There comes a time in every startup’s journey when the volume of customer support tickets goes beyond the level you and a handful of your early hires can handle. In this post, discover how to build a world-class customer support team from scratch with the help of Teamwork Desk—the help desk software that builds stronger customer relationships.
The first time your startup received a customer support ticket, you likely handled everything yourself, probably using an email client without any dedicated ticket management system or help desk tool.
You diagnosed the issue, corralled your team, and did everything in your power to fix it as quickly as possible. As your customer base grew, you enlisted more people to help, passing down the skills needed to solve problems for the customers that you worked so hard to earn.
At a certain point, however, the volume of tickets probably went beyond a level that you and a handful of your early hires could handle. At this stage, it’s important to step back and hire people whose sole responsibility is to support your customers and give them the right tools to do the job.
To ensure that your support team succeeds, it’s helpful to think about the experience from the perspective of your customers and reverse engineer your team setup from there. You can break down the customer experience into three steps:
- Customer’s first impression. A first impression is based on their first interaction with a team member at your company. In order to have an exchange that is positive and representative of your brand, you need to make your brand messaging extremely clear and the interaction friendly.
- Customer’s support experience. The overall support experience your customers receive is based on how effectively and quickly your team has addressed their queries. Providing an excellent experience means you need to clearly define how your team should assist customers and what types of issues they’ll be asked to resolve.
- Customer’s product experience. For many users, product satisfaction is based on whether your company can meet—and ideally, anticipate their changing needs. To create a responsive team, you’ll need to hire people with the skills to act as liaisons between your team and your customers.
Building an effective customer support team is much more than just hiring the right people. You need to put in a lot of work clarifying the selection process before you even read the first résumé.
Here’s how to build the best possible customer support team from scratch.
1. Clarify Your Mission
In the early days, it was easy to share your passion for your business. Each personal interaction you had with members of your small team gave you the chance to share your vision for making a customer’s life happier, more efficient, or more organized.
As your company and team grows, your vision is at risk of getting lost. Unless you take care to impart your passion to every person you hire, your support reps won’t convey the value of what you’re building to your customers. The first impression that you would leave isn’t the same as the first impression your employees will convey.
Before you start assembling a support team, make your company’s mission extremely clear by:
- Writing down a clear and succinct long-term goal. Spend time on making the goal specific to your company and memorable. A great example is video hosting company Wistia’s mission “to empower everyone to get more out of video.”
- Sharing it with every person in your company. Keep your mission in your company documentation. API documentation company ReadMe distributes their mission statement to every new team member in their onboarding handbook.
- Building it into every conversation. Tie everything back to your mission, whether it’s a hiring decision, a new feature or a new soda machine for the office. Bringing the mission into the everyday conversation will help employees keep the big picture in mind.
New York’s famous Morton’s Steakhouse has a reputation for incredible customer service, and it all started with a clear mission statement: always exceed customers’ expectations. When Peter Shankman tweeted at the company to ask for a steak delivered to the airport, he never expected one of the servers to arrive with his made-to-order meal in hand only 30 minutes later. Even though Arnie Morton came up with this mission almost a century ago, all current employees are still living it.
While this example is extreme, it shows how a customer-facing role can communicate the long-term mission of the company when it’s passed down. If you clarify and unite your team behind one mission, customers will learn about it at their first encounter with your brand.
2. Understand What Customer Support Means
The customer support experience used to be an afterthought. Whether a business was selling clothes, airline tickets or software, a support rep was simply a person who worked the phones. But today, word-of-mouth marketing has grown to be more powerful than traditional advertising, so the reputation of your brand now lies in your support reps’ hands more than ever before.
This means that you need to give careful consideration to the function of your support team. The first step is to determine your team’s focus, which can fall into these categories:
- Reactive support. This is a support team that focuses 100% on reacting to customer requests. This kind of team should open up as many communication channels as possible-email, phone, chat, and social media—so customers can get in touch with your team using the method that is easiest for them.
- Proactive support. This is a support team that doesn’t simply react to customer requests but actively seeks them out. They have a single support line, but they’re also looking through other platforms where customers hang out to discuss problems and find solutions, such as social media, forums, and self-serve knowledge bases..
- Preventative support. This is a support team that goes another step further and tries to catch small problems before they snowball. They’re sending out customer surveys, looking at behavioral metrics and monitoring engagement on community sites to find and solve problems before customers even think to ask them.
Ideally, your support team will grow to be all three. But choosing a starting point will give the team direction and help reps understand how to best do their jobs in the short-term.
Once you decide on the type of support you’re providing, clearly delineate the responsibilities of each rep. This will help you explain the specifics of the role as you start putting together your hiring strategy.
3. Hire a Team with the Right Skills
Once you have a clear brand mission and you’ve defined support, you’re ready to build your team. But the soft skills that are critical for the job can be extremely hard to identify during an interview. Most managers simply have a free-form conversation and rely on their gut feelings to determine the best fit for the job.
But Google’s VP of People Ops contends that this is the worst way to hire. He argues that having an unstructured interview process makes us susceptible to our own biases. We end up hiring people who are similar to us rather than selecting people who will make great employees.
Instead, come up with a rubric that tests for the job’s most critical skills:
- Empathy. Ask all candidates to answer a mock email from a frustrated customer. Once they’ve answered, ask them to walk you through the reasoning behind their response. Look for signs that they’re looking at the problem from the customer’s perspective and acting in the customer’s best interest.
- Communication. Ask all candidates to break down a complicated concept into simple terms. You can give them a technical description of your product or ask them to break down a concept they’re extremely familiar with based on their past experience. See if they’re clear and succinct with their answers, and deliver it in a way that isn’t patronizing.
- Problem-solving. Ask all candidates how they would go about diagnosing the source of a problem with the product. You’re looking for signs of resourcefulness and autonomy. See if they go to Google or their manager for help.
Ask each candidate the same question and compare responses. Only after you’ve compared the data from the interview should you decide who will best represent your company. These hires will communicate your mission to customers and customers’ problems back to the team, improving the overall product experience.
4. Build a Stellar Customer Support Process with Teamwork Desk
Teamwork.com tinkered with a few tools over the years, and some were good, but none were exceptional. Since support is such a crucial function within our business, there was no question that we needed a tool that could help us seamlessly grow our support team from 1 person to a staff of 20.
Since we weren’t willing to compromise on the quality of personal interactions with our customers and the focus of our customer-facing teams, we decided that we needed to create the tool ourselves, and Teamwork Desk was the result. Today, thousands of companies power their customer support with Teamwork Desk.
If you’re new to the world of help desk tools, don’t worry. We offer a 30-day free trial of Teamwork Desk so you can see if it’s the right fit for you! We also have a getting started video that will make it easy for your team to start using it.
Of course, our amazing customer support team is also available 24/7 to help with any questions you may have.
Keep Support at the Center of Your Business
The day you need an entire support team to handle the high volume of support tickets is a pivotal time in your company’s growth. Skilled professionals can help you make valuable first impressions and build lasting relationships with your customers.
A well-developed support team can be a blocker or a propeller during this time. They’ll either go through the motions and react to customer questions, or they’ll extend an excellent brand experience and offer you important insight into the best ways to further improve your product.
Having clarity around your company’s mission, the customer’s experience and the expectations for excellent service will give you the perspective you need to hire a team who will give your customers the care they deserve.