Case Swarming: The Future of Customer Service

Customers want fast and expert service, at home or at work. Seventy-six percent of consumers surveyed by Zendesk expect immediate support, and 61 percent would switch to a competitor after one bad customer service experience. In addition, the COVID-19 era has led to greater customer frustration as well as higher turnover among service and support personnel. This can mean more pressure on today's support representatives.

The first support rep who fields an inquiry might not know the answer to the customer's question. She might need to consult knowledge base articles or other team members to solve specific problems. That's why cross-team collaboration is so important for customer service. So, what service model works best for delivering collaborative (and effective) service? The increasingly popular (and somewhat controversial) tierless customer service structure known as case swarming might be the answer.

How Case Swarming Works

First, let's look at what case swarming is. When a support team leaves the traditional tiered support model for a tierless model. Cases are no longer routed to specific agent pools based on urgency or complexity. Instead, support tickets are assigned to any agent. Then, if needed, the agent who was first assigned to the case can put it out to swarm and let other expert team members help right away. Finally, the agent collects and shares the information with the customer to solve the problem.

Swarming is growing in popularity for several reasons, many of which come back to making customers' lives and work easier, including the following:

  • Speed—Swarming is faster than other methods because it helps customers get quick answers while only interacting with a single agent. Many proponents of case swarming cite improved resolution times as a key benefit. In fact, Salesforce and Slack teamed up to install a case swarming process that helped Salesforce resolve cases 26 percent faster than its previous multitiered approach.
  • Productivity—There is a lot less waiting in case swarming. If an agent uncovers an issue she cannot answer quickly, she can put that case out for community resolution. This not only helps solve more cases faster but it also gives support reps more time to start working on other cases they know they can resolve without external help.
  • Onboarding and career development—With swarming, support reps can start taking cases without being absolute product experts. If they run into problems, they can always seek help, both inside and outside the support team, which helps them learn on the job. This can accelerate knowledge and skills development and help to onboard new support reps faster.
  • Access to experts—Support organizations can provide more consistent support to every customer by giving reps access to top-tier experts and expertise using the swarming model. Subject matter experts can quickly connect with support reps and provide laser-focused resolution advice, troubleshoot issues, or uncover the need for a replacement or upgrade.

Better service & support = happier customers.

Selecting the best support model for your organization depends on the talent level of your support team, the expectations and preferences of your customers, and the complexity of your product or services. At the same time, customer support professionals have very challenging jobs requiring a combination of product knowledge and customer service soft skills to solve issues effectively.

Some customer service experts view case swarming as the clear future and evolution of support. Salesforce has been a big proponent of case swarming. And, according to the Technology & Services Industry Association (TSIA), 30 percent of support teams surveyed have moved to this model. The study also found that companies using swarming had 5.4 percent higher contract renewal rates.

And there's more good news: If you want to try case swarming, the technology needed to enable this approach is getting easier and easier to put in place. And with benefits like improved speed, productivity, and expert access, maybe it's time to join the swarming revolution?

Martin Schneider is chief product evangelist at SupportLogic.