How to scale your customer support capabilities
Updated: Jan 28, 2022
Are your customer support requests piling up? Convinced that the only way to ease the burden on your team is to hire more agents? As your business continues to grow, building a sustainable support strategy is all about finding ways to do more with less. So before you go investing in new hires, try out these ways to scale your support capabilities.
TL;DR Resource management tools help support teams to stay ahead of increasing complexity by creating more efficient (and enjoyable) customer interactions.
Put your knowledge first with self-service
So your business is growing and acquiring more customers? That’s a good thing! But as the saying goes, “More customers, more problems.” However as a support leader this doesn’t have to mean more headaches for you and your team. There are many ways to tame spiking ticket volumes, but the most high-impact, low-effort step is knowledge sharing – putting your product expertise in a place where customers can easily find it. Not every question requires your time, and not every customer wants to speak with an agent. In fact, 92% say they would use self-service support if it’s available.
You can start cutting down on the number of incoming support requests with knowledge base software that contains answers to frequently asked customer questions. According to the Harvard Business Review, simply improving your help section can reduce the number of calls. By skimming that layer of support requests off the top, you’re now left with a manageable volume of more meaningful customer interactions.
Automate repeating tasks
Not all jobs can be automated, which is why support agents aren’t going anywhere. However, customer support automation is possible for a surprising number of tasks – a staggering 29% according to McKinsey.
Everyday repetitive tasks can be automated to increase the operational efficiency of your support team.
Select who in the support organization will get a heads-up when it’s extra busy with calls or tickets.
Close resolved cases or ones without replies automatically after 72 hours so they don't fill up your pending tickets.
Automatically respond to or end a chat when customers don't reply.
A call is taking too long? Notify the relevant person when a call is not efficient and not getting resolved.
It’s also possible to script various processes within the support organization with business process automation software. Doing this helps you provide proactive support for a better customer experience.
Automatically assign tickets to agents and groups to make sure tickets don't fall through the cracks.
When a ticket gets a negative satisfaction rating, a relevant team member can immediately address the issue.
Keep track of your agents' performance levels by being notified when they are not hitting their call performance targets.
“You don’t always need extra hands to scale a support center. What type of support are you doing today that can be automated? This is the first and best way to scale before you take on the significant cost of additional agents.
– Nate Brown, Founder of Customer Centric Support
Document your most critical processes
When most support teams are just starting out, chances are they’re small enough to get away with ‘unspoken rules’ because everyone just knows how things are done and where certain information is kept. But as your department grows in size, certain informal practices need to be formalized as protocols. When founding members of your team leave, they take with them a great deal of ‘legacy knowledge’ that is very hard to replace. Since support departments have a notoriously high turnover-rate, this results in many support teams having to ‘start over’ as they grow, causing them to bleed efficiency along the way.
To avoid the endless shoulder-tapping that used to pass for a culture of ‘knowledge sharing’, well organized support teams must invest in an internal knowledge management system. This means having a shared structure in place so that when a product specialist moves on, they leave a repository of knowledge, rather than a gaping void. Losing a product expert can cause a temporary disruption in workflows, but it shouldn’t be a drain on your organizational proficiency.
Fortune 500 companies lose at least $31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge.
– International Data Corp. (IDC)
Creating accurate and up-to-date documentation is crucial for every organization, but especially for customer support teams. Easily searchable documentation will help your customer support team to react to any feedback quickly and accurately.
Let’s suppose there’s a critical error and customers are temporarily unable to use your product or service – do you have a crisis plan in place so your agents can start providing help immediately, or will you need to train them on the fly if that happens?
When everyone in your support organization knows what to do at all times, it saves you from having to support your agents, and allows you to simply support your customers.
Every job has a learning curve and the employee onboarding process takes time and company resources to implement, especially when staffing out a new team, office, or location. Good knowledge management helps drastically reduce that time with a well documented onboarding plan. This ensures that new employees will be ready to add to your team’s overall productivity from day one.
Consider Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
For companies that are scaling fast, another alternative to hiring an in-house team is to enlist the help of professionals, commonly known as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). These are dedicated, off-site contact centers that train teams of support experts who take over the more routine tickets so your team can attend to VIP customers.
A BPO can help you reduce costs while still delivering top-notch customer support, as opposed to hiring a new customer service representative. For instance, if you’re running a sales website and run into issues with your chatbots, outsourcing the chatbot solution to a company can give your staff more time to focus on building new and innovative experiences.
BPOs allow companies to scale the reach of their customer care without necessarily growing the size of their support department in a way that’s cost-effective and makes the most of existing resources. For companies that support an international user base but don’t necessarily have the bandwidth to manage separate contact centers across the globe, this is where BPOs are an especially attractive option – an external team will handle any day-to-day queries while your team can focus on improving support processes.
As your business continues to grow in revenue and company size, it can seem natural to match that with a larger support department. But before you go interviewing new agents and adding to your headcount, consider growing the support capabilities of your current team.
By leveraging some of these techniques, you’ll build greater efficiency with the agents you already have in place, while creating more enjoyable customer interactions.