5 Habits Of Great Customer Support Teams
Here’s the problem with your customer support team’s policies and guidelines. They are policies and guidelines.
Policies and guidelines look great on paper. They make for a nice slide deck for management. In a perfect world, everyone on your team will default to policy-driven actions in all situations.
Too bad that doesn’t happen.
At some point, someone will not have the time or energy to run according to the rules. Habit takes over.
Habit always wins.
“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”
― Charles Duhigg, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business”
When habit takes over is when you’ll really learn the values and practices you’ve been nurturing.
We contacted four leaders in the support community to share advice on habits for support teams.
Connect With The Greater Support Community
It’s hard to improve if you live in a bubble. Make a habit of regularly connecting with others in the support community. Get to know others in online communities and attend conferences. The relationships and insights you pick up will be valuable.
From Scott Tran:
It's an exciting time to be in support. So many teams are trying new and different things and there's so much we can learn from each other. One of the best ways to learn from other teams is to go to events and get involved in the community.
Update Your Knowledge Base
Good documentation on your product and features is a smart investment. When someone else on your team needs the knowledge, or you stumble across a problem you haven’t encountered before, you’ll be glad to have a healthy knowledge base.
From Len Markidan:
An online knowledge base can be a useful tool for helping your customers help themselves.
With answers to frequently asked questions, a knowledge base lets you deliver 24/7 support, even with a small team.
But it’s important to keep your knowledge base updated, otherwise you might be hurting your customers with outdated information or missing answers to frequently asked questions that have only recently started popping up.
A good habit is to update your knowledge base weekly.
— Len Markidan heads up marketing at Groove.
Develop Active Skepticism
Every day you’re making assumptions. A lot of them. It’s part of life — it would be impossible to get through a day without assumptions. But it’s also really important to keep your assumptions in check. Apply a little active skepticism to the way you and your team work. Make a habit of it. You’ll uncover areas for improvement you didn’t even know were there.
From Simon Ouderkirk:
Developing a habit of active skepticism means asking thoughtful, meaningful questions and then answering those questions - that's the active part.
Does your support team have some untested beliefs? In-house folk wisdom about your customers or their behavior?
"Our customers want New Feature X. … They love Legacy Feature Y.“
Spoiler alert: You and your team absolutely have untested beliefs.
Becoming an active skeptic means seeing when beliefs or behaviors are untested, and checking in on them. Even if they were true a year ago, that doesn't mean they're true today. Being a skeptic means seeing the questions that everyone else assumes are already answered — or maybe they don't see them at all.
Being an active skeptic means seeing those questions, then making that second-order move to spin up Google Analytics or KISSmetrics or whatever else, to answer that question, to bring out the truth, to verify or to disprove.
There's a real value there, and a team member who acts as a check on rampant assumption-making is one I like to have around.
Starting things is easy. Starting is fun. It’s finishing that’s tricky. Make a habit of finishing what you start. Even when you fall short of expectations, you’ll be a finisher. It’s a great habit.
From Paul Jun:
Completing and delivering a project invites learning, and when learning is a daily habit, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Look at the patterns of authors, scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs: the great ones ship their ideas, learn everything they can, iterate, and do it again.
— Paul Jun writes about support for Help Scout.
Keeping an ear on what’s happening throughout your organization will help you stay proactive with support. There’s no substitute for good listening when it comes to knowing what’s going on around you.
From Jake Bartlett:
Being on the front lines, it’s important to keep a close eye on what’s going on in other areas of the company (development, design, marketing etc). By keeping an ear to the ground, you learn things that can be resourceful in solving problems and answering questions.
For example, if product pushes a change to a feature, you’re going to want to know about that. Are your help documents up to date? Do you know how to use the feature?
“Listening closely” doesn’t mean just using your ears - dig around in slack channels to stay in the loop, check the deployment logs to see what’s been pushed recently, take the headphones out once in a while and pay attention to conversations going on around the office.
You could argue that people should be keeping you in the loop on these things, but lets be honest, that doesn’t always happen. Make sure you’re looking for information that’s useful to you and your customers and always listening closely.
— Jake Bartlett is Customer Advocate for StatusPage.