Scaling your Customer Support operation – a step by step guide on how to get it right the first time
Otonomee is a digital outsourcing partner delivering growth and technology solutions to fast-scaling business.. From our experience of working with scaling new ventures we have seen some common mistakes that unfortunately can be difficult to recover from.
Scaling a business and managing a growing customer base is hard! You have limited resources and fires burning everywhere.
Customer support is often an afterthought that some businesses only give attention to when they have a critical mass of customers. But often that’s too late. It can be difficult, time consuming and unfortunately brand damaging when you try to unwind your initial reactive and unplanned approach.
So, it’s important to think ahead. Ask, how will we manage if we are successful?
You need to consider these points early on.
1. Your brand – What do you want to be famous for?
This is a key driver for your support operation. The point at which you start scaling your customer base is a critical moment for you to decide how you want to be perceived. Do you want customers to be users, detractors or advocates of your product and service? You need to decide what you want to be known for and build your support with that vision in mind. Think about this in advance, as its too difficult to recover if you set out on the wrong path!
2. Map Your customer journeys – find your moments of truth;.
Understand the main touch points at each stage of the customer journey from pre-sales, to acquisition, through to on boarding, into success and support. Don’t worry if you can’t resource every touch point but understand your moments of truth. This is where you really need to intervene to make or break a relationship, keep a customer or make a sale. Once properly understood and mapped, these moments can be managed through a combination of people and technology e.g. through a predictive engagement tool that pops a chat conversation to an agent, when customers complete certain actions.
3. Identify support activities, estimate volumes and build a forecast.
We encounter people who need help but often can’t quantify the level of support they need. Throwing people at a problem that can’t be quantified can be detrimental to your employee experience. Project forward and estimate future volumes of customers and how they interact with your product or service. Consider your product roadmap and how that will impact customer experience. Try to understand the corelation between customer numbers and potential interactions at each point. It won’t always be scientific, but you need to build an estimate, refine and improve. This will increase the accuracy of future resource estimates.
4. What level of support are you committing to deliver;
Consider the level of support you want made available to your customers. In order to get this right, you need to be clear on the commitments you make to customers around when you will be available and how long it will take you to respond (your service levels). Getting this wrong means breaking your customers trust and when can any business recover from that?.
“Great service experiences are built on promises and by keeping commitments made to customers, you are taking a major step towards building loyalty”.
5. Live or non-Live Support?
Your support model can expand in tiers as you gather more data and insights about your customers and why they need support.
Self Service – document your FAQ’ and responses and make them available in articles through an easy to use Knowledge Base tool. Helping customers to help themselves can be great service and very cost efficient, especially for straight forward support issues.
A sync or Non-Live – email or ticketing can work fine if your customers can wait to have their queries resolved. This can be cost effective as you don’t need to resource for immediate responses. Be careful, sometimes endless toing and froing can be very frustrating for customers who sometimes just want to speak to someone on your team.
Real Time – provided through voice, video or live chat. This is the highest level of service you can provide but comes at a cost as you need to resource up to ensure that you deliver on that commitment to be available when a customer contacts you.
Channels of communication - What channels you will make available?
Once you’ve figured out your desired support model, you need to think about channels of communication. There are large sections of the internet given over to this topic, but here are some truths we are experiencing from interacting with tens of thousands of customers every day.
Voice is still the most popular channel and in all surveys of preferred customer channels
The more chat is available, and the more phone support is available, the better the support, and the happier customers are.
Messaging tools are growing in popularity but off a low base. WhatsApp messaging is becoming especially popular.
The best eCommerce companies are offering live chat and video chat to support presales
Social media communication is increasingly popular and good for engaging customers with your brand, but make sure it is integrated with the rest of your support if you want two-way interaction on this channel to work.
We’ve seen too many standalone social communication tools. Customers often want to jump across to another channel to close out an issue.
6. Choose the right Technology for Customer Support ;
Choosing a suitable tech platform for your support operation is one of the most important decisions you can make for your business. There are a myriad of CRM, Customer Support and engagement tools available on the market, so it’s not an easy decision.
Many times, we have seen companies misuse their CRM, Sales and Marketing or Ticketing systems to build their support operations when they have not been built for this purpose. Some of these tools are great at managing email or marketing campaigns or for pipeline management but they are not built for scaling omni channel, customer support operations. If your customer interactions are growing fast you will start to see the limitations in some of these systems. This approach is not scalable, leads to poor customers service and can become a nightmare to manage.
Try to think ahead about how your channel strategy might evolve and select a suitable cloudbased platform, that has open APIs and allows you to pay as you grow. By doing this you will set your future self up to have a single view of your customer. This is critical when your customer base is growing and benefits quality of service, quality of data and insights back to the business and enables more effective and efficient operations.
7. Make customer support a source of business insights and product feedback;
Great customer support has obvious advantages for your business and a well run support operation supported by good tech, can be a major source of advantage for your business, through the insights that can be gleaned from you customers. Celebrate that your customers care enough to give you feedback. In order to make your support operation a key pillar of your product and service development, consider the following
Choose a customer support tool that puts its reporting functionality as a key feature and not just an add on;
Know your key interactions and moments of truth. Design your support processes to ensure you capture data about the key touch points e.g. a booking process might be a key process and making or cancelling could a reason for interacting;
Define reason codes or outcomes for interactions e.g. define and capture the reasons why a customer cancelled a booking. There can be many reasons captured by your agents all providing hugely valuable insights;
You have the ability to consider these 7 steps, before you find yourself down a path that there is no return from and your core business is suffering because of it. There are so many variables to making this work. It sounds hard because it is hard. Don’t wait, consider carefully and act now. Plan your path and execute with intent.
At Otonomee, we provide people and technology solutions to help you move into new markets, grow your customer base and deliver stand out customer experience.
Want to read more? Visit Otonomee.com, learn about our outsourced solutions, our approach and how we will support you in championing growth and scale.
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