How to Improve Collaboration Between Your Customer Success and Support Teams

What do peanut butter and jelly have in common with Customer Success and Support? They go better together.  

Just like peanut butter and jelly combine into a sandwich much greater than the sum of its parts, the same applies to Support and Customer Success teams. They might work well separately, but it’s only through healthy collaboration that they can deliver stellar customer experiences.

I sat with Laura Bedoya, Founding Technical Support Manager at Vitally, to learn how B2B organizations can help their CS and Support teams collaborate more effectively.

1. Be Clear on What Each Team Is Responsible For

The CSM role can quickly become a catch-all for all customer-facing tasks. Need someone to respond to live chats? Get a CSM on it. Need to make outbound calls to leads? Add it to a CSM’s to-do list. That's on top of core CS tasks like upselling customers and proactively responding to churn risks. It’s a lot to keep up with. 

Running Customer Success this way is a first-class ticket to CSM burnout. Plus, it is harder to hold the team accountable because everyone is responsible for everything. That's why Laura Bedoya recommends splitting the customer-facing role into Success and Support functions, regardless of team size. 

In her words, “Even if you have a small team, it makes sense to have someone dedicated to Support and another person dedicated to CS functions like retention and upselling. It's too much work for one person to handle both functions at the same time.” 

Now that you've separated the functions, who handles what? Laura recommends that you think of the Support function as reactive and the Success function as proactive. 

Your Support team typically handles day-to-day customer conversations, troubleshoots, and resolves any issues customers face with the product. On the other hand, your CS team ensures that your customers get the most value from the product to ensure long-lasting retention and capitalize on expansion opportunities. 

Learn more: What should Customer Success Managers really be responsible for? 

2. Align Metrics and Goals

Success and Support teams might have separate responsibilities and KPIs. But at the end of the day, they're both about serving the customer and helping them succeed with the product. 

As customer support is reactive, the best way to align both functions is to treat Support as a CS-enablement team. Set clear goals for your CSMs and let your Support team work with them to achieve these goals. Laura explains how this plays out at Vitally. 

“The CSMs are the stars of the show here at Vitally, so our role as a Support team is to help them succeed. That's why we play off their KPIs. Say a KPI is to improve retention; my team focuses on how we can help with that — whether that means flagging a frustrated customer early or highlighting recurring questions indicating that a customer needs more product training.”

3. Integrate CS and Support Workflows

To eliminate process and information gaps, try to make it as easy as possible for your CS and Support teams to share information with each other and track high-level tasks. 

“I've seen many instances where a customer reaches out to the Support team about something, but the team isn't exactly sure what they're talking about — only to discover that it’s an initiative that CS has been doing and Support has been in the dark all this time. It adds friction to the customer experience and isn't a good look for your organization,” says Laura.

Workflow integration is a continuous process that evolves as the organization scales. However, you can lay a strong foundation by mapping out a detailed collaboration plan for handling customer issues first. Be clear on each team’s responsibilities and when they need to hand the issue over to the other party. 

Things can get tricky, especially if you’re building out this process for the first time. So, I asked Laura to explain how her team typically collaborates with Vitally's CSMs to de-escalate a tough customer situation. 

When the Customer Reaches Out

The Support team is usually the first point of contact with a frustrated customer. When they reach out to us, our first move is to figure out why they’re upset. Depending on those answers, we’ll know whether to handle the issue independently or loop in the other teams. 

Sometimes, a customer is really upset and wants to vent. That’s something we can handle. As soon as they feel heard, they relax and become more patient. Then, we can gradually resolve the issue. 

Related: Use our Client Escalation Blueprint to smooth out rocky customer experiences.

When to Loop in Other Teams

If the customer is reaching out about something outside our scope, like a billing or product problem, we’ll need to involve the teams handling those issues. In Vitally, we can view all the points of contact (POCs) for a particular customer so we know the exact account manager or product person to reach. We ping them and say, “Hey, heads up, this customer reached out to us. Here's a quick summary of the issue so that everyone’s on the same page.” 

When the Customer Is a Churn Risk

If the customer is still very upset and likely to churn, we loop in the CS team. We give them a rundown of the situation and what we’ve done so far and hand the customer over to them. At this point, the CSM might set up a call with the customer or share a message we can send to the customer to get them back to the negotiating table.

Learn more: How to build a Customer Success process

4. Implement a CSP

At the early stages of the business, you can coordinate CS and Support functions out of a CRM or project management software. But as the business scales, you’ll discover that these tools lack the core features for building out a full-fledged customer-facing team. That’s when it’s time to invest in a Customer Success Platform (CSP)

A CSP like Vitally serves as a single source of truth for customer data and activity tracking. It will help your Success and Support teams to: 

Stay Aligned on Team Projects and Tasks Across the Board

Vitally's collaboration features make it easy for teams to share information and resolve customer issues. 

Take Docs, for example. It’s a personalized workspace powered by customer data. Here, see what everyone else is working on with regard to a customer, share comments and feedback about issues so everyone is on the same page, and make decisions backed by real-time data. 

“All our conversations get synced into Vitally for visibility. I like that I can add internal comments in Vitally to summarize conversations so the CSM doesn't have to read everything. They can grab the context quickly and jump in to resolve the issue,” says Laura.

customer success and support alignment and collaboration

Track Customer Interactions in One Place

You can connect your business inbox and ticketing tools to seamlessly manage customer interactions from start to finish in one place. 

For example, you can track and respond to customer emails from Vitally. You can also set up automated messages like welcome emails to new customers or win-back emails to re-engage churned customers. All of these conversations are personalized with real-time data, allowing you to deliver high-touch customer experiences at scale. 

Integrate Your Tech Stack to Create a Central Customer Data Platform

Bring all your customer information to one place with Vitally’s third-party integrations

For example, you can sync Vitally with Slack to share notes and task updates with team members who aren’t actively working on a project. Vitally also supports Zapier integration, allowing you to connect your CSP to over 1,000 applications for added functionality.

Learn more: The most useful Zapier integrations for Vitally

Create Visibility for Customer Data 

Laura uses Vitally’s Cards and Decks feature to streamline important customer information for her team and guide customer conversations.  

“I created a technical support deck with several customer data points, such as their assigned CSM, health scores, conversation history, and other important information about the customer lifecycle. This information helps us approach customer conversations with the right context. For example, if we know that a customer has poor health scores and is a churn risk, we’ll be more careful with the way that we talk to them and provide a bit more hand-holding.”

Learn more: How to Build a Customer Health Score by Lifecycle Stage

5. Share Information

Ensure that your CS and Support teams have access to the same information about customers and your business. Prioritize the following: 

Sharing Information About Customer Initiatives  

Many organizations exclude Support from important customer initiatives with the excuse that it doesn’t affect them. But the truth is, everything that affects the customer affects the Support team, so they must be carried along. 

“My mantra is simple: If it concerns the customers, it concerns Support. It might not affect us directly. But if there’s a possibility that the customer will reach out to us with questions about the initiative, then we need to be fully involved in that decision-making process,” says Laura. 

As a Customer Support leader, it’s your job to advocate for your team and ensure they aren’t left out of customer initiatives. 

Creating a Knowledge Base 

Create an internal knowledge base where your Support and Success teams can access information (like templates, help videos, and the like) to help them deliver the best customer experiences. The knowledge base should also detail how customer teams should collaborate with cross-functional departments like Sales and Product.

Vitally can help here. You can create a knowledge base hub with help documents and tutorials for different customer processes like onboarding and best practices for team collaboration. 

Learn more: How to create a Hub in Vitally

Facilitating Peer Conversations 

Create opportunities for the Support and CS teams to learn from each other. Laura does this by organizing technical support meetings for all customer-facing teams. 

“We hold technical support meetings every morning and afternoon, which any Solutions Architect, CSM, or Technical Support Manager can attend to ask their peers questions. These meetings also help us surface recurring customer issues for which we can build long-term solutions. We also host support hours with customers, CSMs, and technical support specialists, where we discuss customer issues live,” Laura explained.

Create a Culture of Collaboration for Your Organization 

Enabling healthy collaboration between Support and CS teams is a great place to start, but it doesn’t end there. You need to extend this culture to other cross-functional teams so everyone can work together smoothly to achieve the organization’s goals.

Enjoyed reading this? Check out our in-depth guides for improving collaboration between CS and Product teams, or explore other resources in the Success Network. And if you’re looking for a CSP that’s purpose-built for cross-departmental collaboration, check out this interactive platform tour of Vitally!

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