How to Build Trust and Understanding Between Product and Support?
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
// This is part 5 / 5 of a blog series written in collaboration with Rejoy. If you haven’t already, please read our previous post on how to incentivize the collaboration system.
If you want to have effective teams, you need to have trust between the teams. This is particularly true in the case of SaaS companies, where the teams in charge of developing the product and offering support are separate departments.
It will be difficult to get things done if you don't trust the people you're collaborating with. This can lead to tension and conflict, which can ultimately impact the quality of the product and the level of customer satisfaction.
Fortunately, there are ways to build trust between teams. Trust and understanding can be built through an organization-wide system, knowledge sharing, and incentives as mentioned in our previous posts. But there are also individual activities that do support this goal. These include aspects like honesty, respect for one another, and dependability. If team members feel they can rely on each other and are working towards the same goal, it creates a positive and productive work environment where everyone can do their best.
In this article, we share some ideas to ensure that your product and support teams can build trust in each other. We hope you find some of them suitable for your organization!
Different departments and teams often have different metrics for success, and this can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings. An easy way to avoid this is to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the goals of each team. If everyone knows what they're working towards, it'll be easier to understand each other's decisions.
Success in product teams is measured in terms of the success of the product in the market. These include business metrics such as revenue, retention, and usage as well as engineering metrics like availability, latency, and throughput. Overall, product teams are measuring longer-term product success for the broader market.
On the other hand, in support, customer satisfaction - which is a result of how quickly and helpfully a representative responds—is used to measure success. Standard metrics are time to first response, resolution time, and the number of escalations to the engineering team. This means that support needs to do everything in their power to provide answers to the customer in a timely manner and be as independent as possible in their troubleshooting.
By understanding each other’s objectives, it is possible to work together more effectively and achieve greater success as a company. Building comprehension of different teams and departments could be a part of a new employee onboarding process so that they’ll get to know other teams' roles and objectives immediately when jumping into their role.
Department-specific KPIs, which require collaboration between the teams, can help to build an understanding of their impact on other teams’ success.
Example1: KPI for support in the next quarter is to reduce resolution time, which means that one action step is to reduce the escalation rate to engineering from 50% to 40%. To make this happen, the engineering team needs to provide enough information and tools for the support team to handle inquiries on their own. This action step in the KPIs objective helps teams to understand the importance of the other team and allows them to clearly see how support is everyone's job in the company.
Example 2: KPI for product in the next quarter is to increase the revenue of the product and decrease infrastructure maintenance costs. To make this happen, support teams can collate bugs related to technical infrastructure as well as feature requests from customers that could increase revenue.
“Walk a day in my shoes”
To build a strong collaboration, it is important for team members to understand what day-to-day work looks like in the other team. This can be accomplished by spending time with the other team, observing their work and daily tasks, and talking to team members about their roles and responsibilities. By doing this, teams can learn about the different processes and procedures that are used in order to complete tasks.
One of the common frustrations from support side is wondering why a specific bug fix takes so long from engineering. Shadowing and seeing engineering daily work can also help support to understand why “a small thing to fix”, might not be that small after all.
On the other hand, by shadowing support, engineers can get a better understanding of how the customers behave, what their needs are, and the complexity (or simplicity) of their questions.
In a time of a remote working environment and distributed teams, this can be still done by screen sharing and shadowing remotely.
Experiencing the challenges firsthand is usually the best way to build an understanding of anything. Actually feeling and experiencing pain is a very efficient way to change one’s behavior and thinking.
Depending on the company, one idea is to put every new engineer to work in support for a period of time. It would not only allow them to learn about the product and maybe come up with good ideas through a fresh pair of eyes, but it helps to build an understanding of the daily job of support team. Note: If you proceed with this, make sure to organize a quick customer support training or set up a buddy system to proofread messages before engineers send them to the customer. This secures, that the quality of the support remains at the desired level.
In the same way, support can get a glimpse of the work experience in product teams by participating in bug bashes, suggesting new features to help product managers, and being part of engineering hackathons.
By understanding the work that is done by the other team, teams can come up with ways to help out or support each other.
Engineers visiting support team’s team meetings
Time is the most valuable asset that one can give. Therefore, when an engineer is visiting support teams’ meetings, it demonstrates extremely well that they care about what is happening in support. Their visits can also be used to ask questions or give topical updates to the support team.
Staying in touch outside of tickets
When big decisions are made, product and support should have a seat at the table. Both departments bring unique perspectives and skillsets to the table, and both are essential for making successful decisions around the product. By working together, product and support can not only ensure that big decisions take into account the needs of all stakeholders, but these discussions help to keep the conversation channel open also outside the tickets.
Especially in smaller companies, building personal relationships with other team members is key to increasing trust and collaboration. Doing so helps to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable working together and sharing ideas.
Plus, getting to know your teammates on a personal level can make working together more enjoyable. So instead of contacting only when you need something from the other team, encourage team members to schedule a weekly 15-min coffee break or let Slack play the lottery for you.
To succeed in building trust between these teams, it is important to get buy-in from both teams. If teams do not see value in this collaboration, they won’t be taking the action or interested in improving the partnership.
It is also a good idea to get a baseline of the current situation, e.g., amount of escalations, resolution time, and qualitative survey about the collaboration. This allows you to then see how improvements have impacted you, and it works as an extra motivation to keep going.
Finally, it's essential to remember that trust takes time to build. It's not something that happens overnight, so don't expect it to!