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Proactive Support Secrets from 3 Support Pros: Atlassian, Zapier, Help Scout

Olivia Clyde

The quality of a support team is evident in the satisfaction of its customers. Proactive support is going the extra mile to take care of the customer. But what difference does proactive support make? It means forethought and strategic execution to make and keep the customer happy. Some customers are simply satisfied, while others are happy, or even impressed. A support team can stick to its usual processes to create “bare minimum” satisfaction, or take planned measures to predict and prevent customer issues.

We wanted to get professional perspective, so we interviewed three customer support and success experts.  Jake Bartlett from Atlassian, Mat Patterson from Help Scout, and Jason Warner from Zapier give the scoop on how they roll out proactive support to make customers more than happy. Read below to discover their best methods and practices.

Jake Bartlett, Customer Success Manager, Atlassian
Jason Warner, Customer Champion Zapier
Mat Patterson, Support Evangelist Help Scout

Proactive Support

Good things happen when support teams tend to customer needs before issues even arise. Customer evangelism increases, CSAT ratings go up, and fewer tickets need to be resolved. Your team’s dedication to improving customer experience serves as proof that your customers come first and matters most.

There are several ways to implement proactive support into your process. We condensed advice from these specialists into three ways to improve proactive support for your team.

Structure your support process

A structured support process directly affects your capacity to satisfy customers. A formal process centered on top priorities will boost your support system. Automation is great and necessary, but structure means more than automation. It provides boundaries to tasks, earns you time, and saves you from the woes of disorganization. It’s also the gateway to proactive support.

Measure the right KPIs

While a focus on metrics is imperative to focus, companies now realize how harmful it can be to have too many KPIs on their radar. Remember that less is more. Jake Bartlett, Customer Success Manager from Atlassian says that it is best to swiftly figure out the area in which you can make the most impact. Since people look to data to determine the value of initiatives, it is a good idea to choose metrics that are directly tied to customer satisfaction in addition to moving the needle. Of all the support metrics to watch, Support Rep Volume is the most important one for him.

Learn from support teammates

Mat Patterson, Customer Service Evangelist from Help Scout says that his support team asks fellow teammates for their perspectives from the start. They have acquired more wisdom from being with the company longer and can you better navigate the customer landscape.

Some support teams try different education methods to cover more ground. Ask for guidance from a support harrier on your team. Their experience can help alleviate doubt and uncertainty when you encounter unique support issues for the first time.

Mat Patterson, Customer Service Evangelist from Help Scout says that his support team asks fellow teammates for their perspectives from the start. They have acquired more wisdom from being with the company longer and can you better navigate the customer landscape.

Play to your team’s strengths

Achieving structure can be a chore when the amount of work to be done exceeds the people on your team. Jake Bartlett's former support team tried an experiment involving a one-week rotation in which members from different company teams would try their hand at the support process. They extended support responsibilities to people on the product, marketing, or sales team. While this program initially meant more capacity to close more tickets, they found that quantity began to trump quality. They needed a strategy that was more finely tuned than a group-wide effort.

Eventually Jake decided to implement the “Shadow a support person” program. Each support member gets one-on-one training with a team member who can show them the walk and talk of the company’s support environment.


Tools to track success

Proactive support involves tools that assist with workflow implementation and enhance the in-house process. Tools that Jake Bartlett likes to use at Atlassian include:

  • FrontApp for lightweight communication
  • CloudApp for communication visually w customers
  • JIRA to log bugs
  • Atlassian’s Stride for internal communication
  • Trello for to-do lists an daily stand-ups, backlog  


Jake also suggests using custom dashboards and Sequel Database to get reports on various questions. The OKR Methodology is great to ensure that you hit your metrics and satisfy customers.

Proactively Seek Feedback

Feedback from relevant sources is the best way to learn from success and mistakes. Proactive support demands a hard habit of follow-up with the people you serve in addition to your own team. Seek out honest opinion and it will make you more accountable for how you serve customers. Customer interactions provides a heap of data for a company to process and act on. It’s up to a company’s support team to figure out how to capitalize on the opportunity to seek out that data and use it well.

Surveys for improvement

One of CloudApp’s methods for proactive support involves survey for customers. They can provide feedback, as well as explain what they would use as an alternative to the product should they ever cancel their subscription. This survey is all in attempt to make the cancellation process less frustrating and more effective, including questions about how the product could have been better.

Jason Warner, Customer Champion at Zapier says that customer inquiry majorly helps him on his team. A few reasons he tries to ask customers more questions include:  

  • Pushing myself for next time! I'm answering more tickets that I couldn’t answer before
  • I no longer spend time spinning my wheels trying to figure it out alone
  • I can help out other team members who may neglect to ask the same questions

Feedback informs your decisions

The first thing Jake Bartlett did after implementing more structure into Atlassian’s support process was to seek feedback. Jake sent out a survey to his team to gauge the effectiveness of his efforts. His teammates evaluated his efforts and provided suggestions. The feedback he received validated everything he put into Refactoring their All-Hands support team. Opinions of others showed him that although everyone's exposure was beneficial for multiple departments, his findings helped them realize that switching to the shadowing program was “a long-time coming.”

Prevention


Proactive support considers the past, present, and future. It is a perspective-packed way of thinking. Support representatives can take strategic precautions to prevent future issues. Prevention is the best way to evade problems down the road. Read below for more ideas on using prevention in your process.

Choose efficiency over perfection

A mantra that has taken root in tech is that “done is better than perfect.” In attempt to put out the polished final product, too much perfectionism often leads people to spin their wheels. (Often to that point that they don’t get to stand back and enjoy a task’s completion half as much as they should.)

Proactive support supports the practice of estimating how much time should be devoted to each customer issue. Jake Bartlett says that spending up to 3 hours on an email response is not entirely necessary. His team gauges how much time is necessary for a response to a customer issue as they comb through the queue of questions.
Obsess less over flawless execution. Know the freedom of efficient delivery, so that you can look back on your turned-in task and say:


Many will withhold a great idea or product from their team or customers. Why? Because hesitation feels secure and productive as it grants one “extra time.” You get to spare your audience from the knowledge of your work’s current shortcomings, right? In actuality, sharing something “half-baked” with others is the best way to pack on multiple layers of feedback. The work of many together is better than the work of one.

Documentation for organization

Mat Patterson wanted to find a better way to save time, so he recorded sessions of his customer interactions to figure out which tasks he could performed quicker. He then created documentation links of pre-recorded answers for common customer questions. Now he can easily retrieve answers that are tailored to specific questions instead of recreating answers asked by dozens of customers. Now he spends less time poking around for answers!

Think before you act

Support reps know the ropes for helping their users. But, this kind of know-how can make it tempting to pre-diagnose customer problems. When a customer approaches you with an issue, you do have access to customer’s account. It would be so easy to hop in, laser identify what is going “wrong,” and provide a quick silver bullet solution. You are the support specialist here…...right?

Jason Warner knows what it’s like to prematurely prescribe answers to a customer issues. A customer approached him with a specific problem. Before attempting to clarify, Jason crafted a detailed, annotated screenshot that he knew would quickly solve the issue. Unfortunately his prediction reflex worked to his disadvantage. The customer quickly dismissed his attempt and stated that his problem had 'nothing' to do with Jason’s prepared answer. (Luckily Jason recounts the story with a sense of humor.)

Proactive support means putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. As you try aim to think like your customer, remember that it is still important to involve him or her. Support reps are not hired to be mind readers! Customers knows the specific of their problems that you cannot always foresee. Think, prepare, ask!


Customers feel happier when customer support teams work smarter. Cheers to proactive support!

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