In today’s hyperconnected world, your product is only as good as the service you back it with. It’s easy for small companies to think of customer service as just a checkbox item, but to be competitive and offer a seamless experience as you grow, you need to look ahead.
Planning how to evolve your customer service in advance is becoming as critical to your business as setting your product roadmap. We talk to a lot of fast-growing companies about how to future-proof their customer support. Here are six reasons you need to build a service roadmap so you can be sure to offer amazing service, no matter how fast you grow.
1. You plan to support multiple channels.
Most small businesses start out by supporting customers exclusively with email, and maybe Twitter, but as their company and customer base grows, they may need to add real-time support via phone or live chat to keep up with requests.
Making the transition is a big step. Not only do you need the tools to support this effort, but you may need a different type of agent. Phone agents need a good phone presence. Chat agents need to be able to multitask as they typically work more than one case at a time. For different types of agents you need different training materials. And you need a different version of your knowledge base for agents to pull answers from (the answers typically used on email will be too long for chat).
2. You may tier your support team as you grow.
Small businesses typically start out with one or two customer-service agents that answer all inquiries, but as you grow you need to segment that out. This is especially important for complex products and technology.
Most businesses will have a first-response tier who will figure out what the problem is and route customers to the right agents. As a company gets even bigger there might be a third layer of engineering experts who handle the really gnarly calls.
Deciding in advance how you will tier your support team will enable to you to put the right systems and people in place to divide and conquer support requests without disruption.
3. Your business will expand geographically.
If you start to support customers in different time zones, you may need to expand the hours that you offer support or look to hire local support agents in those regions. You may need to rethink how you route cases to let agents just starting their days easily pick up cases from agents that are ending theirs.
Language is another consideration. Not only do you need a support solution that is multilingual but you need to be sure that your knowledge articles are translated into multiple languages and that you have a plan for curation and maintenance so that agents and customers can get up-to-date answers in every language.
4. You may outsource some of your service.
It’s typical for growing companies to outsource some of their support operations (usually the tier one front lines) to a third party, especially if they expand across the globe or start offering service-level agreements that require a rapid response. This isn’t something that can happen overnight.
You need to look at the best ways to share information, route cases and seamlessly pass cases back and forth. Training is also important. It can take longer than you ever thought possible to work with an outsourced call center to make them sound smart and represent your brand correctly, but to offer customers a quality experience you need to invest the time.
5. You need to integrate with other business systems.
When you put a customer-service solution in place, you need to consider what the most important systems powering your business are, and if and how you will need to integrate with them. There are typically two ways to integrate systems.
The first is via data, so that you can visualize one system within another, for example making it easy for you agents to view shipping data in your support solution so that they can quickly and accurately respond to delivery questions.
The second kind of integration is when an action in one system triggers an action in another. For example, if an agent identifies a bug in a product it can be automatically logged in Jira so that it can be fixed quickly and everyone stays in sync.
6. You’re hoping to grow really fast.
Sure, you’d like to be the next Lyft or FitBit, but growing fast can be a downer if you’re caught off guard. I’ve already mentioned some of the things that you need to plan for, such as global expansion and what systems you need to integrate with, but you should also think about whether you will be supporting multiple brands and products over time and whether your customer support solution can scale as you grow.
Can you accommodate call centers around the globe? Can you customize it as your needs change? Can you integrate with complex backoffice and ERP systems if needed?
Rapid growth is every small business’s dream. To make sure your company easily scales, be sure to think ahead about every aspect of your business including customer service. With the right advanced planning, fast growth will be a reason to celebrate.
Original Article: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241599
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