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Article 9 min read

13 strategies for scaling customer support teams successfully

One challenge of growing a business is ensuring your customer service stays consistent. Learn how to scale your customer support without sacrificing quality.

By Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Last updated January 11, 2024

What does it mean to scale customer support?

Scaling customer support refers to how businesses adapt their customer service operations to accommodate a growing customer base and, by extension, increased customer inquiries. It’s about finding a balance between providing good customer service and doing more with less by optimizing your workforce.

When a business grows, it’s usually cause for celebration. After you cut the cake and sweep up the streamers, you need to figure out how to provide the same level of customer service to your growing customer base—a task that’s easier said than done.

Scaling customer support teams is tricky. You need to find harmony between hiring enough employees and supporting them effectively while optimizing your budget. This guide details 13 strategies to scale your support team successfully and how doing so contributes to a positive customer experience (CX).

More in this guide:

What are the benefits of scaling customer support?

Four icons show the benefits of scaling customer support.

Consumers want fast resolutions, on-demand customer service, and proactive support from brands—all of which are tough to provide as you acquire more customers. Not to mention inflated labor budgets and bad customer service can impact how organizations scale, too.

Effectively scaling customer support can help businesses create a successful customer experience strategy and keep operations running smoothly. Some key benefits of scaling customer support include:

  • Improved CX: Scaling customer support helps you maintain an outstanding CX even when your customer base and ticket volume increase.
  • Increased customer retention: Businesses that offer fast, efficient, and proactive support usually have happy customers. And happy customers tend to stick around for the long term.
  • Enhanced support team efficiency: Implementing the strategies and technologies needed to scale empowers support teams to perform their best.
  • Added flexibility: When a business learns to scale properly, it is prepared to withstand upticks in customer requests—whether that’s a seasonal jump or steady growth.

With the right action plan and help desk best practices, businesses can experience these benefits and deliver consistently excellent service.

How do you scale customer support?

Scaling customer support involves implementing several strategies that make your team and processes more effective. Here are some of the top methods for doing so.

A bulleted list details how to scale customer support effectively.

1. Deploy a chatbot for 24/7 support

Chatbots should be included in any business’s operations, not just those looking to scale. This technology offers 24/7 customer support and acts as the first line of defense for answering queries, gathering information, and routing the customer to the appropriate support rep if needed.

For example, let’s say a customer has a question and interacts with a chatbot. If the query is simple—like a password reset or billing question—the bot can handle the entire interaction, reducing the support team’s workload. If the customer needs to talk to a representative, the bot can transfer them, along with the full context of the situation, to the right agent for a streamlined and efficient handoff.

2. Use generative AI to assist agents

Generative AI and advanced automation are transforming how businesses interact with their customers, allowing organizations to create personalized experiences at scale. These tools can offer real-time suggestions, relevant information, workforce management assistance, and more to save your team time.

Utilizing generative AI may involve automatically creating optimized work schedules to ensure the right employees are working at the right time. Or, it can help agents streamline consumer communication by suggesting automated responses and next steps for the customer to take.

3. Appoint a customer service administrator

As your team expands, consider hiring a full-time administrator to manage your day-to-day support operations, perform system maintenance, and flag possible issues. Generally speaking, businesses should appoint an administrator if they have a team of 10 or more support agents and plan to build and test new workflows.

When choosing a customer service administrator, look for candidates who have:

  • Experience managing customer success tools

  • The ability to break down complex concepts and information

  • Knowledge of automation and process improvement

  • Great communication and collaboration skills

The more capable and experienced the administrator is, the smoother operations will be.

4. Engage in proactive messaging

Being proactive is one of the hallmarks of a customer-first approach—a philosophy that puts the customer at the center of organizational decision-making rather than focusing only on products or profits. With a proactive messaging strategy, businesses can reach out to customers with information before they know they need it, ultimately saving time for support agents.

For example, a business can schedule a few post-purchase emails confirming product orders, giving estimated arrival dates, and informing the customer of any unexpected delays. This proactive approach gives customers all the necessary information about their order, resulting in fewer calls or messages to customer service teams.

5. Build a knowledge base

Self-service support, like a knowledge base, enables customers to find answers quickly and helps agents resolve issues faster. Use knowledge base content to address common questions, educate consumers about your product, and show them how to complete complicated tasks.

To create a knowledge base:

  1. Identify common issues that need documentation.

  2. Review support tickets, consult with support staff, and tap subject matter experts like engineers and developers to build a content plan.

  3. Create the content and establish a hub customers and agents can use to find necessary information.

6. Create a community forum

Community forums are a great self-service resource for customers to share experiences, ask product questions, and explore topics related to their situation. And if users can’t answer certain questions, businesses can escalate queries to the appropriate support agent.

Pro tip: Use community forum software to create communities for different regions, brands, or products, and keep forums safe by appointing trusted users as moderators.

7. Consider outsourcing

When customer support requests increase and your in-house team is stretched thin, you may need to hire more agents. While this is a viable solution, consider outsourcing some areas of your operations to a third-party vendor.

Customer service business processing outsourcers (BPOs) and similar outsourced customer service teams can act as call centers and help desks and even assist with omnichannel customer service. These specialized organizations can deliver quality customer support and alleviate your support team.

Scale your customer support while controlling costs with AI

Our playbook for controlling costs with AI shows you how real-world companies are scaling support and saving money with automation.

8. Support your support team

Even the best support agents need help from time to time. That’s where customer service management (CSM) comes in. With CSM, you can arm agents with the proper tools, processes, and coaching they need to get better day after day. Use robust training programs and workshops to teach agents the skills they need to succeed in their roles—and don’t forget to expand or refine those sessions based on agent feedback.

9. Embrace an omnichannel approach

Consumers expect to be able to communicate with businesses on the channels they prefer, whether that’s via website, email, or social media. Embracing an omnichannel approach allows organizations to weave together a complete customer dialogue without losing context.

For example, a consumer may start interacting with a support agent on social media but then want to move the conversation to a phone call. An omnichannel approach allows for this to happen, saving the customer from repeating themselves. This creates a streamlined experience for the customer and saves support agents time by giving them all the information they need to solve the issue at hand.

10. Utilize ticket swarming

Ticket swarming is a collaborative process that involves more than one team member working to resolve a ticket at a time. Say a frontline staff member is handling a ticket and discovers the issue is a product bug. They can work directly with an engineer to solve the issue rather than escalate the ticket to the engineering team.

This is a great method for scaling support teams, as one agent oversees a ticket from start to finish instead of pushing it through a ticket escalation process. Ticket swarming helps resolve issues promptly, and customers are less likely to return with the same problems, meaning your agents can move on to other tickets.

11. Automate tasks

While we’ve touched on what automation can add to your team, it’s also important to note what it can take away. Inefficient support teams can spend hours on manual tasks like ticket categorization, data entry, and basic customer follow-up communication. Luckily, automation can eliminate those tasks.

For example, an automated ticketing system can sort, prioritize, and track customer questions as they move through the queue. These kinds of capabilities can handle the basics so teams can focus on more complex issues.

12. Hire qualified candidates

When expanding your workforce, you likely won’t find candidates with a wealth of support experience. However, you should be looking for candidates with the necessary skills to succeed—like communication skills, empathy, problem-solving abilities, and a customer-first mindset, to name a few.

Also, be mindful of how a candidate will fit into your organization’s culture. You can always provide ongoing training and development to help build hard skills, but ensuring the individual already has the right traits for the job and your organization is important.

13. Strive for continuous improvement

Organizations that scale customer support must commit to continuous improvement. Do this by regularly analyzing customer service key performance indicators (KPIs)—such as resolution time, first reply time, and customer satisfaction (CSAT)—to identify successes and failures.

For example, you may find that your first response time is too lengthy or that your CSAT is trending downward over the last quarter. Use these metrics to pinpoint the cause of issues and implement proactive changes.

Frequently asked questions

Scale your support team with the power of Zendesk

Scaling customer support is a delicate balance of maintaining quality service as your customer base grows without inflating labor costs in the process. The most successful businesses learn how to do more with less, and you can achieve that with the right CX partner.

At Zendesk, we offer comprehensive customer experience software that can empower your support team with generative AI, automation, and a host of other features. Start a free trial today to optimize your team and scale effectively.

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