A growing customer base is good news. Your company is expanding – and that’s exciting!

But every rose has its thorn.

Do you find yourself spending so much time on customer support that other tasks are suffering?

Or are you so busy running your business that your customer service requests are piling up?

There’s no winning here. Both of these will hurt your growth. When you consider that 89% of consumers switch to a competitor after a poor customer service experience, it’s clear you need to keep your customer support game strong.

This isn’t just about new customers

Your growing customer base matters – but don’t forget your existing customers. Did you know that if you can increase customer retention by just 5%, your profit can increase by anything from 25% to 95%? That’s a huge increase!

5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25% to 95%

Scaling is about doing things smartly and efficiently

More customers means more support requests. If your team can’t keep up with requests, you’ll leave your customers with a poor impression of your business. If those customers go out and talk about their negative experiences, that’s an even bigger problem – 92% of customers are less likely to frequent a business with poor online reviews.

But how do you keep up? Should you hire extra support agents right away? Sure, eventually extra hires might be your best option. But hiring costs money and time. If you hire too soon, you might end up creating more chaos.

If your team can’t keep up with requests, you’ll leave your customers with a poor impression of your business.

Instead of rushing to hire, first look at how to improve your team’s productivity. If you put the right tools and processes in place, you can scale your operations effectively. And once you’ve streamlined the processes that work for your existing team, it’ll be easier for new hires to hit the ground running.

Here are some tips to handle your growing customer base:

1. Automate repeatable processes

It’s easy for a small team to stay customer focused and provide personalized support. But what happens when you have more customers, or a bigger team? Automation helps you manage the growing numbers in a structured and organized way.

Some biz owners reject automation because they worry about losing the human touch. That’s valid. We’ve all received impersonal automated messages that leave us feeling like we’re just another number instead of a valued customer. But automating doesn’t have to look like this. It comes down to being smart about when to automate.

Automating processes doesn't have to mean losing the human touch.

Bots don’t make your company sound robotic or uncaring. You can program most automated solutions to sound warm and friendly. Customers care about getting their problems answered. If that means a quick chat with a bot to make sure they get directed to the right person, most people are fine with that. Automation can also reassure customers that their request has been received, and let them know what they can expect to happen next.

A friendly AI message is much better for your reputation than a long silence.

Automation tips

  • Create canned responses to common questions. What questions do you hear repeatedly from customers? Now write up canned responses and get them into your help desk software, so they can be shared and reused. You’d be amazed how much time your team will save simply by not having to write these from scratch each time. It also helps ensure your team is communicating with a consistent brand voice.
  • Use chat bots to answer initial questions. A customer service bot can get the basic details from the customer. For example, if a customer’s order hasn’t arrived, a bot can get their order number. Now you can respond to the customer with all the relevant information on hand. Bots are also fantastic for routing the request. Set one up to ask your customer “do you need help with an existing order or a new order?” for example.
  • Put similar customer issues into categories. For example, “login problems”, “payment questions”, “functionality issues.” Then you can act on each type of issue in bulk. You’ll save your team time, and help them be more efficient. It’s easier to stay focused if you’re not jumping between different types of issues.
  • Automatically assign a support request to the right agent based on the type of request. VIP customers are best handled by an experienced team member. A tech wizard will be your go-to for technical mishaps.
  • Don’t wait to escalate. Decide how long it’s reasonable for a customer to wait for a response from your team. Set up an alert to automatically escalate that customer’s query when they reach the time limit.
  • Use AI tools to make your team’s job easier. AI can run in the background and help your team with smart suggestions and automatic classification of issues. For example, if a customer’s message contains terms such as “return” or “refund”, AI would suggest using a canned response about “how to return an item” to the agent.

Be mindful when choosing what and when to automate. It’s better to have a bot doing a small task well and genuinely improving customer service, than it doing lots of things badly and frustrating your customers.

2. Help customers help themselves

Don’t assume that every customer wants to talk to an agent.

Some want an instant answer to a simple question.
Some hate phone calls.
Some just like finding things for themselves.

In fact, 91% of customers would use online knowledge base software if it was available.

91% of customers would use online knowledge base software if it was available.

More people heading to your knowledge base means less pressure on your support team. Make it easy for your customers to find the help they need.

Self service help tips

  • Write a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions page) of the most common customer issues (and some of the less common ones). Make sure your answers are easy to read and understand.
  • Make use of knowledge base software. Use images and lay out step-by-step instructions to explain complex concepts. Make sure your knowledge base is easy to search and up-to-date. Imagine the frustration when a customer has put in effort to find an article, only to realize that it still mentions the old way of doing something that no longer exists.
  • Start a community forum or Facebook group. This has two excellent advantages:
    • Your customers can help each other, which saves you time.
    • Your fan base can bond and generate excitement about your product. You might even pick up ideas about new features they want, or how they use existing features.
  • Hop on the forum yourself sometimes, or appoint a team member as moderator. If you don’t, it could turn into a place where customers come to vent about your company. Plus, personal interaction is good for your reputation. Customers like to feel they’re getting direct help from your company.
  • Have a variety of options. Some people learn better by watching videos, some need diagrams, and others prefer words. Add screenshots to your knowledge base articles, and create demo videos about the major features of your product.
  • If you’ve got a sizeable chunk of customers from a specific industry, create specialized help pages just for them. For example, you could give them tips on how to optimally use your service in combination with common tools in their industry.

3. Document operating procedures

If your team lacks confidence – your customers will lack confidence in them. Customers can sense when an agent doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That’s bad for your reputation. If your team is running around trying to get answers to the things they don’t know, that’s also wasted time.

If your team lacks confidence – your customers will lack confidence in them.

Good documentation is a pool of shared knowledge for your team. It lets them know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. And it helps them serve customers faster, giving them capacity for more support requests.

Documenting tips

  • Think about all the common situations your team might face, and document those. For example, what happens if an order goes missing? What should they suggest if an app won’t load? What if a customer is overcharged? Ensure your team can find the info they need for common problems quickly.
  • Agree on what freebies agents can give away. For example, if a product gets stuck in shipping, let them know they can refund the shipping fee and offer the customer a discount on their next order. Maybe if an app won’t work, they can offer a week’s free service as an apology for lost time. Having a pre-agreed selection of discounts and freebies helps smooth customers’ ruffled feathers.
  • Include instructions on how to action the freebies. This will cut down internal communications, shorten wait times for approval, and help your team work quickly.
  • Gather all your documentation in one easily accessible place, and make sure your team knows how to reach it. It is also a good idea to keep the team in the loop by making internal announcements about any major changes to these policies. This will save you from embarrassing situations where the agent promises the customer something and later finds out that it is no longer allowed.
  • When you do need to expand your team, good operating procedures are a gem. They save a ton of onboarding time and make it easier for new staff to fit into your company.

4. Use help desk software with a shared inbox

Good help desk software can bring huge benefits for your team and can make a significant impact on your customer service goals.

It comes with a ton of productivity and collaboration tools that reduce the amount of time spent in manually organizing and categorizing the requests by your team. Most help desks also give you access to reports that help you see which processes need more improvements and how satisfied the customers really are.

78% of millennials expect customer support agents to know their purchase and communication history.

Helpdesk software tips

  • Leverage the shared inbox of your help desk to increase transparency. Encourage your team to collaborate and take on tasks dealing with different areas of the product. Support agents can learn from each other by observing how others handle requests. This makes it easy for agents to take over when someone is away on leave. This will boost their confidence and help avoid any knowledge becoming limited to a single individual.
  • Help desks allow you to add notes about the customers you’ve interacted with in the past and also shows you a communication history. Agents can use this information when helping the customers to give them the personalized service they expect. 78% of millennials expect customer support agents to know what products they’ve purchased and their communication history.
  • You can also integrate your help desk software with your internal systems so that the customer’s last order and other relevant details are pulled up automatically. This can shave valuable minutes off the time the customer would wait while the agent looks up the details by logging into another system. Customers who get their complaints handled in less than five minutes spend more on future purchases. If a help desk speeds up response times, that’s good for your profits.
  • Take advantage of having all communication channels in one place. Make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Managers can use help desk to keep an eye on the health of the support team by looking at what customer requests are already assigned to a team member, what’s still waiting. This allows them to proactively take action if they see anything that might need special attention.
  • Help your team develop processes for using the help desk software. Make sure the team is clear about their responsibilities. Who should answer the questions? In what order? How will they alert one another if they need to delegate?
  • Make the most of reports. Most help desk solutions will provide you with stats about request types, request volumes, busy periods and response times. Use these stats to identify the most common issues, and any bottlenecks. Are the reports showing multiple questions about the same feature or problem? Add an article about it to your knowledge base.

5. Keep customers at the center

You can scale customer support, without leaving your customers feeling like they’re just a number. But be careful - just one incident of poor service is enough to leave 33% of customers considering a switch. It’s hard to win customers back – so make sure you don’t lose them in the first place.

33% of customers consider switching companies after just 1 incident of poor service.

Tips on staying customer centric

  • Use automation (see point 1 above) to speed up your service, and help desk to personalize responses for a smoother customer journey.
  • Create a culture of always putting the customer first. Empower your team to focus on solving issues quickly and effectively.
  • Bake customer satisfaction into everything you do. From marketing to customer support to social media, think about your customers and how you can best serve them.
  • Always follow up with your customers. Use NPS scores and customer satisfaction surveys to gather feedback.
  • Take every piece of feedback seriously. Did a customer have a bad experience? Use that to prevent it happening to anyone else.
  • Look out for repeating problems. A pattern of negative scores, or complaints about wait time or the help received, points to an issue that needs to get looked into further.
  • Keep your customers informed! If your website is down, or a feature isn’t currently working as it expected, talk about it. Post on social channels and status pages. Let your customers know that you’re aware of the issue, and what you’re doing to fix it.

6. Build the right kind of support team

If you want to give great customer service, you need a great customer service team. Customers spend money because they’re choosing to trust your brand. Reward that trust by building a support team that takes customers’ trust seriously.

Value the human touch over stats and even speed. Research shows that 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services. Unempathetic support will damage their relationship with you, and you risk losing their business.

80% of customers say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services.

You need a team that is kind, empathic, and efficient. Clear and empathic communication cuts down on back-and-forth with customers. That means less time spent on support and can even extend the time before you feel the need to hire extra people.

Tips on building the right team

  • Attitude is everything. Look for people who find their happiness in helping others.
  • Invest in good training. Many skills, such as empathy, are teachable.
  • Make sure your training includes letting new hires experience your product from a customer’s perspective. Give them a fake account and let them loose on it! Understanding your customers’ experience is a fast track to empathy.
  • Educate your new hires about your product. Don’t stop at functionality and features. Dig into how you differ from your competitors, and why that matters to your customers.
  • Hire proactively. If you wait till your team is overloaded, you’re setting yourself up for trouble. Hiring and training new people takes time, so do it before your current team reaches their capacity.
  • Hire strategically. Look for people who live on the other side of the world, and those who speak different languages. Wider timezone and language coverages means happy customers around the globe!
  • Make use of internal performance reporting. Identify areas of training where your company could do better. Use feedback and reports to help your team identify which of their skills need improvements.

7. Evolve your company towards a common goal

Positive customer experiences don’t begin and end with your support team. They’re part of your company’s overall culture and vision. Encourage your support, design, and marketing teams to combine their efforts on customer happiness. Every department has its own goals – but set some common goals too. Bring your teams together to be the company that:

  • Builds a product your customers love
  • Marketed by a team who gets them
  • Supported by agents who care

Make sure that the channels of communication between your internal departments are well defined. What you don’t want is support agents willy nilly running up to marketing and dev teams to share their learnings. This will end up causing unnecessary interruptions and the risk of possibly leaving the real decision makers out of the discussions. You’d be amazed at how much your internal teams can learn from each other.

At the end all this adds up to your support staff having a much clearer picture of the product, and that means faster and better customer support.

86% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience.

Tips for reaching a common goal

  • Have your support team manager collect the types of issues that customers experience most often. The manager can then communicate the findings to the product development lead in monthly or quarterly meetings. These will help identify any parts of the products that might be confusing to the customers which would lead to a better product design.
  • When a new feature is released or the product changes, have someone from the product design team give a demo to the support team that explains what the new feature does and what it will be used for. This will ensure that the support team is prepared to answer any questions about these competently.
  • Give your support team a clear point of contact in each department (product design and development team). Make sure they know who to ask if they run into a tricky customer issue.
  • Guide new customers through the basics of your product as soon as they sign up. Questions are at their peak just after purchase – so answer them proactively. You can send out a series of getting started emails, or link them to your knowledge base articles on introductory topics like “how to get started with the product”.
  • Customize communication channels to suit your customer base. Every company is different, and it may make sense to limit your communication channels to the ones that work best for your customers. Providing great support on less channels is better than spreading your resources thin to poorly support all of them. If your service involves asking a lot of questions to understand a customer’s preferences, phone call based support might be the way to go. Or maybe your support agents need to share screenshots, or do live screen-sharing. In that case, chat might be better for you.
  • Phone calls or chat can be a very effective way to provide support for certain kinds of businesses. But they do tend to cost more than emails and other messaging channels. Once you’ve picked the channels that you plan to support, make sure your pricing model covers the cost to you. It’s worth taking the time to get this right - 86 percent of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience.

Take Aways

Customers are more vocal now than ever, and they have high expectations. So every single interaction counts.

This is a good thing – when your customers feel like you care, you stand out from the competition. A study shows that 66% customers rather spend money with a company that provides better customer service.

66% customers rather spend money with a company that provides better customer service.

Give your team smart tools and processes so you can scale customer support while keeping a personal touch.

The result is delighted, loyal customers. They'll become your strongest brand ambassadors and bring more customers to your door.

Effectively scaling customer support operations means happier customers... and happier customers means a stronger reputation and increased profits.