4 customer service challenges (and how to solve them)

This is part 2 of a customer service blog series based on conversations with members of Insightly’s client services and customer success teams.

In part 1 of this customer service blog series, we discussed five important skills for building great relationships. Continuing on with my discussion with Zeke Silva, Sr. Director Client Services at Insightly, today we’ll discuss a few challenging situations in customer service—and how agents can apply their skills to overcome them.

 

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1. Getting to the root of the problem

“It just doesn’t work.”

If you’ve spent any time in customer service, you’ve probably heard customers make general statements like this. Deciphering what the customer actually means can sometimes be more challenging than fixing the problem at hand. Is your product or service actually broken, or does the customer simply not understand how to make something work? Is this a support issue, or does it have more to do with training?

The customer’s level of technical expertise is a key factor to keep in mind when trying to get to the root of the problem. “You have to be very careful with word choice, especially if you’re working with someone who isn’t tech-savvy or familiar with your product,” says Zeke Silva, Sr. Director Client Services at Insightly. Newbies aren’t the only ones who can cause challenging situations for customer service agents. “On the flip side, you also have to be ready to help that super-technical customer, too,” says Zeke.

Try this: Avoid jumping straight into the weeds and making incorrect assumptions. According to Silva, a better approach starts with asking general questions. “You have to treat it like a funnel and slowly—or quickly—work towards more pointed questions,” says Zeke.

 

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2. Dealing with seasonal fluctuations and other growing pains

Answering dozens of similar support tickets can lead to a numbing effect that quickly erodes an agent’s ability to empathize with customers. That’s especially true when your company experiences a period of rapid hypergrowth or a seasonal uptick in demand. Focusing too much on average handle time, time to resolution, and other performance metrics at the expense of the customer journey will only compound the problem.

Experienced customer service teams seek a balanced approach that focuses on efficiency and effectiveness without losing touch of the bigger picture. For Insightly’s support team, this means reminding agents that each new quarter is an opportunity to serve an entirely new batch of customers—many of whom may have similar questions. “Having agents ready for that prepares them to be in the right mindset for responding appropriately,” says Zeke. “Preparing the team for an influx enables them to offer a great experience, especially for brand new customers who may be switching from a competitor.”

Try this: Re-examine your company’s revenue patterns and identify periods that tend to yield large influxes of new customers or support requests. Proactively communicate this to your customer service team and make sure they’re amped up to handle the surge.

 

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3. Advocating for the customer when things break

Not every customer service issue can be resolved with a simple email, phone call, or screen share. Sometimes things break and require a considerable amount of effort to identify, replicate, capture, and fix the underlying problem.

Training front-line support staff to diagnose and escalate tickets is the first step. However, escalating a ticket will do no good unless there is a reliable infrastructure in place to deal with bugs and other unexpected problems. “You don’t just throw a baseball at someone and hope they’re ready to catch it,” says Zeke. “They’ve got to be ready to receive it, and the same is true for dealing with escalated tickets.”

Solving complex problems may require input from multiple stakeholders across customer service, operations, engineering, and other teams. And, that’s no small task in a business environment that’s still dominated by remote work. It’s difficult to be an effective advocate for the customer when information is spread across multiple inboxes, threads, and systems. That’s why having all of your essential customer data in one, easily accessible location is particularly important.

Try this: Audit your existing ticket escalation workflow and look for ways to improve it. Where does information tend to get lost or overlooked? How does communication break down across departments? How can you consolidate overlapping systems and make it easier to advocate for your customers?

 

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4. Holding other teams accountable

Streamlining ticket escalations, reducing overlapping systems, and eliminating data silos is a major step forward, but doing so doesn’t guarantee accountability from the rest of your company. To ensure timely resolution for your customers, it’s best to establish cross-departmental service-level agreements (SLAs) that are backed by leaders from each team.

Tying internal SLAs to customer-facing SLAs is another strategy for creating urgency throughout the organization. For example, Insightly users on the Ultimate success plan can expect to receive a response within one hour of sending an email. “That builds confidence with customers that they’ll get a first touch within a certain amount of time,” says Zeke. Once an issue has been validated, Insightly’s engineering team sequences the work based on previously agreed to SLAs, which gives the support team—and, in turn, the end user—a specific time frame for achieving a satisfactory outcome.

Keeping the lines of communication open is essential for avoiding misunderstandings. Insightly’s support team also sends a bi-weekly email to engineering, which contains additional context for prioritizing customer requests. “We’ve created multiple avenues to prioritize and elevate,” says Zeke.

Try this: Formalize the working relationship between your customer-facing and back-office teams, perhaps through one or more SLAs. Gain buy-in from leaders from across the organization and look for ways to tie agreements back to customer expectations.

 

Next up, tips for becoming even more customer-centric

Stay tuned for the next article in this series. We’ll be moving beyond customer service issues and focusing our attention on proactive strategies that ensure a customer-centric experience.