A few months after starting the role I am currently in, I started thinking about help and support content. Up until that point in what passes for my career, I had for the most part worked mainly in marketing-related roles. I understood about customer acquisition and retention, customer touchpoints, welcome emails and natural search strategies. I had put together eCRM strategies based on LFV analysis of customer purchasing history, and identified customer segments and turned them into personas: Bob, the middle-aged accountant, married to Lisa, with two kids at university, a man of routine who loved his strong coffee in the morning, but disliked flavoured coffees and Rooibos tea.

As I started looking more and more into help and support content I began to apply the things I had learnt from marketing to what was an essentially an overlooked part of how a company engages with a customer. The situation is changing now, as companies increasingly see the value in this content. Some of my unexplored thinking as follows:

1) Help and support content should form a valid part of a customer retention strategy
2) Help and support content is at best underutilised, and at worst overlooked
3) Companies continue to ignore the real needs of existing customers. Let me create a brief scenario for you:

I buy an item online. That item ties me into a fixed term contract which does not allow me to upgrade to a better proposition for at least a year
I sign up to a newsletter from that company as part of the purchase process
I receive a confirmation email
I receive a delivery confirmation email
I receive the item
I might receive a welcome email within two weeks
Each month I receive a newsletter from you which reminds me and highlights all the new products that I cannot buy because I am entered into a fixed term contract with you

What if we took this same scenario and tweaked a few things here and there as follows:

I buy an item online. That item ties me into a fixed term contract which does not allow me to upgrade to a better proposition for at least a year
I sign up to a newsletter from that company as part of the purchase process
I receive a confirmation email that also contains helpful information that I am likely to need to not only activate the product, but also use some of its functionality as soon as I physically receive it. By doing this, a company is essentially identifying the known problems that a customer is likely to have and pre-empting the customer calling or emailing them about it. I also receive in that email information about that company’s returns policy. The email might also contain a link to an unboxing video that shows me what should be in the box. This not only tries to create a sense of excitement around the product, but it also tries to manage the experience of waiting until it arrives
I receive a delivery confirmation email that also contains helpful information which lets me know where I should go should I have problems with that product or who I should ring
I receive the item
I receive a welcome email within 24 hours of receiving the product. The email thanks me for purchasing the product. The email contains a survey asking me to provide feedback on my experience to date.
I receive a follow-up email ten days after receiving the item, which contains information reminding me that I only have a few days left should I wish to return the item. If I’m going to return it, make it the easiest returns process around. Just because I don’t like a product doesn’t mean I don’t like the company, and if you make it an easy process, I’m likely to remember that as a positive thing. This email also contains pictures of some accessories that are relevant to the product I have just purchased. It is well known that someone who has purchased recently has a greater propensity to repurchase. It is also well know that I am far more likely to recommend a product or a service to a friend within 24 – 48 hours of that initial purchase.
Over the coming months, I receive a monthly newsletter that contains information about the product I have bought and its features. Whilst I am likely to base a purchase decision on a product that is functionally rich, once I have purchased that product the likelihood is that I will continue to only use the same functionality I have always used. This presents a huge and unexploited opportunity for companies to build up the knowledge a customer has in a product, and even beyond that product to how it can be used in conjunction with other products to create a secondary more fulfilling and enriching experience.
Within three months of the contract coming to an end, the customer begins to receive information about some of the products they could be eligible to purchase. In addition, they are introduced to their nearest stores and perhaps a specific renewal event is created that combines both a physical and emotional experience.

The opportunity exists for all companies to utilise their help and support content. The above are simply some observations and ideas about how to do that in a meaningful and relevant way that places the needs of the customer first and foremost.

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