Why Collaboration is the Key to Great Customer Service
Customer support teams are built on the basis of collaboration — we are the connectors between our customers and our team members and yet oftentimes support can feel segregated from the rest of the company. This feeling can have many causes: the usual perception of the team as a “cost center”, lack of understanding of the nature of the work that support does and, worst of all, the lack of connection and collaboration within the support team itself. That feeling can not only hurt your team in both the short and long run but also affect how your customers perceive your product1 and how your company performs overall. We tried to find out why exactly collaboration matters and how to crack the code to the great customer experience through constant collaboration.
Let’s start from the beginning — how can a lack of collaboration within support affect the team? From the first glance, it doesn’t really matter — agents are all working on individual cases and rarely need to communicate with each other. While it is partially true and for the most part support agents work as individual contributors, any strong and efficient support team needs to be built on the basis of constant collaboration. Support agents that do not collaborate lose time responding to the same basic questions, increase response times by not handling the queue properly and spend a lot of time digging into product areas that are just not their forte. All of this costs time and money to both you and your agents.
Long wait times, stalled cases, bugs that take an eternity to get fixed — all of this does not directly lead to churn, but over time it can add up and cost you your customers. When your support team does not have a healthy relationship with the other departments in the company, problems like these pile up easily and lead to enormous consequences.
Every hour that is spent chasing colleagues around, trying to get stuff done impacts not only you but your clients as well. All of these experiences can spoil a great product and lead to losing customers. You need to realize that poor collaboration between departments can affect your churn rate and have a negative impact on your business.
There is a lot to be said about the impact of segregated support teams on the business, processes within the company and the many other ways it can affect your product and client base, but most of all it can hurt the foundation of your company — your people. Feeling left out, not having the support of the team and worst of all, having to go through fire and water simply to get their job done wears people out immensely. Sure, you can replace burned out employees with new ones, but this isn’t really about what money can buy, it is rather about people. People that you should care about, because, without them your business would cease to exist.
Divide and Conquer
First, you have to understand how you can make your team’s life easier and do it in a way that involves collaboration. You can start by pulling statistics on the most frequently asked questions and then assign each team member one of the topics and ask them to create a documentation article that would explain this topic in detail2 so you can use it as a self-service solution for your customers. Ask your agents to peer-review each other’s article to make sure everyone agrees on the best way to deliver the answer. It will take time to go through your whole knowledge base, of course, but even starting with 10 or 15 topics can have a huge impact on your queue.
Build the Bridges
To ensure that your team is on top of their game, you have to be in sync with the rest of the company. Building connections with clients is something that we do every day, but building connections within a company can be a huge and demanding task. Reach out to your team and check if anyone has personal connections to outside teams – maybe one of your agents plays football with the design team or one of them goes to the book club with the engineering lead. Try and use those connections to build bridges. Help your team members set up meetings with those people and try to see how you can work together to build better processes and inter-departmental connections. If your agents are shy or you feel like that it too much to ask, just ask for introductions from them — being a manager may require you to build these bridges yourself, but you are allowed to ask for help too.
Bring the Team Together
There are some things that need constant check-ins, like risotto, toddlers and your health. The emotional well-being of your team members is one of these things too. Without a strong feeling of camaraderie and clear descriptions of each other’s responsibilities, teams can derail into decreased productivity, broken relationships and straight out hostility. To make sure that your team is healthy, create an anonymous survey asking your agents to describe what they think is broken with regards to your team functioning or ask your HR department (if you have one!) to have a skip level meeting with your team. A skip level meeting is a one-on-one that “skips” a level and connects employees to their manager’s manager or the HR team. After you get the results, bring the whole team together for a facilitation or breakout sessions to try and figure out the best way to fix these problems. It can be a cathartic moment for everyone in your team and help bring new life into how it operates, but it can also be a minefield of emotions, so make sure you are prepared for it and don’t be afraid to invite a third side to be the moderator for your sessions.
If you are only starting out on a path to better collaboration, your teams may have a hard time adjusting to all of the new and overwhelming practices you introduce. Establish some routines that may help your agents to adjust. A good starting point would be to schedule some “office time” when everyone and anyone can schedule a time to talk to you to discuss whatever is working or not working for them, bring up new ideas and provide you with feedback. Make sure that the old routines that worked are not forgotten – if you always had team meetings on Fridays, keep on having them. Over time you may tweak and twist these routines to introduce more collaboration practices into them. For example, ask different agents to hold the meetings or invite them to add knowledge sharing portions to your weekly meetings — pick whatever works for your team and don’t be afraid to experiment! When T-Mobile started including their agents in the process of onboarding new hires, they saw the team grow closer and happier3: “Now we all spend time helping the less-tenured team members and the new folks coming out of training, to make sure they’re successful. At the end of the day, we succeed or fail as a team.”
How Does it All Tie into Great Customer Service?
Everything that we do at our jobs, we do for the benefit of our customers with the ultimate goal of great customer experience. It is really important to understand how improved collaboration both inside and outside your support team can help provide customers with this great experience. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes the effort of everyone at the company to bring that effortless experience that we’re all striving for to life. It is impossible to deliver this result without collaboration.
Improved collaboration within your team will mean better agents.Collaboration with other departments will also help with a sense of belonging and give more meaning to your agents work. This will not completely eliminate the possible burnouts or conflicts within the department, but it will improve the climate and make it easier to deal with these problems in the future.
As soon as your support team builds stronger connections with other departments, you will start noticing how the situation improves not only for your agents but for the customers and for you as well. Quicker bug fixes mean better resolution times and better self-service helps with onboarding new clients, which means better churn rates. And, of course, speaking with happier, more educated and confident support agents will result in better CSAT results from the customers. All of the changes and solutions that we mentioned above do not require a lot of additional resources or drastic changes to your workflow, but as water dripping day by day wears the hardest rocks away, so can your attempts to introduce collaboration practices to your team day by day produce great results and provide your customers with the ultimate experience that they deserve.
1 – http://customerthink.com/how-effective-team-collaboration-equals-great-customer-service/
2 – https://www.supportdriven.com/2018/06/15/building-collaboration-into-your-customer-experience/
3 – https://hbr.org/2018/11/reinventing-customer-service