In this age of real-time Tweets and Facebook rants, delivering a stellar customer experience is an integral piece of growing a business, building a brand and inspiring lifelong customer loyalty. Maintaining delightful service — particularly as your business grows — can be equally as important as delivering a great product.
Whether your customer service team is in-house or you employ a more flexible structure like a distributed team, handling growth can be a bit of a roller coaster ride. Here are three tips for managing and ramping your customer support bandwidth up (or down).
- Find the right support structure for your business. When it comes to the way you structure your support team, there’s no “one size fits all.” Think about your business needs and what makes sense for your specific industry; for example, if your business is ecommerce or caters to relatively tech-savvy customers, it might make sense for chat to be your channel of choice. According to the most recent Zendesk Customer Service Benchmark (www.zendesk.com/resources/customer-service-benchmark/) report, customers who choose live chat for customer service are satisfied a higher percentage (92%) of the time than those who call, email or use social media channels.
A few other approaches to consider when forming your team include:
- Divide your support into channels. Teams can include a variety of functions such as email, phone, chat and social. Once you pinpoint your most powerful channels, you can use this information to guide your hiring and infrastructure building, taking into account business needs and skill levels.
- Embrace the golden rep-to-leadership ratio. In order to structure efficient, effective teams, it’s important that team leaders do not have too many direct reports. By establishing an eight to 10 reps per team leader ratio — the “golden ratio” — you can efficiently manage escalations, provide mentorship and foster professional growth.
- Establish an operations team. As you expand, you’ll likely need to establish an operations team responsible for the infrastructure that keeps the support team running — from ticketing systems to metrics reports to documentation.
- Wrangle your social media. As you grow, your social media presence will no doubt grow with you. Put a plan in place to address the inevitable online conversations (and complaints).
To do this most effectively, you should have at least one qualified social support rep. When making this hire, look for the following qualities:
- Impeccable communication skills: Because social media is both highly reactive and highly visible, this person must be articulate and mature enough to exercise good judgment in their responses.
- Tactful: Emotions often come into play on social media, so it is important that your rep is able to handle situations with sensitivity and tact.
- Graceful under pressure: Social media can be a complaint forum at times. A great social support rep will stay calm no matter what the situation and actively take steps to resolve the issue.
Work with your rep to develop new processes, such as what types of posts should be funneled to a standard support ticket and which should be escalated. To help address issues quickly and consistently, consider creating content libraries for your social agents to tap into. From a library of responses to frequently asked questions to pre-written responses that address anticipated customer questions ahead of product launches and policy changes, this will create an internal knowledge-base to help reps troubleshoot problems via social media.
If you have extra dollars to allocate, there are also a slew of social media monitoring tools you can take advantage of such as Hootsuite, Trackur or Mention. To get the most out of this investment, choose a monitoring solution that allows your team to align and stream social messages to the proper support services. If you receive a high volume of support inquiries or are in growth mode, consider a tool that can also monitor brand sentiment and engagement levels. HootSuite, for example, integrates with Zendesk so agents can create tickets directly from tweets.
- Develop a bench for seasonal spikes. Every business day is not equal. As we all know, seasonal and/or or non-forecasted spikes often hit us and drive unanticipated onslaughts in support requests. Customers don’t know the increased volume you’re facing, nor would they care if they did. They care about having their own needs met, and their expectations for response are just as demanding as everyone else. As a result, when you experience these spikes your brand risks taking a hit for every hour there’s a delay in response time. By having a flexible bench of trained freelancers, you can be nimble and quickly scale up and down when unpredictable increases in demand occur.
— Rich Pearson is the Senior Vice President for Upwork Inc. (www.upwork.com). To learn more about how to build and scale your customer service team, download Upwork’s free eBook Happy Customers, Successful Companies here.