How three ‘pillars’ defined our customer support process

We recently created a new Customer Support team and process from scratch. As a first step, we identified what we believed were the most important objectives to a successful customer support implementation:

  1. Align the customer support team with the product team
  2. Visibility and accountability in the customer support process
  3. Empower other teams in the organization by making customer feedback transparent

These objectives eventually became the ‘pillars’ that support our customer support process. Below, we’ve detailed how we used these pillars to promote awareness and customer support throughout our organization, and the tools we built to perpetuate that support.

Align the customer support team with the product team

Support tickets are a direct channel to the voice of the customer. Ensuring this line of communication is open to the product team not only helps address immediate customer issues, it helps build a great experience for customers in the future as well. With direct feedback from the customer via support, the product team can identify common items that should be prioritized so that they are solved before they become an issue. Additionally, the candid feedback included in tickets increases awareness of customer workarounds used to address a scenario that hadn’t been considered. If a feature is designed to enable these use cases in the future, these customers may be a perfect candidate to provide early feedback.

Visibility and accountability in the customer support process

Keeping track of important metrics such as the number of open tickets, resolved tickets, and the time to resolution per ticket, allows us to better understand the Customer Support process overall. Each step in the customer support process should be visible and quantifiable. By having this as one of our pillars, it ensures that we can immediately identify where a customer is being stalled in the process.

When a new ticket is created in Zendesk, a Slack message is automatically sent with rich information.

Knowing where a customer is stalled in a specific process is incredibly important, as this directly impacts the time to problem resolution. Making this process visible also means that we can gather data and uncover solutions to why a customer is stuck at a specific point in the Customer Support process. Accountability is also a very important aspect to this process, as it tells us which person is responsible for what issue. Being able to go straight to the person responsible allows us a direct line to learning about the problem and ultimately addressing it.

Empower other teams by making customer feedback transparent

It is often the case that each team in your organization will use a different tool, dependent on what their process requires. For example, the Product team may have services they use to track bugs and product features. Creating solutions that integrate customer feedback directly into the tool the Product team uses means that customer feedback sits side-by-side with product issues. Prioritization of product features can then be done directly in line with the feedback that customers provide.

We know explicitly where in our product certain feedback is originating from and store this feedback inside a Google Sheet.

You can also create a dashboard as a centralized repository for customer feedback that each member of your organization has access to. The drawback of this approach is that it can silo the feedback to a specific location. Creating automated systems that notify when new feedback is available on a per team basis is an effective way of combating this issue.

Let’s Build the Pillars!

Identifying the objectives we believed to be most important helped articulate the types of tools and features we needed to leverage. We had an existing toolset we wanted to work with, but integrating each of these services to support the pillars was a complex task. We started by identifying the feature-set we wanted in order to support our broader initiatives:

  • An interface to receive and interact with customer issues
  • Notifications that reach the right person as quickly as possible to expedite responses
  • Automation for engaging the product teams when needed
  • Real time tracking of customer satisfaction relative to support in order to maintain quality and make adjustments with agility
  • Centralized data collection that would allow us to build benchmarks to track success

We settled on a combination of Slack (which we already used for other communication), Twilio for text messaging, and Zendesk for handling support tickets. Our product team uses Trello internally, so we knew we’d have to integrate that into our process as well. Azuqua is an integration platform, thus we were very familiar with the problem domain we were approaching. While tightly integrating each of these services in a bespoke way can often be a frustrating process, we knew that by using our platform we could create a powerful system from these separate components. Creating pipes between Zendesk, Trello, and Slack ended up being the least time consuming part of the process. The combination of Trello, Slack, Zendesk, Twilio, and Azuqua allowed us to not only create a robust, scalable customer support structure, but to automate many of the processes that we previously had to do manually. Here are a few examples of how we used automation and integration in our process and how they aligned with our three pillars:

  • Align the customer support team with the product team
    • When a product team is required, simply tagging a field on the ticket automatically creates a ticket for the product team to engage even though they use a different tool for tracking product issues. The support we use does not have a native integration with the product teams issue tracker, but through the use of our integration platform, we integrated the two services.
  • Visibility and accountability in the customer support process
    • The customer ticket is recorded on that customer’s account in our CRM system to ensure we track when and how many issues a customer files.
    • Using a persistent data store feature our platform has available, we built a complete suite of metrics around customer support issues by recording and tracking updates through completion.
  • Empower other teams in the organization by making customer feedback transparent
    • A ticket is submitted and different individuals are notified based on who the customer is and what their various response SLA is. Additionally, these notifications are either sent out on an internal messaging system (Slack, in this case) during regular business hours or via text message during the off hours.

Unique Tools, Unique Pillars

Ultimately, the objectives you end up basing your pillars around are dependent on the organization you work with. Each organization has its own unique set of goals, needs, and wants, and it’s important to learn what those are if you want to develop a successful, scalable Customer Support structure. At Azuqua, we leveraged the services we loved most in addition to our own platform to create a system that was uniquely suited for us. We believed that by having the flexibility to choose cloud apps that were tailored for specific needs, we could create a robust system that would help achieve the objectives we set out and ultimately strengthen the pillars that we created our Customer Support system upon.