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Why Companies are “Swarming” for Customer Support

By R. J. Stangle / Jan 28, 2015

When you’re solving new, complex problems, it’s critical to get the right people working on issues together in order to get to the right resolution faster.

That’s the idea behind “swarming”, and many companies are tearing down support tiers to bring together their critical skillsets to support their customers.

Companies like Cisco and Red Hat have dropped the traditional escalation-based support model in favour of collaborative-based swarming. But swarming is not a new concept for support agents and engineers. They have always collaborated to solve problems, often in spite of the processes and measures traditionally used in support.

For example, our SupportKit team handles user requests through Intercom (a user intelligence and communication system), which then get shared with the product, dev and engineering teams in a dedicated Slack room, where anyone from the team can pick up requests as they come in. Everybody takes part in answering what they can.

While developers were not always believed to have the skills necessary to be customer facing, we’re proving that everyone should be doing this – bringing the customer into every business process.

WHAT DO OTHER SAAS PROS HAVE TO SAY?

I brought up the topic of using swarming for support in the Support Driven chat room, an awesome online community for SaaS pros. Diana Potter aka “drpotter”, from Customer.io said,

"I love having everyone in the company participating. It helps me keep up with the volume, and it also gives the team super valuable insight. I was out half of yesterday which resulted in everyone else on the team watching the Slack room for urgent queries."

I asked if she thought anything was missing to really be able to manage a high volume flow.

"Nah. It’s all process and training on our end. Every single employee starts support 2 weeks after being hired (if they’re non-support I give them a couple weeks to settle in before tossing them in the queue)."

TEAM SWARMING TIPS

Here are three core learnings that have enabled us to manage our swarm process for customer support :

Embrace “living order”

A natural process of global order takes place through the interactions of individuals, when they come together to achieve a common goal. Swarming takes places in a dynamic, “living” environment and it’s an iterative process. Embrace and plan for the unexpected and exercise tolerance to new contexts and issues that come up.

Team commitment to goals & Trust over control

Swarming is not a one-size-fits all approach. Every swarm team operates uniquely and is a result of the relationships and interactions between self-organized individuals.

Our product team and engineers design their process and usually one person takes ownership of an issue until it is resolved. Self-organized teams don’t toss issues over to the next tier, they form their own collective intelligence groups to focus energy and resources to respond to a mission-critical issue or opportunity.

Power to act in the moment

With customers being more mobile and using a wider range of devices than ever before, teams need to be equipped with the technology to act in the moment,  and carry out collective activities to address customer needs as they happen, whether responding to feedback, diagnosing issues or collaborating on solving the case.

I’ve mentioned tools like Intercom and Slack to manage team and customer communication. Now you can connect Slack to your SupportKit app to help your team swarm around issues that come in through your mobile app. We help you build meaningful connections with your users while collaborating in a transformative way with your team.

Try it out for Free!