Building a customer service team is a long journey. Over my experience in the past few years and talking to our customers, we have been able to define some major stages in this team development process. In general, this roadmap applies to any service team, especially for companies that have products. For teams that operate in different markets, or when the service is ultra-personalized, some of the concepts presented in this article may not apply.
To begin, it is important to make clear the mission of a company support team: to be the link between the service (or product) offered and the customer, especially when the consumer experience is unsatisfactory. In a more practical way, the team must be the “lawyer” of the relationship between the company and the customer. This means defending the customer in internal discussions, bringing their vision and pain to the commercial or product teams, as well as positioning the company in the customer’s expectation.
It is also important to say that, since the beginning of the business, the customer support structure is really important to understand customer’s pain. This can be a great competitive advantage in the construction of products and its offer to customers.
So, let’s go to the stages:
The first stage of this construction is when the team is very small, if not just a brave warrior. At this stage, the main objective is to deeply understand the customer’s pain, especially because at this stage the product or service is not mature enough to run solo. The service usually plays the role of deployment and even Customer Success (after all, there are few people and a lot of work ahead).
A very common effect at this stage is the sensation of constant process bottleneck. Thus, it is very important to establish clear criteria for prioritizing work, defining which activity should be done first and monitoring the relationship with customers to assess the quality of your service.
The support leader’s primary skill here is resilience. At this stage, the service team ends up being the lightning rod for problems, and still without an adequate service process structure for these customers.
Over time, the service leader finds himself in the situation of starting to make the first hires for the team. This moment is fundamental for the definition of the professional profile and culture standard of the team. In defining a professional profile, one must understand what are the skills and competencies desired of a service agent, such as empathy, good communication, among others. For the standard of culture, we must understand the set of behaviours desired for the service team, which has a clearer reflection in the form of its internal and external communication. It is also necessary to think about whether the team will have a more technical or business profile, always observing what the customer expects.
An important aspect at this stage is to start looking for a tool to minimally structure the customer support process. In addition to keeping the service organized and giving a vision of service professionalism, using these tools will help the service leader to understand some concepts of the customer service process. This is because there are some of them embedded in these tools such as user groups, ticket status, priority level, among others.
For the start of team building, then the main characteristic desired is leadership with purpose. It is essential at this stage that this leader de facto positions himself as such, considering mainly the subjective aspects related to the culture of the helpdesk team.
When the company starts to have a higher rate of customer acquisition, it is also necessary to expand the customer service team. At this moment, all knowledge about the product and about the customers begins to spread throughout the team, mainly because the speed of learning is much greater than the speed of standardization or documentation. This implies structuring the diffused knowledge in playbooks and the help center, for example.
At this stage, the service team also begins to have more experienced agents, with greater knowledge of the processes and also of the product. It is therefore important that, in the service process, these more experienced agents are involved only in the most complex issues or that demand more context. Then you start to think about the service levels.
By structuring these levels and mainly by analyzing the type of service, it is possible to assess which are the biggest points of doubt in service. This makes it more assertive to set up training scripts for the team, then analyzing the types of calls that are passed on to higher levels.
Note that these definitions apply to the structure of a helpdesk team, which has processes with relatively similar contexts, with variation only in the specialty of the execution of activities. That is why specializing in team growth makes sense.
At this point, then, the service leader must work hard with the training of the team, and the main challenges are related to communication.
Once the team is better structured, specialized and with a structured playbook, it is time to pay attention team’s management. With the process defined and more standardized, it is important to analyze the key indicators to monitor the progress of the process. These indicators can be defined between process standard (Service Level Agreement/Objective, Ticket Throughput, average service time) and quality indicators (Customer Satisfaction Score, Net Promoter Score, Customer Effort Score). The analysis of these indicators must be done not only globally but also segmented, whether by service group, category or other segmentation that can bring more insights into the productivity of the process.
With these KPIs defined, it is possible to structure periodic meetings with the team, to monitor them and define action plans for incremental improvements. It is very important that these meetings are held regularly so that the pace of management is guaranteed.
At this stage, it is important for the leader to develop data orientation skills, mainly to build an analytical view of the process. In addition, it is also crucial to have execution management skills to maintain the team’s pace of evolution. Knowledge of continuous improvement methodologies (PDCA, 6-Sigma, among others) can also help the service leader to have a professionally managed team. From the point of view of behavioural competence, it is crucial that the manager of the service team has discipline, both to maintain the pace of management and to monitor the team’s action plans.
The last phase of structuring the support team is Optimization. At this stage, the processes are aligned and stabilized, so the manager begins to invest in the team to reduce the cost of service, always taking great care not to decrease the standard of service. Therefore, investments in new tools such as chatbots or RPA may make sense for some parts of the process.
At this stage, the manager must be able to have a systemic view, not only about his own team but also about the interfaces with others. This allows him to better identify the team’s efficiency levers and its contribution to the company’s results. In addition, it is also important to develop aspects of financial management, especially with regard to costs and dimensioning the return on investment. It is also desirable to develop skills in project management, to monitor the innovation projects that the team will work on.
Anyway, the journey of structuring a team is long and involves the development of people involved, but mainly from the service leader. It is essential that the essence of a customer-centred service is not lost, after all, the customer is responsible for the company’s success and, therefore, must be treated in a productive and pleasant way.