5 Critical Checkpoints for Startups When Scaling your Customer Service

Growing numbers of customers is a cause for celebration. But more customers means more customer queries, and that presents some challenges. Especially if you don’t yet have scalable customer service.

Your customer service support team might find it more difficult to keep track. Questions start getting lost in the shuffle or left too long without a reply. Frustrated agents are more likely to focus on answering quickly instead of giving good service. 

Research shows 50% of customers will switch to a competitor after one instance of bad service. If your team is struggling to cope with increasing queries, it’s time to scale your operation. Here are five key things you can do to scale customer service in an efficient and profitable way.

1. Determine your company’s vision and key goals for customer service

If you wanted to take a road trip to see a famous landmark, you wouldn’t get on the first train and hope for the best. You’d plan your route.

Scaling customer support is the same. You need a clear vision of where you want to go, and a road map of how to get there. Start by defining what great customer service means to your company. And bear in mind that customers are 2.4 times more likely to stay with your company if you solve their problems quickly. Get a team together and establish your customer service goals. Are you prioritizing:

  • Increasing customer satisfaction (CSAT) 

  • Training agents to reduce response time 

  • Minimizing resolution time

  • Encouraging more customers to use self-service resources

  • Or something else?

How will you measure success?

How will you know when you've reached your customer service goals? The list of metrics in customer service is almost endless, but some metrics give better insights than others. It all depends on what you want to know. Time metrics will help with tracking resolution speeds, while satisfaction metrics will help you understand customer emotions.

The key is to define a target that is aligned with your current performance, and your capacity to improve. Consider using an incremental metrics target to help you achieve a long-term goal.

Now you know where you’re going, you can plan accordingly.

2. Know Your Customer Service Budget

Investing in customer service is key to success. Happy customers buy more, buy again, and recommend you. 52% of customers said they would pay more, to get good service. 

Yet customer service is still regularly considered as a "necessary" spending, with no direct benefit. It’s easy to lose sight of its importance: customer acquisition costs have increased by up to 60% compared to five years ago. Acquisition is much, much more expensive than retaining happy customers. Heck, even a 5% increase in customer retention can generate as much as 25% increase in profit.

With that in mind, improving your customer service is no longer a "necessity" but a strategic initiative to boost your company’s growth.

Where do you need to spend money to meet your goals? Every organization has its strengths and weaknesses. It is up to you to identify which elements you need to reinforce, and which to fix. Are you focused on helping agents handle queries more efficiently? You might invest in a helpdesk software. Is your goal to encourage customers to use self-service? Chatbots and a knowledge base might be your first port of call.

Better pay can help attract better staff or motivate employees to give their best, while a chatbot or a routing system may increase productivity.

Investing in Quality or coaching solutions may also yield interesting results in the long term.

Some things to consider:

  • What is your budget for customer service?

  • Which tools or investments are most important for meeting your goals?

  • How much manpower do you need, and how much can you afford to spend? For example, around-the-clock availability for live channels will require a significant staff increase and might be less cost-efficient than a chatbot capable of handling basic requests.  

  • Can you reduce the cost per contact? For example, by encouraging customers to use self-service options, or focusing on messaging instead of phone calls.

Wherever you decide to invest, forecasting is important. Predicting which contact reason could grow based on your customer base may indicate where you should focus your effort. If you try to anticipate what you will need next, both in terms of tool and manpower, you can budget and plan for those things.

Set specific targets (such as increasing productivity or reducing cost per contact) to drive your action list.

3. Decide Your Customer Service Strategy

When you’re starting out, it’s normal to handle customer service in a scattershot fashion. Queries come in, and the first person to see them answers them. Delilah from marketing fires off an email. Louis, who usually does software demos, answers a couple of software questions.

But when you want to scale, this approach is more likely to lead to errors. So you need to choose your strategy to scale your customer service, and there are 3 main directions you can take:

  • Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) 

Your company hires agents from a BPO company. This is a great option when you don’t have the budget to hire more full-time staff. 70% of customers using BPO do so to help reduce costs. Your BPO agents become part of your team, helping them deliver great customer service.

To make outsourcing work for you, get clear on the kind of interactions or topics you want the outsourced agents to handle. This will help you decide which BPO company can best meet your needs. Do you need agents for high-volume customer service? Or to handle more complex calls? Maybe you need agents in specific time zones or who speak specific languages. You will also want to conduct QA calibration sessions with your BPO provider to make sure you are on the same page regarding Quality Assurance. 

  • Keep your customer service internal and build generalization

Instead of using a BPO company, you keep your customer service in-house. Each team member is trained to handle most requests. That means any team member can pick up a request or help with troubleshooting and finding a resolution.

  • Keep your customer service internal and embed specialization

Instead of all agents handling all queries, some agents specialize in specific issues such as escalation. Or perhaps you have some agents who comprise your first-level team (for everyday customer-facing work or recurrent issues.) And then another group of agents who deals with the second layer of customer service (escalation, critical step, refund management.)

In conclusion, when it comes to the first level of your team, you have the choice of externalizing it in full or in part. You might decide to externalize based on market, contact reason, or simply to better distribute ticket volumes. But when it comes to the second layer, it's better to keep that internal. 

Externalization is a cost-efficient way to handle low-value interactions. But once you get to the core of your business, your best bet is to keep it in your organization.

4. Invest in Training

New agents shouldn’t mean a drop in customer service standards. With 55% of agents saying they need better training in order to do their jobs well, this is important. You want customer service quality to stay high even when adding new people.

How do you get there? By top-notch onboarding and thorough training.

Establish goals for onboarding

Set goals so you’ll know when onboarding is successful. Onboarding goals should include:

  • In-depth product knowledge. Do they know the products well? Can they diagnose and fix common problems?

  • Handling requests. Do they know how to prioritize? Do they understand how to escalate when things get sticky?

  • Customer service best practices. Do they understand empathy and active listening? Do they know how to respond on social media and other public platforms?

  • Brand values. Do they know your brand values? Do they bring those into their customer service interactions?

Keep your onboarding consistent. Make sure all new hires get the same information and the training opportunities. 

Ensure you have an up-to-date SOP

The Standard Operating Procedure is the guiding light of your customer services team. The SOP gives your team established rules and procedures to follow. It helps your customer support process flow.

What tasks do agents perform again and again? Common tasks include onboarding new customers, sending out canned emails, and escalating problem tickets. Make sure the SOP covers all daily activities. 

5. Focus On Quality Metrics

As you scale, you need to know if your customers are satisfied. Research shows that a one-point improvement on a ten-point satisfaction scale corresponds to a minimum 3% increase in revenue growth. I recommend you to carefully look into these three key metrics to discover how they feel:

  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT) 

CSAT surveys ask your customer “on a scale from 1 to 5, how satisfied were you with [company or interaction]? You can send them out immediately following a support interaction, a sale, or during onboarding. Or you can send them out asking for product feedback. They give you an insight into specific interactions.

  • Net promoter score (NPS) 

NPS surveys ask your customer “on a scale from 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” NPS lets you track customer sentiment over time. It’s perfect for feeling out overall reactions to your business. This affects the bottom line. Customers who score as “promoters” have a lifetime value 6 to 14 times greater than “detractors.”

  • Customer effort score (CES) 

CES surveys ask your customer “on a scale of 1 to 5, rate how easy did [company] make it for you to [accomplish a task]? CES surveys let you know how much effort customers feel that they have to make to get their issue resolved. They give you powerful insights about how easy it is for customers to get things done.

For more complex issues, you can also dive into:

  • Reopen rates

Reopened tickets can disrupt workflows and slow down agents. It’s normal to get some reopened tickets but if the numbers start climbing, it’s worth looking into why. You want to keep the number of reopened tickets as low as you can.

  • Escalation rates

What percentage of requests are getting escalated to a more senior staff member? Which types of requests get escalated most? Do some staff members escalate more requests than others?

All these metrics help you see how happy your customers are. If you notice customer satisfaction decreasing, make it a priority to investigate why. Our advice? Don’t forget to check if the issue comes from the processes or tools. The problem is not always related to agents.

As well as sending out customer surveys, I recommend using customer service QA scorecards to monitor the quality of interactions. Please don't use the same scorecard across channels (i.e. phone, social, chat, bot-assisted chat.) Design a scorecard for each channel that includes the points you want most need to examine. For example, speed of response, agent friendliness, addressing the customer as they wish to be addressed.

Remember, customer satisfaction is key. By comparing customer ratings to your scorecards, you can see even more clearly what is working and what needs adjustment.

Research shows that 80% of customers say the service they receive is just as important as the products or services they buy. Customer service is where your customers go when something isn’t going smoothly. If you provide great customer service, they’ll remember it, and you’ll build a strong relationship with them.