Internal collaboration: why and how to prioritize teamwork first
Last updated September 21, 2021
Congratulations. You’ve decided to prioritize agent experience as a key driver of customer success. This move positions your business to unlock the one true secret to a better customer experience: equipped, empowered, and engaged agents.
Now, where do you begin?
The genesis of this proactive change program is in prioritizing improved collaboration.
Our most recent CX Benchmark Survey revealed that what customer service teams want most, they say, is a supportive environment and the ability to collaborate. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering both customer service managers and agents rank customer satisfaction as their number one priority.
The research also revealed that over 70% of customers assume companies will collaborate on their behalf to avoid repetition, lag time, or confusion, and 68% say they’re annoyed when transferred between departments. Clearly, when agents, other departments, and even external parties can easily collaborate, everyone wins.
To achieve this shared target, a robust, safe, frustration-free collaborative culture is a must. If you provide that, then your team will reach their goals of more satisfied customers.
Here are three steps to get started.
Determine what you have to gain
Before taking action, take stock. You may know of one or two obvious, painful reasons to improve internal collaboration, but assessing your service organization’s current tools and processes will uncover even more benefits of change. Possibilities may include:
• Saved time. Experts at the Harvard Business Review say employers and their managers spend half their time at work engaged in collaborative activities. Improved collaboration quickly curbs that waste.
• A rise in productivity. Better collaboration means that your agents will be more productive. This benefit isn’t limited to one team, however. Supporting teams like billing, finance, fulfillment and legal, for example, are now able to work more efficiently in the tools and channels that they prefer to help customer support. In short, customer support collaboration is about improving the productivity of your entire organization.
• Increased employee engagement and morale. Eliminating frustrations between people is a relief. As humans, we all feel better when we’re being heard and understood. Streamlined collaboration results in more engaged agents who are empowered to be more innovative and productive. Corporately, this also means strengthened external relationships. After all, your team is constantly reaching out to loop in other departments and market partners. The rapport between those relationships contributes directly to agent experience, and vice versa.
• More secure, streamlined systems. The tools you employ to improve collaboration will likely have the corollary effect of tighter, safer, more compliant data usage.
• Lower costs. One common misconception is that if organizations hire more people on the support team, then the team will get more done and customer satisfaction will go up. But streamlining internal processes and workflows, which is where collaboration comes in, that can improve productivity and help businesses scale. Often, a focus on collaboration is the answer, not more talent on the roster.
Remember, too, that a better agent experience creates an improved customer experience. Customers can sense your team’s collective productivity and enthusiasm (or lack of). Over 70% of customers say they expect companies to collaborate on their behalf. Meeting this expectation isn’t going above-and-beyond. It’s table stakes.
As you make this assessment, grab a snapshot of your current performance metrics. Not long after you’ve improved collaboration, you’ll want to compare the before-and-after picture.
Lay the groundwork
It’s tempting to start making changes now. But there’s one more important step to establish a technical foundation for the future. This means determining which systems and processes are working, which aren’t, and what tools are available to close the gap.
Shadow and interview a number of customer support representatives as they collaborate to locate key friction points. Are they toggling between multiple channels instead of staying within the interface they prefer? Do they exit their workspace to contact other departments or strategic partners? Do they stop mid-workflow to locate another agent with specialized skills or a unique language? Does a customer need to repeat themselves to give a routed agent context after being transferred? Would agents like to easily engage in side conversations – or remove themselves from an internal note if needed?
If the answer is “yes,” it’s time to upgrade, integrate, or switch tools. Because no amount of motivational encouragement can improve collaboration if your solutions aren’t aligned with the original mission.
Convey the Course
Administering and communicating a renewed priority to collaboration is the next step. Depending on your “before” picture, the change may be a subtle course correction or a full-blown organizational change initiative. Either way, keep these things in mind:
• You must opt for channels that work for both internal and external collaborators. Remember that your customer support team is not the only group involved in collaboration. Other departments, third-party service providers, vendors, and more all have their own preferred communication channels. Establish new workflows based on a tool that works for both sides – your team as well as interdepartmental and external partners. For example, the Collaboration add-on from Zendesk helps your team loop in other departments on their preferred channels, including Email and Slack, without leaving the Zendesk environment.
• You’ll need to update your internal knowledge base. Take your revamped collaboration seriously. Add changes and updates to your team’s internal self-service resources so they can reduce friction even further on their own.
• Measure, measure, measure. Revisit the original performance metrics you recorded before changing to more collaborative workflows. Reporting tools like Zendesk Explore give insights into a team’s collaborative processes, such as agent interactions on tickets, busiest hours of the day per channel, ticket assignments across groups, common keywords within tickets, and more. Customizable dashboards make it easy to change chart formats so you only see the most relevant, real-time data, and show how improved collaboration truly impacts team productivity. Celebrate every performance milestone as your new reality contrasts the baseline more and more over time.
Internal customer service – that is, the prioritization of the agent experience – translates directly to your customers’ success. And enhanced collaboration is the highest form of that artful internal customer service. Get it right, and everyone wins – together.