Quick Summary: Good customer support reactively answers questions quickly, accurately, and efficiently, but great customer support both anticipates and answers customer questions before they arise and leads customers to where they should be headed next. 
This article was created with the support of Intercom, provider of solutions and frameworks to help teams deliver personalized customer support efficiently. Thanks!

Customer support is evolving. Modern customers expect both personal and efficient support. Additionally, due to the pandemic and outdated tools, overworked support teams struggle to keep pace and achieve balance. Support teams are receiving 10 times their normal volumes, increasing wait times by an average of 27 minutes across B2B and D2C companies. In fact, Intercom’s research found that 42% of support leaders believe they won’t hit goals for their support KPIs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many companies — across both B2B and D2C — have turned to conversational support to manage high conversation volumes and exceed customer expectations. Conversational support empowers support teams to deliver efficient, personal support through a messenger-first experience — bridging the gap between what customers want and what support teams can realistically deliver.

Implementing new technology across your team (and within the business) takes more than just a brilliant idea. You need a plan, and more importantly, buy-in from leadership.

“Intercom’s research found that 42% of support leaders believe they won’t hit goals for their support KPIs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

 

Getting buy-in from leadership

It’s one thing to read about something and think it’s a great idea, but quite another to put in action with your team or company. 

Launching new technology, experiments, or processes can be met with hesitation, especially in times of uncertainty and duress. In order to take these trends from ideas to implementation, you need an iron-clad case and plan to get buy-in from key stakeholders.

 

Take the 40K view

As a leader or team member on a customer-facing team, you have incredible knowledge and exposure to information leadership does not. With direct customer relationships, intimate knowledge of the product and its limitations, support teams often spot early warning signs of any larger problem, and are quick to think up solutions. One would think leadership would be hanging on every word that comes from their customer-facing teams, but that’s not typically the case. 

“The reason it can be challenging to persuade leadership to take action on these signs and symptoms is a difference in perspective.”

 

The reason it can be challenging to persuade leadership to take action on these signs and symptoms is a difference in perspective. When you’re planning a city, you probably don’t care about the crack in one of the house’s foundations. Now, the crack in the foundation could be symptomatic of a larger issue, like unstable soil, affecting the foundation of the entire city that indicates a need for major change — but this big picture is lost when the single crack is called out. Focusing on day-to-day minutia instead of the larger goals of the business loses the interest of leadership. 

Instead, familiarize yourself with the goals of the business and key stakeholders. If your company practices OKRs, framing the new trend or strategy can help achieve a desired company-wide objective. Present to leadership how adopting any of these industry trends will specifically help to achieve larger business goals. 

Let’s take a look at an example of how you might reframe something like leveraging automation in customer support to fit in with larger company goals. As a manager, you and your team may be bogged down with manual tasks that (literally) a robot could do. It’s frustrating for your team, which makes it bad for morale, and makes too many critical parts of the process prone to human error. Frankly, no one likes doing it, and part of your role is to serve your team. 

But, if you brought those reasons to the executive team, they may say, “Well, what are we paying you for?!” or, “That’s just part of the job,” or, “It’s too risky or resource intensive.” To solve a problem that, to them, just sounds like petty complaints. Instead, think about the company’s big-picture goals.

Maybe you have a company-wide OKR to “increase customer happiness.” What makes customers happy? Speed. They like to be helped quickly, efficiently, and with minimal hoops. Instead of focusing on the repeat tasks your team hates doing, focus on the customer’s experience. 

73% of support leaders say customer expectations are increasing, but only 42% believe they’re meeting those expectations.

 

There is a huge gap between what customers want and what support teams can realistically deliver. 73% of support leaders say customer expectations are increasing, but only 42% believe they’re meeting those expectations. How you can help them quickly and efficiently by monitoring for problems and getting ahead of them with automation? How would this frees up your team’s time to help the customers that have more complicated issues even faster? Automation helps bridge the customer expectation gap as support teams turn to chatbots to deliver faster, more meaningful resolutions.

It may seem obvious that what you’re asking for would also improve efficiency to be able to service customers better in addition to solving your team’s challenges, but connecting the dots for leadership ahead of time leaves less room for objections.

A new tool or software may seem like unnecessary spend, or complaints of increasing support volume may seem like a problematic team of complainers until you explain how it helps to accomplish a strategic goal, like increasing customer retention by decreasing customer wait times. Once you show leadership how this trend or strategy fits in their big picture, then they’ll see the value in allocating resources to support it. 

 

Have a plan

Leadership doesn’t just want to know what you want to do, or why it’s important, but they want to know how you plan to accomplish it! Strategies involve a whole lot of moving parts, and if it’s not clear you’ve thought about how to address those moving parts for execution ahead of time, then you’ll find your idea back in the “someday, maybe” pile. 

Put together a strategic outline that highlights the goals, objectives, and methods for the execution. The outline should include everything from tasks, to tactics, to the team needed.

 

Specifically, your execution plan should include:

  • Why are you doing this: Why is it important to make this change?
  • Tasks to accomplish: What specific tasks need to be done?
  • Tactics for execution: How will these tasks be completed?
  • Team members involved: Who will be assigned these tasks?
  • Timeline of events: When do these tasks need to take place?
  • Resources needed: Does team time need to be reallocated from other projects to this one? What tools need to be leveraged to accomplish? 
  • Budget: Finally, what will this cost — in time, cost of resources or tools?

Let’s look at an example of a plan you might make for moving from a reactive support model to a proactive one.

 

Why are you doing this:

Customers expect support teams to get ahead of issues before they arise, and lead them down the path to success. In fact, a study by InContact revealed that 87% of customers want to be reached out to proactively for customer service related issues. Proactivity also improves overall operational efficiency. Over a 12-month period, a report by Enkata found proactive customer service can lead to a 20-30% reduction in support volume — lowering operating costs by as much as 25%.

 

Tasks to accomplish:

  • Map the customer journey
  • Identify known customer pain points
  • Implement event monitoring to monitor customer activity
  • Choose tool that enables proactive help channels
  • Craft messaging for all channels and proactive touch points
  • Define channels for proactive messaging
  • Collect baseline metrics
  • Define metrics, who owns them, how they are measured, and what success looks like

 

Tactics to execute:

Using a tool like Intercom, we will track and monitor in-app activity to detect stages in customer journey, or when customers encounter common pain points, and deploy proactive messages over email and in-app to help them along the way. After 1 month, we’ll evaluate the performance against baseline metrics, and do so again in 3 months. 

 

Team members involved:

  • Customer success team member to define customer journey 
  • Support team member to identify common pain points
  • A team member skilled at messaging to craft email and in-app messaging
  • A team member skilled in reporting to pull baseline metrics
  • Engineer to help with event monitoring in-app integration with tool chosen

 

Timeline of events

  • Week 1: Customer journey touchpoints and pain points identified, baseline metrics captured, tools chosen, and event monitoring implemented 
  • Week 2: Messaging crafted in tool and deployed against event monitoring
  • Week 4: Metrics collected and evaluated

 

Resources needed

  • 1-4 CS team members, depending on skill-sets for 2 weeks
  • 1 engineer for 1 day project
  • Tool cost

 

Budget

Calculate costs of resources.

Having this plan in advance gets ahead of any questions leadership may have that could derail action. It also helps you get ahead of any obstacles you haven’t thought through before making your case.

Backing up your ideas with case studies from reputable companies provides the element of social proof that leaders need to assure they are making an informed choice.

 

Provide data

The final question leaders will often have before deciding on a course of action, especially in times of caution, will be, “Has anyone else done this well?” or, “What proof can you provide that this will help us achieve our goals” You may have done a great job of framing how your initiative fits in with larger business goals, but now you need to provide the proof. 

Backing up your ideas with case studies from reputable companies provides the element of social proof that leaders need to assure they are making an informed choice. If you’re making a case to invest in a Chatbot, for example, you may want to show leadership examples of companies (like yours!) that have improved response times up to 50%.

It’s also important to use statistics that tie back to reducing costs or driving revenue whenever possible, as all leaders care deeply about the bottom line. Using statistics like “Chatbots can help businesses save up to 30% on their customer support costs or “According to Adweek, personalization can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50%, lift revenues by 5–15%, and increase marketing spend efficiency by 10–30%,” shows your leaders that this initiative has had proven success in other cases, and you could even be losing money by not moving forward!

“Chatbots can help businesses save up to 30% on their customer support costs.

 

Make your case

Making a case to leadership to stay on top of all the current CX trends takes a lot of work and research. Intercom has put together a report including 5 key trends transforming the industry, plus the tactical execution framework and all of the evidence you need to put an implementation plan together. 

This report includes actionable tips on how to put each trend into practice and a proven framework (Conversational Support Funnel) for scaling conversational support.

Intercom put together an Starter Kit to help you learn more about their Conversation Support Funnel framework so you can start using it in your own operations.

The kit includes: 

  • The full scoop on the framework
  • An interactive worksheet to help you plan your funnel
  • Tactics for fast and personal issue response
  • Advice on what to measure and how to get buy-in for your support program

Download the full guide today.

Read more about the Conversational Support Funnel here.

If you’re wondering whether you should use a framework in customer support, read this.

Check out more on proactivity in customer support here

About the Author

Mo McKibbin served over a decade in customer-facing roles from sales, support, and customer success for brands like Threadless and Help Scout.

She now heads Customer Success at Moxion, helping Hollywood productions get made with software enabling remote workflow for filmmakers.

Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, yoga, screenwriting, and a variety of side hustles.

 

Peer Reviewers

Shaun Amyotte is a director of customer experience at Miovision.

Shaun spent the better part of 20 years learning how to solve customers’ problems as quickly and efficiently as possible while so looking for ways to amplify their voice within the companies Shaun work for. #CX4Life

When not working to improve the customer’s experience Shaun can be found at the karate dojo doing far too many push-ups, playing pool in the basement, or kayaking the rivers of east coast Canada with their wife and 2 kids.

 

Reagan Helms is the head of support and training at Planningcenter.com

Reagan loves taking complex topics and explaining them in simple ways, creating processes that make difficult things easy, and leading by example. When Reagan is not doing that, they love playing board games, eating/cooking great food, and enjoying the outdoors with their wife and kids.

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