5 Lessons I Learned Running a Customer Service Team

Nobody ever said it would be easy, right? As a customer service manager at a growing business, you're often asked to help more customers, faster, on more channels, and it's hard to keep up. Here are a few lessons we've learned on the Desk.com support team that can help you fast-track your way to customer service success.

Listen to your customers. An oft-quoted customer stat from Lee Resources International says that for every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who've remained silent. Although you might speak to just one person about an issue, she could be speaking for many others. Set up a process for capturing feedback, categorizing issues, and feeding to the appropriate people at your company. Making that one customer happier is important, but when you do that, you can often improve the experience for many other customers. Case in point: At Desk.com we recently introduced the Customer Health Monitor, which predicts customer sentiment based on recent interactions and feedback from a just a few customers—but many are benefitting from this new feature. Win-win.

Make it easy for customers to help themselves. Today's customers want to find their own answers. In fact, 72 percent would rather use your Web site than phone or email you. You can increase satisfaction and reduce costs if you give them tools that will let them quickly and easily find their own solutions. How? Many companies create branded support portals so customers can browse their knowledge bases and find solutions at any time, day or night. You can offer live webinars (and give customers the opportunity to ask questions) and record them for a Netflix-style resource page for customers who want to binge-watch when time allows. Continually look for new opportunities—like adding video to your support portal or building support links into your Web pages—to make it easy for them.

Foster collaboration among your agents. To provide the best possible support experience, it's important that your team members can help and learn from each other, especially when agents specialize in particular areas. When agents work remotely or in different time zones, collaboration can be a challenge, so looking for tools and methods for them to build relationships and be cohesive is vital. At Desk.com we use Chatter (from Salesforce) and our partner HipChat to crowd-source responses. This accelerates on-boarding of new team members, plus we can repackage the content for our support portal if there's a need. We also have a system for our global teams to hand off cases as one team leaves for the day (and one in another geography starts).

Trust your team. Your team will be more successful if you let them make decisions and implement their own ideas. It's impossible to manage every single thing that happens, so you need their help. And if they feel empowered, they're more likely to want to come up with suggestions and drive improvements.

At Desk.com we let support team members authorize Random Acts of WOW for customers (WOW is the name of our support team). These are units of work that are typically paid engagements, such as helping with Web development, but are comped in these special cases. We trust team members to give away these resources because we appreciate that they're in the trenches and know when customers need a special effort to achieve success.

Thank your team. Working in support isn't always easy, so it's important to recognize your agents for a job well done. If they don't feel appreciated, it reflects in the kind of support they give your customers, and they certainly won't feel inclined to go the extra mile. At Desk.com we're big on public recognition (and sometimes public embarrassment). We regularly share badges, funny gifts, and accolades from customers on our Chatter feeds and give shout-outs in our monthly company meetings to agents who've gone the extra mile. We also reward awesome acts of support with Amazon gift cards and sweet treats. Your support team is your front line with customers, so it's very important to take time to say thanks.

Marie Rosecrans is vice president of customer experience at Desk.com.