News & Updates

Acting on the Customer Support Organization of the Future

By Ideas @ AppDirect / May 13, 2020

Acting on the Customer Support Organization of the Future

In our first two installments of this series, we covered how AppHelp mobilized its disaster plan to get its team working from home and the steps AppHelp took to support customers as their needs changed during the crisis.

In our final installment, Kam Rawal, Vice President of Channel Enablement at AppDirect, shares his insights on the customer support function of the future and how COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on customer needs and behaviors going forward.

What is the big picture of how customer support will be impacted by COVID-19?

Kam: I believe that as the next normal comes into focus, we’ll be looking at everything we do differently—from how we hire, to the channels we use to support customers, to how we expand operations when volume grows. We’ll be viewing every decision through the lens of how we can use technology to continue improving our agility, efficiency, and responsiveness no matter what happens.

For example, pre-COVID-19, when we would run out of capacity, the answer was to open a new center. But our learnings from this crisis is that we can take advantage of working from home to double our capacity within the same facility. For instance, we could have a rotation where one team is in the office while the second team is working from home and then they switch every week or every other week. We don’t need to open facility after facility. Instead, we can use our work-from-home experience and the technology that enables it to find more creative ways to increase our capacity.

How do you believe customer support will change as a result of the crisis?

Kam: One of the big changes we’re already seeing is the rapid adoption of different channels of support. Many people who had always picked up the phone in the past discovered that chat or email could be equally effective for getting support. Customers began triaging more of their own issues and instead of calling about a non-urgent problem, used email as a more effective and efficient channel to get an answer.

Across the industry, the incredible volume of calls to some support centers accelerated the adoption of these non-voice channels. I believe that customers who had good experiences in those channels will not be going back to voice.

What does this mean for customer support organizations?

Kam: Every customer support organization should be reviewing their support of non-voice channels like chat, email, social media, and direct messaging via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. As customer adoption steadily grows in these channels, support teams need to be ready with the right technology and training to deliver quality assistance.

The use of self-service by customers and customer support organizations is also growing. Companies that haven’t invested in their self-service capabilities should be looking to technology such as artificial intelligence and chatbots to help customers get self-service answers more quickly and easily. If adopting these capabilities was planned for some time in the future on a company’s roadmap, it’s time to move this project up and tackle it right now.

Are there other investments that customer support organizations should be making now as well?

Kam: I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to invest in the right technology stack to support your teams and your customers. For example, as work has shifted to being remote, collaboration and communication tools have become even more critical. Slack or a similar tool can help someone on your team get an answer quickly—whether for their own issue or to answer a customer’s question. Knowledge management is another part of the technology stack that is underused and undervalued, in my opinion. With the right knowledge management system, your team can easily turn valuable information into self-service help for customers.

I know there a lot of organizations that are hesitant to invest in technology right now, but now is exactly the right time to do it because while customers may be forgiving, at this very moment, of customer service lapses, that won’t last for long. If you don’t invest in the tools you need to deliver world-class support, your brand will get left behind as the world settles into the next normal. Customers will become less and less tolerant over time as we settle into a new way of working and living.

What final piece of advice can you give to managers of customer support teams?

Kam: I know I said this in a previous post, but it bears restating: the most important thing is to stay flexible. There’s no going back to the way everything was before. Customers will have different behaviors and needs going forward. You can’t focus on doing everything the way you used to because that won’t fit the new needs of your customers or your employees.

Looking for more ways to adjust to the "new normal"? Learn how outsourcing your tech support can help you get your customer care back on track: