Sometimes it really does take a village. When it comes to tackling customer support challenges, this much is clear: The one-on-one models that predominated in the 20th Century don’t cut it any longer. Not in a 24×7 era where successful customer service outcomes often get measured in minutes, not hours or days.

Customer service was once defined by interactions in person or over the phone. Today’s customers still expect a phone support option, but they also expect companies to offer chat, video chat, support via social channels, and self-service. And that raises interesting questions about the future of support and service—especially for agents, who often have to work together across shifts, channels, time zones, and company divisions to get customers the help they need.

Previously, we wrote about scalable support. An important component of that story is wrapped up with a company’s ability to retool in ways that encourage more flexible and collaborative approaches to customer service—approaches that don’t limit the interaction to one service agent and one customer. It’s an idea that’s captured the attention of some of the leading thinkers in the customer service arena who see it as a harbinger for the field.

This can be a hard process that involves breaking out of time-honored structures and transforming the organization. Agents often wind up getting measured by different criteria than was the norm in more traditional customer service organizations. But the potential upside is enormous. When agents are motivated and rewarded for working together to provide the right answers and to maintain internal and external knowledgebases, the effort pays off with more customer loyalty as teams work together to better deliver on customers’ unique expectations. And better yet, it scales.

On a more granular level, this will free up teams to work together on tickets and help provide higher quality service overall. When needed, the veterans can jump into tickets and help out or pull in people from other parts of the organization without fear of getting in each other’s way or duplicating efforts. It’s true collaboration.

These new ways of working are always top of mind for our product team at Zendesk—it’s reflected in our philosophy to design software that’s so simple to use that agents won’t waste time they could be spending helping customers. ​Even seemingly small tweaks to save agents’ time or to work together more closely and productively add up to a greater focus on what really matters: the customer.

Some of the Zendesk features that are specifically designed to improve agent productivity and teamwork include:

  • Live ticket updates. A modern approach to collaborating where changes are visible as they happen
  • Light agents. Bring in the right people to comment internally, even if they’re not on your support team
  • Custom agent roles. Give specific rights and access to certain users so you can invite in whoever you need without fear of overstepping boundaries
  • Internal chat. Use Zopim (or integrate with your preferred chat tool) so agents can communicate quickly to resolve issues

And we have more in the works—look for new features in the coming months that will keep reducing inefficiencies for your agents and keep them working together more easily.

When done well, the technology fades into the background where it does what it needs to do to help, but doesn’t get in your way or waste time. The upshot: better communication and collaboration tools, more intuitive self-service options, and a more streamlined way to deliver service across customer groups. Without sacrificing quality or dramatically increasing costs, companies can concentrate on the human touch of more personal and meaningful customer experiences.