Redefining Support #4: Customer Support is Everybody’s Business

Written by on April 13, 2017

Congratulations on making it to the last post in our Redefining Support series! We know it hasn’t been easy, challenging every assumption that’s built up over time about providing support. On the other hand, if you just landed here and haven’t been through these revelations, here’s a quick recap to get you up to speed.

We started off on how the most support models across the world today are broken and leave room for a lot of frustration to develop. In this model, no one agent follows complaints through to resolution, and customers have to talk to every touchpoint they’re put through to, one by one. Without full context, reps are often unable to provide tailored support or let customers know they care about how the problem is affecting their lives. It is often ridiculously hard to coordinate, communicate and collaborate across functions to resolve complaints, putting both customer and business at a disadvantage.

We also talked a little about how these pitfalls only arise because the support model is optimised for clarity of internal process, which is in truth only a secondary goal we try to achieve with support. If the model were to be centred around the primary purpose of customer support, which is to make people happy, we can escape these pitfalls and achieve greater heights in the customer experience. We discussed the emerging technology trends that might help us redefine and restructure support to this end.

Yup, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Our work here is incomplete, however, without these last parting words:

Customer support is everybody’s business

 

What a strange thing to say!

We think that to truly redefine support and unlock a support model optimized for people, businesses need to embody the idea that customer support is everybody’s business and pursue cross-functional collaboration on support.

What do you mean by ‘customer support is everybody’s business’?

 

 

  • Support affects everyone in an organization, without exception

That customers feel valued and supported for doing business with you matters fundamentally to the success of any organization. In three years, customer experience is predicted to be more important than price when it comes to making buying decisions (Walker), and it is the business of every department and team to ensure that their brand provides the best support experience possible.

  • It is fundamentally a cross-functional, collaborative effort

But what role could other teams possibly play in helping provide the best support experience? Don’t businesses have a team dedicated to that?

Support is often treated as a function that can be performed in silos, even though support is quite fundamentally a cross-functional, collaborative effort. Every time a customer places a return request with an e-commerce company, their support team has to work with delivery and pick-up partners and Finance, while corresponding with the customer to ensure that there is no loss of trust behind the returned product. Other teams very often do have some role in support, but collaborating on support is often so complicated that you never open that can of worms to set it right. We hope that, with this last post in the Redefining Support series, you’ll see why it’s essential that you do.

  • Customer support informs and improves every business function

There might be some functions that are not roped into support as often as others. However, customer support is everybody’s business in that support can inform and improve every single function in your organization, one way or another.

The problems that your customers are having with your product or service can indicate to your core team what capabilities they need to be building or improving upon. Support tickets can inform your marketing team what kind of customer communications could add real value. CX gets better because of these informed initiatives, as well as because people see that your brand pays attention to user feedback and takes the time to understand their problems. Every wing and function in your business is directly affected by and has something to learn from support interactions.

Be sure to go over to our section on All Hands Support to learn more about how various departments in your organization can benefit from participating in support.

What can I get out of collaborative support?

 

Customer support is everybody’s business, and good support is good business

  • The advantage in customer experience

When you start facilitating collaboration in support, you can produce a customer experience that is smiles ahead of today’s standards.

Without collaborative workflows in support, tickets get reassigned between various teams in what can only be described as a game of ping-pong. At each point, the customer talks to a different agent and the original support rep seems nowhere to be found, even though they promised to personally take care of the issue. Building relationships this way is next to impossible, because the customer can easily feel the lack of ownership: something that translates into lack of concern.

A collaborative model means freedom from the 5 grave pitfalls of today’s support models which are the main causes for customer frustration: customers will not have to exert undue effort to get help as they’re passed between agents in an assembly line or escalation process. They won’t have to take the brunt of non-collaborative support and feel ‘trapped in a ticket’. It also means that the respective teams involved can more easily take learnings back to the drawing board, closing the loop on customer feedback in support. This is an activity that ultimately factors back into a better experience for the customer.

Businesses are fast realizing the strain that present non-collaborative support causes; an increasing number of them are now measuring metrics like customer effort scores as a true indicator of customer satisfaction (TSIA). As a more progressive understanding of support gains popularity, standards in CX are about to blow through the roof, and you want the competitive edge.

collaboration

To collaborate, or not to collaborate: that is the question

  • Improved helpdesk performance

With workflows that enable collaboration in support across teams, departments and offices, you’re going to see a significant improvement in helpdesk performance.

Instead of messy processes in which support agents have to spend time corresponding with other teams over different channels, collaborative workflows such as those enabled by helpdesk features like Shared Ownership can help the involved parties communicate with each other easily on the relevant tickets. Reassignments and confusion can be avoided with collaborative features such as Parent-child Ticketing enabling different teams to work concurrently on their respective tasks in a ticket.

With workflows to minimize escalations, transfers and internal back-and-forth, tickets can be resolved much more efficiently. With collaborative support models, resolution times have recorded as much as a 32% decrease, and customer satisfaction has reached 4.48 out of 5 (TSIA).

  • Empowered and driven employees

With a collaboration-friendly support model, it’s not only cross-functional knowledge-sharing that is enabled, but also internal knowledge-sharing within support teams.

Most organizations have several tiers in support based on expertise, through which complaints are escalated, as a result of which mobility between tiers is not high. With a collaborative support structure in which multiple employees of diverse expertise work together on problems, knowledge-sharing is enabled intra-team, giving way to a much more skilled and inspired team.

Keeping your workforce skilled, educated and motivated goes a long way in setting yourself up for success with your customers. With collaborative support, both your support team and other functions can become empowered to do more.

How can I start implementing collaborative support?

  • Make a change in culture and mindset

Collaborating on support across functions can be very hard in most current support structures. However, it can be improved significantly just by starting with a change in mindset about support. The ‘customer support is everybody’s business’ ideology demands a recognition of the relevance of support to every function in your business, and an understanding of support as a cross-functional activity in itself. It takes true commitment to creating a support model optimized for people. Arm yourself with a culture that embodies these ideas, and you can be well on your way towards achieving effective collaboration in support.

  • Improve communication on support

The next step is to try and remove known roadblocks to collaboration. One of the biggest reasons why collaborating on support tickets is so hard today is that communication between the agents involved is difficult and cumbersome. For example, tickets often have to be reassigned back to support even though they’re being worked on by another team because the requester replies with another problem. Once the agent replies to the customer, he has to reassign it again, until which time work on the ticket is likely stalled. It’s essential that businesses move away from the current system and work on improving improving communication on tickets to achieve collaborative support.

  • Adopt better tools and workflows

While making communication easier can help things along, the real solution lies in simplifying collaborative workflows themselves. As depicted in the example discussed earlier, these workflows are often confused and complicated. The task of simplifying collaborative workflows begins from initiatives such as defining roles across teams and refining initial routing, to finding robust tools that enable such simple workflows in your helpdesk. This is the last and most important step in creating a new collaborative support model, because this is the one that can make it truly competent and sustainable over time.

Setting up a system that is conducive to cross-functional collaboration in ideology and action will help you reap the full benefits of a customer support model based on the ‘customer support is everybody’s business’ principle, benefits that businesses cannot afford to underestimate. As businesses compete more and more in terms of customer experience, adopting new and better models of customer support is something to think about today if you want to raise the bar on CX tomorrow rather than just manage to keep up.

At Freshdesk, we think a support model that enables collaboration in support is the way to go. That’s why we’ve been building collaboration capabilities in Freshdesk: check out our fabulous new Shared Ownership, Parent-child Ticketing and Linked Tickets features!

We hope you enjoyed the exercise of Redefining Support: we certainly did. If you like our ideas, be sure and subscribe to the blog below to hear from us regularly!

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