How do you make sure your entire team knows your customers? How do you create a customer-focussed company culture where everyone is actually aware of the customers? Customer journey mapping, focus groups, jobs-to-be-done discussions, and a host of other practices are usually confined to the product or marketing department, focusing on the next great solution. How can you close the gap between the entire team – and your customers?
The solution seems kind of obvious: The customer support team and the customer success department already talk to your customers every day – and they represent the very interface of your company with existing (and often even potential) customers.
The conversations happening in your support department don’t represent your user base as a whole. However, they do visualize how your company presents itself in day-to-day conversations with existing customers. Anyone in the company can benefit from understanding how the company interacts with existing customers.
Imagine if everyone was able to do support
All-hands support is a viable solution for small companies. Everyone in the company can chip in when the queues get out of hand because everyone is still close enough to the product itself. As companies grow, specialization creates more distance between customer support and other business areas. Often enough, these other areas don’t realize that it wasn’t just them who specialized.
Over time, the customer support department also specialized and professionalized. The original email inbox is now a professional support platform. Tribal knowledge has been replaced by knowledge base articles, macros, and automated answers for specific questions. And intuitive answers have been leveled up through empathy and specialized tiers.
Someone who did a week-long support rotation a year ago will be out of their depth if they tried to dive back into customer support for a short time. Worst case scenario, they end up giving out wrong information or outdated advice, creating more work for the existing customer support representatives who need to mitigate the impact. Mentoring or monitoring helpful colleagues can quickly turn into a burden if it takes valuable time away from solving customer problems.
This does not mean that all-hands-on-deck support for specific urgencies cannot work. If there is a surge in volume for a very specific reason, non-support employees can be trained to help with this specific topic.
Create a reality where everyone understands support
There’s yet another risk to support rotations: they devalue the work of your customer support representatives. Do you honestly believe that anyone could be a great customer representative for your company? Why does your CS team onboarding take four weeks, but the colleagues from engineering are supposed to give the same service after a 2-hour introduction?
If you push the narrative that anyone can do customer support, you are ignoring an entire profession. Instead, ask yourself how you can value your customer support team for what they do while making the rest of the company aware of these conversations.
Share CSAT results with everyone in the company
One approach is to share CSAT results with everyone in the company, with an easy way to see the complete conversation content. Best-of conversations can be shared in a newsletter, a dedicated chat channel, a blog, or similar.
Involving everyone in quality reviews
Another approach is to involve everyone in your quality reviews. The goal, in this case, is not to grade your customer support team, but to allow others in the company to see real conversations with customers.
- The HR specialist should be aware of the tone used in customer support to find great candidates for the future.
- The engineering team can benefit from seeing real conversations and understanding their work’s impact on real customers.
- The product team will appreciate seeing real customers and how they talk about the things that could be improved.
- The content team can find inspiration on the type of content to produce for the knowledge base and marketing material.
At Klaus, we call this practice catfooding (pun intended). Everyone reviews 10 customer interactions every month to provide feedback for our customer-facing colleagues. We’ve realized that this consistent dedication has increased appreciation for our support team as they find solutions, share workarounds, mitigate churn risk, and handle way more interactions per day than your average employee could even dream of.
And while this feedback is certainly helpful for the support team, the review practice is just as instructive for non-customer-facing roles. Everyone learns what customer support interactions look like for our company, what problems our customers might be facing, and how they talk about these topics.
This (almost unconscious) knowledge heavily influences how we think about the product, how we talk about our solutions, and where we search for answers. So if you feel there’s too big of a gap between your customers and most of the business, catfooding (a.k.a. everyone reviewing support tickets) can be a sustainable activity to keep the customer top of mind – not only during an annual support internship.