Top ways to drive collaboration between support and development teams
Collaboration between CSAs and developers can be difficult at best—and a blocker at worst—which can have disastrous impacts on customer support success metrics. But there's a better way.
Published November 22, 2021
Last updated March 24, 2022
Customer support agents are your business’ eyes and ears. They know what your customers need, what they expect, and what they think about your product. Meanwhile, if your organization is in the tech or software industry, developers are its backbone. That means collaboration between these teams is inevitable.
But few businesses have clean, clear workflows for this kind of teamwork. Usually, it depends on an ad-hoc system of emails, hidden documentation, and in-person meetings. That might work fine for some teams, but when a support agent is anxiously waiting on an answer from developers to help an important customer, that won’t cut it.
Here are three ways you can turn that ad-hoc system into a polished workflow.
Prioritize asynchronous processes
What’s the status quo for collaboration between teams? Usually, it’s too many meetings. Status updates, cross-functional project check-ins, team-building meetings, the list goes on. Daily calendars get eaten up, meaning there’s less time to get things done. Meetings can be especially detrimental for a customer support team, whose metrics often depend on timeliness and efficiency.
The alternative? Asynchronous processes.
An asynchronous process is any process that doesn’t require both parties to occupy the same block of time—as opposed to a synchronous process. Phone calls, meetings (virtual and otherwise), and presentations are examples of synchronous processes.
So why focus on asynchronous processes? In 2017, Harvard Business Review surveyed 182 senior managers. Seventy-one percent of them said meetings were unproductive and inefficient. Imagine how many people feel that way throughout the hierarchy.
As more and more businesses shift to hybrid and remote-first models permanently, they’ll find that meetings and other synchronous processes become a hindrance rather than a help.
Support teams and developers are greatly affected by this. A support team is responsible for an ever-growing influx of support tickets and calls from customers. Any time they’re spending in a meeting is time during which tickets pile up. That’s especially frustrating when they’re expected to provide a certain level of service.
For their part, developers need uninterrupted blocks of time for deep work. Whether they’re fixing bugs, coding new features, or dealing with escalated tickets, developers must have time and space to figure out complex problems. When meetings and calls come in the middle of that, those problems become much harder to solve.
In 2021, GitHub surveyed 40 software engineers and found that going from two to three meetings a day lowered a developer’s chances of making progress towards their goals from 74 percent to 14 percent.
Not all synchronous processes can be avoided, but how many of them can be solved with an email? Or through a few comments on an escalated ticket? Give your support and development teams the tools they need to work and communicate asynchronously, so collaboration doesn’t come at the expense of their daily work.
Elect a champion in each team
Every team has its own goals and its own way of reaching them. When you collaborate with another team, you have to account for this. That’s fine if you’re used to working closely together or if you have good visibility on what they’re doing. But when your collaboration is too narrow—like escalated tickets for support teams—it becomes a problem. Tasks that should be slam-dunks fall prey to miscommunication, delays, and more.
The University of Cambridge uses Data Champions to ensure that strong data management and research practices are promoted in teams throughout the university’s departments. This can help prevent slip-ups and mistakes, but it also means each team has a dedicated subject matter expert for data matters.
Support and development tasks are so different that it can be tough for either team to understand how the other works. So, why not try naming a champion in each team? Like a Data Champion, they can become a huge resource for their team. But instead of specializing in data, they could be experts in the other team’s goals and processes.
Why do this? Well, who does the customer support team currently go to if they have a question about development? If they’re lucky, they can access some kind of documentation that was written after someone else asked the same question. If not, they either have to find a developer who has time to answer their question or ask their manager.
But if your support team has a dedicated expert on development workflows, they become a valuable resource for the team. They can answer questions, help improve processes on both sides, and more. And when your developers have a support champion on their side, they can find new opportunities to bridge the gap between teams.
Integrate their tools
Every team usually has its own tool stack. The larger the organization, the more likely it is that stack has little in common with anyone else’s. In its 2021 report, BetterCloud found that the average business uses 80 SaaS apps.
Why? Not every tool is built the same. Zendesk is one of the best tools out there for a support team. But it’s not designed to enable development work the way some other tools are.
These different tools are rarely built to play nice with each other out of the box. That can create silos around each team’s work, meaning it’s increasingly difficult to get visibility on what everyone is doing.
Say a customer support agent needs to escalate a ticket to a developer, either because they have a technical question to answer or are receiving reports of a tenacious bug. How does that information get across in your organization? Usually, it’s either done around the tool difference (say via email) or through, meaning someone has to learn to use both tools.
Neither of these options is ideal. The former can create clutter in your communication channels, while the latter involves a ton of manual work from someone who’s got better things to do.
This is where a platform like Unito comes in.
Unito is a no-code integration solution for the most popular work tools on the market, from support tools to CRMs and work management platforms. With dedicated, robust two-way flows, you can turn Zendesk tickets into Jira issues, Asana tasks, Trello cards, and more. Any updates—like comments—are synced in both directions. That means your support team can track an escalated ticket without leaving Zendesk, while a developer can contribute without leaving Jira (or whichever tool they prefer).
No matter which integration solution you use, it can build a bridge between tools that promotes collaboration between support and development teams.
Collaborate across teams
Your support team champions the needs of your customers, while your developers keep everything running. When these two teams need to collaborate, you can bet it’s an initiative that can reverberate throughout the business as a whole.
These teams need uninterrupted time to do their best work, so they’re best served by having fewer meetings, which can be achieved with asynchronous processes. By designating a champion in both teams, you can make sure everyone knows more about how the other team works. Finally, integrating their tools means you eliminate technical barriers to cooperation, achieving better results for everyone.