Making a more efficient support team can take a little work, but pays off very quickly. When your support team is confident and comfortable in their role, their productivity increases. As a result, a team of efficient, productive agents can protect your bottom line allowing you to run a smaller, more effective team.
Selecting the Right Candidate
Support roles are a great way for someone to get their foot in the door at a company. Hiring effective agents that want to grow with your company is always the hiring manager’s goal. It’s better to have them leave the role to move up with the company than to have them leave the organization completely, and applicants may be switching careers to use this job to move into their preferred career path. These are some of the things to look for in candidates outside of direct experience.
Company Culture and Philosophy is Important
It is important that the members of your support team share your company’s core values. If an agent doesn’t share the same drive or ideals as the rest of their team or company, it can easily send out a ripple effect to everyone around them. Negativity spreads way more easily than positivity does. And this can have far more toxic repercussions in user-facing roles as it can quickly spread negative reviews.
Regardless of how knowledgeable someone is, their professional growth can be severely limited if they are disinterested or have negative attitudes about the job. If you recognize an applicant as having disinterest or a lack of passion in your company, move on. Why hold both parties back from having a work environment that is ideal?
We’ll get into communication strategies later on, but being having this ability to clearly communicate consumer feedback upward and break news to the customer can be an invaluable tool. As a liaison between customer and the other departments of your company, you want agents who are able to clearly advocate for each party. So while an applicant’s previous role may have been a shift lead in a restaurant, they may possess qualities that are harder to teach than troubleshooting your product.
Passion over Past Employment
Working a support role can certainly segue someone’s career from one industry to another. And finding the “perfect candidate” can be difficult. As mentioned above, working service industry jobs or other various avenues outside of tech support jobs shouldn’t automatically exclude applicants. An eagerness to learn can go a long way. Remember, skills are learned. Enthusiasm and passion are more difficult to train on. An applicant that has researched your company and asks great questions can really go a long way as a member of your support team. After a brief onboarding period, they can move far beyond the initial support role. And having an eye for this type of talent looks good on the hiring managers.
Controlling Customer Interactions
Being a more effective agent doesn’t necessarily mean working harder. It frequently just comes down to working smarter, and utilizing better communication skills. If you manage support agents or are yourself an agent, these are some everyday tips that apply to a wide range of customer-facing roles and allow you and the customer to have a more efficient, meaningful experience.
Control The Conversation
As the expert, you should always be in control of the conversation and how it flows. Sure, the customer is the one experiencing the problem. But as the party with the solution, it’s important that you drive the conversation to it’s conclusion by asking the appropriate questions to get the information you need. Here are some ways to control the chat while also giving a fantastic experience to the customer.
Give a Warm Welcome
It’s refreshing to know that you’re talking to a real person. And starting off conversationally, be it a phone call, chat, or even an email, can really help you and the customer start out on the right foot.
We can all think of negative experiences we’ve had with a company’s support team, and if you haven’t, congrats. A major issue that can quickly lead to a negative interaction is a cold, impersonal introduction. There’s never been a time when someone sounded sincere starting a call with “Hello, thank you for contacting ShipStation Technical Support. Your business and patience is greatly appreciated. My name is James, how may I help you today?” It’s not how people talk, and it’s not how people want to be spoken to, particularly if they’re experiencing an issue. Be a human! Suspend disbelief, don’t remind them that “oh, this is a support call.” Just say “Hi, this is James with ShipStation. How can I help?”
The Discovery Phase is Important
Once you have greeted the customer, immediately move into establishing why they’ve contacted you. The discovery phase is everything leading up to you offering a solution. And, it’s important to not initially assume things about the customer or why they’re chatting in. Someone may have a workflow question, so starting off by asking “what issues are you having?” can unintentionally come across as condescending. Again, just be yourself. Start off by asking, “So, what brings you in today?” and go from there.
Ask Probing Questions
Additionally, ask open-ended probing questions. It’s a great way to get the most information from a customer. It also affords you time to investigate their issue or switch over to another customer if you are in multiple conversations/chats at once. Yes or no questions can become repetitive and can make it seem as though you are not invested in or familiar with the customer’s issue.
Instead of asking:
Have you made any recent changes to your account’s admin panel?
What, if any, recent changes have you made to your account’s admin panel?
This also allows the customer to become more involved in the troubleshooting process, which can also provide greater insight into the issue. Yes or no questions don’t uncover any new information beyond anything that you know. An agent is incapable of knowing everything the customer does, and only getting “yes” or “no” answers severely restricts the information you receive. Moreover, including the customer in the troubleshooting process invests them more, creating a more collaborative experience.
Whether an issue has been resolved or not during the call/chat, it is good to claim the case as your responsibility. This makes future interactions with the customer easier as well. If an issue resurfaces or has not been fully resolved, and the user chats back in with someone else, they can become more aggravated. And it can be more difficult for your fellow agents to take control of the interaction, or they could not realize that you’ve already got an open case, thus wasting precious time re-troubleshooting the same issue.
Control is about setting proper expectations and engaging with the user. And if you can maintain that throughout the chat, the user will have more confidence in you as an agent, even if you are unable to provide a solution at that time.
Flesh Out Your Resources
Building internal documentation that agents can reference is of utmost importance. Including information such as known issues, troubleshooting tips, integrations, and canned responses can go a long way in giving your support team the knowledge to best do their job. As knowledge grows within a support role, abilities and output accelerate. Fleshing out resources also allows you to run a leaner, more knowledgeable team. Here’s a few tools that can help.
Google Docs is a commonly-used tool. It’s free, auto-saves, and can be easily accessed and edited by everyone in your organization. As you ramp up your team, this is a good starting point before moving into more premium solutions.
ZenDesk is more than a great cloud-based customer service application program that offers ticketing, chat, and phone features. It also offers a great help center builder that is easy to use. It offers robust categorization options. Being able to seamlessly access past support cases as well as knowledge base articles can drastically cut down the amount of time agents spend troubleshooting an issue. For an example guide that uses ZenDesk’s guide, check out ShipStation’s Help Center.
Atlassian’s collaborative software products have become an industry standard for engineering teams. However, they don’t as frequently make their way into support teams. Which is a shame, because their Confluence product is an effective to house internal documentation. It’s a great way to disseminate information across your organization. If you use Google Docs but want to make a jump to something more robust, this is a fantastic option for having team-level and company-level documentation. It is especially useful for bridging a support team with development teams.