Web3’s Customer Support Problem

Web2 companies changed the customer experience game. UBER gave us on-demand rides. Airbnb gave us flawless lodging experiences. Amazon gave us same-day delivery. And Spotify put the history of recorded music in our pockets.

Web2 companies changed the customer experience game.

UBER gave us on-demand rides.

Airbnb gave us flawless lodging experiences.

Amazon gave us same-day delivery.

And Spotify put the history of recorded music in our pockets.

Fueled by venture capital funding and a ‘growth now, profit later’ mandate,cash-rich web2 companies bent over backwards to acquire, retain, and grow their customer base. They sought little more than to improve their north star metric — annual recurring revenue (ARR), even if it meant buying it.

But a byproduct of this untraditional approach to growth was heightened customer service expectations.

It wasn’t enough to just acquire customers — they needed to be retained, and preferably, turned into advocates who would tell their friends and colleagues about said company’s product.

The Web2 Customer Experience

Web2 user experience has since become characterized by factors such as:

  • On-demand everything
  • Magical user experiences
  • Money-back guarantees and credit policies
  • Rating systems and transparency, disincentivizing good behavior, whilst disincentivizing and weeding out bad players over time
  • Constant and often opaque customer experience surveying and experience optimization
  • In-app one-touch credit card payment
  • Algorithm-driven recommendations
  • Real-time 24/7 chat support
  • Comprehensive and intuitive online self-service support libraries
  • No sign-up or cancelation fees

Most successful web2 companies know all too well that nearly three-quarters of consumers (74%) say they would stop doing business with a company if they received poor customer support or had a bad experience, and 30% would share it online.

Netflix

Contrast a web2 company like Netflix with their traditional adversaries — cable TV providers.

Cable TV typically required the installation of a clunky set-top box, sign-up fees, comparatively high subscription fees, and expensive cancelation fees for early termination.

Netflix required none of this — just a flat $10 monthly fee. You could sign up and instantly be watching the latest season of Cobra Kai on your television, smartphone, tablet, or computer in no time.

You’d get tailor-made content recommendations, too.

AirBnB

Airbnb’s founders, Brain Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk, put customer experience at the centre of their business and it seems to have worked, with the trio now presiding over a US$100 billion company.

But in the early days, the trio were known to ‘mystery shop’. They’d book random locations on their platform in order to walk in the customer’s shoes, evaluate said hosts themselves, and identify improvement opportunities. These learnings would later be incorporated into their hosting policies and reliability standards.

The company also rolled out insurance to give hosts and guest alike peace of mind.

And if you needed support, there was no need to sit on hold for over an hour, only to be transferred to another department before the line dropped out.

If a matter couldn’t be resolved immediately, you would be placed into a queue and either emailed or called back promptly with resolution advice.

Yes, web2 companies changed our expectations of customer experience, particularly customer support.

But as the world slowly but surely evolves into the web3 space, it seems that we are in many respects reverting back to lousy customer experience standards we took for granted before web2 companies came along.

What Customers Want

A 2018 PwC study found that convenience and efficiency, friendly service, knowledgable service, personalization, user experience, and a seamless and intuitive mobile experience were among the key factors that people value most in their customer experience.

Ignoring web3’s pervasive scammer problem, web3 offerings tend to lag far behind their web2 counterparts when it comes to efficiency, user experience, and personalization.

The Web3 Customer Support Process

Case in point, The Sandbox metaverse owner Animoca Brands recently completed a US$358 million capital raise at a US$5 billion valuation. And the company could do a lot worse than to invest some of that money into its customer experience insofar as client support is concerned.

Looking for help? You’ll find this support page, directing you to The Sandbox’s Discord server.

Discord servers seem to have become the defacto customer support standard for web3 companies. Ignoring the fact that web3 Discord servers are full of scammers, the medium is hardly optimal from a customer support perspective.

Here’s what usually happens when you join a popular Discord server asking for help.

  1. You verify your identity (noobs might falter at this point because they have unwittingly got direct messages turned off, and this is central to the verification process)
  2. You head over to a #help channel and ask your question.
  3. You either:

a) Wait for an indefinite amount of time

b) Have your question answered promptly (unlikely)

c) Have your question swamped by a boatload of other people asking questions, and left unanswered (more likely)

d) Have your question answered slowly, but lost in the infinite scrolling up you have to do to find it after you’ve logged back in (most likely)

While you might get prompt support in smaller decentralized communities, the likelihood of scenarios B and C playing out increases as the popularity of an organization increases.

This has been my experience with other well-heeled companies, such as NFT marketplaces OpenSea (valued at over US$13 billion) and its rival LooksRare (fully-diluted market cap of over US$3.7 billion). Admittedly, the former is more web 2.5 but web3, but let’s not get caught up with semantics.

Web3’s Customer Support Opportunity

AirBnB is spending a staggering 17% of revenue on operations and support.

It defines this as “personnel-related expenses and third-party service provider fees associated with community support provided via phone, email, and chat to hosts and guests; customer relations costs, which include refunds and credits related to customer satisfaction and expenses associated with our host protection programs”.

Yes, every company or organization is different with its own business model and unique demands insofar as customer support is concerned.

However, based on my experiences and those of my colleagues and associates in the space, it is clear that web2 organizations should be spending more on providing better and less frustrating customer support to their customers, who for the most part are still early adopters and could become evangelists.

While the following recommendations might be no-brainers, they must be stressed.

Web2 organizations should consider:

  1. Invest in more customer support staff to man Discord so that questions don’t get lose in the ether
  2. Introduce a queue mechanism to ensure all questions get answered and customers don’t have to sit on Discord for an indefinite amount of time waiting for answers
  3. Consider introducing a web-based ticketing system, as MetaMask has done — this could be in addition to or in place of Discord which leaves people susceptible to scammers
  4. Consider introducing web-based chatbots — human and/or AI-driven
  5. Publish comprehensive and intuitive FAQs
  6. Introduce a call center to help with specific inquiries that can’t be resolved through the above mechanisms

And last but not least, treat every customer as a potential evangelist.

At this early stage of web3’s evolution, organizations that provide their customers with a seamless experience will have an edge over their competitors.

This is especially true as more and more not-so-crypto native folks with tons of inevitable questions find their way to the cryptoverse.

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