To the outside world, customer service agents are the face of any business. They influence how people perceive brands and are directly responsible for the retention and churn rates for any organisation. This is not an easy responsibility to shoulder, especially if you’re new to the industry.
There are so many things to learn, so many people to help, and so little time.
This starter kit was designed with that in mind.
Empower yourself to do the best work you can in the quickest and most effective way possible.
Being part of a customer support team can feel overwhelming. It entails familiarising yourself with a new product or service, workflows, new teammates, and an endless list of new things.
Set yourself up for success by simplifying your work.
As a support agent, figuring out where best to begin your work each day is not an easy task. Everything seems important, requiring immediate attention. So the question is, how do you prioritize your work when all of it looks important?
Much of what will help you prioritise has to do with the nature and/or the status of the issue. Here are some basic parameters that will help you plan your day better and make prioritisation simple.
Support teams usually have policies to determine the due-by time or the SLA of every incoming support request, depending on the type of issue or the channel through which it was raised. This timeframe, being self-explanatory, will let you sort through your support inbox in the most efficient way possible.
As part of a regular support workflow, every ticket in your helpdesk would be tagged with a priority that is meant to reflect the importance and urgency of an issue. These tags are one of the quickest ways to organise your work in an order that makes the most sense. By arranging work this way, you ensure that you get around to solving every issue assigned to you, on time.
When dealing with angry customers, timely resolutions are not just advisable, but absolutely necessary. Such issues that need deft handling will factor into how you plan your day.
Be it a customer response, an internal or 3rd party update, or any activity that affects the tickets you’re responsible for, you need to be on top of things and prioritise your actions accordingly.
Using the relevant parameters, you can determine the urgency and importance of any issue and slot it into the matrix below. This will help you visualise your workload better and help you work faster.
Planning out your day simplifies how you choose what to work on next, but there might come a time when you hit a wall, and can’t proceed further. When a support query has you stumped, how can you empower yourself to learn to resolve it and better equip yourself for similar situations in the future?
No matter how difficult a question is, odds are, you will be able to find an answer in your helpdesk. Your helpdesk is a wealth of information that you can tap into at any time to become independent as a customer support agent and be well on your way to getting rid of the training wheels.
As helpdesks grow, customer support agents internally document and curate answers to some common questions that have cropped up over time for easy reference. These bases of knowledge prove to be invaluable resources when you’re looking for answers. You instantly understand the entire context surrounding any given issue, letting you answer difficult questions clearly and comprehensively.
If there hasn’t been enough precedence for an issue to be documented but you’re sure it has happened before, look for it in your helpdesk. Search for it, and see how the agent on it handled it.
If it’s not a specific issue but a broader type of issue that you need help with, use filters to narrow down your search results and see what has been done by more experienced agents in the past. This way, you learn enough to smoothly resolve interactions with customers irrespective of whether you’ve found a solution.
If you can’t solve a customer’s issue in time because you’re stuck, the first thing to remember is to not panic. In case you’re faced with a rise in frustration of a customer, here are a few things you should keep in mind.
You can’t effectively utilise all the information you have access to if you have to keep switching between countless tools and applications for it. Studies show that multitasking can prove detrimental to speedy work and what you actually end up doing is switching between tasks.
Now, the costs of switching are high, and they add up over time. So how can you make sure you don’t fall prey to the vicious cycle of constant switching and lost time?
All the information in the world won’t help you if you can’t get to it when you need it. Consolidating all facets of your work is the surest way to guarantee that nothing is lost in translation.
Instead of switching to CRMs for customer details, payment gateways for transaction statuses, and so on, make use of the integrations your helpdesk is likely to have and bring all this data under one roof, right where you need it.
Going over to another tab to check your notifications via email is a distraction that is far more costly than it seems. Fewer distractions mean faster and simpler operation; so ensure you get your notifications right within your helpdesk.
Be it anything from an email to a tweet, you should be using the versatile capabilities of your helpdesk, to respond to queries uniformly and in one place, rather than using different tools and applications.
If the work you do in your support team no longer makes you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, the next question you should be asking is if it’s taking you longer than it has to.
Equip yourself best to tackle requests as quickly as they come in.
If the work you do starts feeling monotonous, the morale slump ends up taking a toll on you. It might not be noticeable at first, but it can eventually lead to a drop in the quality of your customer interactions or even burnout.
Irrespective of the variety of requests you might be handling, some will be alike, requiring similar actions or almost identical responses; at times you might need to perform sets of similar tasks on multiple tickets. But you don’t have to repeat all of it individually every single time.
When multiple customers raise issues that need the same response, a refund request for instance, create or use existing canned responses on your helpdesk that you can insert with a couple of clicks.
If your helpdesk can suggest articles for you to use in response, then great! But even simply looking for an article yourself and attaching its link or inserting its content into your reply will drastically cut down the time you spend resolving each such query.
If after responding to a customer you need to change or update attributes of the ticket, instead of going over every field, you should set up automations to complete all the tasks to be performed with a single click.
You should also set up rote things like assignments, categorisation, emails notifications or escalations to be automated clearly so that multiple routine actions can be carried out with ease.
Using ticket templates set up by your helpdesk’s admin will not only eliminate the excessive manual creation and entry of tickets, but will also ensure that the information logged in your helpdesk is consistent
Clearing out a bulk of the requests in your queue, then selecting and changing statuses of multiple tickets all at once is a much faster way to go about updating them.
Here are some numbers that agents can keep an eye on to gauge how efficiently they’re working.
Conveying your point to the customer shouldn’t take longer than it has to. Using the right tools and media to enhance the way you communicate will ensure there is no disconnect.
Time being as crucial as it is in support situations, you would be best served if you kept to a minimum the time you take to explain solutions. To help you do that, you need to capitalise on the tools you can leverage to improve how you communicate.
Using all the visual collateral at your disposal - screenshots and recordings, gifs, videos, presentations, and so on - is the best way to ensure you’re providing the most comprehensive and the quickest possible resolution for your customers.
If a customer agrees to grant you remote access to their system, you can step in and fix whatever was troubling them in an instant, essentially saving you countless hours in the long run.
Sharing your screen with a customer as you demonstrate the solution to their problem makes sure that they immediately understand what needs to be done and are also equipped to deal with it should the issue crop up again.
Helpdesks today are usually on the cloud. This means accessing them is easier than it used to be during the age of on-premise software. But do I still need to find access to a desktop or laptop computer to be able to support on the go?
Be it on your commute to work or when when you’re in the field, keeping track of your tickets can be rather difficult when you’re away from your desk. But helpdesks usually have mobile apps that you can take with you.
Just about any functionality that your helpdesk has on the web will likely be present in its app version as well. You can simply login on your phone and do everything you would on your laptop - from responding to tickets and taking calls to answering chats and composing emails.
If you’re logged in to your helpdesk on your phone, you can use it to stay up-to-date with all the activity on your tickets without having to even go near a laptop or a computer. The notifications from the mobile app will make sure you’re never caught off guard and are always putting your best foot forward.
Using a mobile app to support shouldn’t mean having to compromising on functionality.
A support team is often looked at as an island, isolated from the rest of the organisation. The larger mistake here is to assume that agents can support customers without the help of other departments.
Collaborate both within your team and across functions to provide the best customer experience possible.
Inherently, customer service has a lot of dependencies. If there’s a bug, you need a developer to fix it. If a delivery is late, you need to follow-up with the delivery team or partner. Then why is collaboration so convoluted and is the primary cause of delays?
The way workflows have traditionally been structured, working with other teams on support, be it internal or 3rd parties, is nothing short of a nightmare. This is especially true when a support request involves any form of re-assignment or delegation, or simply needs more than one head to solve the issue.
When a complex issue requiring multiple actions is reported, break it down into actionable tickets and work on them parallely with others on your team.
If more than one agent needs to come together to solve a request, share the ticket instead of reassigning it so that you still retain access.
Reaching out for help when you’re stuck, or simply discussing something in a ticket shouldn’t take you out of your helpdesk and make you lose context. Using an internal medium to communicate will not only reduce your resolution times but also make your responses more savvy and comprehensive.
Link and track similar issues (like feature requests, bug reports or outages) across your helpdesk so that when there’s a relevant update, the replies you provide to all your customers are timely and uniform no matter who the assigned agent is.
What is often overlooked is the wisdom that a support team amasses over time; very little of it is put to use in everyday scenarios. Applied properly, the work done over time by a support team as a whole, can be an invaluable asset in each agent’s arsenal.
Even if your team is not remote, it’s no easy thing to be aware of everyone on your team and their activities. But making the effort to keep up with your team and making use of their combined output pays off immensely.
You shouldn’t lose any time solving issues that a coworker is already taking care of. Let your helpdesk alert you if you’re duplicating work that’s already been/being done so that you don’t confuse customers with multiple responses, or much worse, contradicting ones.
Collaborative support teams see up to a 32% decrease in resolution times. Here are a few tips that will help you foster better team-work.
The key to doing the best work in customer support is to understand what customers expect from you. You can meet and exceed their expectations by adopting the right tools and processes in your quest to iteratively improve your support based on feedback from your customers.
We hope this guide helps you navigate the waters of customer support better. Though the work is intense, the truly great agents are in it because they want to make a difference and genuinely enjoy making people’s lives easier.
Freshdesk is a helpdesk software from Freshworks, that is suitable for businesses of all sizes to deliver exceptional customer support.
If you’d like to extend this conversation, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org