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  • Writer's pictureMaryna Paryvai

How to Do All-Hands Support Right (With Tips and Best Practices)

All hands support

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With 70% of consumers willing to pay extra for quality service, neglecting it is a luxury no business can afford.


Traditionally, the responsibility for customer satisfaction mainly rested with the support team. However, they have limited influence over product decisions and service terms. A more effective approach gaining popularity in recent years is viewing customer satisfaction as a whole company’s sport.


All departments within an organization should be aware of customer pain points and understand how their actions affect the customer journey – directly or indirectly. As Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos put it in his famous book Delivering Happiness, “Customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.”


A growing number of organizations known for their outstanding customer service, including Zapier, Customer.io and Slack to name a few, are championing this philosophy by practicing all-hands support.


What Is All-Hands Support?


All-hands or whole-company support is a customer service strategy where employees from different departments take turns assisting with customer inquiries alongside the dedicated customer service team. It enables everyone within the organization to gain insight into customer experiences and learn firsthand about both wins and challenges that customers face.


While this approach has many benefits, what works for one company may not work for another. It's important to weigh the pros and cons of implementing the all-hands customer support practice to understand if it’s suitable for your organization.


Let's explore the key advantages and considerations associated with all-hands support to help you with this process.


Pros of All-Hands Customer Support


The all-hands support approach brings the whole company together to provide an excellent customer experience. Its key advantages include:


1. Stakeholders’ buy-in to customer experience


Joining in on all-company support encourages everyone in the organization to prioritize customer experience initiatives. When all teams understand what customers struggle with and what they need, even minor customer experience improvements get more attention within the company as key stakeholders recognize the value these changes can generate.


2. Better products


When your product and development teams don't have direct contact with customers, it limits their understanding of customer needs. Handling support inquiries enables them to receive first hand customer feedback, ensuring that product solutions align with user expectations and don’t impose additional burdens on customer-facing teams.


For instance, Olark found that their engineering team has a much better appreciation for how product decisions affect their customer service team since they began doing all-hands support. With each new feature release, they now have a much better understanding of the factors that increase the burden on the support team. 


3. Resolution of long-standing issues


Product and engineering team members involved in the support process can implement quick fixes for recurring customer issues and build internal tools to streamline manual tasks when they hear about customer pain points firsthand.


As Paul English, the CEO of Kayak put it: “If you make the engineers answer emails and phone calls from the customers, the second or third time they get the same question, they’ll actually stop what they’re doing and fix the code. Then we don’t have those questions anymore.”


4. Interdepartmental collaboration


Practicing whole-company support helps other departments understand the actual value of customer support and the hard work that goes into maintaining high-quality service. This cultivates a deeper appreciation for support efforts and develops stronger interdepartmental collaboration – leading to a more customer-centric culture and a better customer experience as a result.


5. Effective emergency handling


Practicing all-company support enables the entire organization to aid the support team during outages or other major issues. For example, when Slack experienced a massive outage in 2015, their cross-functional group was well-prepared and united to respond to every complaint on Twitter – sending out dozens of replies every minute.


slack response to outage

Relying solely on the support team simply couldn’t have provided enough capacity for such an effective response.


Drawbacks of All-Hands Support


While implementing all-hands support brings numerous benefits, there are a few important factors to consider as well.


  • First of all, it can negatively impact customer experience, if employees who are not trained to stay calm under pressure and be patient with customers join the support queue. For instance, Big Cartel experienced drops in customer satisfaction scores during periods when they experimented with all-hands support – due to the lower quality of responses provided by non-support folks.

  • All-hands support can become costly if employees with higher hourly rates are pulled into the support queue to deliver subpar service instead of focusing on the primary responsibilities of their roles.

  • If your support team is already adequately staffed, non-support team members joining the queue may find themselves with no tickets to handle. This can be demotivating for employees who are eager to add value and contribute to the company's success.


Lastly, you’d want to give a heads-up about all-hands support practice during the hiring process as it can turn off some candidates.


Your new hires should be open to participating and engaging with customers directly in the support queue which certainly is not for everyone. Being transparent about this practice is crucial to pick the right hires for some traditional “backend” roles like engineers, data analysts, or quality assurance specialists.


Steps to Implement All-Hands Support


The exact steps for a successful all-hands support launch depend on many factors, including the size of your company, your service level agreements, and how customer-centric the company culture is at the moment. With that said, let’s look into the key steps and tips that you can use as a starting point.


1. Organize Resources


With the all-hands support approach, you have to properly equip not only the support team but also anyone working in the support queue. They’ll need customer-facing product documentation and troubleshooting guides, as well as internal resources that cover tone of voice guidelines, standard operating procedures, and escalation processes at a minimum.

To ensure that information is easily accessible and navigation is seamless, adhere to best knowledge management practices, such as:


  • Aligning on terminology and using the same terms when describing specific functionalities, products, or actions across all of your content to make the search easier.

  • Organizing all resources based on related products, departments, or themes for simple navigation.

  • Implementing knowledge-centered service elements and encouraging everyone to participate in maintaining the knowledge base. This is especially practical for feature-rich products and organizations with a diverse range of products and services.


A dedicated directory specifically for non-support folks can be quite helpful too. Link all essential resources within that repository, enabling your colleagues to have quick access to all docs on the go. In addition to core resources that you built for the support team, consider including the following extras:


  • Instructions on how to effectively use your support tools

  • Organized archive of resolved tickets to learn from past resolutions and speed up problem-solving when tricky cases come up

  • A list of support-related Slack channels with historical updates and discussions that employees can search through when handling support inquiries


2. Provide Training 


To effectively implement a whole-company support process, the whole company will require comprehensive training. The training program should cover the following key elements:

  • Common ticket types and steps for handling them

  • Guidance on effectively utilizing support tools

  • Escalation paths and procedures for various issues

  • Empathy and effective communication skills to engage with customers


Some organizations, like Zappos, go a step further and incorporate support training into the onboarding process for all new team members.


Amazon brings this idea to whole other level by mandating annual 2-day call center training for all managers, including their CEO Jeff Bezos, – ensuring a deep understanding of customer needs and challenges at all levels of the organization.


3. Create a Schedule


Forcing people who haven’t chosen support as their primary career into the support queue for days in a row can lead to unnecessary stress and fast burnout. You need to be careful when scheduling shifts and limit the hours each team member spends tackling support cases.


For instance, at Basecamp non-support team members dedicate one day per month or about 5% of their working time to supporting customers. And Zapier team members do a half-day of support every week, which makes it about 10% of their working time.


To keep everyone aligned and prevent scheduling conflicts, establish a shared calendar for the all-hands support schedule (Google Calendar works great for this purpose) and block off participants' calendars during their support shifts for uninterrupted focus.


As you schedule the all-hands support shifts, pair each non-support team member participating with a buddy from the support team, who will serve as a resource for quick questions and clarifications during shifts.


The buddy program helps foster stronger interdepartmental bonds and ensures that your non-support employees feel supported and integrated into the process.


4. Configure Support Tools


Setting up support tools and access for your wider organization is a critical aspect of launching the all-hands support process. You have two options here: personal or shared logins.


If your help desk platform can support an unlimited number of users at no additional cost, creating separate logins for each team member is the best option. It ensures an optimal level of security and privacy for all.


Otherwise, consider your budget. If your team is smaller or has the resources to afford individual logins for each member, that’s definitely recommended. With individual logins, each team member can manage tickets from their dedicated space throughout their support shift and reassign them to the general queue at the end of the shift for support team members to take over when customers get back.


zendesk pricing plans

If your help desk charges per agent and the size of your organization makes it impractical to justify the cost of individual seats for occasional support shifts, shared logins can be an option. Although not ideal, some organizations resort to using a shared seat under a generic name for external team members who join the support queue periodically.


Before opting for shared logins, consult with your security and data privacy advisor, as utilizing shared logins may have legal implications depending on your location, industry, and other factors.


5. Collect Feedback & Iterate


As you introduce all-hands support within your company, it's natural to face issues and have to adjust the workflow until it becomes smooth.

To collect feedback and iterate faster, implement a quick survey for non-support participants to complete after their support shifts. You can ask about their wins and challenges as well as encourage them to contribute the knowledge gained during the support shifts to internal help docs.


Equip Your Team to Deliver Excellent Service


Customer support is often underestimated and seen as an easy task. Well, it can be quite straightforward and joyful for customer support specialists who have undergone training and have exceptional communication skills, infinite patience, and the ability to decode and troubleshoot issues reported by frustrated customers.


To ensure a positive customer experience, non-support team members require proper resources and comprehensive training as well as efficient support workflows.


With Swifteq's automation apps for Zendesk, you can automatically tag, assign, and address common questions, allowing anyone working in the support queue to focus on assisting customers – without wasting time on routine manual tasks.


Book a free demo today to learn how Swifteq can elevate your customer support to the next level.


 



Written by Maryna Paryvai

Maryna is a results-driven CX executive on a mission to champion efficient and human-centric customer support. With a deep-rooted passion for well-structured documentation, she firmly believes that exceptional customer experiences lie at the heart of every successful business.



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