We think you’ll agree 2016 was a phenomenal year. Okay – maybe not in world politics, or obituaries, or zoo news. But fortunately, in customer service we’ve enjoyed an inspiring year of content teaching us how to improve our skills. From deep dives into hiring to a renewed focus on metrics and data, the customer service community has gifted us all with an enormous amount of learning.
At the end of the year, we like to look back on some of our favorites and remind ourselves how lucky we are to be a part of this community. As a result, we’ve curated a few of the best articles below with links and excerpts. Please feel free to share and highlight your favorite authors!
If we’ve missed any and didn’t include it, please let us know! We’d love to keep adding to the list with your highlights of customer support content in 2016.
Delivering Excellent Customer Service
Meghan Earley from Slack talks about the importance of empathy in providing genuine, human help.
Most importantly, successful human responses come from the genuine desire to help people. If you don’t care that Matt is having a difficult experience while trying to sign up for your app. Then you’re going to have a hard time responding to him in an empathetic way. Most customers are good people, and they are kind. They’re reaching out for help. Typically, they will be grateful for any assistance they receive.
Ruairi Galavan, Manager of Product Education at Intercom discusses why perfect customer service is a conversation, not a ticket.
The days of accepting slow, disconnected and impersonal communication with customers as the norm have passed. So if you don’t consider how you can transition to a more personal approach, you can be sure your competitors are.
Daniel Feeney gives us Buffer’s secret sauce to handling over 10,000 (!!!) conversations a month on social support.
When you get to chat with a customer from first contact all the way through to the resolution, it’s a powerful, personal experience. We strive for that.
HBR understands that the needs of customers are changing. And it gives us a step by step guide to revolutionizing customer service.
In conclusion, a better approach is to persuade employees to commit to a holistic definition of service. That is: creating value for others, outside and within the organization. Teach them first to appreciate customers’ concerns and only then to take action. That’s why they should continually ask themselves: Whom am I going to serve, and what do they need and value most?
Hiring and People Ops
Kristin Aardsma from 37signals shares how their support team changed from Hiring when it hurts to putting their team’s happiness first.
Often, the work I do feels invisible. I don’t build a feature or design a website. I ensure that our support team (a sect of tech with an industry standard of high turnover) has the information they need, doesn’t suffer from too much burnout, and is empowered to make their own decisions. Part of my job this year has been to adjust our team’s culture: a shift that has often felt like repeatedly rerouting a ship’s course.
Mercer Smith-Looper talks about how you can ace your first 90 days a support manager on the Kayako blog.
As a new manager, it falls to you to uncover and potentially expose areas where the company could be doing better. Do product features remain the same because they have always been that way? Maintaining the status quo is bad for innovation. Call your company out if you spot trends like this.
Sandeep Kaur from Kayako talks about how their team avoids burnout and keeps agents happy in a stressful job.
Continually working under high pressure and with a heavy workload has been proven to lead to stress and burnout. And constantly working at maximum capacity means that support professionals may not have the time to invest in personal growth – leaving them feeling unfulfilled.
From our own blog, we talk about how the top companies recruit the best customer service talent and provide some great job description examples you can use yourself.
If you use an unstructured hiring format, you can only expect the results to explain future work performance of the hire 14% of the time. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be 100% sure of the hires I make. If you are putting low-quality candidates into the top of your hiring funnel, you’ll be getting poor hires out of the bottom.
Measurement and Data
Mat Patterson from HelpScout rounds up the experts and talks about how they track and measure customer service for Inc.com
Since customer service metrics matter. Then what you choose to report and how you report it can make a real difference IN the level of service you provide. So don’t waste your valuable time compiling reports that provoke no questions and generate no action.
Jake Peterson at Segment takes a deep look at measuring the ROI of support. Data lovers, get inspired!
I also consider: How efficient is our team? Do hire quickly enough or maybe too fast? How can we make the support experience so magical that customers use Segment more and recommend us?
Answering these questions has been difficult since the data sets it requires to do these analyses have been siloed within tools.
Simon Ouderkirk from Automattic digs into how you can create value from the customer service data you already collect.
Every support team answers customers. Great support teams use data to discover trends, make the business case for fixing big problems, and improve customer experience.
Jeff Gardner, Director of Support at Intercom boils down the hundreds of metrics you could be tracking into the 5 customer service metrics that matter.
A lot of startups use the “crystal ball” approach to customer support metrics. They think that the answer to all their problems can be found buried in endless charts and graphs. But this approach can often leave you with more questions than answers. It’s important to keep the data in perspective, and not to let them obscure your real job – supporting your customers.
Product and Customer Feedback
Andrea Saez thinks that too many people in customer service are looking for nice ways to say no and suggests ways to think differently about feature requests.
At ProdPad, we don’t see customer requests as something to accept or deny. We don’t even use the word “no” with our customers. We process every request that comes our way as:
a.) An opportunity to educate our customers
b.) Feedback for us
Chase Clemons from Support Ops and 37Signals talks about how good customer support is a feature, not a cost center.
You’ve got to be better at customer support than the other teams behind products competing against yours. You’ve got to out-support the other guy. It’s not an option anymore. You have to make the shift from seeing support as a cost to seeing support as marketing.
Mirielle Pilloud talks to HelpScout about how the Support team at TED got a seat at the Adult Table and involved more in business decisions.
It’s especially relevant to realize that the adult table is about reach and impact — making sure your team’s work is an integral part of your organization’s ecosystem. So, how can you be a customer advocate if they only see you as an email monkey — someone to keep the customers at bay? The adult table is where your opinions matter, where you make decisions. And support needs a chair at that table.
Shared on the SupportDriven blog, Emily Chapman talks about the benefits of getting All Hands Support started at Trello
What originally started as a response to immediate needs for our retreat turned out to be an unexpectedly great way for our engineers, systems gurus, and managers to gain more individual empathy for our users and direct knowledge of just how frustrating pain points in the app can be. We realized that product design improves when as many members of the team as possible have a chance to experience queue work and other one-on-one user interactions.