3 Ways to Break Down B2B Customer Support Silos
The word “silo” is just one of those words in business you don’t want to hear. Regardless of your industry, it means communication is lacking and from a business perspective it likely means operations are not as efficient as possible.
So how can businesses go about breaking down B2B customer support silos? Here are three ways to work together and more in-sync as a support organization.
1) Eliminate Tiered Support – This style of support is like a pager; once useful and forward-thinking it now feels outdated in the ever-changing business world. Simply put, tiered support is bad for both agents and customers. Retention rates of agents working in a tiered support system are poor because even if they are good at solving particular issues they get bored with the monotonous nature of the work. This boredom results in agents trying to challenge themselves by attempting to answer questions they aren’t trained for. This is not something you want your agents to do as it leads to more erroneous responses and more dissatisfied customers who have to wait longer to get their issue resolved. Instead of a tiered approach, collaborative customer support enables agents to work more efficiently not only within the support team but with other departments to share information in a central environment. This centralization and information sharing is simplified with collaborative customer support software. In addition, junior agents remain involved in escalated tickets so they can learn from senior agents both the correct resolution to the issue (so they can resolve similar issues in the future) and how to properly conduct themselves with customers.
2) Make sure customer support channels are connected – Some B2B support teams have agents who specialize in only one of the core support channels (phone, email, live chat). This may work for some groups, but for many organizations these channel silos cause frustration as tickets are passed to the wrong channel frequently and can stay unresolved for long periods of time.
However, there’s one support channel many businesses forget about that can be leveraged by every support channel. This channel is self-service, or an online portal that you can drive customers to and provide them with an option to answer their own questions. Enabling customers with this option is the best thing about self-service and it actually reduces the number of tickets you receive. Once the silos are broken down between channels, self-service can actually provide a significant cost savings for a support organization. This is accomplished by referring customers not only to the correct channel as needed but also to self-service. Driving customers to self-service should be a goal because it can guide conversations (i.e. certain topics are best supported via email) and it’s very sticky in the sense if people have a positive experience they are more likely to visit again in the future.
3) Screen for adaptability when hiring – You can have all of the right systems and policies in place but at the end of the day it’s up to the people you hire to work within the structure you create. Finding adaptable people is the most important soft skill to screen for and has become more important than ever in the world of customer support. To make the most of your customer support budget, look for agents who can be successful at phone, email, and live chat support. It’s the support era where the generalist often prevails; even if an agent is wonderful on the phone they may create a difficult team dynamic if email volume is high and they cannot type fast enough to keep up. Adaptable agents will help you break down silos because having done it all they hold less resentment for different areas of support. They’ve worked in each support channel and can relate to the capabilities and struggles of each one. Even better, with experience in all channels they will know which one can usually solve an issue best to help it get resolved faster.
In conclusion, the concept of breaking down B2B customer support silos is quite simple. Hire the right people who can adapt on the fly and give them the freedom to work between channels and experience levels as needed to solve issues. Silo may still be a word that’s frowned upon, but by utilizing collaborative customer support software it’s a word your organization hopefully won’t have to hear anymore.
Robert C. Johnson is the co-founder and CEO of TeamSupport.com, a cloud-based, B2B software application built to help customer-facing support teams serve clients better through stronger collaboration, superior teamwork, and faster issue resolution. A seasoned executive and entrepreneur who has founded and invested in numerous software and high-...