Breaking barriers and building bridges: why great customer service demands internal collaboration

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We live in the digital age. But that also means unprecedented levels of complexity. And when something inevitably goes wrong, it’s the customer service team that bears the brunt. To complicate matters, these teams work in siloes, and are cut off from technical teams fixing the problem which negatively impacts customer service metrics such as CSAT, first response times and resolution times. That’s not only bad for brand reputation – it can also adversely affect loyalty and the bottom line, with 1 in 3 customers willing to leave a brand they love after one bad experience. In addition, it can impact employee burnout, leading to greater attrition at a time when the jobs market is seeing more movement than ever.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

How can customer service teams fix these challenges? By championing investment in the right technology to break down barriers between their teams and technical or developer subject matter experts (SMEs). But to get there, customer service leaders will need executive buy-in from the CIOs and CTOs, and to show that by building stronger relationships and collaborating, everyone will be on the same page about customer-facing problems that need to be solved. Throwing extra bodies at the problem simply won’t do.

Digital is king

If digital transformation was a business priority before the pandemic, it’s an essential prerequisite for growth in the new reality organizations find themselves in. From retail to utilities and transportation to manufacturing, entire industries are modernizing their IT infrastructure at an unprecedented rate, as consumers flood online and employees stay home. That makes investments in cloud, AI, automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) table stakes for today’s businesses. It also creates huge pressure for customer service teams.
This pressure is two-fold. On the one hand, greater reliance on digital makes it more likely that the complex IT infrastructure holding it all together will fail somewhere. At the start of the COVID crisis we noticed customers experiencing on average double the normal volume of incidents. Yet on the other hand, customers are demanding faster and more concise responses from the companies they interact with online. This has raised the stakes significantly. Some 90% of Americans now use customer service as a factor to decide whether or not to do business with a company, and over half (58%) say they’ll leave because of poor customer service.

When things go wrong

Unfortunately, existing tooling, processes and culture make it increasingly likely that this will happen. Customer service organizations and their success metrics are oftentimes negatively impacted at no fault of their own when the heart of the problem is a technology issue, yet they receive internal assistance at a speed different to expectations set for their organization, think first response times, ticket resolution times and average response times. They escalate reports to technical SMEs, but without critical context of the issue, they’re unable to gather meaningful information to pass on. Sometimes staff don’t even have any certainty that they’re reaching out to the right expert. Thereafter, customer service teams are frequently left out of critical workflows, meaning both they and end customers are kept in the dark about progress updates.

If anything, the pandemic has exacerbated these structural challenges. With customers now expecting multiple channels of communication—chat, social, email, phone—the data silos have grown, adding extra complexity and opacity, and increasing the risk of failure. Although organizations desperately need a unified solution to drive visibility across all support issues, what they usually have are multiple homegrown tools—outdated, under-powered and expensive to maintain.

Breaking down siloes

Busting those internal barriers between customer and technical teams demands an intelligent, AI-powered tool to provide first responders with the real-time data and insights they need from across the organization. This will empower customer service agents with both technical resources and information on customer impacting issues to automate escalating issues to the right SME, and through bidirectional communication help speed up resolution and get the information needed to updated customers.

Automation is key to speeding up this process by removing manual tasks, while opening up bidirectional communication to ensure information flows between teams. This will help add an extra layer of transparency which could help to build loyalty with all your customers.

Starting the conversation

The result can be a win-win all-round for the organization. That is, empowered and motivated customer service staff, happy customers, and technical SMEs with access to the real-time data and insights they need to quickly resolve problems. But the executives with the budget to make this a reality typically sit on the technical side of the fence, rather than in customer service.

Customer service teams will therefore need to drive their own silo-busting efforts, by reaching out to their CIOs and CTOs to build relationships and get buy-in. In these conversations, it’s important to start by reiterating the common goal: customer satisfaction and the need for speedy turnaround. This will help articulate and frame the benefits of automated, AI-powered platforms not just for customer service but also technical teams and the organization as a whole and explain why hiring more people won’t solve the issue. Customer service teams need to outline a long-term vision that rethinks customer services and how doing so benefits IT and Development teams as well.

Customers are demanding, but also realistic. They know incidents will happen from time to time. It’s how the organization deals with it that will determine their loyalty. Over three-quarters (78%) say they’ll do business with a company again after a mistake. That should be enough to get the attention of any IT executive with ambition to enhance their strategic business credentials by building stronger relationships between technical and customer service teams.

Inga Weizman
Inga is a product marketer focused on driving GTM and partner activities at PagerDuty. She has 15 years of experience in the high-tech and software industry across SMB and enterprise space and has launched multiple products. Prior to PagerDuty, she was a marketing consultant working with startups and has also worked at Loggly, Fastly, and TrueAccord.

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