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Revenue Operations

How to Automate Your Support Function to Save Time and Money

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Customer support teams are made up of product experts who can build strong customer relationships, overcome tricky challenges, and even run circles around the sales team. Oftentimes, this work is done manually, which makes it hard to build a scaled support team that can handle the company’s growth. Automating the frontline support process can reduce their workload, so support teams can focus on more complicated problems and high-value customers. 

Automation makes scaled support possible

You might be worried that automating your support processes will remove the human element that your team brings to the table. This is far from the truth. The goal of automation isn’t to reduce human interaction, it's to improve customer satisfaction by reducing wait times and getting people the answers they need.  

Automation is key to scaled support and ensuring that your customers receive the right information based on their tier or segment. Abigail Phillips, VP of Customer Support at Help Scout, recommends looking at support from the customer’s perspective. 

“This means meeting your customer where they’re at, and understanding what they need to get their problem solved. This allows for things like different levels of complexity, different sides of business, and how quickly they need a response.”

Developing tiers for customers is more than just assigning support packages by total ARR. The traits of a high value customer will look different for everyone. You might have large customers with smaller budgets and small customers with larger budgets. “It’s about fitting those pieces together in terms of who to be more strategic with, and who needs more support," Phillips says.

Delegate, delegate, delegate

Mandy Martin, Sr. VP of Growth at, says that automation should be focused on triage and delegation. This is about the frontline and making sure there’s a good customer experience in place, regardless of which tier a customer belongs to.

“You hit a point at a certain scale where you need to focus a lot on triage. We see folks creating a lot of documentation, sometimes at the same time that they create their tiers. But there’s not a sense of delegation. There’s no sense of control around delegation or comfort around delegation.”

Documentation is the first step to scaled support. The next step is to identify consistency - how often do you have the same response to the same scenario? Automating and delivering answers consistently lets customers know what to expect when asking for help. 

Have a data driven approach

Mercer Smith, VP of CX Insights at PartnerHero, points out that we tend to make assumptions about what the customer actually wants, without analyzing the data behind the assumption. If you don’t do your due diligence before investing in bots and tools, you can misallocate your limited resources. 

For example, support leaders might be tasked with a KPI to drop average handle time. Smith asks, “what is the impact other than affecting the amount of time that support spends handling tickets?” It doesn’t tell us anything about the customer experience or satisfaction scores.

“Focus on the percentage of customers that are getting a reply in under a certain time, instead of looking at handle time averages. This approach is less susceptible to outliers and offers a more accurate assessment of what the majority of customers are experiencing.”

Managing tiered support expectations

Oftentimes, when a customer comes to your support team with a problem, the solution may only be available in a higher tier of your product. The support rep will need to balance cultivating trust and goodwill while also communicating that the sales team needs to be brought into the conversation.  

“Be proactive and consultative in your support efforts. Show the customer that you’re willing to help them get to where they need to be,” advises Smith. Perhaps a workaround can help for the time being. This approach makes the conversation feel less like a sales pitch and more like assistance in reaching an immediate goal.  

Build a sales AND support culture

Martin recommends joint training with the sales team about how to handle objections. It’s a great way to reduce friction between sales and support, increase camaraderie and learning, and deliver consistent messaging.

“When you have escalations, cancellations, and other uncomfortable customer situations, there’s always a need for objection handling. This is a shared space that sales and support teams can understand.”

In general, give your support team access to enablement. Include them in training and even have them listen in on sales calls with customers. It’s a culture-building exercise that creates personal connections and increases empathy for the role of the support team. 

It also keeps everyone up to date on messaging changes and new pitches. Understanding why changing a customer’s tier is actually a good solution will help support agents be more consultative. In short, speak the language of support folks if you want to make an impact. 

“If you come to them and tell them to sell 5 packages, they’ll say ‘no, I'm not going to do that because it won't serve my customers.’ Instead, come to them and say ‘take a look at these impactful stories of customers having an excellent experience when transitioning tiers’.”

Be transparent about automation plans 

There is a tradeoff with automation because it is, by nature, going to lack some amount of personalization. Customers usually know when they aren’t speaking to a real person. For frequently asked questions and problems, this is perfectly acceptable. 

That doesn’t mean that automation will take over customer support entirely. Your support team shouldn’t feel diminished or undervalued. In fact, the opposite is true. Automation will free up their time to work on higher priority tasks and give them a chance to learn and grow. 

As Martin explains, “automation can empower your team and give them the time to work on things that are more impactful, more meaningful, and help grow their careers.” Be transparent about upcoming automation plans and make sure everyone is part of the journey– and not worried about their job security. 

Don’t expect perfection 

Putting bots to work means that we can finally relax and kick our feet up, right? Not so much. At the end of the day, automation can go horribly wrong. Something can break. or a new hire will unwittingly send an email to the entire customer base. Go ahead and own that mistake. Don't expect perfection out of automation, there’s always room for the human element.

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