The rules of customer support are being totally rewritten, and anyone who thought “this whole AI thing” would eventually blow over is updating their predictions. But what does your team need to do to embrace the all-powerful combination of human and AI-powered support?
For support leaders watching the world of customer support transform, it’s natural to feel ill-equipped for this new era. Most customer service tools were built for human-led support, with a smattering of automation thrown in for good measure.
Now that humans are set to work side by side with AI and automation to augment team performance and customer experiences, it’s important to assess whether your current tools are up to the task.
Could another customer service platform be a better fit for your team?
Customer expectations are rising and support teams are being asked to handle more than ever. It may seem like the worst time to consider switching to a new customer service platform, but as you read more and more about the changing world of customer service, you might be feeling like your current tool is holding you back. And as AI becomes table stakes in customer service, it all comes down to one question: can you afford not to switch to a more modern support tool?
If you’re considering a platform change, follow these steps to ensure a successful transition for your customers, team, and company.
Step 1: Identify why you want to switch
What’s making you consider switching tools? Once you’ve identified the factors that are pushing you away from your current tool, and pulling you towards another tool, you can decide what you want to achieve by switching platforms.
These are the things you don’t like about your current tool – the factors that make it incompatible with the future plans you have for your team. Some of the most common push factors are:
- Incomplete platform: You’re cobbling together lots of different tools to achieve the results you need, and your team is struggling with the lack of cohesion between them.
- Low return on investment: If you’re having to supplement your customer service platform with other tools to get the results you want, you’re likely paying a lot more than you need to for the reward you’re getting.
- Lack of innovation: For an area that’s moving as quickly as customer service, the pace of innovation in legacy tools is far too slow.
- Outdated, clunky user interface: As tools get older, the concise, streamlined vision that was so clear at the beginning may become more disjointed. Makers of legacy support tools will often continue to build on top of parts of the product that no longer provide value for their customers, without taking a holistic view of how new additions impact the product as a whole. Without a modern product vision and roadmap, tools can become clunky and difficult to navigate.
- Difficult to manage: If your tool is unintuitive and complex, every small change or customization becomes a big hassle for your team. Support teams often don’t have access to the engineering resources needed to customize complex platforms to suit their needs and processes.
These are the factors that are encouraging you to consider other tools that are more likely to meet your requirements – and your customers’ expectations. Are there better tools out there that will be able to evolve alongside your support team? Have other support leaders recommended a particular tool? Have you read reviews that make you think “That tool would work for us”?
“Understanding the ‘why’ of the switch should make your priorities for a new platform clearer”
Fundamentally, there are several things you want from a modern customer service tool that enables a seamless human-AI partnership:
- Advanced AI and automation capabilities to enhance team performance
- Omnichannel support
- Conversational as opposed to a ticket-based approach
- Wide array of integrations
Understanding the “why” of the switch should make your priorities for a new platform clearer – and put the scale of the switch in perspective. Prepare your team in several key areas, and you’ll be surprised at how manageable the switch can be.
Understanding resistance to change
Now that you’ve identified the factors pulling you towards a new tool and away from your current one, it’s time to consider the other side of the coin. Humans are naturally averse to change, and there will always be reasons not to do something. Building a truly successful platform transition process requires a deep understanding of the reluctance and hesitation that some, or all, of your team might feel when it comes to the big switch.
No matter how much research you do, bringing on a new tool requires a certain leap of faith – and that can be scary. It’s perfectly natural to have questions like:
- Will a new tool be able to handle everything that you rely on your current tool for?
- Will it be missing some important features or reporting capabilities?
- How will your team adapt to a new platform?
- How will the transition impact customer satisfaction?
Your team’s comfort and experience with your existing tool can be a huge obstacle to change. Thinking about the workflows, processes, and automations you’ve set up – as well as your team’s familiarity with how they all work – can make switching tools seem overwhelming.
Getting to grips with hesitation in your team, and across the wider company, means you can build reassurance into the transition process and more effectively manage change, avoiding greater resistance further down the line.
Overcoming anxieties and habits requires openness to feedback, transparency, and patience. Here are some simple ways you can address resistance to a platform change:
- Generate excitement by sharing stories about similar businesses who made the switch, and the positive results they’re seeing.
- Clearly demonstrate how the new tool will address the team’s pain points (push factors).
- Outline how the new platform will enhance the team’s performance, workflows, and morale by modernizing the way they work.
Step 2: Evaluate the new tool
Once you’ve identified what you need from a new tool – and what’s holding you back from switching – it’s time to start evaluating the various tools on the market.
You and your team will know what you need to find out about each one, but broadly you’ll be asking questions like:
- Can the tool meet my team’s basic needs?
- What extra benefits could the tool offer on top of our basic needs?
- Does the new tool meet the pull factors I’ve identified in the last step?
- Does it negate the push factors I’ve identified?
- What’s the price of the new tool compared to our current spend?
- Is it easy to set up and start using right away? What kind of resources would I need to get the new tool off the ground?
Your research might involve reaching out to sales teams, chatting with industry peers about their preferred tools, or testing out the tool through a free trial. Here at Intercom, we offer web demos and cardless trials so you can be sure our platform is the one for you before you buy.
Step 3: Plan the switch
The planning stage is about getting people on board with the idea of the change – and creating champions of the new tool and its benefits. Think about:
Who is invested in the change at the highest levels of the company? What executive support do you have, and how will you use that support to make the transition as smooth as possible?
“Upgrading your customer service platform to embrace a more future-focused, customer-centric approach doesn’t just require a tool change – it requires a philosophy change”
Who will help you to execute the change? Could you dedicate someone, even part-time, to overseeing the process, monitoring the impact on customer experience, and keeping communication on track? Will you need external support, or are there sufficient internal resources to ensure success? Map out key stakeholders that will be involved in the change so you know who should be consulted, informed, and updated along the way.
You may already have executive sponsorship, but how do you plan to secure buy-in across the company and get people excited about the prospect of a new customer service tool?
What would success look like, and how will you measure it?
Step 4: Execute the switch
You know what needs to happen, and who should be involved. Now it’s time to get started on transitioning to a new platform. The process will be different for every support team, but we’ve discussed some of the major areas of consideration below.
Helping your team evolve its approach to support
Upgrading your customer service platform to embrace a more future-focused, customer-centric approach doesn’t just require a tool change – it requires a philosophy change. If your team – and the wider company – is used to a reactive, email-first style of customer support, it can take a mindset shift before they’re ready to dive into providing a more proactive, AI-augmented, conversational customer experience.
“Be open to rethinking your current methods – your new tool may unlock valuable alternatives”
Ask yourself what your team will need to embrace a new platform and way of working. Whether it’s information sessions, brainstorming sessions to think about new ways of delighting your customers, or specialized training, it’s important for the team to put their best foot forward with a new platform.
Transferring existing workflows and processes
How will your existing workflows translate to the new tool? It may not be possible to directly transfer your processes to a new tool – settings and nomenclature will vary from platform to platform – but investigate how you can recreate your existing processes as best you can.
That gives you the opportunity to assess how well your processes are working, and where there might be areas that your team can enhance and optimize how things are currently being done. Be open to rethinking your current methods – your new tool may unlock valuable alternatives.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Are there areas where we could incorporate AI, guided self-service, and automation to create a smoother customer experience and ease the team’s workload?
- Are there outdated customer flows that could be revised to include more recent help content and blog posts, or tell your customers about new features?
- Are there areas where more in-depth help content would enable customers to self-serve instead of chatting to a team member?
- Does the new platform have features that will allow you to offer a more personalized customer experience? How can you incorporate these features into your current processes and workflows?
- Can you gather new customer profile data to provide more relevant, engaging content at the right time?
- Can you use customer profile data to triage and route more efficiently to reduce customer waiting times and time to close?
Of course, you don’t need to know all the answers from the beginning. A huge part of onboarding a new tool is iterating on your current processes and figuring out how new features and opportunities can enhance your existing workflows.
Ensuring your team feels totally comfortable with your new tool is essential, not just for great customer service, but for team morale. Throwing your team into a brand new tool with no time for the inevitable learning curve makes an already demanding job much tougher.
- Plan for as gradual a transition as you need to ensure that there’s only minimal disruption to your team and customers.
- Offer in-depth training sessions for all team members, with follow-up sessions for anyone who needs them.
- Some people will get the hang of a new tool more quickly than others – recruit those people as champions for the product, and allow them time to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with team members who may not be so eager for change.
- Make sure the timing is right, and that your team has both the resources and momentum they need to embrace a change like this. High levels of energy and excitement for a change will encourage your team to maximize the opportunities a new platform brings, which will carry through to your customers.
Migrating your support content to a new tool can be time-consuming and sometimes tedious. Approaching it step by step makes it less daunting. Decide what method will work best for your team, and be sure to ask these questions:
- What are your top-performing help articles? Start with the ones that answer your most frequently asked questions, then gradually migrate more and more.
- Which articles do not perform as well? Use the transition as an opportunity to gather feedback from your customers on how you can improve your support content.
- Which macros are most important to your team? While transferring your macros across, take the opportunity to update them, or add new features that are available in your new tool. For example, within Intercom you can create dynamic macros, adding actions as well as text to speed up your team’s most common processes.
Switching tools doesn’t mean you have to lose all the customer data and context you’ve built up over the years – like user information, ticket data, conversation history, and more. Migrate your data to ensure a seamless transition for you and your customers.
What kind of data are you looking to migrate? E.g. ticket data, user data.
Why do you need this data? Your business requirements will guide your historical data migration process.
What tools and processes are available to you? E.g. APIs, third party tools, native migration features.
Your business requirements will guide your historical data migration process. There is no strict time frame for this process – it all depends on the tool you’re switching from and the one you’re switching to.
A tool change often impacts more than one team, so it’s worth devising a comms plan to ensure everyone knows exactly what’s about to happen, and what they need to do to prepare for the change.
There are a couple of components to this:
- Ensuring the company knows that the support team is transitioning to a new tool, and is aware of how this will affect the team’s availability, any support needed from other teams, and what has been communicated to customers so they’re ready for any questions they receive.
- Communicating opportunities that the new tool will open up for increased collaboration with the support team. A modern customer support tool should open up new ways for teams to work together to better serve their customers. It’s not your team that might need to shift their mindset, it’s the rest of the company, too.
Overall, ensuring that you’re available to address any questions is crucial. Offer frequent updates and provide a forum for all kinds of feedback, e.g. a dedicated Slack channel.
Step 5: Monitor and evaluate the switch
You’ll need to consider this step from two separate perspectives: monitoring and evaluating the new platform and how it’s affected your regular KPIs and metrics, and monitoring and evaluating the success of the change itself.
In step three of the framework, you identified the indicators of a successful switch – and you’ve likely been monitoring them throughout the transition.
You’ve also probably been reflecting on the traditional metrics your team has been using until now, and how they’ll fit in with your new processes, workflows, and ways of working. It’s worth taking some time to evaluate what exactly you want to measure – and how best to measure it – in the context of a modern customer service platform that prioritizes the human-AI partnership.
- Which metrics will continue to be relevant as you transition to a new support platform?
- Which metrics will no longer be relevant as you embrace AI and automation?
- How is the new platform impacting your most important metrics?
- What kinds of new metrics and KPIs will your team need to consider to measure the success of new processes you’ll be implementing?
- How will you measure the success of the transition to a new platform? What is your ideal timeframe, what level of adoption are you aiming for?
- Are you ready to adapt and iterate quickly and often? The transition may have unforeseen impacts on the customer journey, so being flexible and adaptable is key.
Planning how you’ll navigate these specific areas should mitigate most of your anxieties and give you confidence that you can successfully transition to a more modern, powerful customer service platform that will work alongside your team to provide an unrivaled customer experience.