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Many businesses aren't clear as to what good digital support entails, with only vague notions about lowering costs and improving customer experience. Their focus is instead on implementing a platform that gives them the best return on investment, which is measured in money (and time) saved.

These businesses often also make the mistake of introducing digital support platforms—such as self-service, real-time chat, online communities and social networks—as discrete standalone projects even when part of a larger campaign. They also tend to prioritize budget and execution methods rather than customer experience and outcomes. While the former strategy can save a little money now, the latter will be what defines a support platform's long-term success.

Improving Existing Channels

Once digital support channels are already in place, how can you make sure your channels are doing what they should? Unfortunately, the answer to that is usually followed by two more, often misguided questions: “What's the next new thing?” and “How do we achieve the expected return on investment?”

Of course, that first one is attractive to tech sector executives, as innovation is the lifeblood of the field. Staying ahead of the curve is always a good thing, but focusing on this approach can get a company bogged down with ineffective gimmicks. Instead, the best strategy is to reframe the second question as the following: “How do we improve on the return we're already getting from our investment in digital support channels?”

Finally, you should add a third, often-overlooked question into the mix: “How can we make our online investments work together better in a way that benefits both the company and our customers?”

Who Can You Count On?

Digital support channels are usually under-optimized because the wrong set of resources are employed to maintain them. So, which is the best choice for the job?

Platform Vendors

The platform vendor was there for its launch and will offer ongoing platform support. In some instances where their pay relates to results, such as usage and user ratings, they will remain deeply involved. In that case, a platform vendor may indeed be dedicated to continuous optimization of the product.

In-House Teams

The digital channel's implementation team typically treats this as a project, and will have a point of departure. Their responsibility is in making sure the channel works out of the gate and perhaps in its early stages.

Unfortunately, front line teams responsible for maintaining digital support channels are not usually recruited for the job. The key to optimization is to hire people with the right communication skills, for example:

  • Multitaskers with concise writing ability work well for chat.
  • Self-service channels need consumer-friendly layout and easily understood technical writing.
  • Mature agents understand the risks associated with social networks.
  • Employees with strong relationship development and community management skills are the best choice for forums.

Training that focuses on product knowledge and company processes to the exclusion of communication skills won't work for digital support channels.


An outsourcer that specializes in digital support channels is a great option. Since this focus is the outsourcer's business, rather than a side project, you'll benefit from a wide breadth of experience and specialty knowledge.

Integrating Digital Support Channels

By integrating digital support channels rather than treating them as isolated “pillars,” you'll be giving your customers a seamless user experience. The best strategy for this is to guide customers to the channel that both aligns with their preferences and suits their needs. While your support channels should work together, switching back and forth between them can cause customers frustration.

Customer Self-Service

Self-service is best for answering simple questions about common issues. Customers typically arrive at these pages through a text search, whether through a search engine or your company's website. It's very important to make self-service materials indexable and keyword rich, but it's vitally important that customers can easily understand and follow the assistance provided when they land.

Social Networks

While marketing is likely the main focus of your company's social media presence, it can also be a great resource for offering digital support. Through these outlets, you can both answer individual user questions and highlight your other digital support channels.

Web Communities

Although community members themselves create the majority of helpful content in healthy forums, that doesn't mean you can ignore community management. Be sure your moderation team cultivates a safe, helpful environment for members. Also, be ready to step in when a user issue can't be resolved by their peers.

Web communities are good for answering simple questions, as well as those that need additional experience.

Chat Support

Users with tougher questions needing immediate attention are best directed to real-time chat support. Agents help users while they're on your website, and can direct them to where helpful resources are available for the customer's current or future need. This is also the digital support channel of choice when privacy is an issue.

Taking Your Support Channel to the Next Level

Instead of viewing digital support channels as individual silos, start thinking of them as parts in an interdependent ecosystem. Make sure it's one that efficiently guides customers to the correct channel the first time rather than forcing them to hop from one to another. The best digital support strategy is one that focuses on a positive customer experience.

When optimizing your company's digital support channels, consider how an experienced outsourcer can help. With years of experience in a variety of different sectors, SYKES specializes in providing a great customer experience time and time again.

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Nick Sellers

About Author Nick Sellers

Nick Sellers is responsible for SYKES’ strategic product development and has helped leading technology, internet and consumer brands achieve better customer-facing program outcomes, often with fewer resources and at lower cost. Customer experience in digital channels is a current high focus area. Connect with Nick on LinkedIn.