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How Our Web Design Company Uses All Hands Support

In part one of this series on “All Hands Support” we talked about WHY our web design company makes the whole team responsible for customer support. Today we’re going to talk about HOW we do it.

But before we talk about implementation, let’s talk challenges. Because let’s be 100% clear: all hands support is not for every company! Before you even begin to consider it, you must make an honest assessment of your team’s unique resources & talents. Over at the Help Scout blog, Anna Brozek (of Big Cartel) makes a very compelling case for why All Hands Support just doesn’t work for her company. She cites, among other things, the need for full-time support staff who specialize in support. She reminds us that customer service requires patience, humor, high communication skills, & the ability to translate customer concerns into actionable items. Oh, and a bunch of empathy, too!

…customer service requires patience, humor, high communication skills, & the ability to translate customer concerns into actionable items. Oh, and a bunch of empathy, too!

So let’s look at how our team at FreshySites has tried to address these concerns as we implement All Hands Support.

  1. We Give Our Team the Resources to Succeed At Customer Support
    • Training. This is where it all starts. You must treat customer support training the same way you would treat training for an engineer or designer — these are not tacked-on responsibilities to be taken lightly. If someone from your customer service dept was going to transition to a design role for two weeks, how would you prepare that person? Doing full-time support is a complex, ever-changing role, not without its rewards if done well and built on a solid structure. At FreshySites, we invest real hours into training our team for support. This means in-person training. This means pairing up with one of our full-time support members. This means a real, structured training process that can track their preparation.
    • Preparation means agreed upon process, so it’s a good idea to create a Customer Support Handbook. Agree on what you expect customer support members to do, and how you expect them to do it. Then write it down. Your team will thank you.
    • Keep an up-to-date internal wiki or Knowledge Base for your team to reference. Keep it current, make it easy to access. You’ll be amazed how consistency and clarity relieve much of your team’s stress related to customer support. At FreshySites, we have email notifications that go out when additions are made to our Knowledge Base. Everyone knows they can trust the KB as a starting point whenever they’re working on a support task.
    • Make support part of the entire company culture. At FreshySites, we’re always sharing customer-service related articles and links because we’re all involved in support; everyone is invested, so we’re always looking for ways to improve and help one another.
  2. With All Hands Support, Timing Is Everything.
    • Find the sweet spot between too much time and too little time. Most of the people writing about why All Hands Support failed for their team cite timing as the central issue. It makes sense. If your designer spends only one day each business quarter running tickets, does she really learn anything? Does the customer benefit from that approach? And if she’s away from her design projects for too long, how does she stay connected to her central duties? At FreshySites, we found that two weeks is the sweet spot. Granted, you need to find what works for your team. But for us, this allows enough time to follow through on more complex issues with a customer, become invested in various support-related tasks, while not cutting the cord back to their other duties.
    • Make sure everyone shares the weight equally. If you’re truly committed to All Hands Support, and want to see it succeed, it’s critical that everyone on the team is involved.
Stay tuned for more in our Customer Service/Support Series.
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