Your team is firing on all cylinders and your customers are delighted. How do you take things to the next level?
Guest post by Sarah Chambers, Founder, Supported Content.
You’ve fought the fires. You have the fundamentals in place. Now it’s time to turn your support operation into a world-class, industry-leading powerhouse by getting the absolute maximum out of your people, processes and tools.
First things first: take a moment to appreciate how far you’ve come! When you started in this position, you likely had a million things on your to-do list. It was really easy to spot the low hanging fruit, and make a big impact with relatively few changes. Look back at where you started and appreciate how much work you’ve put in thus far. You’ve done good. (Note to self: it might be time to ask for a raise).
Now, you might be looking around and thinking – what next? There are no immediate fires to put out. It’ll feel like you have more breathing room to think about the next thing. You might notice that when you leave for a week vacation, nothing goes wrong. It can almost feel a little demotivating to see everything ticking along so easily.
But this is the time when the good become great. You likely have more resources at your disposal, so now’s the time to think: what are the things that can really help you stand out from other companies in your field?
Feeling ready to turn it up to 11?
Let’s get started.
Finding fresh new ideas
Before you can get started building the next Zappos, you need to come up with some ideas and experiments to run.
Keep an ongoing repository of new ideas somewhere that you can easily add to. A list on Trello, Evernote or just a notepad on your phone can help provide inspiration for the next big project when you need it. Your job needs to become less about the day to day and more about strategizing for the future.
Don’t just read customer support resources. Read about teamwork and leadership, product management and marketing. Take notes on ideas that pique your interest and generate thoughts about how this would work on your team.
- The Effortless Experience, by Matt Dixon
- Intercom on Customer Support
- Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra
Find webinars from companies that you respect, and search for relevant topics on challenges your team is facing. Write down any takeaways on your list of ideas.
Download podcasts on customer support and listen to them… at work. Try and find one valuable idea or suggestion from each episode.
Find conferences for like-minded people. Take notes on other companies’ new ways of doing things. Make connections with support leaders who are also looking to go above and beyond – they’ll be the most valuable sounding boards for you in the future.
Finally, look internally for great ideas. Go for coffee with other department heads and ask them what they think the support team should work on next. Ask your team what’s bothering them. You’ll end up with a laundry list of new things to focus on in no time.
Implementing new projects
The thing about doing new things is… no one knows if they’re going to work or not. That can be scary. But what got you here won’t get your support team to the next level.
- Decide what your goals are as a company and department. How will these new projects impact these goals? Are you looking to reduce churn? How will this new idea affect churn?
- Make hypotheses and test them out. For example: “Reducing First Reply Time to customers in their free trial will increase conversion by 10%, and I believe that because customers who submit a support ticket are more likely to convert.”
- Execute on your project and measure the results. Didn’t get what you were hoping for? That’s okay. That’s helpful to know too.
Throw out the rulebook! Because you’ve gotten your team to the point where nothing is immediately on fire, you have more time and resources to make mistakes and try something that might massively pay off.
Seven fresh ideas on growing above and beyond
We’ve also collected a few suggestions for you on what to work on next. A lot of these were chapter suggestions that didn’t quite make it into the final draft of this guide. Maybe we need to write a second version?
- Eradicate lingering inefficiencies Look for the rough edges and duct-tape still left in the customer (and agent) experience. Identify where more advanced tools, macros, apps and processes can save your team a few extra minutes or provide opportunities for a more personalized service. It’s not about overhauling the system any more, it’s about making fine-tune adjustments to get the most out of your existing set-up.
- Evolve your support channels Look for opportunities to offer multilingual support, be more available in different time zones or expand to other support channels. Where are your customers hanging out that you’re not?
- Be proactive Evolve support beyond simply answering tickets to be more about issue avoidance. Where can you eliminate the need for customers to contact support in the first place? Reduce the effort customers have to exert to get their questions answered by training agents on next-issue avoidance techniques and notifying users of issues before they even notice them.
- Roll out the red carpet Provide a more bespoke service for high-value customers. Make more time for customers with more complicated needs. For example, offer one on one onboarding for enterprise or VIP accounts. Explore the idea of premium support as an added feature.
- Invest in your team members With extra resources and breathing room to spare, you can spend more time on the professional development of your current team. Whether that’s building more developed career roadmaps, or finding opportunities for them to get involved in projects outside of support, your team will love the new challenges.
- Double down on self-service Find more ways that you can help customers help themselves. Show them how they can get more out of your product by improving your self-service with instructional videos, tutorials and walkthroughs.
- Consider Customer Success If you don’t have a dedicated customer success team in your organization, consider how you can proactively wow and retain customers. Assigning a dedicated team to ensuring the success of customers helps reduce churn in SaaS companies.
Share what’s worked and what hasn’t
One of the best parts about elevating your customer support experience is the ability to share what you’ve learned with the community.
Sharing your results either through writing, talks or podcasts showcases the hard work you’ve put in to build a world-class support team. It also helps develop you as a speaker and writer, and it helps other teams get better at providing an amazing customer experience as well.
- Write about a specific project or initiative on your company blog. Your users will love to hear what you’re doing to make life better for them.
- Guest post on a blog or podcast dedicated to customer support. We all learned customer support from books and blog posts, so it’s important to keep giving back to the wider community.
- Apply to speak at one of the conferences above. Your experience is really valuable to other leaders in the same position as you.
Read other posts in the Center of Happiness series
Stages of a customer support team
You’re swamped, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Carving out time to think beyond the barrage of tickets, and being smart about your priorities, can turn things around.
You can’t firefight forever. It’s time to get some fundamental tools and processes in place, so you can give consistently brilliant support to your customers.
Tools of the future: are the robots really coming?
The landscape of tools and software for support teams is vast and ever-changing. Get up to speed with some of the emerging trends that can help give your support team the edge.
Channel overload: less is more
It may be tempting to offer support through many channels, but do your customers really care? Learn how trimming the number of channels you offer can help improve service levels.
Persuasion & buy in: how to sell customer support internally
Customer Support sometimes doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, but a few easy tactics can help you and your team become superheroes in the eyes of the company.
Metrics: how to choose them and define what success looks like
Numbers might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but they’re critical for guiding your team and keeping the rest of the company in the loop.
Finding, recruiting and interviewing quality candidates can be a daunting experience at the best of times, but stick to the fundamentals and you’ll have a great fit in no time.
Motivation & happiness: stay energized!
Providing great support is hard, so it’s really important that managers understand how to motivate their team to keep them happy and productive.
Self-service done well: help your customers help themselves
Move beyond a simple knowledge base or FAQ and reap the benefits of a channel that’s efficient, functional, relevant and open 24/7.
Onboarding team members: make the first weeks count
As you bring new talent into your team, get your new hires off to the best possible start by helping them to integrate into your company structure, processes, culture and tone of voice.
Distributing workloads: balancing inbox zero and long term improvements
Your team knows more about your customers than anyone else. Organize regular time out of the queue for them to work on long-term support projects that will benefit the whole company.