How do you foster a team culture that focuses on delivering value to your customers when you have limited resources? Agile principles can be a North Star for time-strapped support teams, helping them to keep the customer’s needs at the heart of their decisions so they can provide fast, personal support at scale.
Agile teams start small and move fast, collecting and incorporating feedback to iterate their way to bigger and better solutions quickly. Whether it’s software engineering, sales, or support, agile principles can enhance team performance and outcomes by focusing on the customer’s needs.
At WeTravel, adopting agile has allowed our small support team to focus on delivering big value to our customers. Rather than blindly following procedures and relying on team hierarchy to resolve issues, agile principles have enabled our team of eight to scale our support and process to handle hundreds of millions of dollars annually for over 3,000 global group and multi-day travel companies.
“Strong support teams put the customer’s needs at the heart of everything, from the processes they develop to the software they choose to implement them”
Adapting your service to this framework empowers your team to become more autonomous, solution-oriented, and fast, so they can swiftly resolve customer queries in a way that works best for them without impacting support team morale or productivity. By improving our internal workflows we’ve improved our overall customer experience and helped our customers to spend less time and money on admin so they can focus on building meaningful relationships with customers to meet their expectations and reduce churn.
Strong support teams put the customer’s needs at the heart of everything, from the processes they develop to the software they choose to implement them. Listening to your customers and weaving their needs into your solutions is key to providing the high-quality support experience they expect.
The 9 principles of agile support
Agile and customer support are a natural fit; collaboration and communication are at the heart of both agile principles and high-quality conversational support experiences. Let’s take a closer look at the nine agile principles adapted from the 12 principles of agile software that we use to continuously improve our customer experience and support team workflows:
1. Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of support
Your team should resolve customer queries as quickly as possible at all stages of the customer journey. At WeTravel, we use the Intercom Messenger at key conversion points where customers have frequently shown a need for additional support. We also use relevant proactive messaging to help new website visitors easily find the answers they’re searching for while reducing the number of repetitive queries reaching our team. This frees up our reps to handle more valuable, complex queries that require human support.
“It’s important to acknowledge when a customer hasn’t had the greatest experience with our product, so they know we empathize with them”
To continuously deliver the right level of support, we always look to our previous conversations with a customer, including any notes or tags associated with these conversations in the Inbox, to gain full context on their situation before we speak with them. This helps us provide better, faster support. It would be tone-deaf to attempt to resolve a customer query without fully understanding the bigger picture of where they are in their customer support journey with our company.
For example, if we noticed that a particular customer had recently experienced multiple bugs in our software, we would review their conversation history to get a better understanding of their situation before responding to their query. In that case, it would be best to provide timely, human support. It’s important to acknowledge when a customer hasn’t had the greatest experience with our product, so they know we empathize with them. We’ve discovered that people often just want to feel that they’ve been heard and for us to hold ourselves accountable for mistakes when they arise.
2. Embrace product change to provide better support to your customers
Agile methodologies encourage you to respond to change rather than simply following protocol. If your product team is agile, they’re most likely fast-moving and shipping often. Regularly improving your product is excellent for customers. But when new features are frequently added or removed from a product, it can have the unintended side effect of rendering support materials inaccurate or obsolete.
“At WeTravel, we encourage our teammates to attend product sprint reviews to get the latest information on upcoming changes to our product”
It may not seem important to a busy support team to stay abreast of upcoming product changes. But to ensure that agents continue to provide accurate advice to customers, your team needs to embrace these product changes as opportunities to provide better, faster support.
At WeTravel, we encourage our teammates to attend product sprint reviews to get the latest information on upcoming changes to our product. By staying in the know on what features have been implemented, we can communicate these updates directly to the clients who requested them to create a more personalized support experience and keep support materials up to date.
Whether it’s a macro or an article for your knowledge base, teammates are encouraged to update omissions or inaccurate information in our support materials instead of waiting for someone else to do it.
3. Support, product, and developers must work together
Collaboration is the cornerstone of agile. We recommend sharing customer feedback with your product team and trusting them to make the right decisions for your customers when designing new functionality in response to this feedback.
“Tagging conversations is a convenient way of providing direct feedback from customers to your product team to highlight common feature requests and opportunities for innovation”
We regularly share customer feedback from our support conversations in the Intercom Inbox with our product team through Jira. Tagging conversations is a convenient way of providing direct feedback from customers to your product team to highlight common feature requests and opportunities for innovation.
The product team, project manager, designer, and developers then discuss this feedback to find the easiest solution to resolve the customer’s underlying problem. Our support team has faith in our product team’s ability to strike a balance between satisfying our customers’ expectations and keeping our business on track by identifying the most impactful features to ship and adopting the right product strategy.
4. Build your team around motivated individuals
Hiring motivated people who are focused on solving problems is the first part of building a high-performing support team. At WeTravel, we have a thorough and transparent hiring process. Candidates speak with multiple people on our team (starting with the recruiter and ending with the CEO) to find out if they’re a good fit for our company and vice versa.
Once your team is established, you need to give them the freedom to triage and resolve customer queries independent of rigid hierarchies. We encourage our team to make their own decisions and solve customers’ problems in a way that suits them best while remaining aligned with our company values:
- Be the solution – take ownership, drive collaboration
- Be resourceful – strive for new wins everyday
- Be honest – default to transparency
- Be respectful – treat others as you would like to be treated
Allowing your team to be creative and take ownership of their solutions is empowering and can boost team morale and productivity.
5. Nurture your team with regular face-to-face conversations
Face-to-face conversations aren’t too plentiful these days, but you can use video calls for your one-on-one meetings, mentoring teammates, maintaining morale, and building relationships with your team while remote.
“Creating virtual office hours can help facilitate this virtual face-to-face collaboration while teams are apart”
Workflows, automation tools, and day-to-day rituals have all been impacted by the switch to remote working. So it’s more important than ever to have regular check-ins with your team to help you effectively manage team dynamics and protect productivity by maintaining morale.
Creating virtual office hours can help facilitate this virtual face-to-face collaboration while teams are apart. At WeTravel, we try to communicate beyond simple messages by using live chat, video chat, GIFs, and more to foster connection while apart.
6. Solved problems are the primary measure of progress
For many support teams, CSAT, average response time, and time to close are key metrics for assessing support team performance. Understanding the value of your support service isn’t just about tracking cold, hard figures, it’s about tracking the metrics that drive meaningful change for your customers to foster loyalty, retention, and advocacy.
In agile support, solved problems are the primary measure of progress. Producing an effective workaround is sometimes better than an elegant long-term solution. Have the confidence to make these calls and try different approaches with customer queries until you find the right solution for the issue at hand. Leveraging self-serve and proactive support will win back time for your team, so they can harness opportunities for stronger processes or produce better support materials to reduce conversation volume and increase customer satisfaction.
7. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential
Automate where possible. Where this isn’t possible, prioritize. You should indicate which clients and problems are considered high priority and when to escalate queries. Understanding the context of customer queries will allow you to identify the appropriate points in your customer journey where introducing automation will maximize the amount of work not done by your support reps.
“At WeTravel, we’ve implemented Custom Bots to capture leads and triage conversations for 24/7 support”
By resolving simple, repetitive queries with automated bots or self-serve materials, and routing more complex queries to the appropriate support rep, you can protect your team’s time while ensuring that they’re having the conversations that move the dial for your business.
At WeTravel, we’ve implemented Custom Bots to capture leads and triage conversations for 24/7 support. Automation ensures that all queries are routed to the right resources or team to support our customers even when we’re offline.
Automated Custom Bots handle everything from advice to bugs to new feature requests. We’ve found them helpful for prompting clients to give us as much information as possible up front, so our team has the context they need to quickly resolve a query before they’ve even spoken with the customer.
We’ve also found Macros helpful for protecting our team’s resources. These pre-written responses save time and energy that would otherwise be wasted on repeat common issues – you can close out queries in a few quick clicks with Macros.
8. Collaborative, self-organizing teams produce better solutions
According to agile methodology, the best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. Self-organizing teams are empowered to make their own decisions and collaborate with people outside of their team to solve problems in a more meaningful way. Working with people at all levels of our company, from junior engineers to the CEO, exposes us to a wider range of perspectives and helps us create more informed, scalable solutions that increase customer satisfaction.
We’ve found that in addition to providing a better customer experience, self-organizing teams have helped foster stronger relationships within our company. In a more traditional organization, where an agent can only talk to their manager or communicate with their engineering team through tickets, building personal relationships can be a challenging experience, and it can be difficult to learn from others.
“We believe that embracing a less rigid support team structure and building cross-functional relationships is essential to our success, particularly while we’re all working remotely”
You can help your team to build relationships in the broader organization by facilitating proper introductions and providing relevant tools. We use Intercom’s Inbox for effective collaboration, it helps us to quickly loop teammates into a conversation using notes or search conversations by tags, users, teammates, or date ranges to get a big picture overview of the customer’s journey.
This ease of communication helps us to quickly triage queries before approaching other teams to effectively resolve them. For example, if one customer experiences a payment processing error in our software and another receives an incorrectly formatted email from our platform, we know we can quickly decide which issue to escalate first. Sometimes we tag our engineers directly in conversations to help them understand the context of an issue ahead of speaking with them, but in this instance we know we could approach our engineers directly to get the payment issue resolved as a priority.
We believe that embracing a less rigid support team structure and building cross-functional relationships is essential to our success, particularly while we’re all working remotely.
9. Reflection creates effective teams and processes
Another essential component of agile is the agile retrospective. Simply put, this is a meeting where you assess: “what went well, what could have been better, what will we try next, and what questions do we have?” This allows your team to identify what lessons you’ve learned and decide on which insights to act on to improve the quality of your support.
Take time during your weekly meetings to learn from each other, find out what works well, and identify any internal support processes that might need some fine-tuning. Incremental improvements will allow you to go further together faster, and each team member – whether they’re a new hire or an experienced team member – can provide valuable information and context that will help enhance processes and improve your customer experience.
Cultivating an agile mindset
Adopting an agile approach to customer support can help your team stay focused on your customers’ needs while empowering your team to be more independent and innovative in their approach to problem solving.
Cultivating an agile mindset will help your support team continuously improve your support processes, create better solutions faster for customers, and deliver continuously efficient, personal, and deeply valuable support – even as you scale.