by Gregg Gregory
Date Published October 20, 2016 - Last Updated April 19, 2019

Ricardo, who is based in Scottsdale, AZ, was just sitting down to his desk a little before 6:00 AM when he received his first call of the day from Karlyn, a company sales rep in a Charlotte, NC hotel. She cannot log on to the network and needs to communicate some information to her team before her noon presentation to a new prospective client. Their company recently converted to a new, integrated, virtual desktop and, when she logged off the evening before, everything was working perfectly. Needless to say she is frustrated and in panic mode.

swarm support centerRicardo reassures Karlyn that he will take care of her situation quickly and begins to ask a few questions. After a couple of minutes, Ricardo determines that the issue appears to be something new to him. He understands the importance of her call and wants to help her as quickly as he can. Fortunately for Ricardo, just about three months earlier, his support center switched over to the concept of swarming, using his entire team to solve Karlyn’s challenge.

Ricardo told Karlyn that he would get to work on her issue immediately and get back with her in less than 30 minutes. He turned to two of his colleagues and they swarmed to solve Karlyn's issue. Ricardo was back on the phone with Karlyn in less than 20 minutes and had her back up and running shortly thereafter. Karlyn delivered a stellar presentation to the prospect and won a new client for the hotel.

After Karlyn celebrated a little, she called Ricardo back to share the good news with him and thank him for his support. In reality, it was the entire support center team that helped Karlyn win that new client.

So what is swarming, and how is it different than the tech support model you may be utilizing currently? With traditional tier-based service, when a unique challenge arises, the support center agent must do one of the following:

  • Do the research themselves
  • Escalate the call to the next level

There is no doubt that either of these options can get the issue resolved. Under the more traditional tier-based model, Karlyn would have called in, Ricardo would not have been able to help her, and she would have, probably, been escalated to Level 2 support. With the time difference between Scottsdale, AZ, and Charlotte, NC, it is likely that Karlyn might not have gotten a call back for upwards of an hour, making her more anxious and frustrated by the minute. Even if the problem was solved in 90 minutes, her anxiety level would have been so high it could have affected her presentation and possibly lost a new client. Additionally, what would Ricardo have learned?

Candidly, we realize that tier-based support is a pre-defined linear process that was developed around stove pipes and silos. In today’s fast-paced environment, it simply does not meet the expectations of our customers and, when we fail to meet our customer expectations, they will go elsewhere. This is true for internal as well as external customers.

When we fail to meet our customer expectations, they will go elsewhere.
Tweet: When we fail to meet our customer expectations, they will go elsewhere. @TeamsRock @ThinkHDI +

One of the greatest benefits to swarming is that it not only gets the problem resolved, it usually happens much more quickly. Additionally, this process also becomes a great training mechanism for front-line employees. This, in turn, increases morale and overall productivity, not to mention higher customer satisfaction scores. Beyond the immediate success, the idea of Swarming to Serve increases employee engagement, which increases employee loyalty—a win-win for the team, the department, and the organization as a whole.

The process of swarming can be compared to the Mastermind Principle frequently referred to by Andrew Carnegie and written about by Napoleon Hill in his book Think and Grow Rich, where he said, "No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind." He went on to say that this third mind is a Master Mind. Have you ever brainstormed ideas with one or two others and the results of that brainstorming amazed everyone?

When it comes to collaboration and teamwork, people, especially children, naturally want to collaborate and yet, for years in school it was frowned upon. Some businesses felt that if you collaborated, you were weak, and no one wanted to appear weak, especially to their boss. Today, we know that is absolutely not the case and that we can optimize our efforts when we collaborate.

Here are 7 strategies to make swarming work for you:

  1. The person who takes the call owns it through resolution. Remember that Ricardo told Karlyn he would call her back, and he did, with the resolution.
  2. Never forget that swarming success begins with trust. Ricardo needed to trust that his colleagues would not use his asking for help as a sign of weakness and look down on him.
  3. Realize that every call does not need swarming. When a resolution can be reached with a single person, excellent. Don’t stop solving problems.
  4. Don’t over think your process. In this case, simple is truly more effective, and over-thinking can be the downfall to success. Keep your process simple.
  5. When establishing a swarming process, all those doing the collaboration design and build the process. They are the ones closest to the challenges, and this empowers them even more and reduces the anxiety of making changes.
  6. Be sure to share your team successes with other areas in your organization. The more your team shares in the successes, the higher their morale and energy soars.
  7. Managers and support team leaders are part of the swarming process. In fact, they are the coaches of the process and need be the early adopters of any new system.

When you are ready to launch your new swarming process, be sure to start with a team of successful collaborators as your beta test group. Since they already understand the collaborative process, they will be able to train other team members.

We have known for years how important it is for a basketball team to be team-centric. Now, by adopting the swarming model with your support center, you can bring the benefits of superb service to every customer, every day.

With more than 1,500 keynotes, breakout sessions, and training workshops under his belt, Gregg Gregory is the teambuilding mastermind America needs today. A Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) with more than 25 years working at all levels within in corporate America, Gregg’s experience goes beyond expectations. His expertise and articles have appeared in hundreds of business and trade publications, including and Boardroom Magazine, as well as appearing on Blog Talk Radio. Follow Gregg and Teams Rock on Twitter @TeamsRock and on Facebook and LinkedIn .

Tag(s): collaboration, customer experience, customer service, employee engagement, ITSM, IT service management, practices and processes, service design, service desk, support center, supportworld


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