Results: We organize our support team by…

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Whenever I speak to customers, I realize how each of them is different from any other. Each of them has a different way of defining quality and a different philosophy that leads to quality. Their businesses are influenced to a great deal by their beliefs and philosophies.

The most fundamental aspect of a business’ customer service philosophy is how to organize its helpdesk team. It influences hiring and staffing decisions. It even influences the profit margin! And, that’s exactly why we asked this question on our poll last week.

We had chosen to ask the question to just managers and administrators. The results have come in and their opinions are very clear!

Results: We organize our support team by...

By product

About 34% of respondents said their support team was organized by product. If the support team is small enough, it’s very useful to assign a DRI within the team to each product. Managers can kick chaos out and get a clear picture even in intra-day operations.

By channel

While 17% of respondents said their support team was organized by channel. Highly active channels like Live Chat, Phone and Social Media require an agile-yet-well-thought-out response, whereas a passive channel like email doesn’t require as much agility. If you staff each channel by a person who’s apt for its requirements, delivering happiness to customers everyday becomes a habit!

By time zone

Only 8% of respondents said their support team was organized by time zone. Organizing by time zone is efficient only for companies with a few simple products and just one or two channels. Even in that case, unless customers are distributed across various time zones, this approach doesn’t prove to be convenient enough.

A hybrid approach

Finally, the big fish. About 41% of respondents said they used a mix of these approaches to organize their support team. This is, by far, the most practical approach. It’s dynamic and, if applied well, can solve almost any problem of efficiency. We use a hybrid approach even at Zoho. Some of our support agents focus on just one channel or two, some just focus on a few products. And, we even have different people for different time zones.

If you’ve seen something that defies the pattern of these results, feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

We’ll be back next week with another interesting question! Until then, have a great weekend!

Poll: How do you organize your support team?

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Whether customer support is a right or a privilege for your customers, it’s a tricky commitment to uphold. More often than not, running a team involves finding order within chaos. It’s all the more applicable while running a customer support team.

The Zoho Support Poll

One of the easiest ways to seek out ‘order’ is to organise or group a bunch of your support reps using some condition.

By Channel

If you have multiple ways by which customers can reach you, a thoughtful way to organise your support team would be by channel. Each channel can have one or more support agents dedicated to it. That way, each channel gets the optimal treatment. Channels like live chat, phone and social media are far more interactive when compared to email and web forms. By staffing appropriately, you can win across all your channels.

By Time Zone

For companies that offer products or services to customers across the world, dealing with various time zones is of utmost importance. Some time zones may contribute to most of your support load while other time zones might not contribute much. Organising your support team by time zone is a smart way to handle this.

By Product

Handling customer support for a portfolio of products is just as tricky as anything else we’ve discussed here so far. Organising your support team by product is a good way to eliminate chaos and establish leadership within your team. There’s a clear point of contact for each product, it’s very straightforward.

A Hybrid Approach

Depending on how complex your business is, you might also gain by using a combination of these methods. Though this looks complicated, it can work out really well if you can establish clear processes and make sure everyone knows about it.

The question on our poll is this: How do your organise your support team?

If you follow your own tailor-made approach, do tell us about it in the comments section.

Results: For ‘free’ accounts, customer support is…

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Earlier this week, we had asked the same question to both customer support managers and agents, in a bid to see how their opinions differed. Much to our surprise, there was a visible difference!

About 57% of managers and administrators felt that, for ‘free’ customers, customer support is indeed a privilege. Amongst support agents, about 54% actually opined that customer support is a customer’s right.

Straightaway, it’s easy to see one possible reason for this difference. Support agents deal with customers on a daily basis. They deal with the emotional aspect of customer support. They see the ups and the downs in raw colours, everyday.

Managers often do not handle customers directly on a day-to-day basis. They see customers via support agents. The emotions are not as vivid when there’s an intermediary. In other words, what managers see is more of the analytical picture. Also, with experience comes a different perspective. Since managers commonly have more experience than support agents, their perspective is likely to have evolved as well.

On a related note, Kevin’s comment, that prospects could be using a ‘free’ plan to evaluate a business, is really valid. Businesses, in addition to offering a free trial of paid plans, have to handle such prospects carefully. In that sense, customer support definitely becomes a right.

If you have an opinion on this, you can share it with the community via our comments section below.

We’ll be back soon with another question. Have a great weekend!

Poll: For ‘free’ accounts, is customer support a right or a privilege?

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Zoho Support has a lot of happy customers. We keep hearing from them and we talk to them about a lot of things. But, for quite some time now, we’ve been meaning to regularize this engagement with our customers. So, we’re starting off with a weekly poll series. We pick a topic, ask you a question and wait for your opinions. You choose your view, let’s discuss it and we’ll all take back a wider perspective. We’ll do this every week. Simple, ain’t it?

The Zoho Support Poll

What’s a better way to kick off our weekly poll than to ask a really important question! So, we picked one of the most omnipresent questions around. Here’s more:

Products that offer a ‘freemium’ pricing model face this debate, pretty often. Operations managers and Business managers constantly discuss this question. But, let’s face it. The question’s very tricky, per se.

‘Free’ customers need customer support. In fact, they sign up for your product only because they trust you to do what’s best for them. They believe that nothing will go drastically wrong. And, if something actually goes wrong, they believe that you’ve got their back. Customer support is really a part of the overall product experience. It’s not something external that you can plug in whenever you deem fit. It’s the customer’s right.

On the other hand, the business side of things suggests a different logic. Customers that sign up for a ‘freemium’ product know that it has a very dumbed-down experience. At that level, the product itself is pretty simple! Assigning and justifiably using customer support resources for ‘free’ accounts is not easy. An extremely-detailed-yet-really-simple knowledge base should do the trick. It’s a single-instance investment of time and effort. Yet, it stays around for eternity and can be looked up easily. Occasionally, though, personalized customer support can be offered for ‘free’ customers, depending on support load from paying customers. It’s not meant to be a part of the basic experience. It’s just a privilege.

Each side has firm reasoning to justify. What do you think? Tell us in the comments section below.

If you’re a Zoho Support customer, you should see the poll as soon as you login today. This week’s poll ends on Friday. Hurry! We’re waiting to hear from you!

Hear ye! Hear ye! Direct Signup for Customer Portal

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Whenever I talk to customers about their customer support operation, one topic creeps into our conversations. “How can I continually reduce load on a given support rep?”. My sarcasm kicks in and I go, “Why don’t you hire more reps?”, followed by a wink.

The real solution takes a little more time and effort than just hiring reps, and it costs far less. Some call it old-fashioned, some call it impersonal. But, whatever you call it, the customer portal is the quintessential way to reduce ticket load on your support reps.

Building an extremely detailed, success-focused knowledge base can be a tricky affair. But, you’ll get your gratification when you open it to your customers and create happiness instantly.

When we reach this point in the conversation, customers often say “Yeah. But then, they still have to raise a ticket to get access to the customer portal!”. Today, I have some good news on that front.

Till now, for a few reasons, security and otherwise, support reps had to give customer portal access manually to customers. Not anymore. Today, we’re really excited to announce direct signups for customer portals. You can simply point your customers to your customer portal. They can sign up directly and start using it immediately.

We think this would take you one step closer towards creating more happiness per ticket, and even when no ticket is raised!

Your customers who are currently using your customer portal will see nothing unusual. Their login credentials will work seamlessly. If you have any more questions, please feel free to check out this page.

This is our first announcement in the new year. But, you can expect a few big announcements in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more happiness!

Create happiness, not satisfaction

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One of my routine activities every week is to spend some time talking to folks from the Sales and Support teams. This gives me a good first-hand account of how we’re doing in the market. We also discuss interesting questions that customers asked and anything interesting that the team just learned from the previous week.

Last week, the Support team had to work extremely hard, because of the service outage. We discussed a lot of things about what went right and what can go better next time. On my way out, I just popped a quick question at the team: “What’s the one thing you guys did that you’re really proud of?”

An answer came right back at me, and quite resoundingly at that. They all said “We aim for customer happiness, not customer satisfaction”. We exchanged pleasantries and walked back to our desks.

But, that line has possessed me all of this week. There’s a seemingly subtle, but actually significant, difference between happiness and satisfaction. The latter is often corrective while the former is proactive.

Happiness is about empowering customers to reach you through as many channels as possible. Satisfaction is about picking channels you can handle really well and sticking to them.

Happiness is about enabling support execs to delight more customers in a day. Satisfaction is about letting support execs close tickets faster.

Happiness is about making it an amazing experience to manage customer support teams. Satisfaction is about giving support managers more reports than they need.

At every level of interaction with a customer, it is possible to clearly differentiate happiness and satisfaction. Happy customers become evangelists and start owning your brand. They become a cog in the wheel, a part of your company. They stand with you in times of dire need and grow with you when you grow. In fact, happy customers are the reason we’re in business today.

If you’re not creating customer happiness everyday, then don’t just optimize your operation. Hap-timize it.

Save the world, on time!

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Tracy is a highly proactive customer success leader. She manages a customer support team at her company. Delivering little nuggets of customer happiness everyday is her ultimate goal. Needless to say, she trusts her helpdesk software as much as she trusts her own team.

She gets into office every morning and has a huddle with her team. They discuss important highlights from the previous day and their plan of action for the rest of the day. That’s all she needs from them. For every other detail, she trusts Zoho Support. She loves the automation features and finds them really useful. “You guys really make my day!”, she says, all the time.

Last week, we heard from Tracy. But, she sounded a little serious.

Her company just signed on a big client. This one’s really important for their future. A strong responsibility now rests on her shoulders. Her company has to ensure that this client is thoroughly happy with their service.

She just can’t afford to let any stone unturned. After setting up a new contract, an SLA and some escalation rules, she just moved on with her typical day. They covered everything she needed, with clients previously. This time, she wanted to push a little further. That’s where we came in.

For proactive support, we think support reps have to reach out, sometimes, even if customers/clients don’t respond to an email. We also think that customers/clients need to be handled extra carefully during non-business hours. So, that’s precisely what we recommended her.

Using Zoho Support’s time-based actions, managers like Tracy can now setup alerts when a client hasn’t replied to an important follow-up email for an hour. Or, to send an email when that big client needs support after business hours. The beauty is that these alerts work with your business hours as well as plain calendar hours.

You can try it too! Just setup a time-based action and choose a business hour (or calendar hours). It’s very easy and works sensibly. That’s what we call truly functional software.

Tracy’s really happy with our automations, now, more than ever before. We love her too. After all, people like her really make our lives amazing.