As these support team meetings iterate, often they begin to lose their focus and become more about showing up, than about knowledge share and action.
Meetings are necessary for a well-functioning support team. Inevitably these are set up as recurring blocks of time that impact some or all members of the team.
Considering a median salary of $50,000 for customer support, a 1 hour-long meeting for a team of 10 people costs $240. Driving the equivalent value from these meetings is essential, not just because of the time spent away from helping customers, but because you wouldn’t just use that much company money without good reason.
Getting that return on investment can also be made more difficult by remote or distributed teams. These team members may not be able to attend at the scheduled time or may require a different delivery channel because otherwise there is a risk of details being delayed or lost.
There are three main things to consider for effective meetings:
- Creating a clear and relevant agenda,
- Disseminating the information for remote or absent employees, and
- Ensuring the outcome and actions of the meeting are clear to everyone.
— Dave Gerhardt (@davegerhardt) December 18, 2017
In this post, you’ll learn tangible ways to drive value from all of your meetings and ensure more success in executing and following up on actions and projects.
Creating an Agenda
“If you’re not exactly sure what you’re trying to accomplish, you can be sure it won’t happen quickly” – Forbes
There are many types of support team meetings, and each needs a specific agenda. Agendas, typically, should be known to the participants in advance so they can contribute and prepare. No one should be caught off guard when asked for an update or not understand why he or she is in a specific meeting.
Recurring Team Meeting
A consistent and frequent team meeting needs a very tight agenda. The updates should be focused on delivering important information and assigning actions. Start with updates on existing projects. These are quick and not meant for a discussion.
Encourage the team to contribute to the updates, either by providing comments ahead of the meeting or speaking themselves. If an update does not affect the majority of the team, it probably does not need to be delivered through this channel.
After the updates, overviews of new project introductions, processes or policies should be presented. Training and more detailed overviews should be left for one-off specific sessions.
Keep these recurring support team meetings under an hour and keep them from turning into a round-table discussion.
- Updates or “Quick Fire Topics” – Leader and Relevant Stakeholders (10-15 minutes)
- [New Project Intro] – Project Leaders (10-20 minutes)
- Questions & Action Assignment – Everyone (10 minutes)
The agenda for a 1 on 1 customer support meeting is driven cooperatively between the employee and the leader. Generally speaking, the employee should have an opportunity to talk about his or her concerns and observations and provide feedback on any outstanding actions. Only after the employee has been heard should the leader provide input.
The feedback should be real and tangible with actions, good or bad, stemming from it.
By definition, standups are quick, concise and allow everyone to speak. They are not meant to solve all problems proposed, but rather assign ownership or collaboration teams and provide understanding to current or foreseeable roadblocks.
In a support context, the focus generally is on customer-facing issues, technical limitations, training needs or scheduling issues. While the format can be loose, the specific purpose is to identify and solve problems faster.
It’s also a great way to build rapport across a distributed team, or a newer team.
As support team meetings expand to other teams within the organization, attendance needs change. Often multiple attendees from the same team are not necessary. One team member can attend, share information and receive actions and then brief stakeholders as needed. Agendas for these support team meetings should be shared, but owned by one specific meeting leader.
Having too many people try and lead the meeting leads to different goals and can cause more tangents or confusion.
“Employees want to feel connected to one another… These bonds stoke engagement and commitment to the company.” – HBR
All required participants of a meeting, no matter the size, need to feel included. The delivery channel needs to be accessible, technology in good working order and timing appropriate. Keep in mind that each type of meeting may require different considerations as well.
An important element of every meeting is that it is accessible to all participants. For co-located participants, accessibility needs include access to the meeting room, appropriate lighting, the colours and text size used on the slide, and speaker’s volume during the presentation.
Accommodating the specific needs of every attendee will make sure your content is better received.
Making sure the information shared is valuable and clear to remote and distributed teams is more difficult. When the team is dispersed over many locations or time zones the style, time, language and delivery will all affect the way your meeting content is perceived.
If these are not appropriate, your attendees will not gain the value you intend and may lose motivation to attend.
With larger support team meetings including remote participants, make sure questions from the room are repeated clearly, and chatter and side conversations are discouraged. With reduced access to the content or a bad delivery medium, globally dispersed teams can fall out of sync with the rest of the team, or suffer from a lack understanding, or ability to action the right objectives.
For example, if only a few people are calling in remotely, using a digital whiteboard that everyone has access to is a better alternative to one in the room.
Many support offices have different shifts for coverage reasons, and meeting schedules should take into account the work-life balance of everyone. It is unfair to ask a team member to regularly come in early or stay late to attend an important meeting.
Set some core work hours that overlap with the majority of the shifts. If not all team members can be included, consider how to make the information accessible.
Being conscious of time zone when booking the meeting will make the audience feel more welcome. Few people want to wake up very early or join a late conference call. Large, off-hour meetings reduce productivity, even if the company or local culture accepts this behaviour.
If there are no overlapping times, consider if:
- recording the meeting slides and audio will accomplish the meeting outcomes,
- the material needs to be delivered to a local leader or team member to share with the team, or
- there needs to be a second, more time appropriate meeting held when the majority of the participants are in-hours.
1-on-1 meetings need to be held in real-time and, as much as possible, include video sharing.
Non-verbal queues when sharing difficult or important conversations can change the course of a meeting by prompting vital follow-up questions, a change of tone or clarifications.
Team stand-ups work best when support employees are co-located, but that does not mean that remote employees shouldn’t be invited.
Incorporating remote team members through a video conference tool can ensure they stay active on the team and help builds relationships. Including remote employees is especially important if they serve the same customers, are working on the same projects or have a specific knowledge set the team needs.
To maximize all participants time, ensure you have tested your tech ahead of time. These checks could include your screen sharing application, your microphone/speaker, video/teleconferencing equipment or anything else that may cause your meeting to be delayed, inaudible, unreadable or to buffer.
It’s also a good policy is to make support team meetings tech-free. A current trend of laptops being open and cell phones being checked diminishes attention and value for the meeting and could distract attention both within a meeting room or through the noise on a phone connection.
“When we lead a meeting, we should be getting better at something.” – Forbes
All support team meetings need to have a purpose. Those purposes are what everyone takes away at the end and how it affects the participants daily working habits. At the end of a meeting, it should be clear which agenda items resulted in actions, which were for informational reasons and which require change.
Each meeting should help strengthen the alignment of the team towards a consistent customer experience. The key to success is ensuring the participants understand and have an opportunity to ask questions or clarify points.
As the meeting comes to a close, provide a recap of what has been covered, and allow an opportunity for all participants to ask questions. An excellent way to approach this is to focus on three questions that Steve Jobs is said to have used:
- What is going right?
- What is going wrong?
- What confused you the most at this meeting?
These questions encourage participation through promoting reflection and thought and are more direct than the regularly used “Any Questions?”.
Finally, ensure that actions are assigned with deadline or update cadences established. Those things should be apparent to all participants, whether it is a 1-on-1 or a larger group meeting. Formally announcing these action will make sure any last concerns can be clarified.
Meetings are inevitable within a support team. There are always improvements, changes and details to share.
Holding effective meetings can be done by creating clear, audience-appropriate agendas, having an inclusive attitude towards all participants and ensuring your meeting outcomes are actionable and understood.