QUICK SUMMARY: As you grow, the first thing to suffer may be your customer experience. Here are 6 ways to keep providing great, fast support even as your team multiplies.
The world has become increasingly digital. As the pandemic forced more individuals home and away from in-person offices, businesses and spaces, it also forced companies to up their online customer experience game. For instance, online consumption in China increased by 15–20%, and in Italy, e-commerce sales for consumer products rose by 81% in a single week. Before the pandemic, companies could thrive on in-person interactions. Now, they need to pivot and learn how to satisfy a digital customer base.
The best way to impress your customers is with your customer-facing teams: they are the flag-bearers for your whole brand. That said, providing excellent, efficient customer experiences takes a lot of time and effort. Because of that, the customer service teams at many companies have also had to grow. The new attention to the customer experience is excellent, but the exponential (and sometimes unexpected) growth that it has required companies to undergo has been painful for some. After all, with your number of tickets growing, the first things that get affected will be response time and quality.
There are a few ways to proactively combat the difficulties of growth and ensure that your customers continue to get the level of service they deserve. In this article, we will break down six strategies that you can use to maintain healthy customer relations as you grow.
This article was created with the support of Freshdesk, the platform for intuitive and collaborative customer service. Thanks!
Learn how Loom and Openpath Security have grown with speed and quality - join Susana de Sousa from Loom and Kat Olsheske from Openpath Security for a webinar on June 25th.
Save your spot
Strategies to adapt to growth
Adapting to growth is just as much about putting things in place to help support your team as it is about understanding what items your customers need to be successful. Here are six things to do to help your team grow more efficiently.
As you grow, it's essential to create scalable processes—these seemingly small fixes add up the more frequently you do them, and can end up leaving your customers waiting for an answer.
Create scalable processes
Improves: Time-based metrics
When you're just growing your support team, it can be super easy just to put a bandaid on issues. For instance, if you notice a minor bug in your product but your support team can fix it with a manual workaround, many teams will choose to have the support team do the work rather than spend engineering resources that they could use for other features. As you grow, it's essential to create scalable processes—these seemingly small fixes add up the more frequently you do them, and can end up leaving your customers waiting for an answer. Regularly assess and evaluate opportunities that your company has to shift and address needs as you get larger.
A great thing to listen for is "well, we've always done it this way." You can lean on freshly onboarded employees with new eyes to tease out situations where processes could be improved but haven't just because of historical context. If most of your team has been there for a long time, you likely have tons of small situations like this that could be improved and made scalable.
Once a quarter, review all of your processes and take stock of what needs to shift. Better yet, encourage an "if you see something, say something" approach. If a process feels broken, empower your team to update it as soon as possible rather than waiting for a quarterly review. Minor improvements may feel like they are just that: small. But when you add all of them up, they can make up for a big chunk of time and effort from your team.
Improves: Time-based metrics
Some support teams are still within a shared inbox, like Gmail. That said, many companies are already using helpdesks or software to make writing support responses easier. Those tools are designed explicitly with customer-facing teams in mind, and many have tooling like automated escalations and SLAs built-in. How much is your team making use of them?
Automated escalations are significant for things beyond the traditional scope. For example, while you can escalate to an engineering team or Tier 1 or 2 support, you can also use escalations to send to specialized units. As you grow, breaking teams out into specializations like Billing & Licensing, Product Advice, Sales, and Technical Support, and then creating automated escalations help get customers' responses more quickly. You can trigger off keywords, the length of time they've been waiting, or even where the customer emails in from within your product. Automation saves your team the time of triaging and gets the customer right in front of the person they need help from. The quicker the appropriate person has a ticket, the more rapidly your customers will get a response.
If the tool you are using doesn't offer functionality like this, consider switching to one that does or using a connector tool, like Zapier, to ease your processes and eliminate manual steps your team needs to take.
Assess which metrics are essential to your customers
Improves: All metrics
Don’t simply assume that your customers’ support wants are measured by the traditional metrics that many support blogs, leaders, and websites suggest:
- customer happiness score
- net promoter score
- response time
- first contact resolution
While these are all valuable and likely contribute to what your customers care about the most, it's still essential to assess the specific things that impact your customers. What do they really want?
Customer desires are different for every company and every situation. Make sure that you take the time to learn about what you want, rather than assuming. Then, armed with that information, you know which parts of the customer journey you need to focus your energy on, rather than just taking a scattershot approach to improving your customer experience. For instance, if your customers care about first response resolution, but not necessarily response time, it may be in your team's best interest to devote energy to getting the answer right the first time, rather than getting the answer quickly.
Your team's time is valuable. Your team is invaluable. Rather than pushing them into burn-out, try to find ways to encourage them to take care of themselves.
Provide care for your team
Improves: Quality-based metrics
Your team members have a significant impact on your customers. They are the front line when it comes to how new and returning customers experience your brand. Knowledgeable, friendly, and fast support were top priorities for 80% of customers in a survey by PWC. In addition, those surveyed suggested that agents have the most significant impact on the customer experience, even above your product.
If they're so impactful, shouldn't you take care of them? Without the appropriate care, instead of a smiling face, your customers might get a grumpy grouch. As things start to grow, the first thing that can begin to get crunched is your team's time. As leaders, we get in the habit of asking more and more without taking the time to consider the cost.
Your team's time is valuable. Your team is invaluable. Rather than pushing them to burn-out, try to find ways to encourage them to take care of themselves. As you grow, many team members will expect to have to work harder. However, you can continue to provide the resources for their overall well-being as you do. Build-in time out of the queue, extra vacation (or mental health days), or more frequent conversations about how they are doing. More information about how they are feeling and what they are struggling with helps give you a jumping off point to provide resources.
Similarly, you can support your team by providing them with tools to make their jobs easier. For instance, using a library for shared saved replies, educational functionality to prompt them with appropriate resources to share with their customer, or even tools to make scheduling meetings a bit easier. The automation and scalable processes that we talked about above are also a great way to save them some extra time from manual repetitive tasks. While much of “taking care” is being human with your employees, and recognizing they are human too, the right tools can save time and give them a much-needed reprieve.
Taking care of your team takes care of your customers.
Focus on self-service
Improves: All metrics
When it comes down to it, people want to help themselves. In fact, 81% of all customers will try to figure out the answer to their inquiry themselves before reaching out to a live support person. Given that, imagine how much time it would save for both your customers and your team if you had excellent self-service resources? In addition, having great documentation is a perfect way to support your team's growth as it scales. Finally, it's a great way to deflect tickets and provide guidance for new customers who might not have access to dedicated support or customer success.
In the last section, we encouraged you to find time for your team to work on projects outside of their typical work in the queue. Working on self-service documentation is an excellent way for them to spend their time.
As you create, consider that different customers have different learning styles. Creating new customer-facing resources is an excellent opportunity to have conversations with your employees and uncover what they are excited about. For instance, if you have a team member who loves making videos, you can encourage their creative spark and benefit the team by making some video guides.
This is an excellent opportunity to provide flex time for your team to recover and give them something impactful to do outside of the queue. Out of the queue time allows them to regenerate cycles and be excited to work with your customers, and documentation will serve to lessen their load when they are working in the queue again.
Make internal documentation a part of your team culture
Improves: All metrics
How much time does your team spend answering questions for internal teams? Do you have a slack channel? A confluence page? Many larger companies have a dedicated resource to answer questions for people on Sales or Customer Success. However, as a growing company, it may not be scalable (or affordable) for your team to have a single person dedicating so much time solely to answering internal questions.
A practical and efficient alternative is to build documentation into your every day. Have your team document processes, bugs, and write down any pertinent information that your team may need in the future. When in doubt, write it down. Better yet, encourage your team members to do so on the fly.
Not only will this help with knowledge sharing between teams and team members, but it will also make onboarding new members to the company a bit easier. There will be less overhead for your existing team, and your new members will feel much more empowered with all that information at their fingertips. If your team is increasing, it's essential to get new employees up to speed as quickly as possible with as little intervention from your existing team as you can. Documentation will solve this.
Go forth and grow
Right now is an exciting time to be in business, especially as a software company. The world is finally coming to be more present in the digital space, and your team should be prepped to receive them. First, spend time considering how growth looks for your team and your customers—you don't want to drop the ball because you assume you know what they care about. Once you understand their needs, start to implement automation and build scalable strategies. The more time your team can focus on helping customers, the better.
Similarly, provide care for your team—they need to put their oxygen mask on first before they can help your customer. Lastly, focus on repeatability: documentation for your customers and your internal teams will make things easier on your core team. They won't have to spend as much time explaining basic questions and can spend their time on tricky problems where they impact. Have faith in yourself, have confidence in your team. You're exactly where you are supposed to be.
Ozella is a Customer Success Program Manager at ABLSoft, where she manages program and policy development for customer-facing teams and clients. Lover of all things DIY and a frequent patron of Home Goods, Michaels and Lowe's stores.
Carvin is a Senior Support Specialist at Showbie. He handles escalated support inquiries from the wider team and ensures best practices are followed to provide a better customer experience. Outside of work, he likes to play video game and keep active. He's also a Dunegons and Dragons enthusiast and a pretty big sports fan.