Growing pains: Advice for startups to scale your customer support
Tuesday, December 18, 2018/
You have survived the trenches of the ‘early days’. You have built a unique product or service, have a growing customer base, and maybe some interest – or actual dollars – from investors.
By this stage, most successful startups would have also established a customer support function with multiple channels and a single view of the customer. You feel prepared for the next phase of the journey.
But don’t be fooled. There is a reason why scaling a startup is often considered the greatest test for founders and their teams. This is the time when your business becomes more complex; it is no longer easy to know everything about what is happening and every customer, every staff member, every problem that arises.
From a customer service perspective, while it might be reassuring to know you have the technical infrastructure in place, many startups still fail to prepare their customer support function for the complexities associated with scale and are left scrambling when serious growth comes knocking.
Customers are the lifeblood of a business.
Here are the key takeouts.
Keep on top of your FAQs and knowledge management
Being on the lookout for common questions customers ask about your product and building consistent answers that you can quickly send to customers is a wise habit to get into as soon as your customer support is up and running.
At the very least, you will need a workflow in place to better organise and continually update your FAQs. Take advantage of tools that make your knowledge management processes easier, such as placing a web widget on your site. This provides customers with clear, simple ways to reach you via contact forms and live chat, and it will also offer targeted self-service content that can help resolve issues before an agent needs to get involved, leading to potential cost and time savings to both you and your customers.
To that point, self-service plays an important role in ticket deflection, a key factor in reducing the number of support tickets your startup’s customer service team receives (which, at this point, will likely still include everyone in the business). Your customer service software should allow you to turn user feedback into helpful articles that will serve your customers faster and help preserve institutional knowledge about how your product works.
If you have a dedicated customer service team (or person), now is the time to focus on transferring insights from them to the rest of the company to resolve issues faster, educate the wider business, and help inform future product changes and management decisions.
A great place to start is with a Slack integration, which will provide visibility into support tickets and improve communication between your support and product teams. Meanwhile, customer service should be passing customer feedback to the product team with tools like Trello, a handy option for organising tasks and improving productivity.
Start tracking internal operations metrics
Just like athletes who measure performance indicators as part of their training process, your startup needs to understand what it does well, and most importantly, what needs improvement. If you have the customer service software that enables this start using it now.
Although customisable, there are common measurements that almost all businesses should be tracking to obtain an honest view of how their brand is faring, including:
- New ticket volume;
- Ticket by channel;
- Tickets solved;
- Response and wait times;
- Tull resolution time;
- Self-service KPIs; and
- Service Level Agreements.
Other helpful metrics to measure include replies to resolution, one-touch resolution, tickets per transaction, and tickets to repeat transactions (to name just a few of many).
You should also set up a Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) survey, which can be customised in appearance, wording and cadence. Be ready to experiment.
Start cherry picking your dream team
In the early days of your startup, chances are you lacked the budget to fund a dedicated customer service team. Your initial hires wore multiple hats, including conducting customer research. While budget may still be a limiting factor, it is never too early to start planning for a team that focuses solely on customer service.
A great customer service team is made of three essential elements: people, process and technology.
Be prepared to put real resources into your team, including paying salaries that will attract great candidates and minimise turnover.
If you are searching for team leaders, they should be able to manage a large group of employees when the time comes, while maintaining a deep understanding not only of the product but the company’s long-range goals, and how to build a customer experience plan for them.
If you have the technology in place, but feel concerned your customer service cannot cope with scaling, know that all it takes are a few small changes to get you set up for success. If you hire well and initiate good hygiene around knowledge centres, customer data collection and analysis, scaling will make – not break – your company.