Good customer support is essential to any business, but how can you make sure your customer service team gets it right every time?
Documenting your existing processes and building a formal customer support workflow will help you improve your current processes. It will also put you in a position to improve them further in the future.
A workflow is any repeatable sequence of activities carried out to accomplish a task. You could think of a workflow like a set of instructions. In a world of increasing automation, it often is one, but there’s one crucial difference: your business already has workflows and processes whether you know it or not.
If you’ve ever asked why something is done a certain way, and been met with “that’s just the way we do it”, you’ve found an undocumented process. Documenting processes is the first step in improving them, so building a customer service workflow is essential whether you’re setting it up for the first time or improving what’s there already.
Building a customer service workflow has multiple benefits. The initial documentation stage will help you spot those inefficiencies and pain points in your existing process that frustrate both the customer and your team.
It then makes the onboarding of new team members easier. At a glance, they can see everything that needs to happen when, say, a customer complains, and how the different parts of the company interact.
By scrutinizing your process closely, you’ll also find steps that can be partly or wholly automated. Think of the ways automation creates a consistent customer experience already and employ those to make your processes more efficient.
This combination of automation and documentation means your team will be carrying out the best process every single time. No wonder, then, that the workflow management sector looks to grow over 27% year on year until 2025.
Building a customer service workflow looks a lot like any other process, and will follow the same four basic steps:
Gather data on your existing customer service processes either by shadowing the team for a while or conducting internal e-meetings or conference calls via your small business phone. Things happen when teams talk. For each process, write down every step that occurs and any branching paths a situation might take. You’re not yet concerned with what should be happening, just identifying what the company does at present.
Now that you can clearly see what’s going on with your customer support processes, identify the challenges you face.
It might be that the team isn’t meeting targets like CSAT score or the desired number of first-call resolutions. Maybe your people are doing their best, but there’s some outdated software holding them back. Maybe they have to wait around for answers from another department.
Once you’ve mapped the existing processes and identified their shortcomings, from this information you can extract a new customer service process. This can then be sent for scrutiny by other team members. Include the resources required for each step, be that software or information, so you can identify and remove potential bottlenecks.
In modern meeting rooms over virtual telephone systems, you could collaborate with team members to build out the new processes in something like Google Draw or draw.io. This might jog the teams’ memory about extra steps required in the process or little contingency steps nobody outside of the team would think to include.
These process flowcharts should be comprehensive enough for managers but simple enough for even those unfamiliar with the company to follow. Not only can a good process flowchart be used as an onboarding tool for new hires, you’re also going to have to use it to “onboard” the existing team into the new way of doing things.
Even when following the best practices for project management, an embedded process can take time, and you’re going to need buy-in from the team. You’re going to have to convince the team of the benefits of switching over to the new process, and your flowchart should make those outcomes clear.
You’ve managed to implement your new customer support process. The last step is to test and iterate with your customer service teams.
Whether this is rolling out a new business internet phone service or using a new call script, you might run into teething problems with your new process–maybe you underestimate how long a new step might take, or you find that one step isn’t very clear. Make sure the team knows you’re open to feedback from them on how the process can be improved and check in with them regularly once the new process is put in place. This is crucial for buy-in.
You’ll also be able to test your new process with metrics like your CSAT score or the number of first-call resolutions. Pick one or two KPIs you’d like to improve with this new process and watch them closely. You can A/B test variations on the process until you get the results you need.
“Customer support” covers more than just handling complaints. Exactly how many customer support processes you have will vary, but here are three examples to give you an idea.
Whether it’s an ecommerce company or a lawyer responding to their client under confidentiality privilege, customer support comes with pressure: your response has to be both quick and satisfactory every time.
Your customer service workflow could look something like this:
In ecommerce, handling transactions is an important part of customer support. There’s a lot of room for automation with tools like email flows. It’s a simple process but one you have to get right every time.
When you first map it out it, your sample workflow could look like this:
Once you’ve mapped out the process formally you might see room for improvement. In the hours before the order dispatch, you could automatically email the customer a limited-time upsell (“order now to include these in your delivery”) to help increase your aov average order value.
Not having an automated email flow is one of the most common ecommerce marketing mistakes to watch out for. A well-targeted email could automatically “reactivate” a customer who hasn’t ordered for a while. And these flows could be the cornerstone of your user onboarding process, especially in B2B SaaS where user adoption is such a critical issue.
Your onboarding process could look like:
You’ll see that these processes contain branching paths. Having a well-defined process doesn’t mean making your business stale and doing the same things over and over again. It means you can define the thresholds and trigger behaviors at which you branch off into a course of action that actually responds to your customers’ needs and inputs.
Building a customer service workflow enables you to streamline your existing processes while paving the way for even better ones. The clarity this provides helps your team make better decisions in the moment, and turning your company’s unspoken best practices into clear instructions gives you opportunities to automate routine tasks. All this reduces legwork and allows your team to focus on providing the best customer service they can to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction.