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6 Proven Hacks for Boosting Productivity in Customer-Centric Teams

Emily GregorLast updated on June 4, 2024
16 min

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It goes without saying. When it comes to customer-facing team productivity and performance, only a great quarter filled with met targets eases the pressure long enough for a few team high-fives. Once celebrations are over, the pressure is soon back at full volume with new, often-tougher KPIs.

Why “tougher”? When teams consistently meet targets, line-of-business managers know that big bosses start asking questions: All targets met? Are the KPIs… too easy? The truth is, smashed targets are usually thanks to an exceptional team workrate—not “easy KPIs”.

But there’s the problem. The better teams perform, the better they’re expected to perform next quarter. The more intense the pressure, the greater the cost of losing time to manual admin that distracts team focus from high-value prospect and customer interactions.

The good news? With the right combination of tools, skills, and these six proven work hacks, your teams can quickly improve team productivity and performance with an efficiency recapture rate of 85%. All while reducing the kind of cognitive stress and anxiety that can lead to personal outcomes worse than poor performance, such as burnout.

But wait. How can we call these productivity hacks “proven”? Because all the advice you’re about to read is applied daily by Aircall teams around the world.

Let’s start with a little housekeeping.

How to Improve Team Productivity and Performance: Balancing Skills With Automation

Generally speaking, there are two ways to improve team productivity and performance. Together, they combine your people’s inner skills and capabilities with extra capabilities sourced externally from tools that augment your team’s capacity to scale efficiency.

Effective planning and organizing

Waking up to a daily work plan is the ground-level foundation for sustaining productivity. That, combined with consistent time management, focus strategies, collaborative alignment, goals, and expectations-setting, plus clear ways of measuring efficiency.

Smart tools for automation

Once you have effective work planning and organizing structures in place, applied automation and team productivity tools help those plans and productivity structures stay on track. The aim should be to automate simple, repetitive tasks that build up and granular, low-value admin tasks.

Ok. Housekeeping over. Let’s unpack six hacks that’ll increase team efficiency.

#1: Keep Multitasking to a Minimum: Your Brain Will Thank You, and You’ll Actually Be More Productive

Even some of us familiar with the multitasking myth will quietly think to ourselves, It might be a myth, but I’m kind of good at it!. Trust us; this is a common misconception and error of thinking. No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, your cognition and measurable drops in mental performance will prove you wrong.

The truth is that multitasking only feels like you’re doing two or more things at once. Really, you’re quickly moving between tasks. It’s a frantic and constant shift of focus that has proven harmful effects on cognition.

These harmful effects on mental performance quickly translate to a “switch cost”. And that quickly adds up to productivity losses that can become quietly pervasive in customer-facing teams.

For a deep-dive into the harmful effects of multitasking, we recommend looking to books like Your Brain at Work by David Rock and Focus by Daniel Goleman.

How to reduce multitasking in sales teams: task grouping

Ok. We know that different tasks require different mental gears. Now imagine you’re a sales exec about to pick up the phone for two hours of intensive prospecting.

What’s your approach when prospects don’t pick up your call?

  • Dial

  • Leave a voicemail

  • Email the prospect

  • Log the activity in your CRM

  • Create a followup reminder

  • And repeat

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. This approach is incredibly common. But constantly switching between tasks and mental gears burns up more time and cognitive fuel than you think.

Instead, here’s an approach we use that we picked up from these Hubspot time-management tips that focus on task grouping.

  • Calculate how many “leave a voicemail” prospects you can call in two hours

  • Conduct research on only those prospects (ahead of your two-hour slot)

  • When it’s time to start calling, grab your list of researched prospects

  • Dial each prospect and leave a tailored voice message according to your research

  • Log the activity in your CRM and move onto the next prospect

  • Once you’re done with your prospecting list, schedule admin time

  • In your admin time, send all prospecting emails and schedule follow-ups

Train your sales team on this “task grouping” approach and you’ll be surprised by how much time, focus, and cognitive energy they’ll bank to reinvest in high-value workstreams.

How to reduce multitasking in support teams: The Pomodoro Technique

Since they’re often responding to incoming requests, support teams work more reactively than sales teams. That means fewer opportunities for workload planning.

When incoming customer queries increase without warning, so does the temptation to juggle more and more tasks. It’s a slippery slope. Before long, the “switch cost” of multitasking starts to take its toll on cognitive performance. Even the simplest tasks become effortful, taking longer to complete. Bye-bye productivity. But it doesn’t mean support teams can’t reduce multitasking.

So how can support managers help their team break the bad habits of task juggling and consistently improve team productivity?

Here’s one proven technique Aircall teams leverage effectively: The Pomodoro Technique.

  • At the start of their shift, ask support teams to create a list of tasks graded in order of importance. Consider using the ABCDE method in our fifth tip below.

  • Now set a countdown timer for 25 minutes (or use one of these Pomodoro timer apps).

  • In those 25 minutes, focus deeply on high-priority tasks such as customer complaint escalations. Turn off all nonessential notifications to avoid interruptions.

  • Once your 25 minutes of deep-focus time are up, it’s time for a five-minute break. This is your chance to check other emails and notifications before returning to another slot of focus time.

  • After every four focus sessions, take a 15- to 30-minute break.

Why is the Pomodoro Technique so effective for busy customer support teams? Setting aside time for focus and concentration is actually only one practical perk. The broader perk is psychological.

Because support teams work to strict SLAs, running out of time is a common stress factor. Instead of viewing each day as a giant ticking clock, the Pomodoro Technique  mentally breaks up the day into a series of bite-size productivity events or “Pomodoro slots”.

The catharsis that comes with completing each Pomodoro and having a five-minute break in-between keeps team productivity from stalling due to mental fatigue and anxiety.

Don’t thank us though; thank Francesco Crillo who developed the technique in the ’80s and even wrote an entire book about it.

#2: Overcoming “Won’t Do” Tasks: Help Teams Find Their Big Motivation

Even if you love your job, chances are there are certain tasks and responsibilities that you prefer over others. Although it’s perfectly natural, this love-hate relationship with different workloads can become an invisible challenge for managers striving to improve team productivity. Certain “won’t do” tasks that teams dread can become quietly neglected, impacting KPIs.

So what do you do about it? How can line-of-business managers turn “won’t do” task reluctance into a can-do attitude for increasing team performance?

One useful approach is “temptation bundling” that blends “won’t do” tasks with more stimulating or engaging activities.

Overcoming “won’t do” task reluctance in sales and support teams with temptation bundling

Sales teams are intrinsically motivated by one thing: making sales. That’s how they’ll hit those targets and win their commissions. What’s the catch? The path to sales can involve “won’t do” tasks like CRM admin that some salespeople shy away from.

One smart approach to helping salespeople reframe “won’t do” admin positively is temptation bundling, a term coined by the team of professors who conducted the study behind its origins.

Essentially, temptation bundling involves pairing activities that give instant gratification (like listening to music or a podcast on headphones) with less enjoyable admin (like sales CRM admin).

By combining admin chores with something gratifying, salespeople can actually start looking forward to admin time instead of viewing it with dread and reluctance.

There’s an added bonus to temptation bundling. Combining “won’t do” tasks with something a little more enjoyable also provides a period of mental rest. Suddenly, “won’t do” tasks can start to invigorate mental energy and productivity.

Overcoming “won’t do” task reluctance in support teams: Recharge and take charge

In support teams, “won’t do” tasks can include dealing with customer complaints and time-consuming administrative tasks like CRM housekeeping. For the latter, temptation bundling can also take the sting out of mind-numbing admin.

But what about awkward conversations with unhappy customers that rely on active engagement? Unfortunately, customer conversations just can’t be combined with more gratifying activities like listening to music.

We’ve already covered the Pomodoro Technique, for reducing multitasking in support teams. If you recall, step five of The Pomodoro Technique involves taking a 15- to 30-minute break.

When facing customer-complaint callbacks, schedule your customer callback—or similar “won’t do” tasks—for when you return to your desk after your long Pomodoro break.

Not only will you be able to approach complaint callbacks and other “won’t do” tasks with more mental energy, but you can also use your breaks to decide how to handle complaints. You’ll also handle things with a calmer confidence that can prevent customers from escalating situations.

#3: Inbox Zero: Declutter Your Mind and Productivity by Decluttering Your Emails

The inbox zero concept isn’t new. Reaching inbox zero is a goal often dreamt of and joked about in office environments and social media. But there’s more to the perks of inbox zero than having no more emails to answer, if only temporarily.

When it comes to improving team efficiency and productivity, the inbox zero idea can be surprisingly effective. That’s thanks to the cognitive catharsis that comes with cleaning up your inbox. By clearing the clutter, sales and support teams can also clear the way for better focus without that low-level anxiety that comes with the constant feeling of lurking emails that need your attention.

Achieving inbox zero for sales and support teams

Here are five simple steps toward inbox zero for line-of-business managers thinking about how to build a successful team and improve team performance.

End email redundancy

Ask teams to take a little time to finally unsubscribe from all those redundant newsletters and irrelevant email threads. Even if it means emailing colleagues to let them know being kept in CC is no longer relevant.

If it’s not for you, delegate

Make it clear to sales and support teams that delegation isn’t making someone else take care of it. Remind them what they’re responsible for and the fact that you can’t delegate responsibility. All other email requests that aren’t relevant to responsibilities can be delegated.

If it’s something quick, respond quickly

Most people are guilty of delaying responses to quick, simple emails. But leaving things for later adds up. Train teams to keep their to-do list lighter and prevent complaints by responding quickly to easy emails.

If it’s complicated, defer and communicate

Instead of losing momentum to complex queries that need more time and attention, come back to them. But don’t leave them in your inbox. Capture the deferred task outside of your inbox, create a reminder, and respond to the person to let them know you’re working on it.

Now get started

The final step to inbox zero is to work on the most important email tasks. Transfer those email tasks out of your inbox and get started. Now, you should have a clean inbox and reduced mental clutter that paves the way for increased productivity.

#4: Make Do Not Disturb More Than Just a Slack Status

Building a high-performing team is partly about knowing when priorities shift. Simple, right? Not really! To know when priorities shift, tool notifications can be useful, but not all notifications are important. The only way to know is to check—and this constant checking plays havoc with focus and team efficiency.

Maximizing the opportunity for deep work is about muting the distraction and notification overload, but that doesn’t mean cutting yourself off. Instead, leverage Do Not Disturb features.

Besides leveraging DND features you can also reduce distractions by consciously grouping them.

For example, how much more focused and less distracted could you be if you held meetings on meeting days and deep work on deep work days? Raise and discuss this possibility in your next team meeting—you might just get your way!

Leveraging Do Not Disturb time for sales teams

Modern tools now come with Do Not Disturb (DND) features that alert peers and colleagues that you’re not receiving notifications while you’re in DND mode. That way, they’ll know not to expect a response until later. It also shows that you’re focussed and organized.

In sales teams, being uninterruptible should be restricted to time alloted for repetitive admin like logging activity in your CRM or high-value actions like sales calls and product demos.

Leveraging Do Not Disturb time for support teams

Knowing when to deploy DND mode for support teams is trickier than it is for sales teams. That’s because support teams need to stay available and responsive to emerging requests.

So how can you leverage DND features in team productivity tools? The key is to be selective.

For example, if your goal is to resolve all urgent support tickets in a four-hour time slot, nothing else can be more important. That means setting personal notifications and tools to ‘Do Not Disturb’ for half of that  time. At the halfway mark, take a break, check notifications, and then go into deep work mode once more for the final push.

#5: Maximize Time Efficiency: The ABCDE Method

The ABCDE method is a super-simple and easy-to-implement technique for grading tasks, keeping workflows efficient,, and improving team productivity. Despite its deceptive simplicity, it’s also extremely effective.

Here’s how:

  • Create your weekly task list in no particular order.

  • Now allocate letters A to E to each task, with A representing the most urgent tasks and E representing the least urgent tasks.

  • From there, it’s easy to tackle your most urgent tasks first.

The value here isn’t in simply grading tasks for effective workload prioritization. The real advantage is in using the ABCDE technique as a team productivity tracker.

Leveraging ABCDE task grading in sales teams

Salespeople’s time is particularly precious. That’s why salespeople are often the first back to their desks after meetings.

To make the most of that time, have your salespeople apply the ABCDE method consistently for a quarter and track how much time is spent on A-to-E workflows. At the end of the quarter, gather your team to compare notes.

What you should see is a majority of time spent working on tasks tagged as A’s or B’s. In sales, that translates to new prospecting calls and ongoing lead-nurture interactions with existing prospects. C’s might be replying to important emails, D’s could be CRM admin, and E’s could be end-of-week workload planning as loose examples.

Over time, you should be able to use data gathered to assess how salespeople’s time can be better spent and what operational tweaks can help them improve sales team productivity.

Leveraging ABCDE task grading in support teams

In support teams, urgent and spontaneous customer needs can derail plans. This can make planning tricky.

Imagine that you’re in your final two hours on shift. You switch to less critical D and E tasks. Suddenly, an urgent support query lands in your inbox. It can’t wait. Suddenly, you find yourself firmly in A-grade task orientation.

What about those D and E tasks that you had planned? They may not be critical now, but they might become more urgent.

Support team managers can track and leverage ABCDE task-grading data to measure how much and how often admin tasks are being neglected thanks to emerging priorities.

For example, are A and B tasks, like high-priority complaints and live chats, preventing focus on CRM admin or low-priority emails?

Over time, resourcing and operational decisions can be made to increase team productivity by adapting workflows, realizing the need for new hires, or shifting utilization.

#6: Double Down on Efficiency With Productivity Automation Tools

So far, we’ve covered a few skills-based ways to improve team performance. But learning new skills for building highly productive teams should be complemented by a little external assistance. And that assistance can be found in abundance using these tools commonly used by high-performing sales and support teams.

Aircall: Call efficiency for productive, customer-centric teams

Over 13,000 companies worldwide equip their sales and support teams with Aircall’s zero-hardware cloud telephony. That’s partly thanks to Aircall’s leading app ecosystem of 100+ productivity integrations that make it super easy to connect with your favorite CRMs and business tools.

Here are some of the quantified and unquantified benefits of Aircall according to a commissioned Forrester Consulting study, The Total Economic Impact™ of Aircall:

  • One-click productivity integrations for performing repetitive tasks faster, saving up to eight minutes per person per hour.

  • Real-time analytics that enable real-time call performance monitoring and KPI benchmarking.

  • Call whispering and call recording that help sales managers optimize onboarding, training, and coaching

  • Tons of collaboration features such as like warm and cold call transfer, commenting, assignment, and shared inbox

Better still, Aircall’s Essentials starter bundle includes features only found in the mid- and top-tier packages of other cloud-phone providers. For example, IVR, call recording, and click-to-dial.

Aircall’s easy-to-use interface and smart features can bring productivity gains of up to eight minutes saved on manual admin per hour per person.

Calendar appointment booking tools: for automating demo Requests

Appointment booking tools are a great way of saving admin time while capturing more demo and prospect conversion opportunities. With a simple link, prospects can self-serve by scheduling a demo independently without needing more admin from your sales team.

Salesloft: for sales engagement automation

Salesloft integrates seamlessly with Aircall for productivity time saving via auto-logged call details. It’s also useful for automating sales engagement by offering detailed insights into sales opportunities and pipeline health.

Intercom: for unifying the entire customer journey

Intercom is unique in its ability to create a single, end-to-end channel of engagement across sales, marketing, and support. And guess what? Intercom also integrates with Aircall, just like Salesloft.

Yesware: For Automating Pipeline Management Data

Yesware is a neat, discreet tool for enriching your email inbox with sales engagement analytics. Instead of relying on hunches and intuition about sales lead quality, Yesware gives teams reliable insight about lead value.

Final Word: Team Productivity Is About Iterative Improvement

Here, we’ve explored a few proven ways to improve team performance in customer-centric sales and support environments. We know these techniques work because Aircall teams around the world use them daily.

But productivity gains—that balance careful planning, staying organized, and automation tools—don’t guarantee overnight miracles. Sure, some of these productivity hacks can bring overnight results, but building productive teams is about first measuring performance before finding and closing efficiency gaps.

Team productivity metrics, training, and communication. All these things and more must be leveraged to sustain a productive team long-term. And guess what? Aircall’s performance analytics capabilities give you the hard data you need to track and improve team productivity and performance now and in the long run. Need a quick Aircall demo?

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Published on October 11, 2022.

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