8 Ways for Support Teams to Use the Time That AI Saves

The day you move into a larger house, when all your possessions have been dropped into the corners and whole rooms remain empty, anything seems possible. You’ll have a home gym! A library! An indoor paddock for your tiny horse

A scant few months later, though, you already have too much stuff, as if it’s been multiplying during the night like a gremlin that fell into the bath. Your opportunity for change has come and gone. 

Customer support teams are about to move house, metaphorically, from a pre-AI world into one where AI is a standard inclusion. We will all have AI tools handling some part of our workload, whether in organizing incoming support, handling reporting, or replying directly to customer questions.

As that future arrives, just for a short while there will be an opportunity to spend that saved time on delivering better customer service in other ways. We should all stake our claims on that time now, before budgets and workloads and headcounts catch up and absorb it all.

Here are eight options to consider, listed in no particular order. Some are reasonably quick while others could go on indefinitely. Pick the projects that fit your skills, capacity, and interests, and start moving now before anyone else notices.

1. Offer professional services

What could you do for your customers that they would be willing to pay for? In the SaaS world there are some common options like custom integrations, onboarding assistance, and consulting on product usage and business processes.

If some of the necessary-but-basic support can be automated, then your skilled and experienced staff might be available to work on less scalable but more valuable one-on-one services.

How to start:

Review your support requests and make note of services that people have requested in the past (particularly the ones you have said “no” to.) Talk to some of those customers about what they might pay for such services. 

2. Create scalable success content

Teaching people one-on-one is effective, especially if they are willing to pay for it, but in many businesses the ratio of customers to staff is so high that it is mostly impractical.

Having your expert support team use their newly available time to turn individual answers into wider advice will allow many more people to benefit from it. Go beyond answering explicit questions, and look for advice on the “why” behind different approaches to solving whatever problem your business is intended to solve.

How to start:

Identify those long-term customers who have scaled up while using your services or products, and talk to them about what worked, what didn’t, and where they could have used some help. Use their insights to inform your content. 

3. Create an AI-specific knowledge base

Knowledge bases are typically created for your customers to read, but every support team has tons of additional background information, historical context, alternate explanations, useful metaphors, and all sorts of variations on the “correct” answers.

In the future, you will want your AI tools to be able to access all of that information too, so they can provide more nuanced and contextual answers to individual customers. If the information exists only inside your team’s beautiful skulls, it cannot be accessed elsewhere — at least until that creepy Matrix brain plug is invented.

How to start:

Don’t watch the last Matrix movie, it’s not worth it. Instead, start building an internal knowledge base to collect information from your team. Ask people to contribute their own personal snippets and insights, knowing it doesn’t have to be “customer ready.” If the AI tooling gets good enough, you’ll be able to use it as an input, and even if not it, will be helpful for producing well-rounded support staff.

4. Redefine your quality metrics

Every team has their own internal benchmarks, whether explicit or implied, for what makes a “good” support experience. As AI tools handle a higher percentage of customer touch points, the way that quality is measured might need to change. 

If many or most of your customers’ interactions with support become self-service, how will you measure the quality of those interactions?

How to start:

Begin by laying out an ideal AI-first future customer journey: Where might their service interactions start and end? At each interaction point, think about the difference between a good and bad version and how you might measure the experience. Your most important metrics should reflect those points. 

5. Identify customer pinch points

Since “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” note the places in your product or service experience that generate the most friction. In the past you might not have had the capacity to investigate and report on those pinch points convincingly enough to get them fixed, so now may be your best chance.

How to start:

Talk to your business analysts or product leads as well as your support pros. Find out where customers are dropping out of trials or abandoning purchases, and investigate whether there is a role for human customer service in those moments. 

6. Get proactive

Related to the previous point, contact with customer support (whether live or by a timely automated message) can be much more important at certain times and in certain situations. Proactively offering advice at those times could contribute to real business growth.

How to start:

Work backward from the articles and answers you are often sending to people, and hunt for ways to surface that information right when they need it. Something like Help Scout’s Beacon might do the trick. 

7. Build key relationships

Strong relationships take time to build. The more time you spend talking with your customers, the better you will understand them and the more loyal they will be to you.

As more of their support interactions are automated or avoided, there is a risk that those relationships will stall or fade away. Replace basic support conversations with more meaningful “How can I help you get where you are going?” chats. 

How to start:

After answering the direct question a customer asks, take some time to ask a deeper question, one informed by their history with you, their business type, and their stated goals. Good listening makes good relationships. Be curious, listen well, and look for ways to be helpful to them.

8. Improve internal tools

How much of your time is spent struggling with unloved, out-of-date, or just insufficient internal tools? Your internal knowledge base system, or your back-end admin tools, those clunky ones you have slowly become used to. Now is the time to invest in their improvement.

How to start:

Pick a tool, any tool, that slows you down or makes you want to avoid using it. Start collecting some hard numbers on how much time you are spending on it, and match that with a narrative explaining the value of the tools’ output. That’s the basis of your pitch for some improvements.

The window is closing

There are times in which change is easier to achieve, and for customer support teams, this is one of them. Nobody knows exactly what a “normal” support team is going to look like a few years from now, so take the opportunity to help define it.

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