A day in the life of a customer support agent  

 A day in the life of a customer support agent  

 A day in the life of a customer support agent  

Sam is a level two support representative at a fast-growing SaaS start-up. The company caters to marketing teams, and its platform targets large enterprises. It also offers point products that start-ups and SMBs use in marketing operations.

Sam feels his job is challenging, yet very exciting. He defines his role as largely customer facing, handling product-related issues for users and helping them make the best use of their tools.

However, we all know that there's always more to it.

Sam spends a quarter of his day helping customers troubleshoot technical issues or giving implementation demos. Another quarter of his day is spent responding to customers on their issues or tickets. But he spends a major chunk of his day on non-customer-facing tasks, such as finding solutions from previous cases in the knowledge base, working issue life cycles, assigning tasks, passing tickets to level three representatives whenever necessary, closing resolved tickets, training level one support, and monitoring available tools, among others.

Sam’s role involves as much, if not more, interactions with different teams within the organization, as he does with clients.

On most days after work, Sam picks up takeout: a medium cheese pizza from his regular place, Regina Pizzeria, and resumes playing Call of Duty: WWII from where he left off the previous night.

Sam is a cheerful and hardworking young professional who is very enthusiastic about his work. Often regarded as a resource who goes the extra mile to deliver support to customers, he often receives special mentions from key accounts for his excellent support. As a result, Sam was awarded a pat on the back for two consecutive quarters from the CEO.

On a Friday afternoon, the CEO invites Sam to lunch and allows Sam to pick the place. Sensing where this is leading, Sam picks his favorite pizza place and they end up in Regina Pizzeria with a large cheese pizza.

The CEO jumps right to the point and asks, “So tell me Sam, why do you want to move out of the support team? I hear you have asked both the marketing and sales teams if they have an open position?”

“Any team would be willing to have you in a blink, but you have been a star in the support team and I am curious to learn why you are desperate to move roles.”  

Your customer support agent wants to move to the sales team 

The CEO worries that if their star customer service agent leaves, it would create a noticeable gap on the team. To replace someone with Sam's technical skills would take at least a month of steep learning of all the product training, much less understanding and implementing the platform. Someone with the passion and motivation with which Sam conducts his job would be hard to find. But, the CEO doesn’t want to deny Sam a career path he wants to take. 

The CEO hears Sam’s reasons for a change of team with keen interest.

Sam talks about how he thinks that sales and marketing are the profit centers of any business and how he wants to see himself driving profit for the company.

He talks about the measures of success in support functions, about the recently deployed surveys to measure the support team's productivity, and how he's drawn by metric-driven growth in sales and marketing functions.

Sam also explains that he enjoys interacting with customers, and how he's motivated by the sales dashboard. He tells the CEO that he has the dashboard open all the time to read about deals won and lost, and that he wants to work on the number of lost deals to bring the number down.

The CEO is surprised that Sam doesn't have a single complaint or issue about his current job, which the CEO was anticipating and was prepared to fix. Even about the pizza place, Sam only has positive things to say—the consistency in taste over time and how it takes exactly takes 8 minutes to bake it. The CEO is impressed with how Sam speaks only positively about his colleagues, their newly launched product, the pizza place, his experience with the PS3 games, and more.

So, what’s bothering your customer support agent? 

The company’s leadership suspects that there is more to it than what Sam could articulate to the CEO. So a senior director, a sales veteran, offers to meet with Sam.

One Friday they meet at Regina Pizzeria for lunch. This time, the director wants to understand what frustrates Sam about his work the most. Sam begins explaining. 

"For the last six quarters, ever since the support team introduced the Customer Experience Score survey on their response channel, the score has been changing between 3 and 5, and the net promoter score also varies with no apparent pattern, despite all the efforts from the customer support team," Sam says.

Sam goes on to explain how they've improved their knowledge base and uploaded more than 50,000 words of help page content and 10+ hours of demo videos, all of which were indexed based on the subject keywords. They also added new SOPs and training modules for level one support teams, worked on reducing call wait time, and improved first-call resolution.

“Sam, by SaaS industry standards, these numbers indicate excellent performance of the support team. You and your team are putting efforts in the right direction that will help the company in retaining our valuable key accounts for a long time," the senior director tells him. 

Then the senior director asks, "Why don't you explain to me some of the bottlenecks that are specific to your work?" 

Sam thought about how to answer, before explaining: "We have often faced bottlenecks with work items reaching from level one to level two support. L1 might be well within their turnaround time working on the issue, but it leaves very little time for the L2 to resolve the issue within the SLA by the time hand-off happens. Also, the time of day that the work item comes into an L2 agent’s queue has an impact, such as whether the item should end up in the agent’s queue when their work day ends in an hour or should it be assigned to the next shift’s agent when they might have a backlog."

Sam continues: "But the actual problem is passing on the knowledge, materials, and conversations that the agents gather on each issue/ticket. When they have to move the ticket across levels or among agents, the context gained cannot be passed on efficiently." 

"Sam," says the senior director. "With the growing volume of incoming tickets, it's high time we implemented a customer help desk tool, don’t you think?" 

New tool, new silos. 

Sam agrees that an intelligent system that could forecast and assign issues to the right agent, pull up the history of conversations with the customer to give more context, provide self-service, and include all of the other multi-department and advanced help desk features would help to ease the strain.

"But we also need a tool that does not create new silos," Sam says.

“Interesting," the senior director answers. "What kind of silos?”

Sam grabs a napkin and a pen, draws a series of circles, and begins to explain his thoughts.