By 2020, customer experience is expected to become a main differentiator between brands, even overtaking products and pricing.
That may surprise you, but it’s testament to the way in which consumers expect to be treated by businesses today. After all, the internet has transformed the shopping experience, offering unprecedented freedom — if one brand fails to value your time and money, you can be sure another will.
That’s why building a customer service team that works well is crucial in call centers and support departments. Investing in the best employees, the best technologies and the best training techniques will help you deliver outstanding service that boosts retention.
But how do you structure your team for success?
#1. Define your Service Team Roles
The first thing you have to do when building a customer service team is to understand service team roles.
Knowing which service team roles matter and why can help you put the right people in the right place. Here are the key positions and a breakdown of their duties:
– Call center agent / advisor
These are your frontline professionals: they will spend the majority of their time speaking with customers on one or more channels (phone, live chat etc.). It’s their job to answer calls, diagnose issues, find a solution and leave customers satisfied enough to come back.
They should have strong communication skills, be a good listener and able to sympathize with callers. It’s vital that they understand how important good service is — though they may feel theirs is one of the lowest service team roles, they’re actually a vital conduit between the customer and the company.
– Team leader
The team leader is responsible for overseeing a specific group of agents, to make sure they’re hitting targets, performing to a certain standard and generally to keep them motivated. They may need to speak to customers from time to time, in particularly challenging cases.
They may be hired to act as team leader or promoted from other service team roles, bringing their own experience as an agent to a more managerial position.
A supervisor’s duties are close to those of a team leader, though they may have a tighter connection to management than other service team roles.
Supervisors may be required to interact with customers if they wish to complain about something, or if an apology is needed from higher up.
– Coach / trainer
A call center or business may hire someone to act as a coach or trainer to agents, though these duties could fall within a member of the HR team’s remit too. Coaching / training is essential to help agents improve their performance and develop new skills for better service.
They may work alongside QA analysts to devise programs that address issues or knowledge gaps, which can be detected during ongoing quality assurance.
#2. Create Sub-Teams with Different Specialisms
Another vital aspect of building a customer service team properly is implementing sub-teams, with different expertise. For example, you may have agents in place to be the first point of contact between customers and the company. They will answer calls and start live chats, taking the individual’s details and query.
They will either have the knowledge and resources to solve the problem themselves, or they may need to pass the customer on to a colleague with specialist training. This is likely for companies in the technology industry, in which interactions may touch on extremely complex areas.
There should be enough ‘specialist’ agents available to accommodate the volume of incoming queries, though. Having just two or three to handle hundreds of potential issues can cause a backlog.
Identify the main types of queries you tend to receive first. It may be more practical to equip all agents with the same degree of knowledge on products or services, to avoid long queues. If callers are to be handed over to another agent, though, this must be precise: being bounced from one worker to the next will only alienate customers.
#3. Establish a Clear Hierarchy
You must establish a clear hierarchy when building your customer service team. You need someone to take the lead, make decisions and handle agents failing to pull their weight.
This is why appointing multiple team leaders and managers is such an effective model, though the size of your customer service team will dictate how many you need. If it’s a small group of eight, one team leader and manager would be sufficient.
For 10 or more, though, operating two teams with their own leaders would be helpful for staying organized. For much larger groups, though, ensure there’s a more intricate chain of command when planning service team roles.
#4. Implement QA Analysts to Drive Growth
No matter how skilled your support agents are, mistakes and oversights are inevitable. We’re all only human, after all.
However, repeating said errors will only lead to dissatisfied customers and churn. That’s why quality assurance is so important to keep improving the quality of your service.
Hiring QA analysts to work with your customer service team means you’ll always have a system in place to keep driving growth. Call monitoring lets analysts identify flaws in service and come up with effective training to fix them. Coaching sessions will keep staff motivated and inspired to achieve their best.
Good QA software puts all the core data analysts require at their fingertips, so they can pull up historical data and track progression with minimal effort.
#5. Utilize an Omni-channel Structure for Customer Interactions
Finally, your customer service agents should have access to, and be trained in the use of, multiple communication channels.
Phone, live chat, email and social media are all available to take advantage of. The majority of customers expect real-time support on all channels available, while 37 percent want to to be able to reach the same agent regardless of the method used.
An omni-channel strategy is convenient for customers and ensures they can find assistance via the platform most suitable for them. When building a customer service team, you may want to segment staff across different channels (some on live chat, some on phone, some on social media etc.) or train everyone to be proficient on all.
However, it’s essential that you factor data into this decision: assign more agents to the most active channel and fewer to the least.
Building a customer service team takes time, effort and planning. You can’t expect them to hit the ground running: leverage quality assurance to evaluate performance and keep improving it across months and years.
You should know your customer base and their expectations too. This will help you structure your team to best cater to their needs, rather than making decisions in a vacuum.
Follow the tips explored above to structure your customer service team most effectively. What hints and hacks would you recommend to other call centers putting their teams together? Which have brought the most impressive benefits for your team? Share your insights below!