This isn’t a call you’ll want to take, as much as you value your members. That’s because statistically, the bulk of your support requests will represent a failure to deliver the kind of customer experience that your members deserve.
It isn’t a question of your association’s commitment to superior customer service, or the overall quality of your LMS. It means that your platform’s self-service options didn’t provide needed solutions, and your FAQ left your member’s questions unanswered.
That shifts the burden onto your call center or support staff. They’ll try to find a resolution for your clients via phone or email, but even their best efforts mean exposing your customer to yet another potentially disappointing interaction with your association’s CME platform.
According to research, the odds are that after a call to your helpline, your members won’t end up pleased. Client support calls have been shown to be 4x more likely to result in an unhappy customer than a delighted one1.
That’s because today’s empowered consumer is accustomed to finding solutions with a few clicks2. Virtually instant answers are the rule, rather than the exception in e-commerce and online service industries, and your members are unlikely to lower their standards when it comes to their CME. Having to call or email for help to access your association’s CME services isn’t merely an inconvenience, it’s a memorable brand fail3.
That kind of risk shouldn’t be left to chance. Read on to learn how to stop unnecessary support calls before they become inevitable and overwhelming.
How We Approach Support Call Reduction
At Ethos CE, we’ve collected CME management insights from our more than 16 years of partnering with leading medical associations. We’ve discovered three key practices that allow CE coordinators to reduce member support calls without diminishing customer service excellence.
Offering self-service troubleshooting features can be a win-win option for your members and support staff. However, an FAQ rife with jargon, or an encyclopedic (and intimidatingly long) knowledge base can hinder, rather than help your users to quickly access needed information. Avoid the “kitchen sink” approach when developing an FAQ or knowledge base. Make your self-service options comprehensive, yet precise and simple to use.
At the core of every member call for assistance is an unanswered—or misdirected—LMS usability question. Making your LMS more user-friendly means offering learners a well-designed interface and activity management experience that reduces the need for extra wayfinding help.
Providing exceptional learner support isn’t just a matter of handling calls and emails more efficiently. Intuitive, easily accessible help should be embedded within the structure of your LMS, with on-page tips available throughout activities and critical tasks, wherever your members might need assistance.
First, let’s explore the self-service best practices that can transform your association’s member support process.
A Self-Service Primer
The first challenge in creating a support call reduction strategy begins with finding a way to preempt avoidable requests. That means you’ll need to provide self-help choices that are as user-friendly as they are relevant. For many associations, that may entail rethinking the entire structure of your existing member support system. A call or an email from a customer should be the result of a high-complexity problem that truly needs live-support, rather than a self-service design failure.
In developing support solutions for our clients, we’ve found that self-service options most frequently miss the mark for the following reasons:
A breakdown at the self-service level is often only the beginning of a rise in member support call volume. When you manage your own LMS, rather than using a third-party solution such as Ethos CE, you’ll have to be creative in your attempt to stem the tide of new support requests.
That often means working with a hodgepodge of methods that can be challenging to implement all at once. If you’re going it alone, let’s look at some basic options.
(images next to each description)
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
An automated system that permits members to submit a limited range of information requests.
Accessible by phone, requires no web access.
Introductory messages can be dynamically updated, thereby reducing calls regarding system-wide issues.
Best suited to simple problems.
Menu choices must be limited to avoid an overly lengthy call.
Consumers often dislike voice-driven systems that frequently offer generic messaging and are ill-suited to providing customized solutions
Online Knowledge Base
A database of relevant information that users can access easily.
Permits more advanced, self-managed troubleshooting.
Successful implementation requires expert knowledge of database development and maintenance.
Exhaustive documentation can be difficult to navigate for users.
A system permitting customers to submit support requests and receive updates on provider responses.
Presents detailed accounts of consumer needs in their own words.
Can be the cause of further consumer frustration, as response times may vary according to staffing resources and the ability of the consumer to fully articulate the nature of their problem.
An automated, interactive, AI-driven response system.
Provides real-time support based on frequently asked questions.
As a stand-alone option can fail to accommodate multi-faceted requests, or require significant time to do so.
One of your most important tasks in constructing your self-service model is determining which type of support requests necessitate live help, and which can be efficiently handled via self-service.
How We Approach Self-Service Management
As we’ve seen above, each approach offers considerable benefits along with some significant drawbacks. At Ethos CE, we’ve found that although effective self-service management is crucial for the reduction of support requests, no single option works as a stand-alone solution for growing associations—at least not for long.
As your CME subscriber base expands, so will the range and complexity of their support needs. That’s why we provide our clients with multiple self-service resources through the Ethos CE LMS which were designed to address the diverse support challenges CE coordinators face as their programs grow.
Let’s take a more detailed look at what your members will need—and want to avoid—when it comes to LMS assistance.
“73% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service. Use of help or FAQs on a company’s website increased from 67% in 2012 to 81% in 2015 among US online adults. Online forum/community use jumped from 31% in 2012 to 56% in 2015.”— Legget, Kate. Powers, Stephen. Ephraim, Arelai. Harrison, Peter. (2016). “Your Customers Don’t Want To Call You.” Forrester Research.
Self-Service Shouldn’t Be Easy, It Should Be Effortless
Multiple studies4 have shown that for nearly a decade, less than 30% of consumers will call or email your association before first looking for answers online.
That means that most of your members have tried —and failed—to solve their problem on their own using your FAQ, knowledge base, LMS user forums, Google, and any other method that they can find.
The reason? They’re really hoping to avoid making a support call. According to several studies, 75% of consumers say that it takes far too long to connect with a live person and that this, unsurprisingly, is incredibly frustrating.5 More than 57% report having hung up in frustration during the wait at least once, despite needing immediate help.5
It gets worse. For those who stayed on the line, 56% reported that responding agents never answered their original question during their conversation.
That kind of customer service disconnect can be disastrous to your members’ view of the value of your CME program, and ultimately your association.
Research has shown fairly consistently during the past decade that well over 80% of consumers who experienced a single unsatisfactory support experience have abandoned a formerly trusted service or e-commerce website permanently6.
That means that your members are likely to unsubscribe from your service based on their perception of the overall experience, even if their problem was resolved.
What do your members want? According to a recent Microsoft study, more than 90% of customers expect a seamless self-service option; a way to quickly resolve issues on their own without having to reach out to their service provider7.
Researchers found that learners having a positive perception of the convenience, effectiveness, and usefulness of an LMS platform was a crucial and vital prerequisite for LMS success. — Emelyanova, N. & Voronina, E. (2014). Introducing a learning management system at a Russian university: Students’ and teachers’ perceptions. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(1). Athabasca University Press.
Customer-Centric Self-Service Isn’t Enough
Although we’ve seen the importance of a customer-centric self-service process, you’ve also undoubtedly learned from experience that your members require far more than adequate self-help options when using your LMS.
“Delivering great experiences actually reduces the cost to serve customers from what it was previously. Sprint has gone on record as suggesting that as part of their focus on improving the customer experience, they’ve managed to reduce their customer care costs by as much as 33%.”— Kriss, Peter. (2014). “Customer Experience: Quantified.” Harvard Business Review.
The following are the five CME platform components that we’ll examine next. We’re going to look at why they’re often at the heart of rising support call volume and share some actionable insights on long-term solutions.
Learn how to create a seamless login and troubleshooting process.
Discover how to create the experience learners want most.
See why a low-effort payment process is crucial for continued customer engagement and learn how to streamline legacy methods.
User Interface Design
Find out how to design visual walkthroughs that make confusing interfaces less daunting for users.
Look at methods for anticipating and heading off “next issue” support requests.
LOGIN ISSUE #1: COMPLICATED REGISTRATION AND LOGIN MANAGEMENT
“I can’t log in to my account, and I don’t want to reset my password again!”
It happens to everyone. The browser’s “cookies” (saved user data) were somehow deleted and the login form is now blank. There’s a nerve-racking struggle to remember a long-forgotten password, and then the tedious process of resetting it. Sometimes the email that enables an update of login details arrives as much as ten minutes later, and then further frustrates by requiring the creation of a new series of security questions. Other times the forwarding link to select a new password may expire in a minute or two, forcing the user to start the entire process again if they happened to step away from their screen.
These precautions are often necessary, but what if your user merely forgot the password and there was never a security risk to begin with? Banks and social media platforms have developed creative ways of determining risk and keeping consumer data secure while still minimizing pound-on-your-desk inconveniences. Many of those techniques are also available to you.
A login process that adds layers of complexity to simple administrative tasks.
Give members the option to use modern data security procedures to confirm identity. Employ a permission-based security model, using device ID and location data with mobile app syncing to speed up routine login processes when on the go.
LOGIN ISSUE #2: POOR DESIGN
Where did you hide the login and what is this page I’m on?
For medical professionals, extra time is in short supply, and a hassle at login translates as an unnecessary waste of a scarce resource. Consumers are more likely to call for support if their first interaction with your platform leads them to assume that the website is poorly designed overall, and a problematic login process is just the beginning of the hurdles they’ll face. If it’s a challenge just to log in to start an activity, it will be unlikely that they’ll have faith in the accuracy of your FAQ, or be motivated to try out your self-service option.
New users shouldn’t have to scan the page to find the login or feel visually overwhelmed with non-essential information8. Your login page should be task focused and uncluttered with association news, images, and distracting CTAs.
Repeat users should have the option to go directly to pertinent tasks at login, instead of clicking through irrelevant pages or multiple menus to get to the activity that they want to complete.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid special offers, relevant blog posts, and member surveys altogether. Instead, augment user experience by offering members ways to take a break and browse your content by hovering over a small, non-intrusive tab that won’t distract from the task at hand or leave them lost in a maze of material irrelevant to their activity.
A login page that distracts from or slows quick platform entry.
Use member data to segment users according to expected behaviors. Create sections based on the task that they want to complete, and provide login tabs that bring them quickly where they want to go.
Self-Assessment: 3 Questions on Login UI
Does logging in require multiple clicks through an extensive menu?
Can users select from among self-service options according to their needs?
Is there a readily accessible tab for self-service login help?
How We’ve Streamlined LMS Platform Logins
Components of our LMS login solution include:
A simplified, user-friendly user interface
Single Sign-On Technology using OpenID, Shibboleth, WS-Fed, OAuth as needed
A standards-compliant SAML 2.0 option fully integrated with your authentication system
SSO integrations with popular association management systems such as Aptify, Association Anywhere, iMIS, NetForum, Personify and more.
(Link to Ethos CE website)
Activities Management: Optimize Activity Tracking Use Learning Experience (LE) Design Principles Effectively
Your members want immediate access to activity progress reports, supplemental educational resources, and the most rent compliance data. Make this information easy to find and offer the option to save user interface (UI) preferences in a personalizable dashboard.
A visually cluttered back-end UI that distracts from activity management or that requires multiple steps to transition between activities.
Offer a simple way to launch activities, receive relevant updates, and monitor overall progress.
Self-Assessment: 3 Questions on Activities Management
Are my users spending 30 seconds or more looking for activity progress data?
Do my users have to open a system-generated email to receive a personalized activities alert?
If something goes wrong during an activity, is there an on-page help tab with information other than a helpine phone number or email address?
Order Fulfillment: Design a Painless Payment Process
“I’m just trying to pay, why do I have to keep starting over?”
In today’s “mobile first” society, major brands have learned the secret of avoiding shopping cart abandonment: making order fulfillment as painless as possible.
E-commerce features such as the Staples “Easy Button” and Amazon’s “one-click” purchasing option emphasize in their branding how effortless they want the use of their services to be for consumers. The message: “We value your time and want to make the transition from choosing a product to paying for it as frictionless as possible”.
That’s the same message that your payment process should communicate to your members: efficiency, customer-centric design, and intuitive, self-directed trouble-shooting. Fortunately, your association doesn’t have to be a global brand to adopt some of their best practices.
Below are several reasons your payments are causing customer frustration, and what to do about it.
Using traditional order fulfillment methods that can’t adapt to the modern customer’s need for flexible options.
Use feedback data to anticipate common order errors and provide easy to navigate self-service options. Provide an on-page help button that displays an instant “quick” FAQ which uses images and minimal text to display immediate remedies.
3 Reasons Your Members Are Customers Calling
Lack of Intuitive Failed Payment Solutions and Issue Routing Errors
Assure that difficulties in low-complexity tasks like payments can be managed easily by your members. Employing dynamic “in-app” messaging or chatbots to reroute requests like these can help keep your staff from having to intervene when failed payments stall processing. Banks and credit card customer service agencies are adept at solving payment issues when processing problems are on their end. “Please contact your bank” doesn’t require a call. Offer your members intuitive, real-time options in self-managed payments fail.
Poor Payment Follow-Up
A curt “thank you for your purchase” is an open invitation for support call or email when your members have a simple question about a recently processed payment. While outgoing communications should always be clear and succinct, post-payment messaging is not the place to spare details. Always personalize subscription follow up responses according to your member’s account status. Use the body of the email to provide brief, bulleted basic payment information, along with links that will bring them with one click to the right FAQ.
Insufficient Purchase Details
The complexity of many CME directives means that your members will need accurate information on current and anticipated required compliance activities—and how much they will cost. Tie purchasing details to up-to-date information on each learner’s progress. Provide context for each purchase: offer news on changing regulations and the demands these new obligations will make on their time, and finances.
How We Solve the Payment Puzzle
An unpredictable payment process can be a revenue loss leader for your association. We’ve developed payment solutions that adapt organically to the changing needs of platform users, providing seamless order fulfillment as well as immediate online and phone support for more complex processing problems.