Many customers have had the experience at least once. You call a company with a question and get a perfectly polite person on the other end who says “sorry, I can’t help you with that, let me transfer you.” The next person you talk to says the same thing. And maybe even the one after that.
Maybe you eventually get someone on the line that knows how to solve your problem. Or maybe you get tired of spending time on the phone just to be frustrated and hang up without any resolution. Either way when this happens, the good intentions of the customer support staff aren’t enough to thwart a disorganized system that leads to a bad customer experience.
You know how infuriating it is on the customer’s end, but as a customer service professional, you also understand how situations like that can happen. For enterprise companies with hundreds of employees and dozens of departments, you often need to go outside of your customer service team to answer a question. And that outside collaboration is more difficult than customers realize.
3 challenges of collaborating with internal departments
No matter how hard your agents are committed to working to meet your service level agreement (SLA), going outside the department for information adds a specific set of challenges to doing so.
When you’re dependent on someone else to help a customer, it inevitably slows things down. And if you don’t have a great process in place for reaching the right contacts, it can slow things down a lot because of the number of steps you have to take.
1. You have to figure out the right contact.
The agent has to figure out not only the right department to get in touch with for the customer’s question, but also the specific person in that department to ask. For enterprise companies with dozens of departments and thousands of employees, that’s a tall order.
2. You have to find the right contact information for them.
Once they identify the person whose job title seems the most relevant, they have to figure out how to get in touch. Even if you have a clear database or directory with phone numbers and emails, pulling up the right information takes time. And if you leave a voicemail for someone who prefers to have all their business communications over email, you may fail to reach them in a timely manner.
3. If you don’t get the right person on the first try, you have to do it all over again.
In the worst-case scenario, the person you’ve contacted gets back to you with a message saying they don’t know how to help and you’ll have to check with someone else. Now you start the whole process from scratch, and the customer is still impatient for your answer. Hopefully, your second try will reach the right person, but even if it does, you’ll already be dealing with an unsatisfied customer.
A better system for internal collaboration
You know that response times are out of your agent’s control in this scenario, but your customer won’t care about the reasons behind the delay. All they see is a company that provides unsatisfactory customer service—which is the last thing you want.
To set your support team up for success, you need an efficient system for reaching the right person every time a customer service inquiry requires collaboration with another department.
1. Identify the main departments your customer service team needs to collaborate with.
The worst time to try and figure out the right person to contact in another department is when a customer’s waiting on your answer. At that point, your agent is scrambling to solve the problem with limited information while under pressure. Instead, work with your team to create a list of all the different departments you sometimes turn to for help with customer service inquiries.
A retail ecommerce company may frequently need to contact the warehouse for questions about shipping, the product department for questions about sizing, and the billing department for issues that relate to payments,
By creating a list in advance—at a time when you’re not under pressure—you have time to work out a better system for figuring how best to contact each department when you need to.
2. Identify the most common issues that require collaboration with those departments.
For each of the departments on your list, think of all the issues you deal with that require their collaboration. If your team keeps good records, you won’t have to rely solely on memory for this. Go through your past tickets to find specific examples of when you reached out to the department.
Now proactively contact that department to work with them on the best process for getting fast answers when you need them. They can weigh in on the best contact for each type of issue, and the best way to reach them. If the warehouse staff moves around too often then you need to know that sending an email which they can pick up on their mobile phone while on the go is best, that Joe’s the one who can tell you about a shipment status, and what the best number to reach him is.
3. Simplify the process of reaching the right person.
Having all that information is helpful, but now you need to figure out the best way to make sure every agent can find it at the moment they need it. A good centralized database that has all the right internal contact information is nice. But bringing that information into the primary system your team uses for tracking tickets and responding to customer inquiries is even better.
When a customer contacts your team with a question they need outside help to answer, make it so they can easily shoot a message to the right contact for each department right there in the customer support software.
This allows you to keep all the communication related to the ticket in one place, and because you took the time to find out and load the right contact information in advance, it gets to the right person faster. And just because you send the message through the software you use all day long doesn’t mean your recipient has to figure out a software tool that’s new to them to access it. They can view and respond to your message through their email, just like they would any other email they receive.
Build an internal collaboration process that scales
As your company grows, the demands and questions from your customers will become more complex, and your reliance on people outside of your department to provide stellar service will only grow. By establishing a good process now for reaching the right contact every time, you can reduce growing pains as your business expands and make sure your customer service team can always get the information they need to deliver fast, reliable service.