How much is bad customer care content costing your business?


Once upon a time, the help section of a large corporate website in New Zealand had a long-running, very bad, Net Promoter Score (NPS). It was the lowest score of all the digital journeys on the website and was dragging the customer satisfaction score for the whole website down with it. The cost to customers was obvious; they couldn’t get the help they needed and were very unhappy about it. There were also costs to the business, but they were hard to identify and calculate.

Unhelpful help content, unhappy people

The terrible customer satisfaction score was a clear indication that people were unhappy. When people don’t get the help needed from digital support content, their unhappiness compounds:

  1. They weren’t happy campers to start with because they had a problem with a product or service. Then they invested their valuable time into finding a solution online and couldn’t.

  2. To make matters worse, they probably wanted to talk to a human but couldn’t find the phone number.

  3. Add that all together and you get, really, unhappy people and a rubbish customer satisfaction score.

Businesses don’t like getting negative customer satisfaction scores for customer self-service content. But it can take a while to figure out what to do about it. The bad score can become a number that’s presented in reports and discussed in meetings. But it’s more than a number – it is an indication of a problem, sometimes multiple issues, that can cause high costs for your business over time.

What’s the real cost of bad content

In my blog so far this year I’ve been tackling the topic of how content adds value to businesses. In January I published Understanding the value of content, and in February 5 ways content strategy adds value to your business. I now want to share some real-life examples of how bad content can eat away at profits by incurring huge cost to the business.

Poor help content and unhappy customers don’t always have an immediate impact on business. However, the longer the problems are left unresolved, the more likely they will affect your business. It can be a bit like a rumbling volcano; you can safely live beneath one for years until suddenly you can’t.

These three real-life examples of the true cost of poor help content to a business come from when I was leading a project to improve the performance of the help section of a large website:

1.Unhappy people look for help in other channels

When people engage with an online help channel, and that channel fails, they will try another channel. And they probably won’t be happy about having to do so. Here’s how this shows up in for a business:

  • They’ll make unnecessary calls to the call centre

  • Unnecessary calls increase volume, wait time, making it hard for support staff to provide the best possible customer service

  • Unhappy people are harder to deal with, handling times increase, and they’re more likely to give a low satisfaction score

  • Call centres are expensive to run. Clogging them up with unnecessary calls is costly and inefficient

  • People will go to retail stores to do things like pay bills or solve problems, which impacts the staff’s ability to sell products. Support training will be needed as well as sales training, which is an additional cost to the business

  • People will go to social channels for help. Sometimes they’ll be very vocal about how unhappy they are, and which must be handled quickly by your well-trained social team before it goes viral

Sometimes businesses are tempted to bring on a new self-service channel – like a BOT or Virtual Assistant thinking this will provide the help people need. Unfortunately, BOTs and VA’s need quality content to function. So, they can end up suffering the same fate as online help content over time if the content isn’t monitored and maintained

People will use all the help channels you provide rather than switching from one to the other. Businesses then find it hard to ‘divert’ people away from a support channel so it can be retired. Managing multiple support channels can be very costly

2. Unhappy customers have a higher propensity to leave (churn)

When working on a help content cleanup project, the Head of Digital and I calculated the potential cost of an unhappy customer. We scribbled the calculation on a scrap piece of paper during a meeting, and it has stuck in my mind ever since.

While this is an informed calculation it remains a hypothetical one. At the time it provided a window into the possible cost of customer churn caused by an experience with poor help content.

Here’s an example of the calculation:

  • Average Revenue Per User (RPU) is $600pa (after cost to serve)

  • 1200 customers with NPS of 3 or less – more likely to churn within 12 months

  • If 35% of the high propensity customers churn within 12 months

  • 420 customers could churn over 12 months

  • 420 customers x RPU$600 = $252,000 potential revenue loss per year

  • 420 customers x cost to acquire customer $300 = $126,000

  • The total potential cost to the business $378,000 per year

3. It’s hard for your people to help when they have poor content

Your people rely on information to help customers. Often this information is in a worse state than the help information customers encounter. Support staff do the best they can with the volumes of data they must access to help customers.

When support staff don’t have access to a single source of truth that’s accurate, up to date, and easy to find, they can’t give customers the right information. And often, the information received from support staff conflicts with information customers find in other channels.

As a result, customers get the wrong information and end up going around in circles. When your people can’t help customers because of poor content it can cost the business in multiple areas.

This real-life example demonstrates this:

  • A customer called a call centre over 30 times in 12 months about a problem

  • The call centre staff gave the customer the information they had about the problem

  • There were several articles about the customer’s issue, but they contained conflicting and incorrect information

  • The information provided didn’t help the customer

  • In the end, he took his issue to a television show that helps consumers get solutions to problems created by businesses

What I’ve learned:

  1. Help content isn’t maintained/created often enough with the customer in mind

  2. Bad help content will affect all your support channels

  3. Getting help content wrong is very costly to your business

In my next blog, I will discuss why help content gets into a mess and how to fix it.

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