5 Ways to Scale Your Customer Support Team in a Hybrid Work World

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    For most companies, growth is a natural goal—but expanding too quickly can create gaps in customer support. A team that expertly handles 100 calls each day won’t be able to offer the same level of service if their call volume increases to 500 calls a day. To ensure customer satisfaction and maintain your competitive advantage, you must understand how to scale customer support as your company grows.

    That can be especially difficult today, as hybrid work environments are more common than ever. Considering the benefits of a remote workforce, including reduced overhead costs, less employee turnover, and access to a larger talent pool, many employers now plan to keep at least a portion of their customer service teams remote for the foreseeable future.

    Whether you have an in-person, remote, or hybrid team, your organization must be able to adapt as it grows, including hiring and onboarding new employees, implementing and adopting new technology, and improving processes to meet the needs of an expanding team.

    What Does It Mean to Scale Customer Support?

    Scaling refers to an organization’s ability to support growth without sacrificing quality or customer experience. When scaling the customer support function, the team must be able to handle an increase in customers, calls, and other related work while continuing to adhere to best practices and delivering exceptional service. 

    Why Do Companies Need to Scale?

    Companies may need to scale customer support for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the need to scale stems from natural business growth, but it may also result from external factors, such as increased demand during holiday seasons. Common reasons for scaling include:

    Growing Customer Demand for Products and Services 

    Strategic business growth initiatives, such as advertising campaigns and ventures into new markets, generate new customers, which leads to higher call volumes and service requests. In addition, businesses may experience increased demand during certain times of the year, such as the weeks leading up to the winter holidays.

    Covering Additional Time Zones 

    As a company grows, it may acquire customers across the country or world. To provide a more seamless customer experience, companies may structure customer support teams to cover those additional time zones. Or, an organization may decide to provide after-hours support, especially if customers use the company’s product outside of typical business hours.

    Offering More Ways to Connect to Customers 

    Some business initiatives may lead to a need for increased customer support, such as introducing a loyalty program or offering a VIP level of customer service.

    Offering New Support Channels 

    Increasingly, customers want to be able to connect with a company in a variety of ways, including chat, text, email, and phone calls. To meet that demand, companies may need to expand their support teams.

    5 Ways to Successfully Scale Customer Support Teams

    It’s clear that companies need the ability to scale—but it’s often easier said than done. These tips can make scaling easier and more effective, no matter where your team members are working.

    1. Strengthen Your Onboarding Process

    Scaling starts with your onboarding process. The more efficiently you can teach new employees your company processes and best practices, the quicker they will be able to join the team on the support floor and begin delivering high quality service.

    With that in mind, it’s essential to create a robust onboarding experience that can be delivered both in-person and remotely. In addition, all training materials should be accessible on demand—for example, in a knowledge management platform—so new hires can review them as needed, rather than spending valuable time tracking down information from their co-workers or managers.  

    2. Streamline Best Practices and Processes

    For customer support team members to thrive, they must have access to up-to-date company processes and procedures. Housing these documents in a knowledge management system will provide your employees with a central, trusted source of information. 

    However, that’s only the first piece of the puzzle. You must also have a successful knowledge engagement strategy to encourage employees to continually add new or updated information to that platform. For example, encourage employees to document best practices that have worked for them and add them to the knowledge base. It can also be helpful to incorporate a Q&A feature into your knowledge management platform so team members can ask and answer common questions. Over time, this can become a robust FAQ that employees can quickly and easily search when they need information.

    3. Evaluate Your Tech Stack

    Your team must have the right technology stack to do their jobs effectively no matter where they’re wokring—and that only becomes more important as your team grows. At a minimum, all companies should have video conferencing, real-time chat, project management, and knowledge engagement tools.

    Especially in a hybrid environment, these tools will give your team the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively—both in real time and asynchronously—even when they’re not together in the same room.

    Also consider what technology you may be able to leverage to reduce the strain on your customer support team as the company grows. For example, using chatbots and artificial intelligence tools can allow customers to interact with your website and find helpful information without involving a member of the support team. Similarly, consider creating a customer-facing instance of your knowledge management platform, where users can find answers to common questions and troubleshooting tips, which can deflect calls from your contact center.    

    4. Give Your Team a Central, Trusted Source of Information

    In an office, employees have the ability to walk over to a co-worker or manager and ask a quick question, but remote employees are more limited. Even with a real-time chat tool, team members may not always be available to provide a prompt response.

    Especially in a hybrid work environment, empower your customer service agents with a central, comprehensive source of information, like a knowledge management platform. They should be able to find everything they need to do their job within this database, from process documents to training videos to FAQs. To make it easier, make sure your knowledge management platform has robust search functionality, so employees can use a keyword search or categories to quickly find an answer and provide prompt responses to customer questions or issues.

    Centralizing all the information relevant to their job can help minimize frustration—especially for remote workers, who aren’t able to have spontaneous, in-person conversations—and enable even new employees to jump right in and start contributing to the team. Plus, a centralized hub of information plays an invaluable role in creating a successful knowledge transfer plan for when employees leave the organization or move to another team.

    5. Deliver In-the-Moment Micro-Coaching

    As your team grows, it can become more time-consuming to deliver regular feedback to every employee. And it’s even harder if part of your team is remote and you don’t have the ability to drop by an employee’s desk to deliver feedback on the fly. But that can be detrimental, for both keeping your employees engaged and providing a high quality experience to your customers.

    According to one survey, 32% of employees say they have to wait three months to get feedback from their manager. That’s a lot of time for issues to linger (and get worse). And what’s more—employees want that feedback. In fact, 96% of those surveyed said receiving feedback regularly is a good thing.

    Rather than trying to schedule formal performance reviews or regular check-in meetings—which can be challenging with a growing team—strive to provide micro-coaching moments to your team on a daily basis, using your established KPIs. For example, if you see an agent’s first response time or resolved tickets ratio slipping, use your chat tool to message him or her with feedback, or recommend relevant trainings and documentation in your knowledge management platform.

    This will allow you to catch issues before they become full-blown problems—and keep your employees satisfied and engaged. Just make sure to offer praise as well as feedback for improvement.

    3 Mistakes Support Teams Make as They Scale

    Scaling a team can be tricky. As you grow your customer support function, watch out for these common pitfalls:

    Tracking the Wrong Metrics

    Measuring KPIs can be helpful to ensure that your team is performing up to standards, but make sure you pinpoint metrics that reflect your team’s true priorities. Creating a good customer experience, for instance, should take priority over a low average time to resolution.

    Becoming Siloed

    As a company grows and adds more customer support teams, it can become easy for each group to work in a silo—each with its own processes, information, and systems for knowledge management. To avoid knowledge silos, make sure information is housed in one centralized source. This will ensure that all teams work from the same information and use the same processes. 

    Losing Sight of Company-Wide Goals and Customer Experience Vision 

    As a company becomes bigger, its employees can feel further away from its core mission—especially if some of those employees aren’t on-site. To scale successfully, employees must understand how their work contributes to company goals and the overall customer experience.

    Maintaining high quality customer service as you grow requires you to equip your customer support team to scale effectively. By using these tips, you can help your customer support teams thrive as your company expands.

    This blog post was updated and expanded in May 2022.

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