This blog post is an excerpt from the article titled "Collaboration: the missing component in customer support" which describes a day in the life of a customer service representative.
In a growing organization, each team would like a highly functional system for themselves for better productivity. In case of the customer support function, on top of every agent’s mind is an advanced help desk with features and functionalities to forecast and assign issues to the right agent, pull up the history of conversations with the customer to give more context, provide self-service, and more.
However, the majority of customer support software places the emphasis on addressing customer issues.
Customer support agents spend only a quarter of their day responding to customers on their issues or tickets. Another quarter of their day is spent giving implementation demos to customers and guiding them through the onboarding process.
But they spend a major chunk of their day on non-customer-facing tasks, such as finding solutions from previous cases in the knowledge base, working on issue life cycles, assigning tasks, passing tickets to level three (L3) representatives whenever necessary, closing resolved tickets, training level one (L1) support, and monitoring available tools, among others.
Cutting through silos
Structurally, the support team is part of the customer service team. However, they are only one of their many level two (L2) teams. In fact, a major chunk of L2 support is given by the sales teams on inquiries concerning subscription plan upgrades, extending discounts or trial periods, and more.
The customer support team coordinates with product managers, development teams, IT teams, and others, and conducts a number of triage sessions with these teams on a regular basis. At least 50% of customer issue emails are forwarded to these teams to give more context, provide references and validation, or they can also trigger a new workflow in those departments—such as an incident or problem workflow, a feature request, or a custom configuration.
Implementing a new tool without thinking through these collaborations might create disparate systems that, in turn, could lead to silos within the organization and restrict access to customers' issues to the right teams.
Bottlenecks with the L1 hand-off
Customer support teams often face bottlenecks with work items reaching from L1 to L2 support. L1 might be well within their turnaround time working on the issue, but it leaves very little time for L2 to resolve the issue within the SLA by the time hand-off happens.
Also, the time of day that the work item comes into an L2 agent’s queue has an impact, such as whether the item should end up in the agent’s queue when their work day ends in an hour, or should it be assigned to the next shift’s agent when they might have a backlog.
However, the actual problem is passing on the knowledge, materials, and conversations that the agents gather on each issue or ticket. When they have to move the ticket across levels or among agents, the context gained cannot be passed on efficiently, leading to inconsistent support delivery.
A suitable tool: Zoho TeamInbox a lightweight but powerful customer support tool
Zoho TeamInbox is an intuitive tool that enables teams to work in unified inboxes. Some of the use cases support teams can leverage with the tool include managing, assigning, and working on volumes of emails delivered to the support team, interdepartmental collaboration, and handling service requests.
Teams can create unified inboxes inside the TeamInbox tool for different group IDs based on their requirements and add relevant members to the group ID. (e.g., email@example.com for queries and reporting issues regarding the product; firstname.lastname@example.org for queries related to subscriptions, pricing plans, and upgrades; email@example.com for ad hoc service inquiries, etc.)
Any or all group members can work on the email. They respond to the email, add tags and color coding, assign the email to themselves or other group members, archive or snooze it, and more.
The support agents can add members to groups and initiate conversations on emails for a seamless collaboration within and across teams (e.g., the agent tags the product manager on the customer’s email and discusses the issue.) They can initiate a conversation using the chat function with any stakeholders right within the email without forwarding it, and seamlessly share all knowledge and notes on the issue without losing context.
Teams can draft pre-set templates for repeat emails (such as standard troubleshooting procedures), create automated signatures, and use them as they send emails from group inboxes.
Teams can even define rules and configure the workflow of emails delivered to group inboxes. For example, teams can automate responses with pre-set help documents based on their subject.
Teams can leverage analytics, track insights on inboxes and members, and audit activity logs to see if they align with the set SLAs and measure their productivity.
They can integrate the TeamInbox tool with multiple customer channels, pull data from across internal systems, such as a CRM, and all past conversations for better context.
Shared inbox (a lightweight customer service tool) vs. customer help desk (a full-blown customer service software)
1) Process maturity and scale
It goes without saying that a mature process requires mature and sophisticated technology. Customer help desk software that includes omni-channel, chatbots, custom triggers, automation rules, contextual customer insights, strong knowledge management, advanced analytics, and other modules is better able to manage mature processes and scale.
These are use cases inside enterprises and sectors with a big customer base, such as retail, ecommerce, banking, public services, and telecommunications, among others.
Shared inbox is an appropriate email collaboration tool for customer support inquiries that are mostly received by email and the help delivery process is immature. (However, shared inbox tools can offer support for several channels.)
The shared inbox capabilities are better suited for technical assistance inquiries where both the question and the solution require elaboration.
2) Customer support versus customer service, and tiered support
Here's a detailed article about customer support vs. service vs. experience. It talks about how the delivery process is different for each and what kind of technology works best for each team.
Customer service teams proactively strive to resolve the customer inquiry right at level zero using chat bots or a federated knowledge base at the customer touchpoints. The customer help desk bundles these features that minimize the customer–agent interaction. Help desks aren’t the best suited for tiered support, particularly if the second and third tiers aren’t from the customer service teams.
The shared inbox tool is best suited for tiered support where the support agent often has to collaborate with other teams, such as development, security, IT, compliance, sales/pre-sales, marketing, etc. The shared inbox is a package of resourceful collaboration tools that allow visibility into the inquiry from all relevant teams.
The customer help desk is a sophisticated technology with a steep learning curve and high total cost of ownership. If you’re shifting from a mail-based customer service delivery system to a specialized tool, a help desk will not have a significant influence on the SLA or the overall customer experience until it’s fully implemented and adopted.
If you’re switching from a mail-based customer service delivery model, a shared inbox is a valuable tool. It facilitates the adoption of a transparent customer delivery method. It’s an intuitive tool ideal for a variety of team use cases. It’s also inexpensive and doesn’t have a steep learning curve, so it’s simple to achieve the desired outcomes.
When dealing with issues that require more time to resolve, a shared inbox is preferable to a customer helpdesk, not because of features and capabilities, but by design.
Customer support teams in growing organizations and start-ups can implement Zoho TeamInbox to streamline their day-to-day operations beyond customer interactions, improve their interdepartmental collaboration, and drive their customer experience.
Excited about shared inboxes? Try Zoho TeamInbox’s 14-day free trial. Explore more shared inbox use cases. If you have any questions or would like to set up a product demo, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.