Scaling and sustaining your customer service organization

Scaling and sustaining your customer service organization

December 12, 2017
Scaling and sustaining your customer service organization

You can have the best technology and tools in the business, but it takes a little more than that to form a successful customer support organization. It’s even more important as your company grows, especially when the quality of customer service can make your company stand out to a sea of customers.

To make sure you’re continuously delivering and maintaining the best customer service, one of the keys to success is to create an effective plan from the start. Then, establish management that can carry torch and improve on those efforts. As your company scales, this plan will serve as a guide to ensure that both the customer service experience and agent experience remain top-notch.

It will take some practice, but as always, we’re here to help. After all, we’ve experienced rapid growth ourselves at Zendesk. Over the last decade the Zendesk Global Customer Advocacy team has grown to include more than 250 people, spread out across eight locations over the world. Our advocates have shared a few lessons and solutions that they’ve learned along the way.

Planning the architecture

Without a well-defined strategy, as your company scales, your customer support organization can also start to crumble. Growth relies on a strong structure to keep things moving in the midst of rapid change. By outlining clear visions and managing expectations, this plan will ensure everyone stays on the same page.

At Zendesk, our Customer Advocate teams are organized into three team tiers to manage complexity by segmenting tasks and focusing on specific issues.

  • Tier 1 answers general product support tickets
  • Tier 2 answers technical support tickets
  • Tier 3 answers advanced technical support tickets and engineering issues

By dividing and conquering, agents can focus on customer issues that fall within a certain beat.

Just because there are tiers doesn’t mean that one is valued more than another. Each tier is critical to the overall success of customer service, with its own challenges and rewards when handling customer tickets. Andrew Mori, a Team Lead for Tier 1 in our Manila office, has worked in all three tiers.

“I think sometimes Tier 1 support is overlooked. Having a Tier 1 title doesn’t mean that you’re the lower end of support. For me, it’s one of the most difficult groups in support,” he says. “You need to learn the entire product as a whole because you get all sorts of different tickets in the queue. I’ve worked on other tiers, and the tickets are increasingly difficult. But the way you interact with customers tends to be more personal at Tier 1.”

Take time to identify what your customer service organization needs, then you can structure your support team to align with those needs. A little effort and planning can go a long way.

Sustaining good customer service through mentorship

Before Zendesk used a tier method, the options to advance an agent’s career was to move into management, support operations, or another role in the company. Creating levels of seniority within the Advocacy team provides people who are happy in a customer-facing role the opportunity to demonstrate peer leadership and gain status, while staying in a job that they love. What better way to retain star employees?

When a company is growing, a high employee retention rate is crucial to not only maintaining, but improving customer service. This is because existing employees know the organization best, have grown with it, and can pass down words of wisdom as new people step into their roles. Seniors are expected to know more and have a larger influence on the team, and to serve as a guiding light with their expertise. Your agents are real people after all, and can always benefit with some guidance.

Zendesk’s advocate mentor program was an initiative first rolled out by Benjamin Towne, a Tier 1 Customer Advocate who was one of the earliest employees in our Madison office. As one of the first of two mentors in the program, he’s served as a mentor to many team members and has some advice about how to mentor effectively.

“It’s really good to make a mentee feel like they aren’t just another employee. They’ve been brought into a family or a team, and they have someone they can go to,” Towne says. “A manager might ask an advocate to get something done, but a mentor is there to help them do it. Your old mentees should always be able to come up and still ask questions. It’s also a great way to form relationships with new coworkers.”

Empower, support, repeat

If your plan proves successful, as time goes on, your customer support organization will strengthen and support the growth of the company. As agents advance into tiers or step into management positions, and new faces arrive, it’s important to empower your team by providing opportunities to grow their careers. Be an example that there’s room to learn and grow, and that setting goals is encouraged.

When things are changing quickly, don’t forget, that you can always refer back to your plan. And if something doesn’t seem to be working, revisit it and try again. Check to see whether you’re providing well-defined roles and performance expectations, which gives everyone on the team an understanding of what they should be achieving, their career path options and goals to work toward.

How to structure your customer support organization

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