How to Develop Productive Support Teams and Avoid Burnout

In an increasingly digitized world, engaging with and retaining the customers you have is easier and more effective than winning new ones, but the teams tasked with that engagement within companies need support.

In 2020, companies had to pivot to digital-first ways of working overnight; supply chains and distribution facilities had been majorly disrupted; and, in the midst of all this, consumers have had higher expectations than ever. Meanwhile, support teams have long been seen as reactive, siloed from the rest of the business, not equipped with the right technology or data to to meet rising customer expectations and volumes of inbound requests. It' no wonder that 64 percent of customer support leaders in Intercom's Customer Support Trends Report said their teams have felt burned out in the past year.

Fast-forward two years. We're now at a critical tipping point where all businesses need to embrace change or risk losing valued customers and talented teammates. The channels we use to communicate with customers have shifted dramatically, and customer expectations for fast, personalized support are higher than ever. It's imperative that companies better understand the needs of both their customers and support teams to stay competitive.

Customer support has always been a demanding job. But recently, the role has become more challenging. It's not only support representatives feeling overwhelmed. According to the same Support Trends Report, 55 percent of support leaders have also felt burned out in the past year. Why? One reason is that customer support teams are also contending with a widening customer expectation gap.

In a world where customers have endless choice, quality customer experience is a key differentiator that has a direct impact on consumer loyalty, revenue, and cost savings. It is now increasingly important to exceed customer expectations.

The past two years have irreversibly altered the consumer landscape. The pandemic has generated an unprecedented shift in our reliance on technology, which has had an effect on how customers relate to and interact with companies. More customers than ever have had to pivot to online shopping; and for many, this has come with an added level of stress due to shortages in supply chains and delivery delays.

According to the recent report, 75 percent of support teams have seen customer expectations increase, but only 34 percent are confident they can meet those expectations. This shocking statistic illustrates how wide the gap is between the quality of customer support that customers demand and what companies can deliver. With support teams routinely facing budget cuts and seeing major spikes in inbound queries, this gap will only continue to grow.

Enabling Support Through Technology

Insufficient technology isn't helping. Support teams are repeatedly encountering roadblocks caused by disconnected tech stacks, with the report finding that 47 percent of support teams saying that they are being held back weekly because their tools aren't integrated.

Today, many support teams are attempting to maintain outdated legacy tools alongside adopting new technologies. This results in disconnected tech stacks and juggling siloed tools, eating into support teams' time, causing disjointed data, and increasing wait times for customers. It's no surprise that the reportfound 73 percent of customer support leaders believe omnichannel support technologies will help improve employee engagement and attrition rates on their support team in 2022.

Forward-thinking support teams are regaining control by connecting the tools they use, with more than half of support teams planning to consolidate their customer support tech stacks over the next 12 months. Connecting tools isn't just about the time your team can save. It's also about having all of the data you need at your fingertips to more personally and efficiently support customers.

Organizations need to invest in the right technology and make smart integrations to develop happier, engaged teams, which will ultimately lead to better support, creating happier, more loyal customers.

From Siloed Cost Center to Connected Revenue Driver

Until recently, many support teams worked in isolation as separate organizations siloed from the rest of the business. When support teams lack access to rich customer data, they often deliver impersonal, disconnected experiences. No company sets out with the intention of siloing teams from one another, and forward-thinking businesses are bringing support teams into the fold, equipping them with the access they need to work efficiently.

Every team, from support to product to marketing to sales, should be able to improve bottom-line business metrics. Support teams are increasingly co-owning these critical business goals and partnering with cross-functional teams to drive growth. By sharing customer data, you can empower your support teams to drive improvements across the entire customer journey.

It's no secret that your support team is deeply familiar with your customers' pain points, issues, and goals. They're better positioned than anyone else in your organization to do the following

  • Share and champion the voice of the customer to help improve your product roadmap.
  • Empower marketing and sales to speak to customers in ways that deeply resonate with them and increase purchases.
  • Provide a great customer experience at every stage of the funnel, boosting customer loyalty and advocacy.

Every customer is unique, and your company should treat them that way. All businesses, no matter how big, should be supporting customers as if they already know them. Your support agents certainly do. So, arm your support teams with the right tools to collect insights and first-party data that they can leverage to ensure every interaction is personal and provide unrivaled customer support. You'll see loyalty and retention grow as a result.

With widespread change and increased pressures comes new opportunities to rethink, reassess, and reinvent. Savvy businesses that embrace change and adapt their customer support tools, technology, and processes will thrive as a result. Investing in technology can empower businesses to strike the balance between keeping their teams efficient and their customers happy. Ultimately, these businesses will attract, engage, and retain both customers and employees for years to come.

Bobby Stapleton is director of customer support at Intercom.