Supporting support

a Selected Problem

04/02/20 · Dallas, Texas / Noida, India · Our support team consists of a dedicated group of font experts that truly, deeply care about our customers. In 2018, the team had been expanded in both number and geographic footprint, and while first response times were getting faster, customer feedback was indicating that the quality of responses may not meeting expectations.


In October of 2019, I ran a condensed Service Design workshop with the team to help identify where we could improve processes. We focused on the quality of responses, so that customers were able to get to a resolution faster. Ultimately, the changes implemented by the team drove time to resolution down 30% while lifting customer satisfaction scores 20%.

Current state map.
A glimpse of the “current state” map. Loopbacks and system complexity was immediately obvious and was a target for designing the future state.

Context

In the past 12 months, the support team had seen its headcount almost double, and the addition of a team in Noida, India, had greatly expanded their capacity to handle customer issues while also allowing for 24 hour support.

These changes had dramatic effects on key metrics:

  • “First Response Time” fell dramatically, allowing more support issues to be handled per day.
  • “Time to Resolution” also fell, but was not yet where the team and customers wanted it to be.
  • “Customer Effort Scores” indicated that only 64% of customers felt it was easy to resolve their issue.

Diagnosis

Following the Value Stream Mapping playbook, support leadership and I ran a 3-day workshop on site with the Noida team, mapping the current processes and systems, getting direct feedback from the frontline support reps, and planning an optimal future state. We learned that we could add in steps to improve response quality, taking a bit longer with the first response in order to prevent the need for a second response.

The workshop pointed to immediate opportunities:

  • The likelihood for a customer to receive an accurate and/or complete first response was way lower than expected.
  • We could reduce “Time to Resolution” and improve “Customer Effort Scores” by more completely solving customer issues in the first response, as looping back through the system for additional responses dramatically added to the processing time.
  • Some paths through the support process were longer due to management kicking issues back to reps to help them learn from mistakes. This caused longer wait times for customers.
  • We could sacrifice “First Response Time”, as the average was well below our stated goal. In fact, previous emphasis on fast turnarounds may have lead to other issues.
Our Value Stream Mapping playbook.
Our playbook for the week.

Actions

On the third day of our workshop, we identified the immediate work needed to approach our optimal state, focusing on items completely within the team’s control that could be executed on a relatively short timeline. We divvied up responsibilities and set out to make an impact, confident in our understanding of the problem.

High-priority action items were well defined and simple to start:

  • Replace direct email links with onsite support forms that provide more guidance and detail to both the support rep and the customer.
  • Emphasize individual review of responses by reps before sending to customer.
  • Instituted peer review of responses before sending to the customer. To start, this process was informal and manually instituted by the frontline reps. Later, we would look to automate and randomize the process.
  • Replaced “kick-back” policies with an immediate resolution for the customer, with post-resolution feedback to the rep from management for learning purposes.
  • Revised escalation paths to optimize overall “Time to Resolution” for customers.

Results

The team
Quick team selfie after an fruitful week.

The workshop itself yielded months (possibly years) worth of process improvements and tweaks, ranging from small UI fixes in the support software to completely new roles on the team. In the two quarters since the workshop, we have seen very promising results:

  • 30% decrease in “Time to Resolution”.
  • 20% increase in number people who find it easy to resolve their support issue (Customer Effort Score).
  • Bonus: the team still managed a 20% decrease in “First Response Time”.

We are still working towards the future state, but the insight and focus gained from the workshop gives us confidence that our efforts will continue to drive the support experience to new heights.

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