Article

Agile practices (1): Building agile support teams

By Michael Schweidler, EMEA Marketing Manager

Published August 10, 2021
Last updated September 6, 2021

With the world changing at lightning speed, agile support teams are finding ways to quickly adapt to the changing needs of their customers and their agents. No one expected 2020 to have such a profound impact on customer support. Like a rollercoaster clicking steadily upwards, many teams saw tickets climb to record highs, while for others, customer engagement entered a free fall. And every week has seemingly brought new challenges: remote agents, changing customer behaviour, rising ticket volumes and shifting baselines.

Ticket volume 2021 in the UK: Climbing after mid year and starting the year with high volume

 

One thing is certain: unpredictability is here to stay—at least for now. To continue to provide top-notch support, even amid constant change, teams must focus on building flexibility into their workflows so they can scale their support operations to meet the needs of their customers and their agents. Agility playbooks won’t look the same for everyone, but understanding where teams are finding success will help you better prepare for any uncertainties that lie ahead.

Using Zendesk’s Benchmark dataset, we took a closer look at how some companies are keeping resolution times short during the pandemic, even though ticket volumes have reached record highs. Benchmark is the single best data index based on actual customer support interactions from more than 90,000 companies worldwide, helping us to better understand what agility means across regions, industries, and company sizes.

Who is seeing the highest agility rates in Europe?

Roughly a third of companies in EMEA got faster at responding to customers and resolving their issues during the pandemic, despite higher-than-normal ticket volumes:
33% of companies in EMEA got faster at resolving issues over the last year
30% of companies in EMEA got faster at responding to customers over the last year

In our June 1, 2021 benchmark update we saw greater success with:

  • B2C companies
  • Digital natives in entertainment, gaming, and remote work also boasted higher agility rates, while the financial services sector has had a harder time adapting.

What are agile teams doing to keep response times low?

To keep pace with change, agile support teams are focused on boosting the efficiency of their agents by leaning into channels that have faster response times, deflecting tickets with better self-service, and adopting tools that help to automate workflows and processes.

  • Prioritising fast responses

    Phone and chat support are typically the fastest ways for customers to resolve their issues. And agile companies are adopting these channels faster than any other, while usage and staffing rates for teams that already operate these channels have also increased. Looking just at large-scale increases in ticket volume and staffing rates (defined as 10 percent or more), globally 13 percent of agile companies have significantly boosted the number of agents on live channels, where nearly a third have seen traffic surge.

  • First response time

    The more agile companies in Europe (ie. firms that had at least a 2% increase in ticket volume and a 2% decrease in first response time) managed to reduce first response time by 45%, even while managing a 76% increase in ticket volume.

  • Answering questions before they become tickets

    Customers don’t always need to speak with a support agent. And, according to the 2020 Zendesk Customer Experience Trends 2021 Report, they prefer not to. Customers, especially those under 30, increasingly want to solve as many issues as possible on their own. Not only are agile teams directing more agents to their help centres, but more than 62 percent have also added new content. When updated regularly, self-service can keep ticket rates in check by empowering customers to quickly (and easily!) find answers to common questions, freeing up agents to work on more complex issues.

    Companies in Europe that are responding to customers faster are adding help centre articles at a 45% faster rate. And companies that are resolving customer issues faster are adding help centre articles at a 27% faster rate.

  • Increasing agent efficiency and use of blended agents (agents that can work across multiple channels)

    For tickets that do come in, agile companies are increasing their use of workflow management tools to get them to the right person, automate responses to keep customers in the loop, and keep track of performance metrics so they can quickly make improvements when necessary. Usage of these tools is globally up 15 percent, while another 25 percent have added further functionalities to their Zendesk support platform with apps like JIRA and Knowledge Capture.

  • In Europe, companies that are resolving customer issues faster are increasing the number of tickets processed per agent at a 24% faster rate...

    • They are also 25% more likely to have an agent or agents working across channels in a given day and have 36% more agents working across multiple channels within a day.
    • They are increasing their use of blended agents (agents working across multiple channels within a day) 63% faster than other EMEA companies.

    How can support teams prioritize agility?

    All teams can take steps to become more agile, whether they’re in a ticket surge, a lull, or somewhere in between. Read on for more data and insights to help you better understand what agility looks like for your team, so you can be ready for whatever comes next, through 2020 and beyond.

    MORE FROM OUR SERIES 'AGILE PRACTICES':
    1 Building an agile support team
    2 Agility starts with self-service
    3 Customers are turning to messaging. Why aren’t agile companies doing the same?
    4 Prioritising fast responses with live channels and social messaging

Related: The agile CX business: From tickets to conversations