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Customer service structure: how to build an effective support team

Structuring your customer service organisation requires rethinking how to best provide support, what people and skills you need and how you plan to organise it.

What is a customer service organisational structure?

Customer service organisational structure is a framework of roles, teams and tiers that help build a people first approach to customer service. Key to this is providing well-defined roles and performance expectations, which allows everyone in the team to understand what they need to achieve and their career path options and goals to work towards.

Building a successful customer service team requires clear strategies and dedicated effort. Every member of the team – from agents to executives – must understand their role, their teammates’ roles and how they all fit together within the department.

Establishing an effective customer service structure that promotes your organisational objectives is the first step to empowering your team to carry out their duties and ensure customer success. In this article, we provide tools and frameworks to structure your support team based on the real-world experiences of industry leaders.

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Benefits of establishing a customer service structure

Customer service is the front line of your business – it’s how you build relationships and forge your reputation. Establishing a clear and effective customer service structure can lead to the following benefits for your organisation.

Customer service structures offer the following benefits: improved team efficiency, defined team hierarchies and increased collaboration.

Improves team efficiency

A clearly defined customer service department structure can turn your team into a well-oiled machine. Clear roles and responsibilities eliminate confusion and avoid duplicating work, while defined workflows guide employees through tasks. For example, by dividing your team into specialised groups, you can route help requests to the agents who are best suited to handle them, resulting in faster resolutions.

Defines team hierarchy

A well-designed organisational structure lays the foundation for efficient team management. Establishing a clear hierarchy provides managers with defined areas of responsibility and oversight. Team leads and supervisors can focus on specific areas, like product expertise or skill development, without micromanaging the entire group.

This frees up senior managers to concentrate on broader goals and strategies while maintaining crucial visibility into the team’s overall performance. Moreover, a well-defined hierarchy fosters accountability, empowering managers to take ownership of their tasks and contribute effectively to the collective goal of providing exceptional customer service.

Increases collaboration

With a defined structure, team members understand their coworkers’ roles and responsibilities, which leads to greater collaboration. Whether it’s a technical glitch, a complex customer query or a need for additional training, every team member has dedicated points of contact to seek assistance.

This eliminates the frustration of bouncing between colleagues or escalating tickets unnecessarily. Open communication channels ensure information flows seamlessly, allowing teams to quickly identify issues, track progress and provide targeted support where needed.

8 types of customer service organisational structures

Each organisation faces unique challenges and caters to diverse customer needs, which demand a tailored approach. From traditional hierarchies to dynamic matrices, explore how different customer service structures shape team dynamics, communication flows and the customer experience.

Functional organisational structure

A functional organisational structure groups employees together based on their expertise. For example, all the marketing employees would be in one department, all the finance employees would be in another one, and so on.

This type of structure can be very efficient, as it allows employees to focus on their area of expertise and work with people with similar skills and knowledge. However, it can also lead to poor communication and collaboration between departments.

Product-based divisional structure

A product-based divisional structure organises customer support along product lines, creating dedicated teams for each product or service the business offers.

This approach immerses agents in the intricacies of each product, fostering deep expertise and a nuanced understanding of specific customer needs. They become product experts, readily navigating features and troubleshooting complex issues.

Geographic divisional structure

A geographic divisional structure organises customer service teams by location. These teams understand local nuances, speak the language and can navigate cultural expectations, which builds customer trust and greater opportunities for personalisation.

However, dividing teams by regions can lead to information silos. Cross-regional collaboration and knowledge sharing are crucial to ensure consistency and avoid isolated customer support approaches.

Circular organisational structure

A circular organisational structure for customer service teams promotes a more collaborative, interconnected landscape. Picture a series of concentric circles. At the centre are the executives and each surrounding ring represents a different team or function, all equally important in supporting and empowering the customer experience.

Information and support flows freely across these circles, fostering open communication and collaboration. Agents at the forefront gain immediate access to expert guidance from specialists in inner circles, while executives gain valuable insights that fuel strategic decision-making. This interconnectedness breeds agility and responsiveness, allowing the team to adapt to any customer need or challenge.

Market-based divisional structure

In a market-based divisional structure, teams cater to distinct customer groups, like startups or large enterprises. Each team is deeply versed in the needs and customer expectations of their unique market segment. They become trusted advisors, tackling industry-specific issues, offering tailored solutions and building lasting relationships.

Matrix organisational structure

In a matrix organisational structure, customer service teams are extremely flexible and agents wear many hats. Agents in this structure combine product-specific knowledge with technical prowess, creating agile teams that handle complex queries within their product or market segment.

However, navigating a matrix environment can be tricky. Clear communication channels and strong leadership are crucial to avoid confusion and ensure accountability among the team.

Flat organisational structure

In a flat structure, hierarchies are replaced by a level playing field of shared responsibility, where agents and leaders stand shoulder to shoulder. Agents own their interactions and are equipped with the autonomy to resolve issues, offer creative solutions and contribute to shaping team processes. Leaders act as mentors and facilitators, fostering a culture of learning and continuous improvement.

Process-based organisational structure

Process-based organisational structures ditch siloed departments and instead revolve around the customer journey. Teams are organised around key stages – like customer onboarding, troubleshooting and billing – with each stage guided by a dedicated crew of specialists. Every interaction feeds into the next, with data and insights informing personalised support and proactive solutions.

Key steps for creating a customer service organisational structure

Establishing an effective customer service department structure is necessary for businesses aiming to cultivate positive customer experiences. Explore the key steps organisations can undertake to build a suitable support framework for their employees and, ultimately, their customers.

An illustration of a person waving accompanies steps for establishing your customer service structure: identify roles, teams and tiers; support your support team; create opportunities for growth and mentorship; monitor performance and measure results.

Download the free customer service structure guide

Unlock the secrets to building a stellar support team with our free guide on organisational structuring. Discover essential tips and strategies to elevate your customer support game by downloading this blueprint to success.

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