How SaaS Companies Should Structure Their Customer Support Teams
Customer service and support are integral parts of the SaaS business model. They help customers find the information they need, resolve any issues, and establish the retention rates you need for stable growth. Without them, you couldn’t succeed — no matter how great your product.
This means that as you establish your team, you’ll need to do more than just hire a support agent or two. Instead, you should take a strategic approach to build a customer service team that enables you to reach your business goals. On the surface, building a customer service team might seem like a relatively simple task. Hire a few experienced agents, train them on your product, and invest in some support software — easy, right? Not exactly.
Winning at customer service requires more than just hiring a great team. While it’s true that your employees have a significant impact on your ability to deliver excellent service, they’re not the only factor that matters. Without the right structure, even the best team could fail to deliver the level of service you want. And that’s where a little planning and strategy can go a long way.
How structure impacts customer service
A strong team structure serves as the foundation of your overall support and improves your customer service across the board. Now, if you have a relatively small support team, you might be wondering if putting together a documented structure is really worth it. The answer is yes.
Though establishing a structure will take some initial time and planning, doing it sooner rather than later will ultimately save you time in the long run. That’s because it will not only make your day-to-day support operations run more smoothly but will also make the process of growing and expanding your team much simpler in the future.
Plus, it’s also worth noting that while some leaders equate structure with a lack of freedom for their employees, that doesn’t need to be the case. Treat your support structure as an overarching framework in which your team operates. You can still give employees the opportunity to thrive within that framework however that works best for them — leaving plenty of room for innovation.
5 tips for creating an effective customer service structure
Whether you’re in the early stages of building a support team or looking to create a more effective structure for your existing customer service department, the following five tips will help you establish an efficient workflow.
1. Divide your team into channels
One of the most challenging aspects of building a support team is deciding how to route inquiries and tickets to individual agents. But your first step in simplifying this task should be to assign each of your support agents a primary channel.
Today, most SaaS companies offer phone and email support, at the very minimum. Others take a step further by engaging with customers via live chat, social media platforms, and more. But regardless of the number of channels in your strategy, it’s often inefficient to require agents to switch between them throughout their workdays. After all, responding to email inquiries is a very different task than speaking with customers on the phone.
As a result, you’ll find that most employees are naturally better-suited to certain channels than others — and assigning a primary channel allows you to tailor their daily workload to their strengths. Plus, focusing on one channel (instead of switching with inquiries) makes it much easier for employees to get into a “flow” state of work and assist your customers more efficiently.
Of course, you may find that, depending on the volume and type of inquiries, agents will need to occasionally take on secondary channels to balance out the workload. Still, establishing a baseline will streamline daily operations, and serve as a basic structure you can tweak as necessary.
2. Take an omnichannel approach
Advising an omnichannel approach may seem to counter the previous suggestion of segmenting your team by channel. But just because your agents each focus on specific channels doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t all be connected. That’s because one of the most critical aspects of SaaS support is providing a consistent experience on each channel.
For example, let’s say a prospective customer contacts you via email with a few basic questions about your product. After receiving a response that indicates it might be the right option for their needs, they decide to follow up with a phone call. If your support channels operate independently of one another, the phone support agent who receives this call will likely need to ask them to reiterate their original questions — essentially negating the work the email agent already did. But with an omnichannel approach, they can access information about that previous interaction and quickly get up to speed.
So as you establish your support structure, make sure that your team can easily share and access data seamlessly between channels. This will not only allow your agents to provide better support but will also enable collaboration when necessary.
And that’s especially valuable if your team is fully or partially remote. With a collaborative, omnichannel strategy, your agents will be able to assist one another in resolving customer inquiries — regardless of their location, or which channels those customers use to get in touch.
3. Establish subject matter experts
As your team handles a variety of customer inquiries, individual members will likely gain varying levels of experience with different questions and issues. If one agent gets allocated a disproportionate number of inquiries about a specific feature, they’ll naturally become more knowledgeable about that feature than the rest of your agents. You can take advantage of this by designating subject matter experts for all of the most common types of inquiries your team receives.
For example, one agent might specialize in billing, another in product bugs, and the third in helping new users accomplish a specific task. Though each of your agents is probably capable of finding the information a customer needs in each of these scenarios, having a go-to person who already knows the answer can speed up the process.
Also, if a customer reaches out with a technical concern that requires knowledge of coding issues and development, it’s unlikely that the support agent they reach will be able to reach a satisfactory resolution on their own. In such cases, the agent can escalate the ticket to the appropriate person. This way, agents are never left wondering who or when to ask for help, and they can resolve each ticket as quickly as possible.
4. Create growth opportunities
Much like every other employee, your support agents need to have room for growth within your company. And it’s better to determine where those opportunities lie sooner rather than later. After all, once you’ve established an approach that works, you might be content to leave it as-it-is for as long as possible.
But if your agents feel like their careers aren’t progressing within this approach, it’s unlikely to be sustainable. A lack of growth opportunities can quickly lead to issues with employee retention, which is bad news for any support team. Fortunately, the best solution to this issue is arguably the simplest: Ask your employees what they want out of their careers.
Salesloft, for example, gives employees control over their career trajectories by asking how they hope to progress, then shape opportunities accordingly. In one case, when a new customer success agent expressed the desire to move to product management, Salesloft’s VP of Customer Success, Katie Rogers, asked her to research the role, write up a job description, and list the specific skills required. From there, her role at the company was shaped by developing those skills and working toward a position she was excited about — ultimately making her a perfect fit for the career path she wanted from the start.
5. Align your structure with key support goals
Finally, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t treat your support team’s structure as if it’s set in stone. After all, if your SaaS company is like most, you’re continually working to improve your product. You keep an eye out for bugs, aim to provide the best user experience possible and look for areas to innovate in ways your competitors aren’t. But a great product alone isn’t enough.
Customer support is equally as important for acquiring and retaining customers, and you should take that into account when looking for ways to boost your revenue and improve customer loyalty. So as your company grows and evolves, it’s important to regularly evaluate your support structure and determine whether it’s still effective, or in need of some adjustments.
And though the exact criteria you use to evaluate your strategy might vary, there are a few questions all SaaS support teams should take into consideration.
– What are your team’s goals?
– What are your customers’ expectations?
– What does your support team need?
– Is your strategy scalable?
If your support structure still enables you to meet your team’s goals and needs, as well as your customers’ expectations, while leaving room for growth, you’re good to go. But if not, it’s time to re-think your approach — and create a new one that allows you to assist your customers even more efficiently moving forward.
In every SaaS company, customer support plays an essential role in every stage of your customers’ experience with your brand. This means that building your team isn’t a process to rush. Instead, take the time to create a structure that works for your business and support goals.
With this approach, you can be confident that you’re making the most of each employee’s skills — and that your customers are always receiving the best possible service you can provide.