Many B2B (business-to-business) companies are going through a fundamental shift in how they interact with customers. The days of the “account rep” – the single point of contact within a business – can still exist but have changed significantly. Instead of having all conversations funnel through a single person who seeks out answers from different departments, many businesses now employ support agents. These agents not only specialize in answering customer questions but save time for both the rep (no need to track down who has the right answer) and the customer (can ask questions directly to specialized employees).

So what are some ways to build and improve upon customer support teams? Here are 4 techniques leading businesses utilize in supporting their customers…

1) Don’t take a “one and done” approach – This isn’t college basketball for all you sports fans out there. When a ticket comes in, you want to make sure agents understand that, especially in B2B, this ticket will not stand alone and it will be just a small part of a greater customer conversation. Make sure you have some sort of customer support software so agents can view and understand how other agents have interacted with this company in the past. This is important for many reasons but in particular to prevent something customers absolutely hate – being told to try the same solution twice.

2) Promote collaboration to solve issues – Customer support agents come from all walks of life and have a wide array of experiences. For example, a support team for an IT company could have agent backgrounds ranging from telecommunications to computer hardware. A good support team uses their collective knowledge to solve issues and doesn’t pin tickets on agents that may be troublesome for them to solve alone. Once configured, collaborative customer support software can route tickets automatically so any issues about a specific topic or theme go directly to the people who specialize in this area. Within the software, groups of agents can then work together to solve tickets quickly. Encouraging agents to communicate through internal chat within support software can also help in addressing customer issues more efficiently.

3) Test (and train) technical proficiencies – Regardless of the industry you are supporting, the need for agents with technology skills is increasing. Especially in the B2B world, more and more companies are moving away from traditional support models to focus on omnichannel support software as it saves both time and money. With this said, it’s important when building a team to make sure there’s a strong history of technology proficiency in the agents you employ. A potential agent may have strong phone skills, but if they struggle with online support it could be a concern. Also make sure to take the time to train agents when new software releases occur – there are often new features that can save the company even more time and money and it’s a lost opportunity if agents don’t know how to use them.

4) Communicate the big picture – It’s no secret that especially in very large companies a support department can feel siloed from the rest of the organization. Make sure your support team understands how the tickets they respond to impact the business at the bottom line and that their contributions are important. It’s also crucial to include support professionals in large company meetings and information sessions. It may seem counter-intuitive as sometimes agents are seen as inferior due to job title, but remember these are people who communicate with your customers on a regular basis. For example, if a software company should inform agents that an update with a new feature is coming out next week – this enables them to respond better to customers by saying “that will be out next week” instead of “we don’t have that”. It also helps to make the support team feel included and as a result take pride in their role with the company.

In conclusion, creating a successful customer support team is all about properly educating and training agents to empower them to make the right decisions when assisting customers. Not only will these agents free up the time of other employees and customers, but positive customer interactions lead to increased customer satisfaction ratings, additional referral business, and so much more. Don’t be afraid to be an innovator in B2B and beat your competition with a premier support offering!