Customer support – are you really listening?

Today I presented a talk about quality in support at Support Driven Exposition in Portland. This is the written version of the presentation, teaching you how to take advantage of the qualitative feedback you get from your customer.

I am not talking about NPS, CSAT or other number systems. I am interested in the comments your customers leave to supplement the happy face/sad face or 1-5 star rating on your feedback form. How do you use that feedback?

Listening doesn’t mean just reading what the customer wrote, it means acting on what they tell you.

By focussing on the qualitative data you are collecting anyway, you have the following opportunities:

  • Follow up with customers who gave up on you and closed the ticket due to frustration.
  • Follow up with customers who mistook the rating form as a ticket answer.
  • Identify agents who do a stellar job and spread their knowledge/processes/techniques to level up other agents.
  • Identify agents who need to improve their performance and use hands-on examples to help them do better.
  • Improve your product/service or your internal processes.

Numbers and percentages give you an overview of how your support is doing. Qualitative data adds the shades and texture you need to get to the next level.

Feedback: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Good feedback: that’s the feedback all of your agents love to receive. It tells you what your people do very well, even when something is broken. Review these tickets to find opportunities for improving your products/processes.

Bad feedback: these are the comments you can’t do much about. I hate you. You are so slow. Your service is stupid. These comments hurt, but you can’t do much about them.

Ugly feedback: this is information about things that are broken. This can be your product/service, your processes or the communication style of specific agents (structural or coincidental).

Your goal when reviewing those comment is to find patterns, patterns that have an impact on how you move your company forward.

4 simple steps for better ticket reviews

  1. Listen to what your customers tell you.
  2. Evaluate what can be done, and who can do it.
  3. Recommend a course of action and responsible people.
  4. Follow up!

Ticket reviews in practice – tips and tricks

Reviewing tickets is easy – giving feedback to those who might have to change things “we’ve always done this way” is not that easy. Be aware: you will be giving constructive (aka negative) feedback, and not everyone might appreciate it. That’s normal, and it helps to remember WHY you are doing it: to improve the customers’ experience.  

We started with one team (= 1 ZenDesk queue) and weekly ticket reviews. After two months we expanded this approach to cover the entire WooCommerce division.

Read ALL ticket feedbacks. Take notes about what problems/opportunities you detect. Oh, and start with the negative reviews to then end the day on a positive note.

Reserve time for this on a weekly basis. As a ballpark: I review approximately 400-500 tickets in about 3 hours. Remember, you are not analyzing those tickets one by one, but scanning the feedback and the content to find patterns.

If a ticket requires an action, stop and act.

  • Follow up on tickets that are not completely solved yet.
  • If the agent did not answer correctly / in tone, ping them privately and point out the opportunity of improvement. If needed (e.g. it’s a pattern), bring in the lead.
  • For positive feedback, use a public channel to praise the author and inspire colleagues.

And finally, write down a summary of recommendations and ideas and ask for input from specific people from the teams that can help solve existing problems. Don’t just ask Marketing for their take on improving information, ask a specific person. Don’t just throw a specific feature idea at the product team, single out a person you think might be interested. If they deflect the idea and recommend someone else, that’s OK. The important part here is to start the conversation.

And then follow up. Every week. It’s not a 100m race, it’s an ultra marathon and we are in this for the long run.

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