How to Keep your Support Team Agile Despite Growth

Written by on September 16, 2018

Speed is of the essence when it comes to customer support. Steve Benjamins, owner of sitebuilderreport.com, decided to test out how quickly companies can respond to tickets. He personally emailed 52 companies which were of differing sizes and members of various industries and tallied up the results. He came up with one startling insight:

This was astonishing, seeing that these larger companies were often those that have a dedicated and well-staffed support team. Steve postulated that this could be because it was an email. And no one really expects an instant reply with email – that’s what live chat, Twitter, and the phone are for. Plus, speed of reply to a support email is no reliable qualifier of quality.

As your company scales, you need to be prepared so that your support team doesn’t make the same mistakes which these companies did. Here is how you can keep your company agile even as you grow.

Build Your Support Model Around Your Customer

Companies exist to serve customers. When you are small, the distance between you and the customer is minimal. It feels like the neighbourhood grocery store where you know every single detail about the customer and you would go the extra mile to make sure they were happy. As the company grows, the number of customers increase and your team size increases. And as you go through tackling one challenge after another, you tend to put in temporary fixes to help you scale. Often though, these temporary fixes become permanent solutions and they are rarely reviewed to see if they are sustainable.

So how do you go about scaling your company without compromising on quality customer service? Start with a review of each decision you have taken in the past few years and ask whether it can be improved. Check with your team about any new ideas and processes being implemented and make sure you remove the solutions that aren’t working anymore.

Pro tip: A good ground rule is whenever you add a new process, remove one. This could be one which is either outdated, or simply one which can be replaced by something better.

If your support model isn’t built around the customer, it’ll end up being a source of frustration rather than satisfaction. For instance, some businesses have started supporting customers over the weekend by having a distributed team. By having reps in different time zones, you make sure that the entire week is covered.

Our support team, on the other hand, is almost wholly based out of Chennai, India, which means we had to work out something else for the weekends. We came up with a system where our employees take turns being in office on these days. This ensures our customers are always able to reach us for queries.

Put Technology to Use

Gone are the days where the only mode of customer support available was the telephone or emails. Now with channels like social media or live chat necessitating immediate responses, your team needs to be up to date. You can use technology in a multitude of ways to improve things for your users. For example, here are two things you can do right—

  1. Analytics: Figure out what your customers prefer by looking at past data like customer satisfaction surveys and reports. You can also gain insights from this which can help you on the marketing side as well.
  2. Self-service: A lot of customers would appreciate having something which can provide solutions to commonly seen queries instantaneously. This could be in the form of an FAQ page or a customer forum where your customers can speak to others with similar problems and find solutions.

All Employees Should Spend Some Time In Customer Service

The biggest threat to your company is forgetting the customer. The easiest way of wiring this into your company’s system is making every employee spend some time with your customers. This creates social connections with customers. You should ensure that your employees try to understand your customer’s concerns, and solve their issues.

This will lead to a host of benefits. For one thing, your entire company will have to learn the smallest details about your product to solve queries from customers. This works as a great educational tool to train your employees to know not just the needs of your customers but also your product. Your employees will also learn the value of empathy and be more considerate of not just the customers, but also the rest of their co-workers.

Inter and Intra Team Communication is Vital

One of the major faults faced by larger support teams is ensuring smooth shift transitions between different shifts and office locations. The handing off of customer support queries from one team to another can often face multiple hitches. Whether it is because you’re in varying time zones, speak different languages, or belong to different cultures or regions, or due to miscommunication, this sort of communication hurdle can wreak havoc on the level of satisfaction your customer gets. And this is all the more true as your company grows in size and scope.

To prevent these kinds of issues, there are a few steps you can take. Firstly, introduce an open door policy. Ensure that your employees can come to their managers with any trouble they might have and reduce the levels of authority they have to wade through to get what they might need. The tools your team uses for communication are also important. You should find tools which are easy to use, have the features you need, and are easily integrated into your existing processes. These should also be monitored to make sure that they don’t become cluttered and that they are up to date. Lastly, defining the tasks and roles of an employee to ensure that each individual can take responsibility for their actions will go a long way in improving a team’s overall strength.

Let your Support Team be Heard

There are numerous factors which you have to deal with while making company decisions. With so many, you might forget to regard the opinions of your customer support team and thus miss out on valuable insights as to improving both the product and the support provided. To understand how your company can service your customers better, you need to talk to your support team and understand what they require to help your customers. Whether it is smooth running software, better hardware, or improved team communication tools, you have to let your support team tell you what they need so that you can fix it.

For example, Netflix’s customer support team had to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out if there was indeed a glitch at a particular duration of time of a video or why a video wouldn’t play in 4k. But when they brought this issue up, the engineering team came up with a fix to automate the process called analyzers to answer common troubleshooting questions, thus saving the support team a lot of hassle. This is a great case of coordination between teams.

Use Empathetic Automation For Repetitive Tasks

Your support team’s time is valuable. Having them spend a significant portion of their day on tasks which can easily be automated is a waste of time. There are tasks that do not require human effort and can save time with the use of automation.  These are:

  1. Routing new tickets. By categorizing a ticket based on factors like urgency and response time, one can focus on the tickets which need assistance the most.
  2. Providing mobile support 24/7. The advent of technology has made it easier than ever for your support team to provide uninterrupted and hassle free service. This can be done through multiple devices and methods. Applications and instantaneous chats can utilized to make sure your customer can reach you through a variety of methods, and to make them feel acknowledged with instantaneous automated replies.
  3. Using a dashboard to help you track your tickets. It will help you stay organized and solve problems faster for your customer thanks to you being more efficient. Whether it is your agent being able to see how many tickets are there, the types of tickets present, or the time a ticket came in, they can prioritize and work as needed.

To conclude, when your company is growing in size, you may forget to focus on your customer support and this will prove adverse as time passes. To conclude, ensure that you keep your ideas and processes up to date, and always consider the opinions and needs of your support team.

Any other ideas for a company to remain agile even as it expands in size? Let us know in the comments below.

Note: This article was co-authored by Sudharshan Karthik, a product manager of Freshdesk.

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