Do you ever feel like your support team is lost in a thick fog of information, unable to discern between what's important and what's not?
Are they weeks behind on process and workflow changes, slowing down their daily work?
Do you despair whenever new features or software releases go out, because it means unanticipated bugs and a scramble to update docs?
If you answered yes to any of these questions — or all of them, you poor soul — this blog post is for you (and no, you’re not alone).
We asked experts in the Support community for their advice on how to keep support teams informed when the pace just keeps picking up, and they delivered. Whether your team is large or small, the tips and tools these support pros shared with us are sure to inspire and equip you in your quest to bring your company closer together.
The challenge of keeping support teams informed
One of the hardest things about managing a support function is keeping everyone informed.
Every support manager has been there.
You try hard to keep your support team informed about releases, your engineer and product teams informed about bugs and feature requests, and your customers informed about your product, but it’s an uphill battle.
But it's also one of the most important parts of the job. In order to keep your product stable and make it the best it can be, anyone who touches it on a regular basis needs to be in the loop about news and changes that can impact performance.
Healthy communication structures within a company mean that:
The customer support team can test changes before they go out to customers, documenting bugs and user edge cases before they ever become problems. They can also plan documentation updates and customer communications, increasing the likelihood that product changes will be well received by customers.
The product team can incorporate common or high-priority customer feedback when they're designing the product, which means they can be more effective at bringing their product to market and creating value for the company.
The engineering team can fix any bugs or poor user experiences before they cause problems for customers. They also get to hear about what customers enjoy about the product they've built, bringing them closer to the customer (which is both professionally more useful and just more fun).
It should be clear that achieving all this requires work and buy-in from multiple teams — but in practice, it’s often the support manager who feels the most pain of shortcomings in these areas.
Strategies and tools for effective communication
Our experts' strategies fell into three main categories:
Publish news, updates, and bug reports widely. Whether it's using a dedicated bulletin tool or existing integrations, experts recommended providing a single source for updates that's accessible to everyone.
Use tools to automate updates when possible. Experts save time and effort by taking advantage of integrations that automatically share important updates like bug reports to existing communication channels.
Build teams and processes that include all stakeholders. Experts created product teams made up of representatives from throughout their company, so that there were no middlemen when it came to collaboration and information sharing. This reduces the risk of misunderstandings and missed opportunities to create awesome customer experiences.
Publish new, updates, and bug reports widely
It's easy for teams to accidentally silo themselves, even in small companies. This isn't because anyone wants to gate-keep information; it's just that busy queues and fast release tempos can lead communication lines to break down if they're not being intentionally maintained.
That's why Sarah Betts, Senior Customer Support Manager at Alyce, recommends building separate communication channels dedicated to the most impactful information:
"It just makes everyone's life easier when people work together," Betts says. "We have a dedicated channel for bug reports. I also have a Jira filter just called 'support-filed bugs' that anyone can check."
Harvest's Knowledge Manager, BethAnne Freund, agrees, and also includes a wide range of updates in her internal communications. "We have an internal changelog in Trello to document all updates, new features, bugs, and other things. It even includes marketing campaigns that the support team should know about in case a customer asks about the related coupon code, and so on."
Use tools to automate communications when possible
A cheat code to free-flowing information is to make sharing it automatic.
If you have to stop what you're doing to paste that Jira issue you just created in Slack and then tag the engineers in so they're notified about the bug, are you more or less likely to do it?
If it's a major bug, sure, you probably will. But what if it's a minor but annoying cosmetic issue?
Even if it’s an easy fix, if you’re feeling swamped because your support inbox is blowing up, there’s probably a good chance you’d let your communication about the bug slip. Sadly, that means your company then misses an opportunity to improve the customer experience, even in a small way.
"We use the Jira integration from the Zendesk marketplace," says Head of Customer Support at TwentyFour7, Rafa Gutierrez. "Escalated issues get on the Jira board as backlog issues via automations, and new Jira issues also get piped into a slack channel."
Tools and automations can help in other areas as well. Zero Mile founder Landon Bennett recommends Current as a way to keep up with internal updates. Current summarizes changes made in connected apps like Github, Notion, Google, Miro, and and posts them in a unified feed for the whole company to read.
If you host your articles on Intercom and you're looking for help keeping your documentation up to date, Bennett also recommended Docs Fresh which automatically detects when your documentation gets stale and prompts you to review and update it.
Build teams and processes that include all stakeholders
Building a product development team made up of representatives from support, product, engineering, and marketing will not only make for happier customers (and a happier company), but also a better product.
Incorporating diverse perspectives and customer feedback at the beginning of feature and release planning allows for problems to be discovered earlier. And because support has been involved in product planning from the beginning, they’re often able to create more helpful, nuanced documentation and communications that prepare customers well for product changes.
Freund recommends this approach. "We have an escalated support team that is especially helpful around keeping the rest of the team updated on bugs," she says. "We embed support agents in the product development teams so they can make sure the rest of the team gets all the latest information."
Devising good communications processes that prioritize accessibility and knowledge is also key. It ensures everyone on your support team is on the same page, using the same workflows to serve customers consistently.
Cora Van Leeuwen, Knowledge Expert at YNAB, employs this strategy with her team:
"We use Guru for documentation, and we have a card that stays updated with new features, workflows, and all the things," she says. "The card is called 'New in the Queue' and it's a centralized place for all urgent news and changes that specialists would need when working in the queue. It is specifically queue-related information only. Any non-urgent process changes [or] wider support updates go into a separate weekly update.”
Van Leeuwen's updates include information on new bugs, newly released features, any commonly used snippets that have changed since the last update, and the current state of their queue in relation to the age of conversations, volume, and the week's support capacity.
"The expectation is that every support specialist will read 'New in the Queue' before starting their queue time each day."
A symphony of communication and collaboration
In the end, keeping your support team updated day-to-day is like conducting an orchestra.
Each section of your orchestra, from support to engineering to marketing, plays a crucial role. By publishing updates widely, automating the flow of information, and building solid cross-functional teams, you're not just preventing missteps — you're choreographing a symphony of communication and collaboration.
As our experts have shown, with the right tools and a commitment to open, proactive communication, you can turn the chaos of constant updates into a harmonious rhythm that propels your product and your team forward.
So go ahead, conduct your team to success, and watch as the music of efficiency and customer satisfaction plays out!
Written by Steph Lundberg
Steph is a writer and fractional Customer Support leader and consultant. You can usually find her crafting, hanging with her kids, or spending entirely too much time on Tumblr.