Designing the right workflows for your support teams
TL;DR: As the first — and sometimes only — contact that customers have with a company, it’s important for support teams to work effectively. But with unclear processes, expectations, and communication, some support teams fail to improve customer experience. Support teams that are more strategic in the way they approach teamwork can set themselves up for long-term success — and customer satisfaction.
Imagine downloading a new app or buying a new product, only to find a major issue while you’re using it. You call customer support for answers, but you’re transferred half a dozen times and find yourself explaining the problem six times to six different people. With no solution in sight, you decide to tweet about your experience, but support takes days to acknowledge your comments. The problem with a miserable support experience isn’t about what the support team thinks about the customers’ experience — they usually know that they’re lapsing. The problem isn’t the calibre of the employees — they’re usually empathetic, skilled professionals. Often, the problem is teamwork. When there’s a breakdown of communication on a support team, processes aren’t clear. As a result, the team isn’t functioning at a high level, so the customer experience suffers. The good news is that, given the right tools, support teams can function with more precision and give customers a personalized experience. The solution boils down to two key factors: 1) organized, updated procedure documents and 2) ongoing, open communication. Let’s look at how support teams can address teamwork fails without losing customers along the way.
Create a framework to manage processes
As a support team, your purpose is clear: you exist to strengthen the bond with customers by responding to questions and feedback. But successful support teams are more than just a bunch of people sitting behind desks waiting for a phone call or a tweet. You’re a team guided by processes that explain how to respond to any situation you encounter. Without this action plan, your team is destined to fail. Start by outlining the steps that your team should take every time a customer reaches out. For example, if a comment comes in from your website, ask yourself the following questions:
Who receives the comment?
How long should it take the point person to respond?
When should the point person look for additional support?
Who should the point person ask for help?
How should the point person follow up with the customer?
What action, if any, is required by the customer after a solution has been offered?
As you answer these questions, start to flesh out your process and documentation so that standards are created for meeting customer needs. Also, think about what this process looks like when comments come through other channels, such as social media, email, and the phone.
Document your process
In the early days of your support team, there might have been only a few people handling customer support. For example, one person took calls and one person responded to comments on social media. There wasn’t a need for a formalized process because the team was small but robust enough to handle issues as they came up. It wasn’t perfect, but the team managed to function and customer experience was good enough. But now that your company has grown and you’re receiving more support requests, winging it doesn’t cut it anymore. What you need is a formal process that accomplishes the following:
Identifies the different areas of support you offer
Matches tasks to each area
Lays out a workflow when customers contact support
Diagrams the workflow so that it’s easy to follow
Using this framework, here’s how to create a customized process for your company that leads to better teamwork:
Identify your areas of support.
Let’s say you have three areas of support: phone, website chatbot, and social media. Your documentation should explain the roles of each group and how the groups interact with each other.
Match tasks to each area.
Make each group’s responsibilities very clear to reduce confusion or job crossover. For example, the chatbot group might also be responsible for comments coming in through the website’s contact page. The goal here is to figure out the different ways customers can contact your team, and then give your team guidelines for good responses.
Create a team workflow.
Combine responsibilities for required actions so that team members know what steps to take when customers make contact. And if a reply needs input from another team, a workflow should indicate how and when that should happen so everyone can work together smoothly to solve customer issues.
Diagram your workflow.
Make it easy for your team to understand how the new process works and where they fit into the workflow by diagramming it.
Tip: Your process document should be flexible enough to adjust to changing customer demands. For example, if you find that more of your customers begin contacting your team through social media, consider adding more agents or team members to respond to incoming queries. Next, update the workflow document to indicate which team members should reply and how long they should take to respond, given the circumstances. This update to the workflow makes the process easy for the team to stick to.
Make it easier to share knowledge internally
One way to keep processes consistent is to create a knowledge-sharing process that’s accessible to everyone. You can use a tool like Teamwork Chat to simplify team collaboration. It makes it easy to share new information on the go and enables support teams to work better together to solve open tickets. This is especially important for remote teams where information sharing is paramount to their success. Teamwork Chat also makes it easier for other teams, like marketing, to work with support. For example, if a new feature is being rolled out, then marketing can share this in Teamwork Chat so that the support team is prepared for incoming questions or concerns. The feature launch runs smoothly because internal teams know about the updates and can plan in advance how to help their customers. Here’s a closer look at how the knowledge-sharing process would work:
Step 1: Create a Teamwork Chat account, add team members and set up your channels.
Step 2: Log customer insights. Create Google Doc folders and organize them into categories and subsections for each group on the support team. Here’s what that might look like: social media support → trending topics → app glitches. The categories are open to everyone to view and edit and are organized in a way that makes it easy to find information. Notify the team of updates to any of these documents in Teamwork Chat.
Step 3: Use Teamwork Chat to notify the team about new updates. For example, if the customer success team notices that customers are cancelling because of slow response time from support, the cancellation group can create a page detailing what they’ve learned and then share a link to it in Teamwork Chat. That way, everyone is aware of the issue and can strive to do better.
Step 4: Let the team search in Teamwork Chat for information. If a customer raises an unfamiliar issue, support can quickly check previous tickets in while using Teamwork Chat to see whether other team members have shared additional information.
Step 5: Update documents. As new insights come in, the team should update or create documents as needed. That way, the knowledge base is always up to date.
Tip: There’s a complex web of tools out there, but you don’t need to use more than one or two. Keep communication simple to encourage your team to use the process you’ve laid out. Figure out what your needs are — for example, do you already have a knowledge base or do you need one? Then, look for tools to match your needs.
The purpose of creating process workflows
Whether you’ve introduced a new process or updated an existing one, your team will have a better idea of how to handle incoming customer comments when they have access to a clear process workflow. This is the first step to moving past teamwork fails and into a successful collaboration. Make it clear to your team that they play a big part in the company’s long-term success and give them the chance to add to the improvements you’re making. Your support team knows your customers well, so they’re in the perfect position to help improve customer experience. Finally, take your team’s advice on how to improve internal workflows. This also helps them work together better since they’re using the processes and see firsthand what works and what doesn’t. Over time you’ll see positive, lasting changes