home Customer Experience, People How empathy can drive customer support success

How empathy can drive customer support success

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, customer support teams have been on the front line, contending with increased ticket volumes at the same time as having to adapt to changing circumstances and shifting customers’ needs and expectations. With the complexities of remote working added to the mix, it has been a highly pressured time. In these circumstances, the ability of customer support workers to remain effective and avoid burnout depends heavily on the internal environment that their employer creates for them.

In Australia, ticket volumes saw an 18% uptick during the COVID-19 pandemic in July. While there are a host of tools, such as AI and chatbots, that businesses have employed to manage the load on customer support teams, a key ingredient of any supportive framework – for customers and employees – is empathy.

As customer support teams prepare to work remotely for the foreseeable future, building an empathetic internal environment, supported by the right technology, is key to helping agents thrive. We partnered with global design and innovation company IDEO to identify what creates an empathetic environment amongst support teams. Here are 5 key takeaways.

One: Cultivating Community

Dealing with difficult customer conversations day-in and day-out, support agents need to feel connected to a supportive team to keep engaged. But fostering supportive communities takes work, and it can fall by the wayside as business leaders often prioritise other everyday demands. Addressing this in a COVID world is about bringing the community together and fostering greater connections in a virtual space. From something simple like using a community board to share quotes of the week or standout work by team members, a sense of community goes a long way in keeping agents engaged and committed to their role.

Two: Create an Open Environment

Agents are often tethered to their terminals for hours on end, and like anyone, they need to take breaks. But as support teams work from home, they may lack the usual motivators to step outside for some fresh air or sit down for a cup of coffee. Businesses need to create a safe space for agents to take much needed breaks and be open about their situation. Whether it is adding a status update on Slack or an out-of-office response that says ‘taking a breather’ or ‘tutoring the kids’, this kind of openness helps to reinforce and normalise actions to protect workers’ wellbeing and manage increased pressure.

Three: Sparking Connection

Agents are focused on customers all day – acquiring an intimate understanding of their needs and expectations. But working remotely can leave agents feeling isolated from their fellow team members and leaders. Encouraging teams to get to know colleagues beyond their title and building intentional relationships helps teams feel connected. To translate this into the virtual world, businesses can create platforms for agents to connect, allowing them to express themselves, interact socially and cultivate team spirit.

Four: Humanising Impact

Metrics play an important role within customer support teams. They help businesses to assess their performance and adapt to better meet customers’ needs and expectations. But humanising the impact of customer support teams can be a forceful motivator, especially as they often jump through hoops to resolve customers’ enquiries. Acknowledge the hard work of the people behind the screens – not just by metrics – to ensure they know their contributions are making a difference.

Five: Recognising Others

In a high-pressure environment, we need to celebrate the wins, no matter how big or small. Not only does this help teams to feel appreciated, it also highlights how they can work better together and problem solve to improve outcomes. Creating an environment that consistently celebrates great work will pay dividends through more motivated agents who are committed to supporting customers.

As support teams are playing a vital role in helping customers through this uncharted territory, it should not be forgotten that they too need the right support, tools and environment to prosper.  A connected and appreciated support team will be better motivated and committed to deliver great customer experiences in the long term.

Amy Foo

Amy Foo is the managing director, Australia & New Zealand, at San Francisco-based CRM software company Zendesk. She also serves as the company’s vice president of finance and oversees global finance shared service and revenue operations. Since joining Zendesk in 2013 as one of the business’s first hires in the APAC region, Amy has helped fuel the evolution of the company’s operations, product innovation, and sales and marketing organizations as well as the organic expansion and acquisitions for five offices – Singapore, Australia, Philippines, India and Japan. In her role as MD of ANZ, she is also responsible for leading the engineering and go-to-market teams, based in Melbourne, which help over 24,000 brands meet the needs and expectations of their customers.