How Many Roles do Customer Support Agents Play in a Day?
When you ask any support agent what their day typically looks like, you are most likely to hear – “I first check my ticket queue, prioritize them based on severity, and start working on them. We usually have a team huddle to give a status update and discuss complex issues, if any. Then I get back to talking to customers and resolving tickets.”
That might sound monotonous and fairly easy. But that’s certainly not all there is to customer support. The role each agent plays is certainly more than meets the eye. If we think of customer support teams as a mere line of defense, then we are wrong.
To get a better understanding of the many hats that a customer support agent must wear in a day, I spoke to Andrew Naveen, support head at Freshworks. This article aims to chart out all the valuable insights I gained from that conversation, and hope it sheds some light on our customer support agents and the value of their role.
Different Roles of Support Agents Within Their Team
#1 A mentor/coach
For support agents, the willingness to share knowledge and solve problems does not end with customers. They help the new support agents get up to scale by teaching them about the product or service. By doing so, they play the role of a mentor or coach.
Generally, support agents are used to handling large responsibilities. So they don’t shy away from mentoring the new recruits. As mentors, support agents help them identify what they’re good at and thus play a huge role in shaping their careers as well. Since the mentors have walked down the same road, they ensure that the newcomers aren’t handling complex issues when they start out. They keep a close eye on the number of interactions in each ticket. When this exceeds a certain limit, the mentors step in to offer assistance and close the ticket. They also monitor the ticket volume to make sure that the newcomers aren’t being overburdened.
#2 An organizer
In every team, there’s always one person who holds everything together. Right from setting processes, implementing them, they are in charge of ensuring that everything is running smoothly, and doesn’t cave in.
Being organized is key when it comes to customer support. Since customer support agents are great at communication and planning, they make great organizers too. Support agents know who can handle which ticket better, and route tickets such that everybody is playing to their strengths. Furthermore, they are also aware of peak hours and understand trends and patterns in ticket volume. This helps them plan appropriate workflows.
They ensure that workflows in the ticketing software are configured such that it strikes the right balance between ticket assignment and skills with well-scheduled breaks and shifts.
#3 A visionary
Without clarity about the product and its use cases, support agents wouldn’t be able to answer customer questions. It’s this trait that also helps agents act as great visionaries of the company and its mission.
Customer support serves as a bridge between the product team and customers. Even product managers rely on customer support to gather feedback on a feature. But support agents don’t pass on every piece of feedback they receive. They only convey what they think will help the product scale and help the business grow. They gather relevant information like bug reports and feature requests, and pass it on to the product team. They also help the product team develop an understanding of the features that customers like, dislike, or are having a tough time using.
To sum up, the insights that support agents provide are clear and very valuable to a product manager. This is just one of the many reasons why support agents should work closely with the product and UX teams.
#4 A comedian
Generally, a job in customer support is perceived with mixed emotions. Although support agents enjoy helping customers, they are often at the receiving end of a spectrum of emotions and tend to get overwhelmed by fluctuating moods.
However, there’s always an agent in a team who takes up the role of a comedian and keeps everyone in good spirits. Usually, it’s thanks to this person that the entire team continues to work with a smile on their faces.
On that note, we’ve covered all the roles that support agents play, internally. Now let’s take a look at the different roles support agents play with customers.
Different Roles of Support Agents With Customers
#5 A friend
A customer service job requires support agents to be honest, dependable and helpful at all times. Though the customers are frustrated, support agents go the extra mile to resolve their issues. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise when the rapport between a support agent and a customer sprouts into a respectful friendship.
Support agents are constantly in touch with customers to help them solve their problems. So over the course of time, customers tend to develop a liking towards the agent’s attitude and skills.
For example, one of our customers and their account manager Manoj (who’s now a support lead at Freshworks), built a strong friendship over the years. So much so that when Manoj was traveling and had a layover at the Qatar airport, the customer made it a point to personally visit him. This is just one of the several instances where managers at Freshworks have had great customer relationships.
#6 A support system
We have all run into problems with a product or service, and have contacted support. You reach out to them when you are frazzled and frustrated, and they ensure that they help soothe your nerves. It is very calming to be able to vent out your specific issue to the agent, and receive a solution by the end of the conversation.
Support agents deal with disgruntled customers by being patient and empathetic. They understand the customer’s issue and relate to the customer’s emotions. In short, support agents are a support system — they hear the customer out, provide reassurance and resolve the customer’s issue.
#7 A future colleague
Have you wished your friend could be a part of the organization you work for? I have.
Similarly, support agents and customers have gotten along so well that they wanted to work together. For instance, the friendship between one of the members from our customer’s team and an account manager at Freshworks grew to an extent where the customer wanted to join our support team.
#8 A well-wisher
It’s not common for support agents to offer assistance beyond the product or service. However, there have been instances when support agents have had their customers’ best interests at heart and went out of their way to help them.
While there are many customer service stories that will warm your heart, the story of the old lady at Sainsbury’s tops my list.
The old lady had dementia and forgot what she wanted to buy from Sainsbury and this distressed her. So the staff called the police and gave her the things and flowers she picked up for free as she had left her purse at home. Later, the police officer dropped her home, arranged the purchase items and put the flowers on display.
Isn’t that heartwarming?
#9 A superhero
Lastly, the most important role a support agent plays is that of a superhero. Support agents have gone the extra mile to deliver exceptional support. In fact, there have been instances when support agents have taken up the responsibility of fixing an issue that wasn’t their fault.
For instance, a customer accidentally deleted a property field which had a large number of configurations set around it. It was important for them to retrieve the field before it started affecting their workflow. So, the customer reached out to their account manager in panic. Although the customer had made the error, the account manager realized that the need of the hour was to fix the issue. At the end of it, the account manager solved the issue, and thus saved the customer’s job.
Nine Roles Each Day!
Right from a friend, mentor, and comedian, support agents bring a lot to the table. Apart from being tasked with handling a huge number of tickets every day, support agents also take up multiple responsibilities and manage to handle them all gracefully. In all, the spirit that support agents have brings a positive impact to the entire organization.
Is there a role that we’ve missed in this article? You can drop your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!