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Article 7 min read

Scaling your support team: 7 common questions answered

There's a lot plenty to think about when scaling your support team. Put your mind at ease with some expert answers to commonly asked questions.

By Sarah Olson, Senior Associate, Content Marketing, @seolson5

Last updated July 30, 2020

Many small and midsize businesses (SMBs) rely on a patchwork system of multiple tools just to capture customer information and respond to requests. This can result in time wasted, missed requests and lost sales—not a great outlook for a growing business. What’s more, these workarounds and stopgaps simply don’t scale.

As your business matures, your technology needs to mature too. Read on to see how customer service software can help you scale your support team for sustainable growth and long-term success.

1. How do you know when you need a customer service software solution?

If you have dedicated staff, even just a few people, whose primary role is responding to customer emails, it’s probably time to consider a customer email management system. Understandably, many organisations are not sure when to upgrade the systems they started with in their scrappy startup days (which for many organisations is an email client such as Outlook or Gmail), but those systems create more headaches than they solve. Customer service software helps create a smoother experience for all involved by:

  • Consolidating everything agents need in a single workspace
  • Surfacing customer context, which results in speedier resolutions and happier customers
  • Facilitating easier collaboration among team members
  • Capturing actionable data that can guide your CX strategy

1. What’s the best way to categorise incoming requests?

Taking advantage of ticket fields is important because they can help you solve tickets with fewer touches, according to Don Newton, Associate Services Consultant at Zendesk. Collecting the right information, such as the type of request or product category, via web form could save you two to three emails per request, he says, which could be the difference between needing to hire more staff or not. While every organisation’s needs will be different, he says every ticket field should have a purpose, and those purposes usually fall into one of three categories:

  1. Routing — Ensuring the request gets to the right team member
  2. Resolution — Capturing information that’s necessary to resolve the issue
  3. Reporting — Classifying the issue for reporting purposes

Using a web form with ticket fields is a big step up from an email-only tool. With ticket fields, you’re capturing information about the issue before you even open the ticket, which can help streamline the process for all involved. It’s one of the easiest ways you can improve your support set-up.

3. Does every organisation need a knowledge base?

Not necessarily, according to Newton. It depends on the volume of requests you receive and the complexity of your product. If you’re receiving a small but steady stream of requests that often cover the same frequently asked questions (FAQs), an FAQ page on your website may be sufficient. You can then develop email templates based on your FAQs, so resolving those requests is a breeze for your support team. However, as you continue to grow and add more customers, the range of questions you receive will naturally expand, in which case a knowledge management system could help.

At the same time, you’ll want to consider complexity. If you sell shoes, for example, you’ll probably have a pretty straightforward set of questions customers ask all the time, such as questions about sizing, delivery or returns. However, if you sell photography equipment, a knowledge base could help you easily share information covering a wide range of use cases and technical difficulties that could arise.

4. How do you know when you need to hire more support agents?

The easiest way to know when you need to hire more agents is to look at whether you are meeting your targets for help desk metrics such as response time, handling time and customer satisfaction score (CSAT). See how you compare to industry benchmarks. If you aren’t meeting targets, then consider possible causes:

  • Are you seeing an increase in ticket volume?
  • Do you have an inefficient workflow?
  • Is there a knowledge gap on your team?

If the issue is increased volume, you may need to hire more agents. If the issue is a redundant process or clunky workflow, consider where you could streamline or automate processes to improve performance. For example, with the Zendesk Support Suite you can add workflows that will prioritise incoming requests based on certain targets you want to meet and how close you are to missing the mark. In the case of a knowledge gap, take a look at your agent training and make sure agents are given the resources they need to stay on top of product knowledge and industry trends.

5. At what point should you hire a full-time administrator?

As your team continues to grow, you might consider hiring a full-time administrator to manage the day-to-day operations, perform system maintenance and flag possible issues. Newton says there’s no hard-and-fast rule, but he advises that if you have 10 or more agents, it might be time to start having that conversation. Another factor to consider is the frequency with which your support needs are changing. If you plan to regularly build and test new workflows, you may wish to consider adding an administrator who can take the lead on developing new configurations and monitoring their success.

Don’t forget: administrative tasks, such as granting permissions and changing account settings, will probably fall to someone regardless. Keep this in mind as you allocate staffing and resources.

6. How do you know when you need to add more support channels?

While phone and email remain two of the most popular channels people use to contact support, customers are increasingly expecting an omnichannel experience. They want to be able to connect with businesses via the channels they prefer, whether that’s live chat or social messaging. But before you add another channel, consider whether you can properly staff it while maintaining the same quality of service. For example, while email requests don’t require an immediate response, live chat requires real-time back-and-forth with customers. On the other side, the advantage of adding chat agents is that they can often handle multiple chats at the same time, potentially increasing the return on investment. If you’re considering adding or scaling your live chat, as many organisations have done in the wake of COVID-19, check out these live chat best practices.

7. Should your agents be generalists, or should they specialise in certain channels?

While some specialisation can be helpful, Newton says generalists tend to be more versatile. If possible, he recommends cross-training agents on each service channel so you can be more agile with staffing. For example, if you see a sudden influx in chat requests, you can easily pivot agents to help keep up with the demand. Mixing channel coverage also gives agents the opportunity to hone their customer service skills in a variety of contexts, while also preventing channel fatigue.

Nevertheless, specialisation can come in handy for certain niche areas. For example, Zendesk has a team of agents who receive additional training to handle social media requests, which often require you to act quickly and have a good sense of humour.

Every organisation is different

There are many things to think about when scaling your support team, but ultimately, enabling your team comes down to giving them the best tools for the job and supporting them along the way. Every organisation is different. There are no right or wrong answers. Your needs will probably change as you continue to grow and respond to an ever-changing marketplace. But the right technology will be able to adapt and scale with you, wherever you go.

See what’s possible with a free trial of the Zendesk Support Suite.

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