At the beginning, customer service at startups is about having empathetic, caring people who are willing to not only respond rapidly to customers, but also are resourceful enough to make sure the problem gets solved. As teams grow, volume of customer interactions grows too, and at that point, an unstructured customer service team begins to get sloppy. What works with six people leaves a lot of room for error with sixty.
We are frequently asked about scaling customer service teams, so we decided to put together four "key" factors of scaling customer service. We got to these four from our founder's experiences scaling the customer service teams at HostGator and A Small Orange, as well as feedback from various companies we've spoken with about how they scaled their customer service teams.
4 Key to Scaling Customer Service Teams:
Use systems that allow for robust macros/hotkeys: As fast-growing companies add users, new users go through similar processes of learning the ins and outs of the new offering they've just invested in.
The result: the same few questions getting asked over and over again.
Having a way for agents to access common answers with two clicks (via email or chat) will enable them to handle far more tickets and chats than they'd be able to typing out the same answer every time.
Invest in systems that report everything: Collecting and analyzing data will allow your team to do a lot more for efficiency than just macros. Investing in a system that allows you to track team efficiency means that you'll be able to optimize in areas that you otherwise wouldn't have known needed optimizing.
A truly great system will even provide intelligent staffing suggestions based on volume increases and performance against SLAs, meaning the system could indicate your hiring needs before you hit them. Talk about scalable.
Help customers help themselves: When a team is small and a product new, there's often time to invest in high touch service that later becomes unscalable. Rather than becoming harder to reach, or hiring service people to keep up with the demand for high touch service, it's far easier to start changing customer behavior.
By implementing a friendly, searchable self-service system, customers are able to find the answer to their problem, driving down contact volume. If you're able to answer your five most common questions in the self-service system, you may be able to drive your contact volume down up to 80% (obviously depending on your product/service and its support needs), giving your team the ability to keep service levels excellent, while not harnessing your team with huge costs of growth.
Create mentorship on your customer service team(s): One of the hard parts about a team growing fast is how to get new employees ramped up. In the past, the CEO, or VP of Customer Service was able to sit and walk them through the ins and outs of their new job.
In a fast growing team, a great way to scale onboarding is to create a mentorship program. The VP of Customer Service designates a few "team" leaders (usually groups of 5-8). When a new service person joins the team after initial onboarding, the team leaders are responsible for overseeing drive time, extra training, and general onboarding. It creates growth opportunities within service teams, helps new employees get settled, and allows the leadership team to focus on continuing to provide great customer service as the team scales.
Rapid customer growth doesn't need to mean that your level of customer service suffers. As teams grow fast, implementing these systems will ensure that customer service continues to be excellent, while not becoming a money vacuum.
What helped you scale your customer service team? Let us know in the comments or @helpdotcom.