Collaboration tools for support teams

What are the types of collaboration tools support teams need for maximum productivity? We outline a few categories to help you get started.

Why are specific collaboration tools necessary

In most organizations, people tend to call a spade a spade and name teams after their function. Sales is referred to as sales, marketing as marketing, and while you might have some quibbles about minor differences – what a product marketer does in one organization might be slightly different from what a product marketer does in another organization, it’s largely synonymous. Well, except for customer service. Unlike other teams and functions, customer service isn’t just the responsibility of a single team. Ideally, it should be the attitude that pervades an entire company’s purpose. More realistically, it’s a shared responsibility with a Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) aka the customer service team that ensures that everything happens as it should and that the customer’s issues get sorted out.

Dilbert-customer-service

This sounds simple enough in theory but when push comes to shove, it’s a lot of organization and coordination – both internally and externally.

Externally, it’s consolidating customer communication across channels so you deliver fast responses and solve problems as quickly as possible. Internally, it’s coordinating between different teams, across emails, conversations, face-to-face chats and standups.

With so many lines of communication stretching out from the team simultaneously, not using the right collaboration tools is downright a recipe for disaster.

The way I see it, here are a few problems that are likely to arise without the right collaboration tool:

  1. Tickets can get lost/go unanswered. Without a tool to help you organize customer conversations by priority and urgency, there’s a good chance you’ll end up missing out an important ticket and losing a customer, unnecessarily
  2. Information can be harder to find. Data is always available but useless. Actionable insights and information on the other hand? Bet you’re wondering where you can sign up (here). Let’s say a customer emails about an issue. With the right collaboration software in place, you’d be able to use information from their past conversations, call history and transaction history to get better context about their current problem and provide moments of wow without them having to repeat themselves. Without the right collaboration tool, you won’t be able to access any of this information.
  3. Harder to hold people accountable. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams defines an SEP field – Somebody Else’s Problem field – as a cloaking field that relies on people’s natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain. A lack of good collaboration tools can lead to an infestation of SEPs and a lack of accountability in your support team.

This is true for internal discussions as well – information can be power, if it can be easily shared and used. But when it’s stuck in inboxes and chat windows, it’s difficult to disseminate or find easily. Imagine trying to get a developer up to speed on the steps another developer has taken to solve an issue – it’s time spent literally just copying and pasting in information from another chat window, time that can be used better.

Collaboration tools for support teams

When support teams think collaboration tools, they need software that will help them:

  • Organize customer communication so that issues can be easily tracked
  • Coordinate and organize internal discussions so they can easily refer to them and not waste time
  • Coordinate their tasks as they juggle multiple issues

a) Customer communication management software

A helpdesk is a system that helps businesses streamline customer communication channels like email, phone, social media and chat. Support teams can organize issues and work on them as by priority, channel and urgency. With a helpdesk, you don’t have to waste time figuring out which issue is more important, assigning tickets or figuring out how to work together as a team, you can just get started on solving issues.

Must-haves:

Your decision should depend on the communication channels you maintain. If customers can get in touch with you in more than one way – say email, phone and live chat, we’d recommend a full fledged helpdesk like Freshdesk, that can manage multiple channels. If you’re providing support through only one channel like phone or chat, we’d recommend specific channel-software like Freshchat (chat) or Freshcaller (phone) to manage customer conversations.

b) Company communication software

A lot of businesses are okay with just managing their communication through email and integrated chat like Hangouts Chat but a team messaging software can do wonders in making internal discussions shorter, faster and easier to find and share.

Must-haves: 

There are two ways to think about team messaging software: a standalone software that you need to connect with the rest of your tools (like Slack or Microsoft Teams) or an integrated team messaging software that lets you contextually collaborate in your CRM and helpdesk, like Freshconnect.

It depends on how you want to go about it. With the former option – a standalone software that you need to connect with your tools – you need to make sure there’s an integration with your helpdesk so that you’re notified when there’s a ticket in the helpdesk. An integration will also help you loop in your teammates – it takes a village to solve a ticket sometimes or atleast developers, account managers and product managers – by pasting the ticket link in the right group/channel for you. But the downside of this is that you might need to buy seats for all the people your teams will collaborate with, even if they won’t log in regularly.

This isn’t the case with helpdesk-specific collaboration tools like Freshconnect using which support agents can start discussions within the helpdesk. Support agents can invite anyone to a discussion, even people outside the organization, for free – the collaborator will be able to see a read-only version of the ticket and bring themselves up to speed with little to no hassle!

Tools to make reaching out to customers easier

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a screenshare’s worth a hundred thousand at least. It’s good to have communication channel options, when reaching out to customers. Here are some you can rely on to improve your conversations with customers:

A video conferencing solution for when you want to jump on a call and solve the problem like GoTo Meeting and Zoom

Thanks, Zapier!

Beyond video conferencing, you can also share your screen, conduct quick how-to sessions for a group of people (a mini webinar) and record your video for future reuse. You can also use the tools to quickly catchup with your remote colleagues and brainstorm, or just work alongside them. The apps come in iOS and Android so you can also do calls on the go.

Tools like Cloudapp or Jing that help you quickly create and annotate screencasts

Thanks, Cloudapp!

You can annotate screenshots using good ol’ Preview but sometimes, you need a visual walkthrough to get the point across. This way, you can quickly create and annotate screencasts yourself, without the help of a marketer or a visual designer.

“We’ve started using Loom (www.loom.com) to record a quick video where the customer can watch us show them how to do something. Takes just a few minutes, feels very personal, and ends up being more helpful than a text response. Plus we can see when the customer watched the video.” Aaron Kassover, Co-founder, AgentMethods

Video solutions like Wistia and ilos for comprehensive video libraries

Why spend all the time creating screencasts and how-to videos if you’re not going to showcase them to your customers as a video knowledge base? Video hosting solutions help you provide a visual guide for every situation the customer might face and help them resolve it, without having to talk to a human being for help. A small step for you, a giant win for self-service! If you’re not convinced that video answers will provide value, check out this Wistia interview with a customer happiness rep to see how useful they can be!

Document management systems like Dropbox or Google Drive to share solutions and maintain a record of what works and what doesn’t

For customer service professionals, a reliable, accurate, and well-organized documentation system is an incredible gift. Documenting solutions helps save a support agent’s time and reduces duplicated effort i.e a support agent doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to figure out what the solution is. They can use documentation to understand the hows and whys of a particular decision.

“I think if things aren’t documented well, especially in a business that’s growing like crazy, it doesn’t just affect the teams’ abilities to build things and ship fast but also slows down the learning for new hires, and prevents them from understanding the historic context of org, tech and product decisions.” Source.

Status page solutions like Freshstatus so that customers don’t have to reach out to you for incident updates

With a status page, you can publicly broadcast service issues and updates so that your customers can keep themselves in the loop, without having to check in. This way, your team is free to figure out what the problem is, instead of responding to worried customers.

A completely random tool recommendation

Customer service is a really stressful job – every day, customer service workers have to handle demands and complaints, of varying complexity, in a high-stress environment. It’s really important that you take time for yourself, in some form or the other.

Whether it’s regular breaks to hang out with friends or some meditation, book some time in your calendar to unwind and destress. It’s important that you schedule this, instead of taking time as and when it’s required. Clocks won’t automatically pause so you can get some relaxation time so you should specifically set some time aside to relax.  You might not be able to take as much time as you need and it could adversely affect your health and relationships with your colleagues.

Any customer support collaboration tools you can’t do your job without? Tell us in the comments section!