Here’s something support leaders in the trenches know all too well: customer interactions are on the rise, which goes hand-in-hand with consumers’ expectations that the service they’ll receive will be stellar. That’s challenging enough for any business, but for companies in growth mode, those trends can lead to serious strain on support operations. For example, companies that offer an omnichannel experience are seeing interactions increase nearly six times as fast as teams can scale.
So how can businesses meet this challenge? Going on a hiring spree is an option, but the reality is that will almost certainly harm both the customer experience and the bottom line. That’s something support leaders understand, given that only about a third of those decision-makers intend to expand their teams in 2020.
At Fullscript, our business has grown significantly in the past few years, which has also meant facing difficult challenges as we’ve attempted to scale wisely. As the number of customer interactions spiked from 5,000 per month to 35,000, Fullscript had to address issues common to many support teams: information stored across disparate systems, legacy tools that made it tough to streamline processes, and little bandwidth for taking a step back to improve how work gets done. Here’s what we learned in overcoming those challenges.
Doing the heavy lifting at the start will make life easier
When scaling support operations, nothing is more effective than fully embracing an omnichannel support strategy and bringing everything into a single tool. At Fullscript, we offer email, phone, chat, and social media channels to our customers, and unifying those into one environment had far-reaching effects—it drastically improved reporting and gave the team a 360-degree view of our customers.
Meanwhile, we made the crucial decision to train agents to be generalists, which gave the support organization great flexibility to address shifting customer demands. For example, when one channel sees a spike of interactions—such as live chat, which has been growing month-over-month by 4 percent, to about 15,000 per month—our team can shift any number of agents to address the need. Those agents own all elements of the customer journey and can help with questions on any channel, which results in a real sense of ownership—and that’s a powerful trend that helps Fullscript’s support team handle almost any challenge.
That training has been augmented by automation of time-consuming tasks, which helps agents focus on conversations rather than rote work. Triggers automatically direct emails and calls to the right teams based on expertise, while also helping us merge tickets so that the team stays informed and works more efficiently. Instituting triggers also aids Fullscript in adhering to service-level agreements (SLAs) by flagging affected customers (such as the 300-plus brands the company supports). By working in a unified environment with a multitude of workflow efficiencies in place, agents and their customers gain a host of benefits: historical data about interactions; account details such as restrictions; customer authentication; identification of VIP and other key accounts; and opportunities to increase sales.
In addition, conditional ticket forms have helped Fullscript understand which brand and channel a customer is coming from, key information that empowers agents before an interaction begins. These efforts—unifying our support experience into a single platform, leaning on triggers and automation, and implementing conditional ticket forms—has led to real results: we’ve seen our first-reply time decrease by 60 percent, and our average handling time has dropped to about 7 minutes.
Embrace the voice of customer
What is the voice of the customer? Simply put, it’s what your customers are saying about your level of support, and you won’t be able to scale wisely unless you’re paying attention. That means keeping a close eye on CSAT scores, first-reply times, metrics about channel usage, wait times, and so on. Doing so will help your support team elevate the customer experience and drive influence.
By providing an omnichannel experience and understanding every element of how a customer interacts with your brand, you’ll unlock a powerful opportunity to fix the “broken windows” in your product. Those flaws tend to be product gaps that are very important to the customer’s experience. For example, Fullscript tracks how users interact with our self-service content, which provides insight into what our customers want; meanwhile, we also store customer feedback after feature launches, which keeps our product development process on a customer-centric path.
Create a culture centered on change management
While providing a unified platform for agents and embracing the voice of your customers will go a long way toward helping your company scale its support efforts appropriately, there’s a third element that is just as important: creating a culture that is built for change.
There’s no getting around it—customer service requires great flexibility, and companies that are primed for change can respond to shifting user expectations faster and more effectively. How can you achieve that? First, think about how your company sets the tone for new hires—are they prepared from the get-go to roll with a shifting landscape? It’s vital that you create an open environment in which agents feel they can share feedback without repercussions.
Fullscript has learned to embrace the laws of unintended consequences. As your organization adapts to growth and shifting customer expectations, actions taken with one result in mind may have unexpected secondary effects. This is where a support team that’s ready for change shines. For Fullscript’s agents, being immersed in a culture of change management meant being able to adapt to new software, different work environments (such as remote work), and extensive retraining without disrupting service.
Scaling your support operations effectively can seem daunting, but with some forethought and the right tools and processes in place, your business will be ready to meet that challenge. Your customers will notice—and they’ll reward you with their loyalty.