Effective DevOps processes that bridge the distance between our web operations team and the developer teams on the customer side are an important element of our value proposition and thus our business model. The definition of the CAMS values of DevOps makes it clear that this requires lowering the barriers for communication and collaboration:
"DevOps is mostly about breaking down barriers between teams. An enormous amount of time is wasted with tickets sitting in queues, or individuals writing handoff documentation for the person sitting right next to them. In pathological organizations it is unsafe to ask other people questions or to look for help outside of official channels. In healthy organizations, such behavior is rewarded and supported with inquiry into why existing processes fail."
That's why chat is an integral part of our tech support tools. While other IT service providers try to shield themselves from support requests behind web portals and ticket systems, we embrace the direct interaction between our engineers and the users of our managed services.
With Intercom integrated directly into the freistilbox Dashboard, customer communication is efficient and easy. It provides support agents with a simple interface that displays important customer details right next to the message thread.
The synchronous nature of chat is a challenge, especially for a small support team which is at the same time responsible for running our IT infrastructure (after all, we're highly qualified web operations engineers, not just call center agents). Customers can (and will) reasonably expect swift response to their chat requests. Intercom mitigates this challenge by setting realistic expectations and allowing a fallback to email. When a customer opens the chat dialog, they're presented with the avatars of our most recently active team members and an estimate of how quickly we're likely to respond. In case the customer leaves the website before we're able to send a response, it will be emailed to them automatically; the thread can then be resumed via email or back in the chat interface.
During business hours, we aim at responding to a new request within 5 minutes.
To keep the conversation flowing, make sure to keep your attention on the message timeline. If your answer will be delayed by work on your part, let the customer know right away ("I'll go and check this and be right back.", "I'm sorry, something's come up — is it okay if I'm off for a few minutes?")
We encourage adding a human touch to our communication. We're neither robots nor corporate lawyers, so let's not talk like them. 😉
Using emojis is an easy way to make a conversation more colloquial, and Intercom supports this by enlarging emojis that are not accompanied by text. It's also perfectly fine to detour into social chat (e.g. "How's the weather over there?", "TGIF, right?") if the situation allows it.
After a case is finished, it is a good way to conclude with an offer to continue: "Is there anything else I can help you with?" This leaves the decision to end the conversation to the customer.
Not every issue can effectively be dealt with via chat. If for example a support case requires more detailed research or the involvement of other team members, creating a support ticket that can be answered more effectively at a later time shows respect for both our and the customer's time.
We use Zendesk to manage support requests from our customers.