At Freshdesk, we often compare working in support to being part of a pit crew. If you don’t work in congruence with your team, you can’t deliver the kind of service that makes the winning difference.
The pit crew advantage
But it’s not every support team that enjoys the benefits of a collaborative culture. In many cases, organizations struggle to find the right initiatives to enable teamwork, without diminishing the importance of individual performance.
In the course of scaling our support from a team of 1 employee to 60 in 6 years, we’ve put in place a few practices that helped us foster a collaborative culture among highly-motivated individual stakeholders.
1: Convening teams to further personal productivity
The performance of a support representative is usually analyzed by the measurement of individual metrics. Number of tickets resolved, time taken to resolve them, customer satisfaction ratings on tickets – these are the important parameters that a support agent must excel at to ensure good service.
Because of this, performing well in a support role involves a lot of focused individual work – knocking off one complaint after the other from the day’s agenda.
Stop thinking; it’s distracting me
However, if members of the support team were to pool their knowledge in some way, agent performance and quality of service could potentially improve by a significant margin.
For example, if one agent encountered a new type of complaint that required a complicated workaround to solve and shared that information, it could minimize the time required for another agent who might need to tackle a similar problem later on. Or if a new agent knew who the in-house experts were for each category of problem, they could find answers and solutions for customers much more quickly.
To enable this kind of collaboration in your support team, you can try organizing members into smaller groups, with directives to help each other do better. In our support team, we have 5-person groups – 1 mentor, 2 relatively more experienced agents, and 2 relatively less experienced agents. The mentor acts as the go-to person for other members in the group when they seek help, advice or feedback. Each week, the group meets to go over every agent’s performance and identifies areas of improvement for the next week. In this way, mentor groups provide a platform for constructive, actionable feedback for the agent without any time being wasted.
Coming from a group that is meant to help you, feedback becomes non-evaluative and therefore much more potent in improving performance. The level of base knowledge improves for every agent in the group as they spend more time working closely with experienced agents, as well as support reps with fresher perspectives.
By creating teams meant to further individual performance, a culture of collaboration can be introduced as a background process that works its magic over the long term once it’s been initiated. While speed, efficiency, knowledge and expertise rise in your support team, each support agent also becomes individually motivated and driven towards further professional growth.
2: Enabling dialogue between teams across the organization
In many cases, support requests often require input from multiple teams for resolution. A simple product replacement request, for example, could involve third-party delivery services as well as the Finance and QA departments, in addition to the customer support team. This is an area where collaborative work plays a direct and crucial role in agent performance and quality of customer service.
However, even though this is a common scenario, collaboration between departments does not always happen smoothly or efficiently. Support representatives often feel that they have to repeatedly remind external teams (to the point of nagging) to follow up on customer complaints. Delays are often inevitable, and no party has full visibility into progress on the ticket when it is with another team.
Coordinating with teams shouldn’t be this hard
In such circumstances, enabling dialogue between teams across the organization can take out two birds with one stone. When all the parties involved begin to gain a better understanding of each other’s circumstances, the walls begin to come down and silos can finally vanish. What’s more, your customers also benefit because of speedy and sound support – the kind that doesn’t keep them waiting in the assembly line.
To do this, we started with multiple groups on Hipchat, Hangouts, Slack and Workplace to facilitate these communications. Our agents now had a single place to check for each team’s updates everyday, and important information was relayed to everyone. We also organized regular meetings with Sales, Customer Success Management and core product teams. This helped us better align our collective goals and made the process of collaboration easier.
Although these online communication channels did get the job done, it wasn’t the efficient setup we wanted. Information was still scattered in different places, with no unified record of communications. Agents were still wasting time switching between tabs and finding the right conversations.
Fortunately for us, we could build all the workflows we needed to enable better ways to collaborate on support right within Freshdesk. Today, our support team uses Team Huddle, an internal chat tool, to discuss tickets or specific parts of tickets with teammates right from the ticket page. We also have other collaboration features that were game-changers for the way we did our customer support, such as Parent-child Ticketing, Shared Ownership and Linked Tickets.
3: Investing agents in larger projects for refining the customer support process
In the course of the job, your support representatives likely come across many ways in which the overall support process could be improved. Agents are in a unique position to identify these gaps but, because working on these larger revamps is not a one-man job, ideas for improvement often end up leading nowhere. Agents may find ways to work around these systemic obstacles, but your support team’s growth could be affected in the meantime.
Ticket deflection, for example, is currently an important objective for our support team here at Freshdesk. Knowledge base articles provide a self-service support option for customers and play a significant role in reducing our ticket volume. So when one of our support agents wanted to collate all customer feedback received on knowledge base articles in order to make them more useful to users, the initiative was welcomed and supported.
Projects like these are golden opportunities to promote collaborative culture and motivate support representatives to contribute more to your organization. Rather than limiting agents to just the answering of customer queries, they should be empowered so that they can take the initiative on such projects and have an investment in the workings of your company’s support.
In fact, all our support representatives are encouraged to take up these long-term projects and form groups to work on them. This gives support agents, who usually only collaborate on tickets, a chance to work with their teammates in ways they might not have otherwise. It’s only when teammates work on projects together that different working styles, opinions and concerns emerge. When a team learns how to resolve all of those complexities and produce great results – that’s when they realize their true potential.
Creating a culture of teamwork, where support representatives are encouraged to collaborate across functions and share knowledge and expertise, helps to both improve your support process and motivate your agents.
What are the some of the practices you follow to foster teamwork or drive performance in your team? Let us know in the comments section below!