Article

Real-life lessons from agile customer support organisations

By Michael Schweidler, Senior EMEA Marketing Manager

Published September 6, 2021
Last updated September 7, 2021

Creating and maintaining a competitive advantage is a top priority for most organisations. However, as the past couple of years have proved, markets and customer expectations can change extremely rapidly. In our new digital-first world with its constant introduction of disruptive technologies, organisations must be quick to adapt and respond to customer’s changing expectations. In a word, they must become agile.

An agile organisation is one that is customer-centric and features networks of empowered, high-performing teams that are enabled by technology. Through applying agile principles in its processes, structures and people development, these organisations are able to achieve a breakthrough in balancing resource constraints, higher speed and adaptability.

In the context of customer support, enhancing agility is key to delivering superior customer experiences. Empowered, self-managing teams are better able to serve customers end-to-end. Indeed, research shows that adopting agile principles results in a 30% increase in customer satisfaction and helps boost performance by making the organisation five to ten times faster.

Shifting to this new (organisational) paradigm takes commitment, especially from leadership in terms of openness to change. As proven by some of today’s most successful digital players, it is absolutely worth it. Here, four of them share what higher agility enabled them to achieve in the customer service arena.

Importance of omnichannel support and scaling

Founded in 2017, Starling Bank is disrupting the British banking industry by allowing its customers to manage their current accounts entirely through a mobile app. Paramount to its success is a focus on customer service. “We run a 365/24/7 contact centre across various channels including live chat on desktop and in-app live chat for mobile. It is vital that our customers can reach us at any time, day or night. Wherever our customers are, Starling is there to support them,” says Patrick Vardhan, Head of Customer Service at Starling Bank.

Empowering its support agents with the ability to respond to customers rapidly has helped the company scale. “Unlike other customer service teams, we don’t have specific members of the team dedicated to different contact methods. Everyone has the skill to respond to any contact method,” adds Vardhan.

Create a developer-centric approach

Nordea, a Nordic bank with a 200 year history, quickly reacted to the Open Banking revolution in 2018 by taking a developer-centric approach. Its aim was to become the go-to hub for banking Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in the Nordics and provide developers with all the tools they needed to create high quality APIs.

“To adapt to a rapidly changing banking landscape, we need to be open to different ways of working. Giving API developers the same high quality experience as the rest of our customers is a clear sign of our commitment to creating better financial solutions for everyone,” said Janne Uggeldahl, Head of Open Banking Support at Nordea.
By creating a scalable, self-service platform that gives its fast-growing developer base the tools and information they needed, whenever they needed it, has provided Nordea with a competitive advantage.

The role of automation and client listening

NatWest-owned Mettle is a free, standalone digital-only business banking app. Set up in 2019 this London-based company wanted to scale fast and the challenge was how to support its customers in an efficient, joined up way through this growth. The key was to be as agile and flexible as possible and this meant being able to set up a CRM-software and build an MVP (minimum viable product) very quickly. This enabled Mettle to own their problems without having to bring in specific skill sets from outside at a later stage.

To embed the right foundations for growth, Mettle invested early on in self-service automation technologies. “Automation is crucial for scaling and onboarding during high customer growth phases. And while we can’t automate 100% of the customer journey, we’re striving to automate as much as 80-90% of the process. This means that our analysts and support staff have the capacity to focus on the customers that may need a bit more help from us,” says Charlie Duke, Senior Product Manager at Mettle.

Listening to its customers is also absolutely key. As Duke says, “At Mettle, we have small, cross functional teams who continue to iterate, continue to listen, continue to hear what our customers are saying so that we can deliver amazing solutions on behalf of customers.”

Using data insights to streamline customer support operations

London-based GoCardless, an online Direct Debit provider founded in 2014, was founded to make it easy for users to collect payments directly from their customers’ bank accounts. With ambitions to scale quickly, GoCardless needed to adopt an agile approach and streamline customer service operations to support its growing customer base.

Using data insights and having improved data visibility was particularly useful for customer onboarding. Ultimately, having better data helped Gocardless create better solutions faster for customers, improved agents’ productivity and their ability to continuously deliver efficient, personal and deeply valuable support – even as the company scaled.
“Although our company has grown significantly, we have managed to maintain the same headcount within the customer support team for almost two years. Our increased efficiency has enabled our agents to be more productive without additional pressure or workload,” said Daniel Mooney, Director of Customer Operations at GoCardless.

Today’s digital-first, distributed and constantly evolving landscape is putting extreme pressure on CX organisations, and this isn’t transitory. To remain competitive, these organisations must deliver outstanding customer service. To help do this it’s time to embrace agile principles now and reap the many benefits it has to offer.

How CX leaders across industries can flex their agility

The ability to readily adapt to world events and evolving customer expectations is more important than ever – here’s how you can stay agile in your industry.