that you need to be aware of:
1. Lack of Human Connection
With asynchronous communication, it's hard, if not impossible, to give truly personalized customer service. This is because customer questions are often responded to by different support specialists, depending on which specialist is currently on the clock.
When support teams are able to engage with customers synchronously, they can better connect with customers on a deeper level and deliver individualized help.
2. Difficult to Resolve Complex Problems
It can also be difficult to resolve complex customer issues via asynchronous communication channels (unless you’re using CloudApp, which we’ll go into detail about below). What if the customer you're attempting to help doesn't state the problem well in their email or text? What if the directions you send back are misinterpreted? Your customer might grow angry waiting for a reply that doesn't fulfill their needs.
When a customer is dealing with a complicated issue, especially if said issue is technical in nature, it's often better to resolve it using a synchronous form of communication.
5 Asynchronous Communication Tips to Improve Your Customer Support Skills
As mentioned previously, one of the keys to great customer support is finding the right balance between asynchronous and synchronous communication. To help you excel at the asynchronous side of the equation, keep these five tips in mind:
1. Know Your Customers
An in-depth knowledge of your unique customer base is absolutely essential, no matter what department you happen to work in. Marketers can't create effective campaigns, sales reps can't close deals, and support teams can't properly assist customers if they don't understand the daily challenges and needs of the people they serve.
As a customer support specialist, ask yourself questions like:
- What's the general makeup of our customers?
- What problems do they face on a regular basis?
- What's their mindset like when they contact us for help?
There are a few easy ways to learn the answers to these questions and others like them. You could, for example, talk to your company's sales and marketing teams who are tasked with keeping detailed customer personas. You could also read through old support tickets and emails to discover more about your customer base.
Deep customer knowledge is the first step towards an effective synchronous support program. Take the time to learn about the audience you serve and develop clear and succinct answers to their most common questions.
2. Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
It may be tempting to invest in a multitude of different asynchronous support channels right away. You might think, "if the goal is to help my customers, I should make sure they can contact me in the ways they prefer." So you set up email, text, Facebook Messenger, and any other channel you can think of. This is a mistake.
It's much better to provide one channel of excellent asynchronous support than it is to provide five mediocre ones. Before you dive into a new channel, master the one(s) you're already using.
At the end of the day, your customers want answers to their questions. That's why they've contacted your support team. They'll much prefer receiving a stellar customer experience through email — even if they think email is stupid and outdated — than a poor customer experience via their favorite channel.
So don't bite off more than you can chew. It's okay to start small and grow your asynchronous support channels in the future, once you've mastered the basics.
3. Set Proper Expectations
Setting proper expectations is vital to a successful asynchronous communication support program. Your customers need to know how quickly they can expect a response from your staff. The quicker the better, of course. But even if your team is small and you can't guarantee a quicker response than 48 hours after initial contact, give your customers a heads-up.
By setting proper customer expectations at the very beginning of the support process, you'll ensure your audience doesn't anticipate immediate responses.
It's also important to set expectations for your support team. If you've promised your customers a response in 24 hours or less, your team needs to know. That way they can hit the deadlines. Additionally, make sure your support reps know how to speak to customers and how to use the technology you've invested in for customer support purposes (more on technology below.)
4. Invest in Asynchronous Customer Support Tools
Obviously, to provide great asynchronous support, you need to invest in the right technology. There are plenty of tools available for this purpose. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Zendesk: Zendesk is probably the most popular support software on the planet. The solution offers just about everything you need to properly assist customers including support ticket, live chat, and call center tools. Companies looking for one piece of software to handle both asynchronous and synchronous communication should definitely consider investing in Zendesk.
- Sparkcentral: Sparkcentral was specifically designed to enable brands to better communicate with their customers asynchronously. It allows companies to seamlessly combine AI with human effort to create highly productive customer support workflows on chat, social, and messaging communication platforms. The result is more productive support reps and happier customers.
- Helpshift: Helpshift aims to help companies unify all of their customer support communication channels. Whether a specific conversation starts on the phone, in an email, or on social media, Helpshift brings all customer data together so that support questions are answered quickly and accurately. The tool also includes AI-powered bots, which provide intelligent customers self-service ability.
- Userlike: Userlike helps brands build an asynchronous customer support program via intuitive chat software that nurtures customers across multiple messaging channels. The software can be customized to reflect your company's unique personality, includes a smart customer profile feature that turns random web visitors into real people, and integrates with other top tools like Zendesk, Helpscout, and Salesforce.
- CloudApp: CloudApp is a visual communication tool that can be used by support teams to make customer communication quicker, clearer, and more personal. We'll discuss CloudApp in greater detail below.
The tools you build your asynchronous customer support program are important. We suggest experimenting with the above solutions to see if they fit your company's needs and workflow.
5. Use a Mixture of Communication Channels
We alluded to it earlier, but it's really important that you provide your customers with both asynchronous and synchronous communication channels. That way they can contact you in the way that suits them and their needs best.
We also suggest empowering your support reps to switch between communication methods when they feel they need to. For example, if a customer's problem is unresolved after several emails, allow them to jump on the phone and call the customer instead.
By finding the right balance between asynchronous and synchronous communication, you'll be able to provide the best customer support to the audience you serve.
CloudApp for Customer Support
CloudApp is a visual communication tool that combines intuitive screen and webcam recording, GIF creation, and image annotation features into one convenient package. In regard to asynchronous communication, support reps can use the tool in a variety of ways:
- Send Personalized Help Messages: Using CloudApp's webcam recording capabilities, customer support reps can reply to email and chat queries with customized video messages. This form of communication is beneficial for support staff because it's much more efficient to speak your mind than it is to type long email replies, and for customers because a video message is much more personal than a standard email.
- Capture Complicated Process Footage: Earlier we said that synchronous communication is often better when attempting to remedy complex problems. This is true — unless you're using CloudApp. With our solution's screen recording feature, you can show customers exactly how to complete complex processes and workflows. Simply turn CloudApp on, complete the process or workflow, and send the recording. So simple!
- Annotate Images For Optimal Clarity: Once more, visuals make the customer support process more efficient by ensuring clarity. Rather than typing out a long, easily misunderstood email to solve a customer's problem, take a screenshot and annotate it with arrows, text boxes, and emojis. Then send the content to your customer. When they can actually see what they need to do, their issues will get fixed much quicker.
CloudApp is a fantastic customer support tool that can help your support team close tickets up to three times faster than before. No wonder well-known brands like Gainsight and Basecamp use CloudApp to better serve their customers.
But while CloudApp has a ton of handy features, we won't charge you an arm and a leg for access to the tool. In fact, you can use it today for free. Sign up and experience the power of CloudApp for yourself!
Asynchronous communication, when implemented correctly, will help you deliver better support to your customers. Fortunately, implementing this form of communication isn't difficult if you just follow the five tips we covered in this article:
- Know Your Customers
- Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
- Set Proper Expectations
- Invest in Asynchronous Customer Support Tools
- Use a Mixture of Communication Channels
And don't forget about CloudApp! If you want access to our top-notch visual communication features for customer support, sign up for your free account today.