Scaling customer support is an exciting moment in a company’s life. It usually means you’ve been doing well, expanding your market and drawing in new customers. But it also can signal a time of difficulty and possible danger. As you grow, you need to maintain − or even improve − the quality of your customer service to meet the growing demand, and this is no easy task.
The easy answer to dealing with an increased volume of customer support tickets is to hire more agents. However, this can be expensive, and is only part of the solution, as hiring a talented team is yet another of the many challenges to deal with when your company is growing. When confronted with a bulging customer-support inbox, first take a good look at the nature of the problem.
Find out why you need to scale customer support
Quite often you can predict the need for increased customer support ahead of time. Did you just release a new product or make changes to an old one? Is your website having problems? Analyze your support tickets and divide them into categories. Are they:
- Coming from new or old customers?
- Concerning problems that are:
- Unique or similar?
- Temporary or long-term?
Unique problems will probably always need the assistance of a human being, but when many customers come in with the same problem it can indicate a need for automation − or signal a problem that should be addressed by a different department of your growing company. If you get a lot of complaints about shipping, for instance, it might be time to look for a new shipping partner, not scale customer support.
Make the most of the customer support team you have
If you’ve taken a close look at your influx of new support tickets and have determined that they come from new customers with new problems, give yourself a pat on the back. Scaling customer support in these circumstances is a problem all companies would love to have.
Your customer support team is probably one of the reasons your company is doing so well, so they’re due some appreciation as well.
A team member that has been with you from the beginning and understands the value of each customer is worth more than a new hire with a superficial understanding of the business. They’ll have an intimate understanding of the process and will have insights to share, so getting their input is a good idea.
When you know the worst customer service pain points – for both agents and customers – you can come up with ways to solve them.
Increase agent efficiency
Of course, one of the biggest roadblocks to efficiency is agent churn, so keeping your team engaged is a top priority. Are your agents spending a lot of time doing repetitive tasks that could be handled better?
For instance, after-call work (ACW) is a necessary but often time-consuming process that can be tedious and frustrating for agents. Making the process faster, easier, and more fun frees up their time to deal with customers and improves job satisfaction as well.
Macros can automate common replies so that your agents don’t need to type out the same thing over and over.
A centralized support-ticket inbox gives your supervisors a constantly-updated overview of the day’s work situation. Also, when agents are feeling stuck with a query, they can search for how similar problems were handled in the past instead of interrupting a supervisor or coworker.
Good automation can boost customer satisfaction
Millennials are especially good at navigating an automated system – the Center for Generational Kinetics found that 65% of Americans feel more bonded to a brand when they are able to solve a problem for themselves. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment that transfers to your company.
Increasingly tech-savvy customers are good at finding answers to their problems without needing to call customer service – 91% of customers would be happy to use a knowledge base if one is available. Customers want quick answers to their questions, and a well-written FAQ is the first line of defense here.
Your knowledge base should be well-organized and easily searchable. Your customers are accustomed to online searches and will expect your database to be at least as easy and intuitive as Google.
Bad automation alienates customers
Everyone has a horror story about being stuck in IVR hell when trying to make a customer service call.
A chatbot that doesn’t understand your customer or misdirects them is worse than none at all. One of the worst decisions a company can make is to require customers to go through an automated process before they can make in-person contact.
Automation can make a transaction quick and easy, but careful as it can also decrease the personal element, that sense of caring and understanding that can be crucial to customers bonding with your brand. New customers need it the most, but in general 83% of customers need some type of help when making an online purchase.
The key to good automation is to use it judiciously, and test to make sure it’s doing its job well. Check in regularly with customers and agents to see which parts of the automated process are doing their job – making transactions faster, smoother, and more efficient – and which are more trouble than they’re worth.
Choose the right channels
Customers expect to be able to reach you through a variety of channels: email, telephone, online chat, and social media are among the biggest. Some of these channels are more efficient than others – for instance, Airbnb found that a customer service telephone call was six times more expensive than a live chat transaction.
Of course, each business is unique. If many of your problems involve real-time troubleshooting, a telephone call might be more efficient. If most of your customers are Baby Boomers, they’ll probably prefer to talk to someone in person.
Scaling customer support is an exciting time of transition for your company. It’s important to be sensitive to the needs of your customers and your support team as well. The key is to ask both groups for their feedback and make continual adjustments. That way, you can grow your business while keeping growing pains to a minimum and maintaining the qualities that make it popular with customers in the first place.