Top 8 Tips for Support Teams from Industry Leaders

In this insightful blog, we present the top 8 support tips from experienced leaders in the customer support industry.
January 18, 2024

Top 8 Tips for Support Teams from Industry Leaders

In this insightful blog, we present the top 8 support tips from experienced leaders in the customer support industry.
January 18, 2024

Top 8 Tips for Support Teams from Industry Leaders

In this insightful blog, we present the top 8 support tips from experienced leaders in the customer support industry.

We asked 8 support leaders for tips for teams across the world. Here’s what they answered!

Buckle your seatbelt and get ready to book mark because this resource is full of golden nuggets.

Tip 1: On building a support team from scratch

Are you in a new Support Leader role? Are you building a Support Team from scratch?

Be a Tourist and Detective and look to answer and understand some initial questions first.

Be a Tourist.

  • Learn about and understand the product, development process, and roadmap.
  • What is the language used to talk about the product?
  • Use and understand the tech stack.

Be a Detective.

  • What is the current state of the Product?
  • What does the ICS (Installation, Configuration, and Setup) process look like?
  • What does the break/fix process look like?

Understanding these questions will help you identify priorities and the first “Builders” you need to hire to help you build a world-class support team.

~ Andrew Rios, Customer Support Leader, founder at RIOS MGMT

Tip 2: Finding the right solutions

The thing I love about support, is that it’s all about finding solutions to unknown (unstructured) problems. The ideal goal would be to go from:

Unstructured -> Semi-Structured -> Structured -> Educate -> Automate -> Core Solve in Product

So how do we do it?

  • Investigate/deal with and handle the Unstructured Problem.
  • Document/define the reasons and how to solve it.
  • Structure the full process.
  • Educate (customers) or internal customers.
  • Automate solutions.
  • Fix the root cause of the issue.

(Personally) I think you could measure the maturity of your Support Function on how well they are able to go about this full process consistently from start to finish over and over again.

That being said, there are three fronts that you need to always be aware of;

  1. Maximizing Value for Customers
  2. Leading Engaged and High-Performing Teams
  3. Driving Business Outcomes

As a support leader, find a way to drive business outcomes, while keeping teams engaged to drive value for customers. It’s difficult to balance, but you’ll be successful if you can keep these top of mind.

~ Neal Travis, Creator and Host of Growth Support

Tip 3: When handling a high volume of customer inquiries

We don’t think about it much, but customer support volume IS relative. A thousand calls at once isn’t a problem if you are already staffed for it. So high volume typically means, more than you are typically staffed for.

As this is a question of scale, your goal then is to figure out how to scale to meet this demand.The first step to solving this is to work upstream.

  • Can this increase in demand be predicted? If it can, then you have some outbound options to consider.
  • Can it be avoided in more creative ways?
  • Can you contact the customer prior to the increased demand?
  • Can you set up intake methods that help with scale?

There are an infinite number of ways to deal with scale when demand is predictable. When it’s not predictable, you need to understand your other constraints and thresholds. This means being aware of the company mission, vision and values to act accordingly.

If your organizational goals include cost savings, then the increased volume means you need to focus on mental health, staff constraints, overtime pay and employee experience. The last thing you want is decreased capacity.

If your organizational goals are more focused on customer experience and creating fans, then you need to invest in scaling. This means focusing on increasing headcount, self-service, automation and artificial intelligence to scale throughout.

The reason these answers work so well is because you are focusing on organizational goals. If your brand has a specific image to maintain or are trying to change perceptions, your post sale activities like support have a large impact on how your company is perceived.

Support leaders who align to these goals, have to align their tactics to match. It’s how they will be funded, and the outcomes should match goals.

~ Matt Beran, host of Ticket Volume Podcast

Tip 4: Common misconceptions to avoid

  1. Customer Support is Merely Reactive:
  • Myth: Customer support only responds to queries.
  • Reality: In my role, I've led proactive initiatives, such as implementing ticket deflections and optimizing support processes, demonstrating that support is not just reactive but actively contributes to problem-solving and prevention.
  1. Limited Technical Knowledge:
  • Myth: Technical support knows everything about technology.
  • Reality: While technical expertise is crucial, support professionals continually learn and adapt to new technologies, dispelling the misconception that they possess exhaustive knowledge.
  1. Customer Support is Isolated:
  • Myth: Customer support operates in isolation from other departments.
  • Reality: I've successfully integrated support teams with various departments, fostering cross-functional efficiency and contributing to the overall success of the organization.
  1. No Complaints Is a Good Thing!:
  • Myth: No customer complaints indicate satisfaction.
  • Reality: Having no complaints may mean customers aren't providing feedback, hindering crucial improvement opportunities.
  1. AI Will Replace Real Agents:
  • Myth: AI will entirely replace human agents.
  • Reality: AI complements, but human interaction remains essential for many support scenarios.
  1. Customers Always Prefer Talking to Real People:
  • Myth: Customers always prefer human interaction.
  • Reality: Some prefer efficient self-service options; a mix of support channels is essential for diverse preferences.
  1. Customers Display Loyalty Based on Service Experience:
  • Myth: Customer loyalty is solely tied to service experience.
  • Reality: Gartner research indicates loyalty is primarily linked to the product or service offering, not just the service experience itself.

~ Fernando Duarte, Director of Support ay Odyssey

Tip 5: OKRs: Dos and Don’ts

Honestly, mistakes are a part of every organization. In my view, it's crucial to have a set of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) that are clearly outlined by the executive team, but still vague enough to cover every department.

If the OKRs are too specific, like focusing solely on a sales target, it might seem like it's only relevant to the sales department rather than the entire company.

The OKRs should be generic enough so that every department feels a sense of ownership over a part of them.

As these objectives trickle down the organizational structure, the OKRs for each subsequent department should feed into the higher-level ones.

This creates a percolation effect, where everything not only trickles down but also contributes back up the hierarchy.

At the individual staff level, it's about understanding how their efforts contribute to their team's OKRs, which in turn support the department, then the larger part of the organization, and ultimately the overall organizational goals.

I believe motivation increases when staff understand how their work impacts the company's mission. If they're unclear about their role's value, they can become disengaged.

~ Peter Peart, founder of Scale-Upp.uk

Tip 6: When climbing up the ladder

I want to share a few things that didn't work for me, as I think these can be valuable learning points. Initially, I was in a hurry to lead, perhaps before I was truly ready.

Patience is key, and it's challenging when you see leaders who seem less competent, making you feel ready to step up. However, once you're in a leadership position, you realize there's so much happening behind the scenes that you weren't aware of before.

Another important aspect to consider is why you want to be a leader. If your motivation is solely based on treating people well, you might find it challenging.

Being a leader isn't about being a union rep; it's about driving production in your team. Treating people well is a technique to achieve this, but it's not the sole purpose of management.

Regarding career progression, especially in startups, you often need to move to a different organization to get promoted. Startups, including mid and late-stage ones, don't usually have structured career paths. Opportunities for advancement are created through company growth or when someone leaves.

If you're determined to be a manager, you might need to look elsewhere. It's tough, especially when you've formed emotional bonds and invested in your current company, but staying too long can lead to frustration.

My candid advice is to view startups as one big industry and be open to moving to a new role within this space to step into management.

~ Kincy Clark, founder of OneStudy.ai

Tip 7: On handling remote teams

When it comes to supporting fully distributed teams, I advocate for being vocal to leadership about the need for resources. This could mean organizing an onsite gathering once a year specifically for the support team, or perhaps building out a specialized onsite event in addition to the company’s general gatherings. Regular team interactions, like holiday celebrations or monthly hangouts, are also important. I'm a fan of remote happy hours, where team members can bring their own drinks and chat about anything but work on Zoom.

However, I've seen posts on LinkedIn indicating that some people might be feeling burnt out and may not appreciate forced social time. So, what I'm really saying is that there's no one-size-fits-all solution. It greatly depends on the culture of your team and your company. Adaptability and understanding the unique dynamics of your team are key in finding the right approach.

~ Hilary Dudek, Advisory Board Member at Aimiable and Partner Hero

Tip 8: On writing good docuentation

The most crucial aspect of good documentation, in my opinion, is determining the tone of voice and the level of information to provide. This can be challenging. For instance, a help document for an app with many workarounds could become excessively long.

It's about striking the right balance between providing necessary information and overwhelming the user. Overloading a single document can be counterproductive, especially when content is surfaced through AI. If a customer has a simple question about Google Sheets, for example, and we provide a complex document, they might get lost.

Finding what works best for our customers often involves conducting customer interviews and research. It varies for everyone. I think it's essential to understand the needs of both new and tenured customers and how they seek information. This exploration helps in creating effective documentation.

Another key aspect is ensuring that the support team has a clear process for giving feedback on documentation and even contributing to updates. This collaborative approach helps keep our documentation relevant and user-friendly.

~ Lauren Fearn, Director of Support at Zapier

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We asked 8 support leaders for tips for teams across the world. Here’s what they answered!

Buckle your seatbelt and get ready to book mark because this resource is full of golden nuggets.

Tip 1: On building a support team from scratch

Are you in a new Support Leader role? Are you building a Support Team from scratch?

Be a Tourist and Detective and look to answer and understand some initial questions first.

Be a Tourist.

  • Learn about and understand the product, development process, and roadmap.
  • What is the language used to talk about the product?
  • Use and understand the tech stack.

Be a Detective.

  • What is the current state of the Product?
  • What does the ICS (Installation, Configuration, and Setup) process look like?
  • What does the break/fix process look like?

Understanding these questions will help you identify priorities and the first “Builders” you need to hire to help you build a world-class support team.

~ Andrew Rios, Customer Support Leader, founder at RIOS MGMT

Tip 2: Finding the right solutions

The thing I love about support, is that it’s all about finding solutions to unknown (unstructured) problems. The ideal goal would be to go from:

Unstructured -> Semi-Structured -> Structured -> Educate -> Automate -> Core Solve in Product

So how do we do it?

  • Investigate/deal with and handle the Unstructured Problem.
  • Document/define the reasons and how to solve it.
  • Structure the full process.
  • Educate (customers) or internal customers.
  • Automate solutions.
  • Fix the root cause of the issue.

(Personally) I think you could measure the maturity of your Support Function on how well they are able to go about this full process consistently from start to finish over and over again.

That being said, there are three fronts that you need to always be aware of;

  1. Maximizing Value for Customers
  2. Leading Engaged and High-Performing Teams
  3. Driving Business Outcomes

As a support leader, find a way to drive business outcomes, while keeping teams engaged to drive value for customers. It’s difficult to balance, but you’ll be successful if you can keep these top of mind.

~ Neal Travis, Creator and Host of Growth Support

Tip 3: When handling a high volume of customer inquiries

We don’t think about it much, but customer support volume IS relative. A thousand calls at once isn’t a problem if you are already staffed for it. So high volume typically means, more than you are typically staffed for.

As this is a question of scale, your goal then is to figure out how to scale to meet this demand.The first step to solving this is to work upstream.

  • Can this increase in demand be predicted? If it can, then you have some outbound options to consider.
  • Can it be avoided in more creative ways?
  • Can you contact the customer prior to the increased demand?
  • Can you set up intake methods that help with scale?

There are an infinite number of ways to deal with scale when demand is predictable. When it’s not predictable, you need to understand your other constraints and thresholds. This means being aware of the company mission, vision and values to act accordingly.

If your organizational goals include cost savings, then the increased volume means you need to focus on mental health, staff constraints, overtime pay and employee experience. The last thing you want is decreased capacity.

If your organizational goals are more focused on customer experience and creating fans, then you need to invest in scaling. This means focusing on increasing headcount, self-service, automation and artificial intelligence to scale throughout.

The reason these answers work so well is because you are focusing on organizational goals. If your brand has a specific image to maintain or are trying to change perceptions, your post sale activities like support have a large impact on how your company is perceived.

Support leaders who align to these goals, have to align their tactics to match. It’s how they will be funded, and the outcomes should match goals.

~ Matt Beran, host of Ticket Volume Podcast

Tip 4: Common misconceptions to avoid

  1. Customer Support is Merely Reactive:
  • Myth: Customer support only responds to queries.
  • Reality: In my role, I've led proactive initiatives, such as implementing ticket deflections and optimizing support processes, demonstrating that support is not just reactive but actively contributes to problem-solving and prevention.
  1. Limited Technical Knowledge:
  • Myth: Technical support knows everything about technology.
  • Reality: While technical expertise is crucial, support professionals continually learn and adapt to new technologies, dispelling the misconception that they possess exhaustive knowledge.
  1. Customer Support is Isolated:
  • Myth: Customer support operates in isolation from other departments.
  • Reality: I've successfully integrated support teams with various departments, fostering cross-functional efficiency and contributing to the overall success of the organization.
  1. No Complaints Is a Good Thing!:
  • Myth: No customer complaints indicate satisfaction.
  • Reality: Having no complaints may mean customers aren't providing feedback, hindering crucial improvement opportunities.
  1. AI Will Replace Real Agents:
  • Myth: AI will entirely replace human agents.
  • Reality: AI complements, but human interaction remains essential for many support scenarios.
  1. Customers Always Prefer Talking to Real People:
  • Myth: Customers always prefer human interaction.
  • Reality: Some prefer efficient self-service options; a mix of support channels is essential for diverse preferences.
  1. Customers Display Loyalty Based on Service Experience:
  • Myth: Customer loyalty is solely tied to service experience.
  • Reality: Gartner research indicates loyalty is primarily linked to the product or service offering, not just the service experience itself.

~ Fernando Duarte, Director of Support ay Odyssey

Tip 5: OKRs: Dos and Don’ts

Honestly, mistakes are a part of every organization. In my view, it's crucial to have a set of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) that are clearly outlined by the executive team, but still vague enough to cover every department.

If the OKRs are too specific, like focusing solely on a sales target, it might seem like it's only relevant to the sales department rather than the entire company.

The OKRs should be generic enough so that every department feels a sense of ownership over a part of them.

As these objectives trickle down the organizational structure, the OKRs for each subsequent department should feed into the higher-level ones.

This creates a percolation effect, where everything not only trickles down but also contributes back up the hierarchy.

At the individual staff level, it's about understanding how their efforts contribute to their team's OKRs, which in turn support the department, then the larger part of the organization, and ultimately the overall organizational goals.

I believe motivation increases when staff understand how their work impacts the company's mission. If they're unclear about their role's value, they can become disengaged.

~ Peter Peart, founder of Scale-Upp.uk

Tip 6: When climbing up the ladder

I want to share a few things that didn't work for me, as I think these can be valuable learning points. Initially, I was in a hurry to lead, perhaps before I was truly ready.

Patience is key, and it's challenging when you see leaders who seem less competent, making you feel ready to step up. However, once you're in a leadership position, you realize there's so much happening behind the scenes that you weren't aware of before.

Another important aspect to consider is why you want to be a leader. If your motivation is solely based on treating people well, you might find it challenging.

Being a leader isn't about being a union rep; it's about driving production in your team. Treating people well is a technique to achieve this, but it's not the sole purpose of management.

Regarding career progression, especially in startups, you often need to move to a different organization to get promoted. Startups, including mid and late-stage ones, don't usually have structured career paths. Opportunities for advancement are created through company growth or when someone leaves.

If you're determined to be a manager, you might need to look elsewhere. It's tough, especially when you've formed emotional bonds and invested in your current company, but staying too long can lead to frustration.

My candid advice is to view startups as one big industry and be open to moving to a new role within this space to step into management.

~ Kincy Clark, founder of OneStudy.ai

Tip 7: On handling remote teams

When it comes to supporting fully distributed teams, I advocate for being vocal to leadership about the need for resources. This could mean organizing an onsite gathering once a year specifically for the support team, or perhaps building out a specialized onsite event in addition to the company’s general gatherings. Regular team interactions, like holiday celebrations or monthly hangouts, are also important. I'm a fan of remote happy hours, where team members can bring their own drinks and chat about anything but work on Zoom.

However, I've seen posts on LinkedIn indicating that some people might be feeling burnt out and may not appreciate forced social time. So, what I'm really saying is that there's no one-size-fits-all solution. It greatly depends on the culture of your team and your company. Adaptability and understanding the unique dynamics of your team are key in finding the right approach.

~ Hilary Dudek, Advisory Board Member at Aimiable and Partner Hero

Tip 8: On writing good docuentation

The most crucial aspect of good documentation, in my opinion, is determining the tone of voice and the level of information to provide. This can be challenging. For instance, a help document for an app with many workarounds could become excessively long.

It's about striking the right balance between providing necessary information and overwhelming the user. Overloading a single document can be counterproductive, especially when content is surfaced through AI. If a customer has a simple question about Google Sheets, for example, and we provide a complex document, they might get lost.

Finding what works best for our customers often involves conducting customer interviews and research. It varies for everyone. I think it's essential to understand the needs of both new and tenured customers and how they seek information. This exploration helps in creating effective documentation.

Another key aspect is ensuring that the support team has a clear process for giving feedback on documentation and even contributing to updates. This collaborative approach helps keep our documentation relevant and user-friendly.

~ Lauren Fearn, Director of Support at Zapier

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