How to Use Conscious Communication for a Lean Support Team

After establishing sound support processes, part two in this series explains the ins and outs of keeping your support team up to speed.

When it comes to keeping a lean customer support team, putting sound processes in place is the first step toward cutting down time and unfocused effort. But after you’ve laid the groundwork to steer your team toward success, how do you maintain efficiency on a day-to-day basis? Here at Inkling, we think the short answer is communication.

No matter how your support team communicates with customers, thinking strategically about why and when they communicate a particular way will help keep your team lean. We believe that communication should happen early and often on all levels–internally, between customers, and, in the B2B realm, between other support teams–in order to reduce time spent clearing up confusion down the road. For software companies like Inkling that frequently ship new features and product updates, strong communication is particularly important, and we’ve developed some best practices to handle this constant flux.

Below, we’ve listed our top six tips for using conscious communication to keep a lean customer support team successful.

1. Create product and support documentation sooner rather than later

It’s easy to skimp on documentation, especially in the face of urgent support issues or when responding to a familiar, but not persistent, customer question. But creating documentation is one of the best investments of your time, whether it’s basic product how-to’s or common troubleshooting questions. The earlier you can identify your audience and build thorough, customer-friendly documentation, the more time you’ll save repeating your answers in the future. At Inkling, we use Habitat, our collaborative, cloud-based authoring tool, for documentation because it enables seamless collaboration between our support team and our product and client solutions teams to ensure that the content is accurate and relevant.

2. Be consistent

Once your documentation is in place, use it to guide your templatized responses to maintain a consistent support tone of voice. If your partner support team is the first line of defense for their customers, sharing the documentation with them also ensures that consistency extends to their organizations. Finally, you’ll need a plan for addressing new issues and continually updating your documentation. A central document for ongoing FAQs helps disseminate new information quickly to the relevant stakeholders, whether it is your own or your partner’s support team. By using Habitat, we can update content in one place and instantly deploy the changes to everyone who owns a copy of that document on all of their devices.

3. Train your partner support teams

By conducting in-person trainings with your partner support teams, you’ll ensure that nothing has been lost over email. Face-to-face communication also helps establish a good rapport between the two teams, allowing your partners to put a face to a name. When problems arise down the road, they’ll know who’s hearing their issues. In-person trainings before product launches are also a good opportunity to make last-minute tweaks to the documentation or processes.

4. Set clear escalation paths

At Inkling, we err on the side of open communication and encourage our partners to do the same. But with everyone talking at once, it’s easy for our support team to become disorganized and ineffective. In order to capture and act on all external and internal feedback, we suggest anticipating issues and setting clear escalation paths, which means having a plan in place for who to contact for what. By planning in advance where your support team should route information, such as bugs, product feedback or general client account inquiries, you’ll spend less time deliberating who should know or resolve what.

5. Determine communication methods

Knowing who to share information with is equally as important as how to share it. When sharing information internally, find out where the information will be most noticeable. An engineering team may prefer that you use their issue tracking system, such as Redmine or JIRA, while the product design team may want their own login to the support portal to see how customers describe their situation. When sharing information externally, include your partner support and product teams on your support system, such as Zendesk. You may also need a shared document that both parties can update and track issue progress.

6. Schedule regular check-ins with your support team

When an upcoming event, such as a product or partnership launch, has the potential to spike support volume, don’t just rely on your documentation and training. Instead, schedule time for your support team to discuss issues as they arise in order to inspire early action and resolution. Our team prefers to begin with daily check-ins until issues stabilize, and then reduce our meetings to every other day or once a week.

The bottom line

Communication is key for any team, but it is an especially strong indicator of success for support teams, who must manage constant cross-functional communication both internally and externally. In order to maximize your team’s efficiency, make sure that you have structured communication paths and methods in place, and maintain solid relations with all involved teams. With frequent communication, you’ll also stay on top of the small stuff, and prevent larger issues from cropping up down the road.

To see how Inkling’s cloud-publishing platform can help you better create and update your company’s self-support section, as well as train your team internally, request a demo from Sales.