7 tips to get your support teams through the pandemic (and beyond!)
Whether you’re in the middle of a ticket surge, a lull, or somewhere in between, now is the time to implement best practices that will help your company be ready for the uncertainties that lie ahead.
Published August 13, 2020
Last updated October 14, 2021
Time to put away that crystal ball. If anything, 2020 taught us to embrace a certain level of unpredictability in our lives.
And while a global pandemic probably didnʼt enter into most peopleʼs plans, one thing is sure: we will be feeling its impacts for the foreseeable future. No sprint to the finish line here.
For support teams, this might feel a little daunting. And why not? Customers are reaching out in record numbers. Your team may still be working from home. And you might not have enough hours in the day to get through your backlog.
But you can continue to provide top-notch customer service, even as each day or week brings new challenges. By taking important steps when ticket volume is high, and especially when the numbers are low, you can build a more scalable support response.
Whether you’re in the middle of a ticket surge, a lull, or somewhere in between, now is the time to implement best practices that will help your company be ready for the uncertainties that lie ahead. At Zendesk, we’ve compiled a list of these best practices, a result of our tracking the impact of COVID-19 on more than 23,000 companies worldwide.
Expect ticket volatility to continue
As long as countries continue to see cases rise and fall, we can expect to see an impact on customer service.
And it makes sense. Customers are adjusting their buying habits in real time to match changing conditions. Some will be trying a new product or service for the first time. Others are cancelling plans, or making new ones. Customers need help, and will continue to do so, as government policies shift.
Here are a few examples:
Cases (and ticket volumes) spiked as the government began to block travel and limit outdoor activities. Though things calmed in June, a recent surge in Melbourne put the metropolitan area under lockdown in early July. At the same time, companies saw more customers reach out, as tickets jumped once again after falling from a peak in mid-April.
As Brazil struggles to contain its first outbreak of the virus, its numbers continue to rise. The number of customers reaching out to companies has also steadily gone up.
More customers needed assistance as Germany began to put travel bans and curfews into place. As cases have fallen, the surge in customer engagement has also tapered off.
Customer engagement spiked in early April as Japan declared a state of emergency. Support requests have since surged again as a new wave of cases hit the country in late July.
Spain extended its state of emergency in early April, right as customer engagement in the country began to spike. At its peak, companies saw 47 percent more ticket volume than they did prior to the pandemic. Tickets spiked again in mid-June ahead of a relaxation of border restrictions. They’ve since jumped once more with a new outbreak underway.
The number of customers filing tickets rose steadily until May, when states began to relax restrictions. Volume has remained high during the recent surge in cases, at about 16 percent above pre-pandemic levels.
Stay prepared: a support survival guide
With volatility here to stay, at least for now, here are some steps to help your team prepare for anything that may come your way:
- Focus on what’s happening now. Forget what things looked like last year:
Scrap your spreadsheet looking at 2019 trends. Things look very different now and flexibility is key. Your team will need to adjust to managing frequent changes in ticket volume.
Instead of looking at what trends were present during this time last year, focus more on monthly and weekly metrics. What channels are customers reaching out on? What time of the day are ticket volumes peaking? What request types are most prevalent right now? Explore can provide a top-level look at this data to help you make quick changes in response to the latest trends.
- Consider leaning into live channels:
Many teams are finding that the back and forth nature of email requests isn’t manageable when ticket volume is high. Backlogs quickly mount and agents find it challenging to get ahead. Offering live channels like phone or chat support often helps customers solve their request in a single conversation.
- Adopt social messaging channels:
During high-volume periods, you’ll want to keep things as convenient as possible for your customers. Homebound customers spend more time on their phone or on social media. They need a support channel that will easily connect them to relevant resources and answers.
Support teams should consider connecting Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or SMS to their support strategy. This not only boosts convenience for customers but also provides agents with a more efficient way to resolve requests.
- Promote help center content:
When resolution times increase and support teams have a backlog of tickets, direct customers to your help center first. According to Forrester, 76% of individuals prefer to find answers on their own anyways.
You can promote the help center by providing links in agent email signatures, utilizing the Web Widget on your website, linking articles in macros, and creating automations that let customers know they can browse relevant articles while they wait for a response. Zendesk customer Thinkific has managed to maintain a 96 percent deflection rate by sending customers to its help center during high-volume periods due to COVID-19.
- Back off of live channels:
When ticket volume has gone down, consider limiting access to your live channels to a few hours a day. This helps agents focus instead on optimizing support operations for the next possible spike.
- Focus on promoting agility:
During quieter periods, develop practices that will make you successful in the future, when volume increases again. Consider revising old help center content, do a thorough audit of your support strategy, or complete training with your agent team.
- Develop a quality assurance process:
Downtime gives managers a chance to review agent tickets, provide feedback, and identify areas for improvement. This ensures that when volumes pick up again, agents are at peak performance.
Things look very different now and flexibility is key. Your team will need to adjust to managing frequent changes in ticket volume.
When demand is high: