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How to Scale Your Customer Support Operations

Robert Johnson

Customer support is an integral part of any business. Here's how to successfully scale your customer support operations.

If you’ve put your time and energy into developing a valuable product or service, one of the most exciting stages is to watch the business grow. You may have a strong, established customer base, but to keep growing you need to make sure you’re equipped to handle the higher volume of customer support tickets, phone calls and requests that are inevitable with expansion. Before your customer base began expanding, a team of just five or six customer support agents may have been enough. But once customer growth starts, you need to at least double your support team just to keep up. Below, I put together a few ways in which you can scale your customer support operations to ensure both your old and new customers remain happy with your services.

1. Your customer support software should be built for your industry

The only proper long-term customer support software solution is one that is built for your organization’s needs. While a homegrown system based on spreadsheets and emails might be enough for a small-scale operation, it’s not a solution that can effectively scale alongside your business. Investing in a customer support software solution will enable your customer support team to be well-positioned for growth alongside the rest of your expanding business. But be careful! Not just any software solution will do. You should identify a customer support solution built specifically for your needs, especially if you’re a B2B organization.

B2B and B2C organizations need different capabilities from their customer support software solution. If a B2B organization is using a B2C solution, they can respond to individual tickets, but will never have a full, 360-degree view of the customer and their ongoing relationship. B2C software focuses on interactions with a single contact. B2B software can address a single contact as well, but it also allows customer support teams and agents to take a wider view of the customer, allowing them to evaluate and understand their customers at the company level as well. The benefit of this wider view is that it's easier for B2B companies to identify larger, more impactful issues that may exist with customers at the company level, even if individual users aren’t aware that their problem is widespread within their organization. With B2B software, customer support teams can more easily identify larger support trends, allowing them to uncover larger problems that may not be apparent when working with a non-B2B solution.

2. Hire versatile agents who can handle different support channels

Even with the right software solution in place, your support team needs professionals with the right experience. Listen to customer requests for support channels and hire agents with the right experience to fill their expectations. Your current support team may be well equipped to handle your current needs, but a more versatile support team will make a difference to your customers, especially if they bring support capabilities your customers are asking for. Customer satisfaction with your support team will increase as they see both their needs and requests fulfilled by more skilled agents.

3. Create an online information database to give your customers 24/7 self-support

Your customers likely have multiple users regularly asking the same questions of your support team. Your support software should allow you to create a self-service database of information so users can seek out solutions at any time, giving them the freedom to solve simple problems on their own and allowing your support team to focus on solving more complex problems that can’t be addressed within a database. For example, a software company can create a detailed self-service tutorial about what is and isn't possible with their integrations so customers won't need to ask every time they are curious about a company's integration capabilities. As a result, the software company will see an overall decrease in ticket volume by letting customers answer their own basic questions.

An online database also improves customer satisfaction. Customers will be happier with instant access to answers rather than potentially having to wait for a support agent to provide them a simple yes or no. Plus, an online database allows for 24/7 access, as opposed to a customer support department which is likely only accessible during specific business hours.

As you prepare to scale your customer support team, a database will allow you to more efficiently hire new agents as your team will spend less time on repetitive tickets. Self-service will improve customer happiness and cut down on the number of agents you need available for your customers to address these simple requests, saving significant staffing costs. Building an online database will take time, but the payoffs are worth it, both for your support team and for your customer.

4. Improve customer success to help customer support

Scaling a business means scaling multiple parts of your business, including your customer support team. While your support team needs the resources and capabilities to serve more customers, they will remain focused on issues customers bring to their attention. Other customer-facing departments also need to scale to fill your customers’ needs that don’t fall under the umbrella of your customer support team’s responsibilities.

Your customer success team needs the capacity to check in with customers on a regular basis, even if the customer isn’t currently dealing with a problem. By opening up an ongoing line of communication between your business and your customers, the customer success team will gather valuable insights into how your customers are using your product on a daily basis, and your customers will benefit from a better understanding of your product or service. By becoming the day-to-day contacts for your customers, your support team will become their go-to for minor problems and fixes, reducing the overall contact volume between your support team and your customer and allowing your support team to focus on larger support issues.

A strong customer success team may even give you valuable insights into larger problems your customers may not want to share during a customer support interaction. By identifying these slower-building, larger issues, customer success teams can either address the problem themselves or notify customer support to step in before the problem escalates and damages your overall relationship with your customer. Identifying these issues can be critical to reducing customer churn, because your ability and willingness to proactively reduce their pain points won’t go unnoticed. Over time, your customer success team will pay for itself.

Scaling your customer support team starts with giving them technology built for your industry, including the right customer support software solution. To be their most successful, a B2B customer support team needs tools meant for B2B customer support. As your team scales alongside your business, you will need to bring in expert agents familiar with your various support channels and capable of switching between servicing your different channels as needed. As you grow, so should your resources available to your customer. Whether those resources are in the form of an online database, a well-built customer success team or a combination of the two, your customers will be happier with freedom to access information about your product or service at any time and the additional attention they receive as customer success professionals work to make their experience with your solution as valuable as possible. 

Image Credit: bernardbodo/Getty
Robert Johnson Member
A recognized business leader and entrepreneur, Robert currently serves on the Board of Directors of Dallas Angel Network, a venture capital fund that supports entrepreneurs launching innovative new business ventures. He also has served as a mentor and investor with Tech Wildcatters, a Dallas-based mentor-driven seed accelerator focused on B2B and B2B2C technology that has been named one of Forbes’ Top 10 seed accelerators. He also previously served on the Board of Directors of Gale Force Petroleum Corporation (TSX Venture: GFP), a public oil and gas company. Robert currently sits on the Board of Directors for Blossom Street Ventures. a venture capital fund focused on helping technology companies grow. An alumnus of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, Robert serves on Colgate’s Alumni Council and is actively involved in its Thought Into Action Institute, which pairs up-and-coming student entrepreneurs with alumni mentors to support them in developing a new business or nonprofit, and with the Entrepreneurs of New York (ENY) Fund, which helps advance the for-profit and nonprofit business ideas of Colgate students and alumni.