Guide

How to structure your customer support organisation

Published November 13, 2018
Last updated October 21, 2020

What does a successful customer support team look and feel like? How can companies deliver good customer service while undergoing rapid growth and the changes that come with it? What are the skills that managers and staff members need to better understand and support the agent experience?

In this guide, we provide tools and frameworks to structure your support team based on what leaders have learned during their tenure at Zendesk. We implement these strategies as our own customer support team changes to keep up with the pace of the company’s growth.

Identify the roles, teams and tiers

A good team always starts by establishing a strong foundation. First, identify your company’s needs and circumstances. For example, if you’re a software company, will most of your tickets be technical issues? Do you have tech-savvy customers, or will they require an extra level of customer service?

If you’re a retail company, will most of your customer service involve returns and refunds? If your company were to categorise your tickets, which would have the highest volume? This will offer a starting point to manage expectations and define the roles, functions and teams that are needed to meet and support those needs.

Zendesk’s Customer Advocate teams are organised into three team tiers in order to manage complexity by segmenting tasks and focus areas.

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

By dividing and conquering, agents can answer issues to a certain rhythm, dive deeper and gain expertise along the way. Importantly, that expertise can in turn be added to an internal knowledge base that can accelerate onboarding while elevating your company’s level of customer service.

There’s no single perfect formula for growing a customer support organisation, but there are some key milestones that you can consider important growth tipping points:

  • When is it time to add a Support Organisations team?
  • When is it time to add a tier?
  • When is it time to specialise?
  • When is it time to triage tickets?

Supporting support

After a solid team architecture has been built, then it’s time to find the glue to fit these pieces together and ensure a positive support environment for the team. We’ve highlighted several skills and practices that agents and managers should practise in order to support one another and ultimately build customer satisfaction.

Five essential skills for customer advocates

There’s more to being a customer advocate than showing up. Here are a few qualities that managers should look for when recruiting, hiring and onboarding customer service representatives.

  • Empathy
  • Internet savvy
  • Strong communication
  • Mastering simplicity
  • Growth mindset

Six core competencies for Managers

Managers have the responsibility to ensure that the organisation is delivering the level and quality of customer service that it promises. This means that managers need to create a great support experience for employees. After all, happy agents provide the kind of customer-focused service that results in satisfied end users – and this in turn leads to better customer retention.

  • Communication
  • Direction setting
  • Motivating and recognising
  • Change management and removing roadblocks
  • Conflict management, feedback and development
  • Hiring, onboarding and diversity

Create opportunities for growth and mentorship

When a company is growing, employee retention is critical to keep the momentum going. Empower your support staff by providing opportunities for career advancement – show that there’s room to learn and grow. This opens doors for peer mentorship and cultivating a scalable and sustainable organisation as veteran staff move up and new faces arrive. Remember that your company has many options for helping team members improve on how they deliver customer service. Customer feedback, for example, is invaluable – this information yields clear roadmaps for the kind of customer service that will separate your organisation from its competitors.

In the end, a great support experience can be boiled down to this simple equation:

The support experience = customer experience + agent experience

There’s a lot to process and think about. And it’s essential to remember that the interpersonal and organisational best practices that you put in place will only be as effective as the software that workers use to help customers. Will that software automate repetitive tasks? Does it integrate phone support, social media, live chat and email – in other words, can it enable team members to get a holistic view of their customers while simplifying day-to-day tasks? Increasingly, these questions determine the difference between acceptable customer support and great customer service.

Regardless of what stage your company is at right now, use this guide to start thinking about the process of building a customer support team that works well with your organisation. With thoughtful planning, consistency and flexibility, your business will be able to maintain the kind of customer service that your customers demand.