August 25, 2020

3 ways to communicate the value of support to your boss (and their boss)

Support is often the most misunderstood team within a company. You know that customers love your support; that the team is working hard to keep above water; and that more time and resources focused on support would yield dividends. But when it comes to communicating the value of support in tangible terms, something’s lost in translation. Here are 3 concrete ways you can educate the company on the value of support.

Orienting around company-wide goals and metrics

Educating the company—particularly leadership—in the true value of support is a critical function of an effective support leader. If you don’t make this case, support will be relegated to a secondary position and consistently underinvested in. Leadership should view support as a crucial source of feedback and information about customer sentiment rather than as a cost center. Providing them with concrete numbers to back those statements goes a long way.

Orienting your team around metrics that matter to the broader company goals can visibly align your priorities with those of the larger company. If the company is concerned with customer advocacy and you’re working to reduce the average handle time of cases, it may send the wrong message about being out of line with company priorities.

Communicating the true nature of tradeoffs

Certain metrics, like SLA, response time and CSAT will always be important for your team but effective support is ultimately about tradeoffs. Every CEO wants an instant response time and a 100% occupancy rate. Managing these expectations and educating leadership about the various costs and benefits of these tradeoffs is crucial.

Yes, you can respond to every user within 5 seconds, but it means that you’ll have a lot of team members waiting around without any customer contact for most of their day. On the flip side, you can improve cost dramatically by reducing the amount of downtime to zero but when spikes occur on Monday mornings, it will mean abandoning customers. As you can see in the graph below, as occupancy rate (%) increases, average speed of answer (s) increases nearly logarithmically.

[These calculations were drawn from Erlang Calculator for Call Centre Staffing (Online Version 5.0). It assumes 250 contacts in a period of 30 minutes with a 350s Average Handle Time (AHT).]

Communicating these tradeoffs in concrete terms and demonstrating the outcomes of conflicting imperatives conveys to leadership that you can’t do everything but you can do the things that are important to the company. This doesn’t mean that every conversation will result in a favorable support outcome but educating your stakeholders gives them a more holistic view of the work that the support team does and a deeper appreciation of the fact that some goals are in direct opposition to each other.

Establishing collaborative ties with other teams

While establishing this deeper level of trust and understanding, one major tool at your disposal is establishing a common vocabulary between teams. When you refer to efficiency or engagement, it should mean the same thing to the executive team as it does to your product counterparts and yourself. Communication between your team and the engineering, sales, customer success and marketing teams all improve with the use of common vocabulary and an understanding of each other’s priorities.

All of the teams in a company are ultimately interconnected and support is usually right in the middle of it all. A product change from engineering results in a marketing campaign, both of which can impact your own support goals and metrics. Investing in your relationships with other teams can help to clear up misunderstandings and address the root cause of issues, which can result in a better overall customer experience. Sharing your goals and the means you plan to use to get there in this manner can help ensure that teams around the company are working with the same goals in mind and not accidentally going in different directions, or worse, in conflicting directions.

Education is sometimes tedious and never complete but establishing these levels of trust and a common understanding of what’s important to your team and to the company can result in a clearer idea of what’s coming down the pipeline and how you can prepare for it.

Photo by Oleg Laptev on Unsplash

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