In traditional business, customer support teams focus solely on satisfying the customer. They enable a pain-free, enjoyable customer experience while sales and marketing teams drive home revenue and create new customers. Right? Not so fast.
Modern businesses are starting to understand that support teams can be an incredibly powerful (and reliable) revenue channel, too. Happy customers means more than increased customer satisfaction (though that’s still imperative). Happy customers also mean a reduction in churn, stabilized retention, customer referrals, and an opportunity to improve the bottom line.
Despite the critical role of support in every company, support teams are often overlooked as strategic contributors to long-term revenue goals. This is an oversight; when positioned correctly, customer support teams have the power to contribute a unique angle to your value proposition.
So, what is your true value proposition?
Your value proposition relies on the business elements that set you apart from the competition. Most commonly that’s defined by the quality and personality of a product or service. Your support team can hugely contribute to this, too.
As a quick exercise, consider your business’s unique value proposition. Within your organization, what team resources contribute to its differentiating value? Which teams enable value, versus drive it? If you can’t answer these questions quickly, fear not—you are not alone. Many businesses have a difficult time identifying the value-adding resources within their organization, or even worse, fail to recognize those that do at all.
One study from I See Systems affirms that this recognition gap originates with a lack of understanding of how resources “act together to create value.” They suggest that resolution lies in understanding how resources “in their fundamental area relate to those of other areas when we divide the organization’s resources into two types, enabling and value-driving.”
With this in mind, we’ve come up with three effective ways your business can better identify resources, and better position your customer support team towards the value-driving category.
1. Incorporate multi-team collaboration into internal process
It’s time to get involved. To ensure your customer service team is driving value to the bottom line, immerse them in the resources that more commonly identify as value-drivers, such as teams on the hook for revenue and finance-related deliverables.
When these teams become inter-dependent allies, a new level of efficiency, productivity, and potential innovation to problem solving opens up. Indeed, a study published in Harvard Business Review states that as software tools mature, collaborative decision-making contributes “not only to reducing costs and increasing efficiency, but also improving business strategy.”
Carve out 30-minute standing meetings for open communication and opportunities to collaborate. Sometimes the best projects happen when two unlikely forces team up to focus dual effort on one challenging task!
Ask for invites. Invite yourself to marketing campaign retrospectives and roadmap briefs. Crash a daily standup for other teams once a week. Be proactively curious about what other teams are working on. In turn, incorporating other teams into approval process for projects, such as technical content or webinars, will smooth out customer-facing wrinkles before they happen, and build trust within your resources.
2. Cross-functional training
Often, the most exemplary employees are those with a working knowledge of the business from diverse perspectives. How do we enable that type of worker? How do we ensure that most, if not all, employees are considering the bigger picture in their day-to-day problem solving? How do we set our teams up to drive value, not just for themselves, but also for the teams around them?
A great way to accomplish this is cross-functional training. It doesn’t need to be complex, fancy, or even entirely formalized. This type of training could be accomplished from listening to recorded support or sales calls to better understand their pain points and strengths.
Some companies prioritize cross-functional training to the point where, say, a new marketing hire may be required to conduct a support call or answer inbound tickets as part of their onboarding flow. As a result, a bond of trust and connection is made internally, and the new hire acquires a broader understanding of the business.
3. Leverage customer service metrics & SLA compliance to drive data-driven value
One of the most influential ways to position your customer support team as a strategic resource is through measuring the right metrics. When it’s time to discuss next year’s budgets, new hire allotment, or other growth opportunities, what information do you bring to the table? In order to be easily recognized as a value-adding resource, it becomes increasingly critical to deliver the most important and relevant metrics.
Recently, Kayako put together the Ultimate Guide to Customer Support Metrics that can help you craft that metrics suite and drive home your team’s value. Key support metrics, coupled with the establishment and enforcement of SLA compliance, are sure-fire ways of better positioning customer support teams as a strategic resource.
Okay, but is this really worth all the extra work?
Now, you might be left thinking, “this sounds like a lot of extra and unnecessary work. There’s just not enough time in my day.” We know the workload of a customer service team, especially in a managerial role, is unyielding and never-ending. We truly get it. But remember, the original reasons we explored these solutions in the first place–to reduce churn, improve retention, amplify referrals, and drive value to the bottom line—have resounding personal benefits for you and your team as well. Short term benefits may include a more balanced workload, increased delegation efforts, and cross-functional support from colleagues in new ways. Long term benefits may include bolstered hiring capacity, bigger budgets, and a newfound mutual sense of trust in your organization.
With every day, more businesses understand that customer service teams can, and should, deliver tangible business value. They understand that happy teams create happy customers, and happy customers correlate high levels of retention, customer referral, and returning business.
So the question isn’t whether or not you can afford the time or energy to prioritize customer service as a value-adding resource; the question is whether you can afford not to.
Author: Alicia Carney is a Product Marketing Manager at Kayako. Originally from San Francisco, Alicia is passionate about creating awesome customer service experiences for people all over the world. Outside of Kayako, she loves exploring Europe with nothing but a backpack, a bottle of wine, and ample amounts of cheese.