As you think about building your customer support ops, you want to be thinking long-term. Where do you aim to be in a year or more? When you have the right infrastructure, scaling is easier. This also applies to customer support operations. Start today with a strong foundation so that you can grow as smoothly as possible. As you think about building your team, you want to set them up with services that make day to day easier. These services need to make data accessible across all departments and provide tools for business analysis. By using services that streamline these operations areas, you set your team up for success. They should give you the ability to manage your team effectively and improve over time.
Four Key Areas of Customer Support that are better with tech
- Customer communication management system
- Ticket Management system
- Training Materials and Data Trackers Home-base (Google Docs)
- Internal Data Management System
In building out your ops, you want services/tools that allow you to tackle these four aspects of day to day customer operations.
Customer communication management system
An customer communication management system is pretty self-explanatory. You need a place for your agents to receive and answer questions from your customers. It’s great to use a product that has business intelligence offered through the platform. You want a solution that makes it very easy for you to monitor the KPIs for your team. Here are some of the data points you want to monitor:
- Email volume by team and by agent, including time required to resolve cases
- Email types through comprehensive labeling system
- Quality ratings to understand agent performance
- Searchable system for archived conversations
When picking an email management tool, it’s important to understand their whole offering. You might want to build your own FAQ system or want a service that your engineers can plug into and customize. I recommend connecting with a few different companies to compare. Prices can vary, but both ZenDesk and Desk by Salesforce are commonly used.
Further reading: Compare ZenDesk to Desk by Salesforce.
Ticket Management System
A ticket management system is basically a place were you add a ‘ToDo’ with context, prioritize it, and assign ownership. The contributors and owners can simultaneously add data to the ticket and see changes live, all without multiple lines of communication and disjointed timeline.
This is important for escalated cases or for cases that require multiple contributors. Ticket management can reduce back and forth communication. It also provides a reference for longer projects – recorded comments and timeline for actions taken. Using a ticket management system is a great process improvement – it removes the possibility that things slip through the cracks. It also makes team management easier – you can see all existing tickets (current to-do’s) ranked in order of priority or due date. You can see who is actively working and what progress they have made. You can set priorities so you’re sure the important tasks are handled first.
A customer reaches out about an order that hasn’t been delivered. Your customer support agent researches the tracking and sees that it was added with an error. They add this as a ticket for your inventory or vendor team to obtain the correct tracking number. The ticket has a specific flag – vendor issue, waiting response – and is assigned to the agent managing that vendor. That agent can go into the ticket, see if it is high priority, take action based on priority level, and re-assign back to the customer service agent. All the while, the team manager can see all current tickets from a high level, notice if they aren’t handled on time, and take action.
A customer isn’t satisfied with the help they received and is very angry. Agent makes a ticket for manager. Ticket has case notes, timeline, priority, and due date. The manager has one place to go to see all live tickets she must review in her last hour of each day. Since they are all ordered by priority with all required data in the ticket, she can quickly assess what needs to be done today and efficiently take action.
When the managers reviews this ticket, she notices that the issue was caused by a product bug. She can then copy this ticket over to the Product Manager’s tracker. The PMs can then escalate the bug and get it resolved. Overall, the entire workflow looks like this: customer problem > escalated case > filed bug > engineers fix the bug. It is all handled within tracker. Everyone see real time progress and ensure it keeps moving. This is all done without multiple lines of communication across various platforms.
With a ticket tracking system, you want streamlined, multi-department communication with easily ability to oversee key details (ownership, priority, project state). Here are some great tools, each designed for different types of teams.
- Pivotal Tracker
My personal recommendation is Pivotal Tracker. It is a multi-functional, easy to use platform. Easy to train new agents, easy for managers to zoom out and review what is happening. You can have a tracker per department and link between departments. This is also a top pick for engineers, so it works well for you if you want your customer team to connect with engineering under the same product.
Further reading: Compare Pivotal Tracker vs Trello.
Training Materials and Data Trackers Homebase (Google Docs)
- Docs for training manual
- Spreadsheets for trackers
You want one major location where all team related documents exist. This includes training materials and trackers – team hour trackers, KPI trackers, customer needs trackers, etc.
Ideally, a cloud based storage where all material is in one place, all updates are live and permission settings are easy to toggle. On-boarding and Off-boarding made easy.
I highly recommend using Google docs to create folders for each process and each team. When you make process changes as you grow, you don’t want to have to recreate and redistribute all of the hard files you sent.
You should also have folders for each employee, recording stats and invoices over time. You should have training manuals in one folder. Use spreadsheets for trackers, such as agent quality checks and KPIs. You can use google forms that dump into the spreadsheets.
Internal Data Management System
So what we’re talking about here is a tool to present your internal data to your operations team. All the user data, the order data, the vendor data, and so on.. needs to be in one place. The easier it is to navigate, the more efficient your team.
Ultimately, this isn’t a tool that you purchase but one that your engineering team builds. It’s worth covering because as your team builds this, you should give them insight into what the customer team needs access to. You also want to think about ways to take that customer data and surface it for business intelligence. Services like Looker do a great job of this.
As you start thinking about your team, pick solutions that support transparency. Communication between departments and easily accessible data are key to creating an efficient and effective team. While using multiple tech services sounds like it can be expensive, there are usually lower cost or free plans when you’re starting small. Even if you think it might be out of budget, it’s worth looking into services that support these key four functions. By creating solutions for these four functions, management and improvement become feasible. The more your operations are organized and structured, the better your team will function.