The customer support ecosystem is constantly evolving. When it comes to keeping up with these changes, there are two options:
Take path #1 and open your eyes to knowledge and proactively evolve to meet the needs of your current and future customers
Opt for path #2 and continue your operations in bliss…until unforeseen circumstances necessitate agility and change
We’d go for path #1. That’s why this year, we hosted the first digital CX Festival, where we set out to both celebrate customer support and learn from leading CX experts. During the virtual festival, we learned tips from their experiences on scaling, measuring, collaborating, tooling, and the trends taking over the industry.
In this post, we’ll share 7 key elements to a strong customer support strategy from companies such as Groupon, mParticle, Adyen, Twilio, WeWork, and Wix Answers. We’ll also highlight how they achieve a customer-obsessed mindset and avoid a stubborn stagnant approach that can cause disruptions across the entire business.
Read on below for their best insights.
1. Create an open dialogue with support agents
Improving customer satisfaction begins with an open dialogue between those on the front lines of customer support (your agents), their team leaders, and senior management. As a manager or leader, it's important to provide your agents with the ability to use open lines of communication to raise ideas, concerns, and feedback. It’s also important to listen and truly embrace a two-sided dialogue.
A one-sided monologue won’t empower agents and help them see the purpose behind their mission. It also won’t help management understand if their training was beneficial, understood, or needs improvement.
Groupon’s Global Customer Engagement Manager, Natalia Stefanikov, stated that in order for them to achieve a great customer experience, the brand relies on internal, open dialogues with agents once they’ve rolled out a program or finished a training. During these dialogues, Stefanikov asks questions such as: was the training beneficial, or was it lacking in some way? How did you respond to it?
Open lines of communication help companies continuously improve internal processes (such as how agents work) and simultaneously strengthens team culture. When support organizations focus on internal processes of collaborating, it trickles down to happier customers.
Stefanikov explained, “you learn a lot [directly] speaking with the agents. It’s a way for them to bring their insights and qualitative data to [the table].”
2. Master omnichannel support
Omnichannel customer support means being where your customers are so you can support them at any step in their journey. As Wix Answers’ Product Solutions Expert, Carl Lane, pointed out during his workshop, it’s not about creating a presence on every existing channel, but instead, about using ones customers feel comfortable with and providing resolution to their challenges on those channels.
For businesses to master omnichannel support, they need to streamline their customer experience organization and integrate their support into a cohesive view, making it easier for the agent to respond and provide quality service.
Mastering omnichannel support is a crucial component of improving customer satisfaction and retention. When customers can communicate with you on different channels, agents can address their needs with little friction. And when contacting support is easier for customers, they’re more willing to communicate and reach out when they need help solving an issue. In the long term, smooth omnichannel support will lead to more satisfied customers and higher retention rates.
3. Integrate agents into company initiatives
In any company, it's imperative support agents not only have their finger on internal initiatives, but also have a way to share their customer insights with other departments. Customer data platform, mParticle’s approach to getting agents involved in decision-making and processes begins with task forces and quarterly business reviews (QBRs).
mParticle regularly creates task forces, pulling together members of the Product, Dev, QA, BI, Marketing, and Customer Support teams to talk about each product and roadmap from their perspective. In these groups, CS participants can share any ideas or observations from their day-to-day customer interactions with the rest of the task force.
In their session, the company’s SVP of Customer Success, Jillian Burnett, said that “working in small groups allows for faster product delivery.”
By integrating support agents into company initiatives, teams can utilize their insights and data to gain a 360 view of their customer, improve product functionality, and fine-tune company roadmaps. The end result is a customer-centric organization focused on improving all aspects of the customer experience.
4. Make culture a priority within customer support
Though it may sound unconventional for some, Dutch payment company, Adyen, shared with CX Fest viewers that their primary focus when it comes to support is addressing the agent’s attitude and behavior, leaving metrics as a secondary focus. As VP Support & Operations Coen Tijhof, explained, customer satisfaction is directly related to the agent’s demeanor. If you help agents understand why they're there and the essence of what your company is trying to achieve, those who have a greater grasp on these values will perform better than those who don’t fit the company DNA.
For any company, happy, motivated employees leads to happier customers and a better bottom line.
And though metrics are important, Tijhof said that they found a direct correlation between those who embrace Adyen’s values and high performers.
“If we train people on the right behavior and attitudes and understand and behave according to our formula, they’re more successful in their job.”
5. Walk in the customer’s shoes
A strong customer service strategy relies on knowing who your customers are and what they need from you. Businesses can then use this valuable information to optimize the customer experience.
Twilio’s Chief Customer Officer, Glenn Weinstein, shared that one of their main values is to “wear the customers’ shoes.” For their support strategy, the cloud communications platform regularly considers:
Who are our customers?
What do they want from us?
Who derives the most value from our products?
How can they turn our offerings into real value?
Using this exercise, Twilio realized their target audience valued:
Streamlined and automated processes when using the platform
Minimum contact when reaching support
And when support is needed, the option of communicating with someone who speaks their language
Using this knowledge, Twilio set out to build the required processes and mechanisms to create a customer experience that best matched their customer needs. For Twilio, this meant using an API to allow customers to call a support line and get pertinent information without speaking to agents.
Whether your customers want minimal human interaction or a strong partnership with your support team, begin with a clear understanding of what they’re looking for so you can build a plan to meet those needs and provide valuable support.
6. Replace reactive support with proactive journey touch points
At best, reactive support can thaw tension during moments of crisis, but at worst, it can cause customers to become even more frustrated and walk away from the company all together. Ultimately, nothing replaces a conversation with customers where you can make sure you’re getting feedback on their needs and requirements, uncovering issues and opportunities, and making sure you’re aligned when it comes to shared goals.
WeWork’s VP Global Head of Customer Success & Account Management, Jordan Garner’s best tip for leading proactive support initiatives was to stop speaking to clients only when they engage with your company.
Instead, the company implemented touch points that occur during moments of truth (and at appropriate cadences) with the customers’ approval. In her session, Garner shared the three touch points WeWork uses in their support teams:
Pre renewal conversations
To avoid churn or dissipate moments of frustration for customers, WeWork’s customer success team has each member take ownership of one of the above touch points for each client. Team members then create systems—such as task reminders—so they can hold themselves accountable and make sure all interactions meet their customer objectives (such as successful onboarding and contract renewals).
With proactive journey touch points, you can identify pain points and resolve them before they become huge problems (which in turn reduces the amount of tickets) and nurture long-term customer relationships built on trust.
7. Understand your CX identity
monday.com knows a thing or two about scaling. In 2018, the work operating system went from 180 employees in 2018 to 700 in 2020. And with nearly 600,000 weekly active users, the customer experience team constantly asks themselves: What is our organization here to do?
As monday.com pointed out, customer-facing teams can identify their main purpose as any of the following:
+ any other terms your company uses
No matter which term your company prefers, it’s important to create a customer experience identity. Once established, you can align your team around this identity and work together to achieve a common objective, such as rapid growth or increasing customer loyalty.
You can start this process by examining who your customer is and why they’re reaching out to you. monday.com found, for example, that they receive more customer-success orientated questions than queries about technical bugs, so they made Customer Success the forefront of their identity.
This identity helped them pinpoint their organization's values (empowering interactions, trust, etc.) and where they want to focus as an organization (fostering long-term relationships with users).
monday.com’s values and goals shape how their agents respond to customers. Instead of sacrificing robust support for rushed resolutions, they can devote plenty of time towards engaging in longer conversations with customers and empowering them with the right knowledge and resources.
Keep your organization's identity in mind at all times so that even as you scale, you’ll have an easier time sticking to your goals and providing customers with a consistent experience.
There’s no GPS to use that will guide you towards a fully optimized customer support organization, but thankfully, we can gain knowledge from some of the world’s leading CX experts and learn from their experiences. Your customers’ happiness depends on those at the front lines—your agents. From creating new opportunities for dialogue between agents and team leads to understanding your CX identity, keep these seven tips in mind and you can build a strong customer service strategy ready for any future event or change.
Check out what our other incredible panelists from the CX Fest had to say. Watch the recordings.