Article

7 tips to get your support teams through 2020 (and beyond!)

Whether you’re in the middle of a ticket surge, a lull, or somewhere in between, now is the time to implement the best practices that will prepare your company for the uncertainties that lie ahead.

By Maggie Mazzetti, Content marketing manager

Published August 13, 2020
Last updated September 16, 2020

Time to put away that crystal ball! If anything, 2020 has taught us to embrace a certain level of unpredictability in our lives.

And while a global pandemic probably didnʼt enter into most peopleʼs plans, one thing is sure: we will be feeling its impacts for the foreseeable future. No sprint to the finish line here.

For support teams, this might feel a little daunting. And why not? Customers are getting in touch in record numbers. Your team may still be working from home. And you might not have enough hours in the day to get through your backlog.

But you can continue to provide top-notch customer service, even as each day or week brings new challenges. By taking important steps when ticket volume is high, and especially when the numbers are low, you can build a more scalable support response.

Whether you’re in the middle of a ticket surge, a lull, or somewhere in between, now is the time to implement the best practices that will prepare your company for the uncertainties that lie ahead. At Zendesk, we have compiled a list of these best practices, a result of our tracking the impact of COVID-19 on more than 23,000 companies worldwide.

Expect ticket volatility to continue

As long as countries continue to see cases rise and fall, we can expect to see an impact on customer service.

And it makes sense. Customers are adjusting their buying habits in real time to match changing conditions. Some will be trying a new product or service for the first time. Others are cancelling plans, or making new ones. Customers need help, and will continue to do so, as government policies shift.

Here are a few examples:

Australia

Cases (and ticket volumes) spiked as the government began to block travel and limit outdoor activities. Though things calmed in June, a recent surge in Melbourne put that metropolitan area under lockdown in early July. At the same time, companies saw more customers contact them, as tickets jumped once again after falling from a peak in mid-April.

Brazil

As Brazil struggles to contain its first outbreak of the virus, its numbers continue to rise. The number of customers contacting companies has also steadily gone up.

Germany

More customers needed assistance as Germany began to put travel bans and curfews into place. As cases have fallen, the surge in customer engagement has also tapered off.

Japan

Customer engagement spiked in early April as Japan declared a state of emergency. Support requests have since surged again as a new wave of cases hit the country in late July.

Spain

Spain extended its state of emergency in early April, just as customer engagement in the country began to spike. At its peak, companies saw 47 per cent more ticket volume than they did prior to the pandemic. Tickets spiked again in mid-June ahead of a relaxation of border restrictions. They have since jumped once more with a new outbreak under way.

United States

The number of customers filing tickets rose steadily until May, when states began to relax restrictions. Volume has remained high during the recent surge in cases, at about 16 per cent above pre-pandemic levels.

Stay prepared: a 2020 support survival guide

With volatility here to stay, at least for now, here are some steps to help your team prepare for anything that may come your way:

  • Focus on what’s happening now. Forget what things looked like last year:

    Scrap your spreadsheet looking at 2019 trends. Things look very different now and flexibility is key. Your team will need to adjust to managing frequent changes in ticket volume.

    Instead of looking at what trends were present during this time last year, focus more on monthly and weekly metrics. What channels are customers connecting on? What time of the day are ticket volumes peaking? What request types are most prevalent right now? Explore can provide a top-level look at this data to help you make quick changes in response to the latest trends.

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    Things look very different now and flexibility is key. Your team will need to adjust to managing frequent changes in ticket volume.

     

    When demand is high:

    • Consider leaning into live channels:

      Many teams are finding that the back-and-forth nature of email requests isn’t manageable when ticket volume is high. Backlogs quickly mount and agents find it challenging to get ahead. Offering live channels such as phone or chat support often helps customers solve their request in a single conversation.

    • Adopt social messaging channels:

      During high-volume periods, you’ll want to keep things as convenient as possible for your customers. Homebound customers spend more time on their phone or on social media. They need a support channel that will easily connect them to relevant resources and answers.

      Support teams should consider connecting Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or SMS to their support strategy. This not only boosts convenience for customers but also provides agents with a more efficient way to resolve requests.

    • Promote help centre content:

      When resolution times increase and support teams have a backlog of tickets, direct customers to your help centre first. According to Forrester, 76% of individuals prefer to find answers on their own in any case.

      You can promote the help centre by providing links in agent email signatures; utilising the Web Widget on your website; linking articles in macros; and creating automations that let customers know they can browse relevant articles while they wait for a response. Zendesk customer Thinkific has managed to maintain a 96 per cent deflection rate by sending customers to its help centre during high-volume periods caused by COVID-19.

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      When demand is low:

      • Retreat from live channels:

        When ticket volume has gone down, consider limiting access to your live channels to a few hours a day. This helps agents focus instead on optimising support operations for the next possible spike.

      • Focus on promoting agility:

        During quieter periods, develop practices that will make you successful in the future, when volume increases again. Consider revising old help centre content, do a thorough audit of your support strategy, or complete training with your agent team.

      • Develop a quality assurance process:

        Downtime gives managers a chance to review agent tickets, provide feedback, and identify areas for improvement. This ensures that when volume picks up again, agents are at peak performance.