Customer support positions are usually not on the top of the list of most-coveted roles at a company. For one thing, customer support is where customers come to complain (at least most of the time). Another challenge: It’s becoming increasingly common for consumers to expect around-the-clock support—from people, not computers.
All of these things increase the demands placed on small and large businesses that must provide assistance to their users. What’s one way to keep up with those demands? I believe it’s by training the entire staff to handle customer support—everyone from the receptionist to the CEO. But the benefits of your entire staff being trained on customer support go far beyond meeting demands. When everyone does customer support, there’s a general attitude that improves the business’ culture.
Here are six benefits to having your entire team trained on customer support.
1. Anyone Can Jump in and Help
In our offices, we have two staffers who are dedicated to customer support (having a dedicated support staff is critical to any business). However, due to cyclical demand our support team—or yours—may be underworked or overwhelmed at any given point. People get sick, take vacations, get pulled into critical or time-sensitive projects, and more. And when that happens, having an entire team that can step in at any time helps keep the customers happy.
Thankfully, in addition to our two support team members, any of my other 15 staff members may answer support tickets that are directed toward their area of expertise. And when the customer support staff has some downtime, they venture into other tasks that interest them. It’s nice for them to know that if they’re experiencing a high volume of support requests they can put out an SOS to the office to help out.
2. Everyone Becomes Aware of Successes and Shortcomings of the Company
People use customer support to compliment or complain about services. And although complaints can be tedious to deal with, they’re still a form of feedback. If many people are complaining about a certain issue, you know it’s an area you should pay some attention to. This is a reason having the higher-ups involved in customer support can benefit any company. If the CEO is actively hearing customer complaints, projects can be prioritized better.
This doesn’t just go for complaints. On a day-to-day basis, most employees don't deal with customer feedback. But both praise and criticism are beneficial for everyone in the office to hear. When the entire team is aware of what makes customers happy and unhappy, they can more easily understand and work toward the company’s goals.
3. Employees Learn About the Product
The path to successful products depends on having a team that completely understands the ins and outs and features and benefits of that product. When you have a team that consists of people with a variety of skills—writers, designers, developers, sales people, and project managers—knowing all of this might not fall under each person’s job description.
Participation in customer support is a great way to learn a product, especially a tech product or software program. You’ll see the benefits of this education in other areas. For example, our social media team participates in customer support, which helps them understand how to use the platform. When someone asks a question on Facebook or Twitter, if the solution is simple, my team can respond promptly without having to send people through customer support. An educated team can take some of the heat off of your customer support team from time to time.
4. Employees Get Cross-Training
We all know that at a small business everyone wears multiple hats. It’s common for departments to overlap and positions to change. Having your whole team trained in customer support forces cross-training so everyone is familiar with different sides of the company.
Why is this important? Because when your engineering team is familiar with content strategy and your public relations people are aware of new features, it makes it easier for people from different departments to collaborate. And collaborating also allows employees to learn new skills, helping them grow beyond what they were originally hired for. Encouraging people to learn about other aspects of the company makes them excited for the opportunity to expand their skills.
5. Your Company Has More Credibility
When your customers see a response from the CEO or the director of a department, they feel like the “most important” people in the company are listening. In fact, this has been the most beneficial part of having my whole staff trained on customer support. Occasionally, a “demanding” user sends in a support ticket, insisting that a “supervisor” answer the ticket. I personally respond to tickets every day and have received countless responses of surprise and appreciation that I am really listening.
In addition, clients appreciate knowing that their requests are being addressed by humans—a crucial distinction in these days of automated customer support. For example, when users submit a support inquiry about a specific topic and the support team lets them know that they’re being passed to another team member who has expertise in that area, they appreciate it. Think about when you call a hardware store, in search of a certain part for your irrigation system. You feel much more confident when they say, “Let me transfer you to Sam over in our plumbing department who can check the shelves for you,” rather than, “Our system shows we have those in stock, but I don’t actually see them.”
6. There’s More Respect for Senior-Level Employees
In my experience, the junior employees have more respect for the experienced guys if they’re willing to step into customer support. Since the customer support team is sometimes the “bottom” of the office food chain, having a CEO and higher-ups who are willing to answer support tickets or respond to customer complaints on Facebook shows the rest of the office that no one is too good to take care of customers.
I’ve always believed in having my entire staff trained on customer support (I even require that all employees start in customer support for several weeks before diving into their actual position), and my company has been seeing all of these results since we opened our doors three years ago. It helps them get to know the software and our customers, and I believe it has helped our company maintain a 98% customer satisfaction rating each year.
Do you train your whole staff on customer support? I’m interested to hear how it has (or hasn’t) worked for your business.