It’s essential to keep an eye on how things change for your product and team, so you can make sure the support you’re offering your customers is the best option for everyone.
Unless you’ve been seriously off the grid lately, I’m betting you’ve heard about Marie Kondo. She’s the creator of The KonMari Method™—a way of organizing your home—and stars in her very own Netflix show called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Unlike many other organizational systems and tips, Marie Kondo doesn’t recommend going room-by-room or tackling a pile here and there, but instead challenges you to sort by category—not location—to finally get your house in order all at once. Everything has to have its place.
In your home, using her method means starting with clothes, then sorting books, followed by papers, miscellaneous things, and sentimental items.
What if we apply those same ideas to our support teams? For our purposes, we’ll think of support channels as our possessions in need of tidying. For a support team looking to get organized, instead of looking only at the support channels you currently have as individual pieces, consider them from a few different perspectives—like Kondo’s tidying categories—as you decide how to handle them: your customer, your support team, and your business.
Marie Kondo’s six rules of tidying mean progressing through organizing your home following these steps:
- Rule 1: Commit yourself to tidying up.
- Rule 2: Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
- Rule 3: Finish discarding first.
- Rule 4: Tidy by category, not by location.
- Rule 5: Follow the right order.
- Rule 6: Ask yourself if it sparks joy.
Now let’s adjust the rules to make them work for support instead:
- Commit to doing the work and be proactive.
- Imagine your ideal support setup and think of how you can make it happen.
- Look for things to reduce, update, or remove. Find what doesn’t work or isn’t worth it and make changes.
- Consider your customer, then your team, and then your business. They’re all important, but start with the customers.
- Ask yourself if it sparks joy. Sure, maybe “sparks joy” isn’t necessarily how you’d describe the work you do in a particular
- support channel, but you get the idea.
Think of Your Customer
When looking for ways to Marie Kondo—or optimize—your support strategy, consider your customer first. Ask yourself:
- What kind of support do my customers expect?
- Which support channels are the most loved by our user demographic?
- Where do customers currently go to connect with my team most often and with the best results?
- Which support channels provide the customer experience we’re aiming to provide?
You may need to ask your support team members for input, survey your users, review CSAT, or check out any other customer data to answer these questions correctly. Once you’ve reviewed the information and while you’re considering the questions, look for current support channels it may be best to close due to lack of use by customers or if the experience isn’t what you want it to be.
When customers don’t use the channel often
Instead of keeping a poorly performing channel active, it may make more sense to close it down and focus on the areas with the most impact and best results.
However, be sure to look at the big picture too.
Social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so continuing to share marketing tweets but ignoring every request for help you get on Twitter probably isn’t going to be the way to go. Even when your customer’s experience of receiving assistance in Tweet-sized snippets isn’t the best for your product, being ignored—and in public for all to see—is worse.
On the other hand, if you have a customer support forum and it’s so dead a tumbleweed could roll through at any minute, it might be time to shut it down and look for other ways to engage your users. Consider it from your customers’ perspective. They don’t know exactly how much behind-the-scenes support your team is providing. All they can see is the inactive forum and draw conclusions from there.
When the customer experience is all wrong
While a support channel may have served your customers or your product well in the past, it’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to make adjustments as you move forward.
The abandoned forum mentioned previously isn’t only bad for not attracting customers. It’ll also contribute to a bad customer experience for the few who do find their way there.
What if a customer posts a question but doesn’t receive a timely answer? As demand has decreased, so has your attention to checking in on it regularly. Now it’s not just a useless channel, it’s actively decreasing your customer’s positive experience with your product and company as a whole.
On the other hand, a channel may be fairly active, but still all wrong. Say you’ve been providing phone support for years, and while demand remains pretty steady, customer satisfaction rates have been consistently dropping.
In the age of live chat, text support, tweet replies, Facebook Messenger chats, and every other fast-moving approach to support, maybe the phone just feels outdated and customers are only calling it because it’s there and they assume it’s the best way to reach you directly.
For example, if your product tends to need help that requires a computer and internet connection, trying to explain what to do over the phone—and make a customer happy, instead of annoyed—is going to be a trickier prospect than if you’re able to provide written instructions with easy steps to follow (and refer back to anytime) or start up a screen share so you can work together to get things fixed.
Consider Your Support Team
Once you’ve considered your customers, next think about your team.
The people working each day to provide top-notch customer support to your customers are an invaluable resource for truly understanding how your support team functions and making things work. While anecdotal evidence about what customers want or prefer isn’t necessarily what you’ll use to make final decisions, it’s a great starting point for figuring out where to look and what to think over as you look for hard data to guide you.
To provide the best customer experience through support, you’ll need to consider not only the type of service you provide, but also how you empower your team to do it:
- Is staffing of support channels handled for both customer needs, while also avoiding overworking your team?
- Are you automating where it makes sense to help reduce demand for your team?
- Do you provide your support team with the tools they need to do the work?
Be honest with yourself about what your support team can handle. Take a look at every support channel you have, from phone lines and emails, to live chat and SMS, and beyond.
Is your team able to stay on top of each of the queues? Is there one channel that tends to drag down response times or customer satisfaction?
Staff queues correctly
Whether you have teams working in various queues or one omnichannel queue where every incoming question goes for your team to tackle together, making sure you have the right amount of staff available during your support hours is essential.
Having too few team members responsible for too many queries is a direct path to burnout.
Utilize the right support tools
Do your internal tools and processes work for your team members, instead of against them?
If you can’t quickly answer that question with a positive response, it’s time to reassess and make some changes. Every tool a team uses to support your customers should be making that support easier to provide, not harder. If you have people stuck jumping through hoops to provide the service they’re fully capable of if only things were set up better, they’ll get frustrated and you’ll watch your customer satisfaction—as well as employee happiness—fall.
Remember the Business
After you’ve taken a look at tidying up support from the lens of your customer and support team, next consider the business.
That’s not to say your business actually comes in last place or doesn’t deserve serious attention, but chances are good that you probably set up support channels you could afford—and hopefully staff well—in the first place, so now it’s time to look for any changes that may be necessary.
Cost of support
Once you’ve organized your support to best serve your customer and meet their expectations, as well as optimized tools, staffing, and expertise for your team members, the business end of things takes over. Are your support channels still priced within the range you can afford relative to the value they provide? As your user base grows, the cost of a tool may grow too—whether the cost is related to your users directly or the number of accounts needed by your staff. It’s possible to love a tool but find yourself priced out of affording it.
Alternatively, what if you can technically afford a tool, but it’s only minorly popular with your users while costing you the most to keep open of any support channel? It might be time to ditch it.
Supporting freemium accounts
If your product uses the freemium model—meaning you provide the product for free while offering a paid upgrade for additional features, services, or access—the support you provide for customers on the free account can end up costing too much compared to those who pay for your product.
While there’s certainly something to be said for good service leading to a customer being willing to pay you in the future, it’s not a guarantee and you won’t be helping anyone if you run out of money serving free accounts while letting your paid users languish in queues with slow response times or low satisfaction ratings.
Support That Sparks Joy
Now that you’ve taken a closer look at your support channels and how they work for your customers, your team, and your business, understanding which ones to ditch and which ones to champion should be clear. But just like tidying your house, this probably isn’t a one-time job.
It’s essential to keep an eye on how things change for your product or service, your budget, and your team, so you can make sure the support you’re offering your customers is the best option for everyone.
With careful consideration and an eye toward finding the best balance, your organization’s support will spark joy, just like the homes Marie Kondo’s methods have tidied all over the world.