Customer support hasn’t always gotten the love it deserves. Traditionally, most SaaS businesses hire a team specifically dedicated to support, and these agents interact with customers on behalf of the company’s products and services. They both respond to customer complaints, and alert developers of potential bugs.
But there’s a disconnect here. These support agents operate in a vacuum, and their feedback to developers is often met with confusion and cynicism from others in the organization that don’t necessarily feel the pain of the user. The support team simply isn’t valued as it should be, and their isolation results in a lack of organizational empathy for both their roles and also their customer’s pain points.
Best in class organizations are adjusting, recognizing that this structure does not lend itself to great support or products. By elevating their support teams to first class citizens internally and allowing for a more fluid knowledge transfer between support and the rest of the organization, companies can offer better support and products, both of which are meaningful differentiators.
All Hands Support is a way in which some companies are choosing to address the gap in their support functions.
All Hands Support requires employees from outside the support team to take shifts managing chat, email, and phone support - building empathy for their users to build and support better products.
For example, Zapier has their engineers take a weekly rotation doing tier 2 technical support. With 10 engineers on their team, every 10th week they’ll be tasked with handling all the technical tickets that are escalated by the core support team. Weekly shifts allow their engineers to get to the bottom of customer issues and follow through on complex tickets. The folks over at Zapier even believe executives should spend time talking to customers.
Stripe provides support in a very similar manner requiring every single engineer to do support on a bi-weekly basis, including their Founders, and New Relic, a SaaS with 13,500+ customers didn’t have any dedicated support personnel when they started to really take off back in 2010.
Lew Cirne, Founder and CEO of New Relic, once said, “In a nutshell, it’s about product quality. Not just fewer bugs, but a more intuitive product that’s easier to use and understand. If the product just works, the customer won’t need to reach out to support in the first place. We have our engineers take support calls because engineers like to code their way out of the support queue rather than execute manual repetitive tasks. Instead of coming up with one-off workarounds for specific customer issues, our team is more likely to implement solutions that the entire customer base can benefit from. Some of our best product ideas come out of support cases.” It's clear that All Hands Support isn't just a support strategy, but can also function as a product strategy as well.
Another advocate for All Hands Support, Ben Congleton, Co-Founder of Olark, did just the opposite in the early days by initially taking the more traditional approach to customer support. But when their support guy decided to go back to school they were forced to rethink this approach. Inspired by Wufoo, the four Founders of Olark took turns talking to customers and responding to their support emails. Just like Zapier, Stripe and New Relic, the Olark Founders immediately saw the benefits of All Hands Support, and now they rely heavily on engineers for customer support.
The idea of this approach is to build empathy from non-client facers, particularly engineers, who are often so far removed from the user’s problems, motivations, and behaviors. Not only will they synthesize with customers, they also gain a deep appreciation for the customer support team that stands by their product or service every day. And that’s not the only big benefit.
All Hands Support helps build a strong company culture, empowers your support team and gives them the respect they deserve, enables engineers to address and fix bugs faster, and allows everyone to work together on a service they can truly believe in.
There’s no denying this approach is an impactful one, but there are still a few issues to watch out for if you don’t have a good knowledge base.
Training non-client facers requires up-to-date knowledge that lives where they already work. Chances are some of your engineers will be uncomfortable talking directly to customers because it’s simply not what they’re used to.
In her talk at Elevate Summit, Rachel Beyer, the Credit Karma Member Support Assistant Manager recognized the “knowledge gap” this creates while implementing and onboarding people into support from other teams.
Guru closes that knowledge gap and makes the support onboarding transition easier by giving your entire organization to all of the internal knowledge they need in order to respond to customer questions confidently, right from within their existing workflows. Whether they are working in a web-based app or communicating in Slack, your team can access all of the knowledge in Guru - ensuring a consistent and helpful customer experience, regardless of who is answering your customer’s questions. Guru can even proactively surface the most relevant content to your team at the right time by constantly learning from your team's usage, further eliminating the amount of time spent finding the information you need to answer a customer question.
All Hands Support can be really powerful, but it starts with an enabling knowledge base.
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