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How to scale customer service in your organization?

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Every business owner, when starting out, has aspirations of growing and scaling their business. They’d want to acquire more customers, expand the company, and maybe even branch out to other verticals.

But as a company scales, it faces bigger and more unique challenges. And one of the most prominent ones is in customer service. 

It’s one thing to provide support to a few customers when you’re relatively new in the market but a completely different ball game when you’re growing and have to deal with hundreds or even thousands of customers. 

What you used to do before – having John from Marketing or Wendy from Product wear the customer support staff hat – won’t work. You need to build a dedicated team for engaging with your customers. Not only that, but you’ll have to create processes and frameworks, and also invest in tools — to ensure that you can handle the load of queries coming in and deliver quality on-time support. 

Before we get into some actionable tips to scale your customer support function, let’s take a more detailed look at why you need to prioritize this activity.

Why scaling Customer Service is important? 

The answer to this question lies in the numbers.

  • A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price-or product-related – Bain & Company.
  • For every customer complaint, there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent –Lee Resource.
  • 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however, 91% of those will simply leave and never come back – 1Financial Training services.
  • A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs.
  • Happy customers who get their issue resolved, tell about 4-6 people about their experience. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs.

What you need to realize is that as you grow your customer base, the margin for error reduces. And if you don’t deliver consistently great experiences, your customers won’t just leave you but tell the world about it. 

Take the infamous ‘Dell Hell’ case where an angry customer created a blog to gather other angry customers who were ignored by Dell’s customer service. The movement got so big that it found its way into NY Times. 

Or the instance where United Airlines broke a musician’s expensive guitar and took forever to fix the situation. The musician went on to create a trilogy of “United Breaks Guitars” songs that clocked over 12.5 million negative impressions!

Agreed that both these incidents are isolated ones and are from 10 years ago but the takeaways from them are still relevant today – negative reviews can cause you to lose close to 70% of potential clients

Without proper tools and systems to address your customer service needs, you are planning to possibly become another viral sensation (not in a good way), or losing a potential customer that you even did not know you can have. 

Customer service is one of the essential features that must scale with your business. In this post, we will discuss several tips on how you can scale customer service, whilst delivering consistently great experiences.

1. Create the Right Environment

The real goal of scaling customer service is providing an environment that will allow your customer service specialists to be as efficient as possible. 

An environment where they will be able to spend less time on grunt work and more time on actually resolving critical customer issues. Creating extensive how-to guides that your team can refer to at any point and automating tasks that are a timesuck will help your support team make better use of their time and energy. 

Having the right environment in place is of course easier said than done. Your customer service reps must know where the corporate priorities are. Rackspace prides itself with a story where a support staff while on a call with a customer, hears that the client’s team is hungry and so, ordered them pizza while they were continuing to solve the matter.

2. Invest in onboarding

Onboarding is a key element of scaling customer support.

Onboarding can be as simple as just sending out a welcome email with some greetings and an explanation of further steps that the new customer should do. Or it can be as sophisticated as the elements in this visual:

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ChartMogul has this explanatory and simple guide on some of the aspects of proper onboarding. This is the full set for a SaaS service.

When you are a small team, you can start with the essentials and later move on to check all the boxes. Sending out an introductory video or a short email with a couple of tips can go a long way – even if you do not have the capacity to offer a comprehensive onboarding experience. 

This way you will also ensure that a notable portion of potential customer service requests is solved before it even surfaces! 

3. Build a knowledge base

One of the easy ways to cover customer’s questions and issues is by creating a one-stop resource of all the information that your clients might need.

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Hiver keeps an extensive but easy-to-navigate self-help center. 

A knowledge base usually contains answers to the most common queries that customers bring up. Maintaining a knowledge base serves two purposes.

Firstly, it helps your agents quickly look up answers and respond to customers. Secondly, it empowers customers to search for the solution themselves, thereby reducing the workload burden on your agents.

Resource guide: Creating & Managing a Knowledge Base: The Ultimate Guide

4. Leverage your community 

User-generated content is often underrated in customer support. When you have customers who’d like to share their experience using your product/service and also help other users with their questions, building a community that enables them to do so goes a long way in ensuring queries are answered on time.

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Cloudflare has an active community forum where you will get your answer in minutes.

Whenever I had an issue that could not be resolved through the resources/help page – I went to the CF community forum. There you may find users who had to solve the same problem as you or just fans of the platform who are ready to help.

The moderation and replies are not left to the community alone. There are official representatives of Cloudfare that help you tackle the problem or steer you in the right direction.

Another great example of community-driven customer service is the SAP Community

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SAP is one of the major multinational companies that sell enterprise software, so it is just natural that they have a huge database of topics that their users already discussed and covered. 

Feedback on the SAP community is great, and the company is truly leveraging the knowledge of its customers to the fullest. Another great thing about these communities is that the questions are indexed in search engines – making it much easier for the customer to find. 

5. Create a Customer Service Funnel 

The goal of customer service is to solve queries as quickly and as easily as possible. Here’s where having a clear structure and flow to providing customer support can help. We call it the customer service funnel.  

I like the way Mailshake tackles this.

When you press the help button in your client dashboard, you are greeted with this: 

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Mailshake provides simple Onboarding and FAQ in a couple of videos. 

This is the first part of its customer service funnel. In these videos, you will have a step-by-step guide on how to use their service. In case it is not enough, you may click on “I Still Need Help” and this window will popup:

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Here you can search for queries and check if they are already answered. Or browse through popular topics. If you still can’t find the answer, you can write to them:

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While Mailshake leads their customers through 2 levels of self-help before connecting them to the human customer service rep. It is very seamless and does not feel cumbersome This is a great example of a simple customer service funnel.

6. Use Chatbots

Chatbots are quickly entering every level of customer engagement. They are used in sales, they answer questions about products and lately, they are also making their way into customer support. 

The advantage of chatbots is that you can provide real-time customer support.

Though chatbots can not fully substitute a human (at least for now) they can provide a quick first line of response to help a customer in need. 

Consider this:

If you are worried that users will be frustrated that they aren’t able to talk to a live agent, fret not. What you can do is combine the chatbot and human customer support. So, if the customer is not able to solve their issue with help from the bot, you can immediately connect them to a live representative.

7. Create a Standard Operating Procedure Manual

When starting a business, you probably know everyone who works in your support team by name. Moreover, your individual leadership qualities would probably be sufficient in keeping them motivated and overseeing the work they do. 

This changes when your customer service team is growing. It is critical to have established rules and procedures that a larger team can understand and follow. This is where an SOP comes in. 

In this manual, you will list all the procedures and frameworks that define the way you deliver support. The SOP has to be complete in a way where a newcomer can easily pick it up and know what to do when a customer calls with a problem. 

If you are wondering where to start with the creation of SOP, here is a short guide and some great tips.

The SOP will help you too: 

  • Provide consistent service across multiple channels
  • Save time and resources in training
  • Improve communications between teams
  • Set up clear guidelines and allow you to hold employees accountable

Establishing a SOP will include:

  1. Monitoring your customer service processes.
  2. Discussing the results with your employees.
  3. Getting feedback from your employees on the SOP 

When you have processes in place, the next important thing to do is to measure and track performance.

8. Monitor, Measure, Analyze

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Unless you start tracking what your customer service team does on a daily basis, it becomes very difficult to identify bottlenecks in your team and find areas of improvement.

Some of the main metrics that you should monitor include:

  • Customer Satisfaction Score
  • Customer Effort Score
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Social Media Chatter
  • Customer Churn

When it comes to operational data:

  • First Response Time
  • Overall Resolution Rate
  • First Contact Resolution Rate
  • Customer Ticket Request Volume
  • Average Ticket Handling Time

Customer service is about striking a balance between creating a personalized approach to delight customers and vigorously tracking numbers to improve the quality of support.

9. Monitor Social Media

As your customer base increases, you will have more people reaching out to you via different touchpoints. That includes platforms like social media.

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Take note of how Kiwi (one of the biggest online travel agencies) was quick to respond to a disgruntled customer and acknowledged that their query is being worked upon.

Social media is all about timing, and you need to be on top of what’s happening there – if you’re looking to deliver great customer support.

Taking charge of a problem will not only appease existing customers but make your brand look good in the eyes of potential customers. 

10. Focus on Culture 

One of the most important aspects of scaling customer service is that your company culture must become customer-centric. And no, it is not the same as telling your two customer service reps (when you were just starting out) that the customer is king. Now you have to deal with a much bigger in-house team, larger customer base, vendors, suppliers of outsourced services, and more. So, catering to customer needs must become a religion within your company.

Recently I had an issue with an item I purchased. When going to return it, I was expecting a lengthy explanation of why I am returning it. To my surprise, the employee just took the item, apologized that it was a bad fit, and returned the money. 

When I commented that I am surprised by this approach, he informed me that it is company policy to take returns – no questions asked. 

In another situation, there was a mistake in my grocery delivery. The brand apologized and said that I may keep all the items that were a mistake and that they’d refund the money (for the ones that I ordered) or re-send me the correct order.

Again, see how having a customer-centric company-wide policy can make a huge difference between a positive and negative customer experience.

While the company definitely bears the cost when things go wrong, keep in mind that you’re making a customer happy and chances are that they’ll tell their friends and family about this experience.  

11. Motivate your team

While it sounds very obvious, this does not mean that you can throw a couple of inspirational quotes and be done with it. Takes a bit more than that.

  1. Make sure that your customer service team knows their real impact. Announce a service case of the week, show how customers are spending more due to good service. Make their work matter. 
  1. Gamify your rewards system. Have a leaderboard in place for metrics such as average resolution time or first response time. The winner at the end of every month could get very unique rewards – it can be anything from a mug with a clumsy photo of theirs imprinted or a video compilation of everyone else on the team talking about what they like about this person. 
  1. From time to time, let your customer-facing employees go around and see how other departments work. Show them how product development works, get them to talk to the sales team, or even marketing. This helps them get a more overall understanding of how the organization works – they know who is responsible for what and are better equipped to deal with different types of customer queries.

Conclusion 

While scaling customer service, it’s important that you don’t get overwhelmed. It might seem like you’ve got a lot of things to do, but know how to prioritize. See how you can best equip your customer support team to delight customers and double down on that.

Also, the above-mentioned tips will help you navigate the waters, as your support team is growing in size.

Hiver HQ
Vlad Falin is the founder and blogger at Costofincome.com, where he writes about digital marketing and online businesses.
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