The Complete Guide to Building a Customer Support Team From Scratch

Customer service is one of the most important aspects of any business. It can make or break a company, and it’s essential to get it right.

Unfortunately, many businesses don’t put enough thought into creating a great customer service team, and as a result they suffer.

In this guide, we’re going to look at everything you need to know about building a service team from scratch.

We’ll discuss the importance of customer service, how to hire the right people, what processes you should put in place, how to structure your department, and what your goals and outcomes should be.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to build a customer service team that will help your business succeed.

Let’s get started.

The Importance of Customer Service

Customer service is one of the most important aspects of any business. It can make or break a company, and it’s essential to get it right.

Customer service is the process of providing assistance and support to customers. It’s a vital part of any business, and it can have a big impact on a company’s bottom line.

Good customer service can lead to repeat business, word-of-mouth referrals, and improved customer satisfaction. It can also help you increase sales and grow your business.

Conversely, bad customer service can lead to customers taking their business elsewhere, and it can damage your reputation. It’s important to avoid common customer service mistakes, such as being unprofessional, failing to resolve problems, or not responding to customer inquiries in a timely manner.

It’s also important to remember that customer service isn’t just about resolving problems. It’s also about creating a positive experience for customers and building relationships.

When done right, customer service can be a powerful tool to help you grow your business.

What is considered customer support?

Customer support can be defined as the team or department that is responsible for providing assistance and support to customers.

The customer support team is responsible for handling customer inquiries, problems, and complaints. They are the frontline of your business, and they play a vital role in ensuring customer satisfaction.

Ideally, your customer support team should be available 24/7, 365 days a year. This way, you can always be there for your customers when they need you.

Is there a difference between customer service and customer support?

Customer support is a term that is often used interchangeably with customer service. However, there is a difference between the two.

Customer support is a subset of customer service that focuses on providing assistance and support to customers. It’s typically used to resolve technical problems or issues with products or services.

In contrast, customer service is a broader term that encompasses all interactions between a business and its customers. It includes everything from sales and marketing to after-sales support.

Both customer service and customer support are important for businesses, but in this guide, we’re going to focus on customer support specifically.

What does a customer support team do?

Customer teams can work against a variety of functions and have many specializations.  The specific duties of a customer support team will vary from business to business.

In general, customer teams are responsible for customer success. That means  they work to ensure that customers are satisfied with your products or services. They also work to resolve customer complaints and problems.

Customer teams typically handle a wide range of tasks, including:

  • Answering customer inquiries
  • Handling customer complaints
  • Providing customer support via phone, email, or live chat
  • Resolving customer problems
  • Escalating customer issues to management
  • Providing feedback to management about customer concerns
  • Maintaining customer records
  • Upselling and cross-selling products or services

As you can see, customer support teams play a vital role in businesses. They are responsible for ensuring that customers are happy and that their problems are resolved.

How do you hire a support team and what roles do you need?

If you’re thinking about starting a customer support team, there are a few things you need to consider. First, you need to decide what roles you need to fill. Second, you need to hire for the right skills. Then, you need to develop a recruitment and hiring plan.

We'll go into detail on all three.

What roles do you need to fill?

The specific roles on a customer support team will vary from business to business. However, there are a few key positions that are essential for all customer teams. Here are a few of the most important roles:

Customer service manager

The customer service manager is responsible for leading and managing the customer support team. They are also responsible for developing and implementing customer service strategies. Management duties might include  hiring, training, and evaluating customer support reps. Customer service strategies, on the other hand, may include things like up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, or customer retention plans.

Customer service representative

Customer service representatives (CSRs) are the frontline of the customer support team. They are responsible for handling customer inquiries, complaints, and problems. CSRs typically provide support via phone, email, or live chat.

Customer service engineer

A customer service engineer is a technical expert who provides support to customers. They are responsible for resolving customer issues that require a higher level of technical expertise. Customer service engineers typically have a background in engineering, computer science, or information technology.  

Quality assurance specialist

A quality assurance specialist is responsible for ensuring that the customer support team is providing high-quality service. They do this by monitoring customer interactions and providing feedback to customer support reps. Quality assurance specialists also develop quality control standards and procedures.

Customer support specialist

A customer support specialist is a generalist who provides support to customers. They are responsible for handling customer inquiries, complaints, and problems. Customer support specialists typically provide support via phone, email, or live chat.

Now that you know what roles you need to fill, let’s talk about hiring for the right skills.

Hiring for the right skills

When you’re hiring for customer support positions, it’s important to look for candidates with the right skills. Let's break down the skills needed by role.

Customer service manager

When you’re hiring a customer service manager, look for candidates with the following skills:

  • Leadership: The ability to motivate and lead a team of customer support reps.
  • Strategic thinking: The ability to develop and implement customer service strategies.
  • Organizational skills: The ability to manage multiple tasks and projects simultaneously.
  • Communication skills: The ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing.

Customer service representative

When you’re hiring customer service reps, look for candidates with the following skills:

  • Patience: The ability to remain calm and professional when dealing with difficult customers.
  • Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
  • Communication skills: The ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing.
  • Negotiation skills: The ability to resolve conflict and reach agreements that are mutually beneficial.

Customer service engineer

When you’re hiring customer service engineers, look for candidates with the following skills:

  • Technical expertise: The ability to resolve customer issues that require a higher level of technical expertise.
  • Communication skills: The ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing.
  • Problem-solving skills: The ability to identify and solve problems quickly and efficiently.

Quality assurance specialist

When you’re hiring quality assurance specialists, look for candidates with the following skills:

  • Observational skills: The ability to pay attention to detail and identify patterns.
  • Analytical skills: The ability to analyze data and draw conclusions.
  • Communication skills: The ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing.

What should the customer service interview process look like?

Now that you know what skills to look for, let’s talk about the interview process.

The customer service interview process should consist of the following steps:

1. Phone screen

The first step in the interview process is the phone screen. During the phone screen, you’ll want to assess the following:

  • Are they a good fit for the position on paper?
  • Why are they interested in this role?
  • What are their salary expectations?

2. In-person interview

The next step is the in-person interview. During the in-person interview, you’ll want to assess the following:

  • Are they a good fit for the position?
  • Do they have the skills and experience required for the role?
  • Are they a good fit for the company?
  • Do they have the personal qualities that are required for the role?

3. Reference check

The final step in the interview process is the reference check. During the reference check, you’ll want to get a general feel for how others have worked with the individual  and assess the following:

  • What areas do they excel at?
  • Where might they need additional training, according to their references?
  • Are they a reliable addition to your team and business?

This is just a general guide to the customer service interview process. Depending on the role you’re hiring for, you may want to tailor the questions and focus of each stage of the interview process.

How do you structure a customer service team?

Now that you have a solid understanding of the core roles needed for customer support,  let’s talk about how to structure your team.

There are a few different ways you can structure a customer service team. The most common way is by department, such as sales, customer support, and product.

Other companies choose to structure their service teams by location, such as domestic or international.

Still others choose to structure their teams by channels, such as email, phone, and chat.

The best way to structure your customer service team will depend on the needs of your business.

Let's talk a little about the pros and cons of each way of structuring your team.

By department:

Pros:

  • Each department can focus on their area of expertise and provide the best possible service to customers.
  • There is a clear chain of command.

Cons:

  • Departments can become siloed and customer service can suffer as a result.
  • The lines of communication can become blurred, which can lead to confusion and frustration.

By location:

Pros:

  • Customer service teams can be located near their customer base, which can result in better customer service.
  • It can be easier to manage customer service teams when they’re located in the same time zone.

Cons:

  • There can be a lack of communication and collaboration between  teams in different locations.
  • It can be more expensive to maintain teams in multiple locations.

By channel:

Pros:

  • Each team can focus on their channel and become experts in that area.
  • It can be easier to manage customer support when it’s organized by channels.

Cons:

  • There can be a lack of communication and collaboration between teams in different channels.
  • Customers can become frustrated if they have to switch between teams when they need help with multiple issues.

Again depending on the needs of your business, you may want to structure your customer service team in multiple ways. Once you’ve decided on a structure for your team, the next step is to create a customer service org chart.

An org chart is a visual representation of the structure of your customer service team. It can help you to see how your team is organized and who reports to whom.

Creating a customer service org chart

There are a few different ways you can create a customer service org chart. The most common way is to use a tool like Miro or  Google Drawings.

If you’re not familiar with org charts, don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the process.

First, decide on the structure of your customer service org chart.

Are you going to structure it by department, location, or channel?

Once you’ve decided on the structure of your org chart, you’ll need to add the following elements:

  • The name of each customer service team
  • The location of each customer service team
  • The channels each customer service team supports
  • The manager of each customer service team
  • The direct reports for each manager

Once you have all of the elements of your customer service org chart, you can start to add the names of the people on each team.

If you’re not sure who to add, you can start with the managers and then add the direct reports for each manager.

Once you have all of the names on your org chart, you can start to add the titles for each person.

Titles are optional, but they can help to clarify roles and responsibilities within your team.

Finally, you can add the contact information for each person on your team.

This can include email addresses, phone numbers, and social media handles.

Once you’ve added all of the elements to your customer service org chart, you can save it and share it with your team.

If you want to make changes to your org chart, you can always edit it and share the updated version with your team.

Defining your customer support channels

Now that you have a customer service org chart, it’s time to start thinking about the channels you’re going to support. Choosing your channels is really important. We recommend  that you start with the channels that your customers are already using to reach out to you.

For example, if you already have a Facebook page, you may want to add Facebook messenger as a support channel.

If you already have a Twitter account, you may want to add Twitter as a support channel.

You can always add more channels later, but it’s important to start with the channels that your customers are already using.

The recommended channels we suggest to start with are:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Phone

Let's dig into what each channel provides and how to use each one for customer service.  

Social media

Most businesses are already using social media, but not all businesses are using it for customer service.

Social media is a great channel for customer service because it’s fast, convenient, and personal.

Customers can reach out to you on social media and expect a quick response.

They can also expect a personal response, since social media is a more informal channel.

The key to providing great customer service on social media is to be responsive and personal.

Make sure you’re monitoring your social media channels regularly and responding to customers in a timely manner.

Email

Email is another popular customer service channel.  

Email is a great channel for customer service because it’s asynchronous, which means that customers can reach out to you at any time and they don’t have to wait for a response.

Email is also a great channel for handling more complex customer service issues.

The key to providing great customer service over email is to be responsive and clear.

Make sure your team is checking and monitoring email regularly .

Using a shared inbox ticketing tool, like DoneDone, is the best way to stay on top of your email customer service. DoneDone comes with a lot of features that make email support easier for customer service agents, such as:

  • The ability to assign emails to specific agents
  • The ability to tag emails for easy sorting and filtering
  • The ability to add comments on email threads
  • The ability to add attachments to email threads

Phone

The phone is another customer service channel that businesses have been using for years.

The key to providing great customer service over the phone is to be friendly and helpful.

Make sure your team is trained on how to handle customer service calls.

How to choose the right customer service tools

The type of tools you need will depend on the channels you’re using to support your customers.

For example, if you’re using social media for customer service, you’ll need a social media management tool.

If you’re using email for customer service, you’ll need an email ticketing tool or a help desk.

If you’re using the phone for customer service, you’ll need a call center software.

There are a lot of different customer service tools on the market, so it can be difficult to choose the right one for your business.

To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the best customer service tools for each channel:

Social media management tools

When selecting a social media tool, make sure it comes with all the features you need to effectively manage your social media channels, such as:

  • The ability to post and schedule content
  • The ability to track your social media metrics
  • The ability to monitor your social media channels for mentions and messages
  • The ability to create and manage social media campaigns

Popular tools for this include:

  • Sprout Social
  • Hootsuite
  • Buffer

Email ticketing tool

DoneDone:

As we mentioned before, DoneDone is a great email ticketing tool for customer service. It comes with all the features you need to effectively manage your customer service emails, such as:

  • The ability to assign emails to specific agents
  • The ability to tag emails for easy sorting and filtering
  • The ability to add comments on email threads for internal discussions
  • The ability to add attachments to email threads with customers
  • Project management software included so everyone, across teams, is using the same tool for a more customer-first business.

Zendesk:

Zendesk is another great email ticketing tool for customer service. It's more of an enterprise tool for larger, more complex oganizations. It comes with similar features to DoneDone, and also includes:

  • The ability to create customer service knowledge base articles
  • Live chat software for an additional customer service touch point

Phone call center software:

There are a lot of different call center software on the market. Look for software that includes:

  • The ability to track and monitor calls
  • The ability to record calls
  • The ability to create call queues
  • The ability to do call monitoring and quality assurance

Some popular options include:

  • Five9
  • RingCentral
  • 8x8

When you’re first starting out, you won’t need all of these features. Start with the basics and add on more features as your customer service team grows.

How do you define your support process?

The next step in setting up your support team is to define your support process. Your support process is the set of steps that you and your team will follow when responding to customers.

Here’s a basic outline of a customer service support process:

  • Receive customer inquiry
  • Classify inquiry
  • Research issue  
  • Attempt to resolve issue
  • Escalate issue
  • Follow up with customer

The first step in your support process is receiving customer inquiries. Customer inquiries can come in through any of your support channels, such as social media, email, or phone.

Once you’ve received a customer inquiry, the next step is to classify it. Classifying customer inquiries helps you and your team to better understand the issue and how to resolve it.

There are three main types of customer inquiries:

Bugs:

These are problems with your product or website. For example, a customer may be experiencing an error when trying to checkout on your website.

Customer Requests and Questions:

These are questions that customers have about your product or service. For example, a customer may be wondering how to use a certain feature of your product.

Complaints:

These are complaints that customers have about your product or service. For example, a customer may be unhappy with the quality of your product.

After you’ve classified the customer inquiry, the next step is to research the issue. This involves looking into the customer’s problem and trying to reproduce it.

Once you’ve done your research, the next step is to attempt to resolve the issue. If you’re able to resolve the issue, great! If not, you’ll need to escalate the issue.

Escalating an issue means passing it off to someone else on your team who may be able to help, such as a developer or product manager.

The last step in your support process is following up with the customer. This involves checking in with the customer to make sure that their issue has been resolved and that they’re satisfied with your customer service.

The goal of your support process is to resolve customer inquiries as quickly and efficiently as possible. By following these steps, you can be sure that you’re providing the best possible customer service to your customers.

How do you manage a support team?

Now that you know how to set up a support team and what the goals of customer service are, let’s take a look at things from the perspective of customer service managers.

There are a few key things that you should keep in mind when managing your support team:

Set clear expectations for excellent customer service

It’s important that you set clear expectations for your team. This means having a clear understanding of what your team’s goals are and what you expect from them.

Be sure to communicate these expectations to your team clearly and regularly. Doing so will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.

Provide training and development opportunities

Your team should have the opportunity to learn and grow. This means providing training and development opportunities.

For example, you could provide customer service training to help your team members improve their skills. Or, you could offer development opportunities such as cross-training in other areas of customer service.

By providing training and development opportunities, you can help to ensure that your team is always learning and growing.

Encourage feedback and open communication

Feedback is essential for any team. It helps you to understand what’s working well and what needs improvement.

Encourage your team members to give feedback regularly. Be sure to listen to their feedback and take it to heart. Additionally, encourage open communication among team members. This will help to ensure that everyone is able to express their ideas and concerns freely.

By encouraging feedback and open communication, you can help to create a healthy and productive team environment.

What are the goals of customer service?

The goals of customer service are to resolve customer inquiries efficiently and effectively. Additionally, teams should aim to provide a positive experience for customers. In order to meet and measure these goals,  customer service teams should put processes and metrics in place.

Some common customer service metrics include:

  • First contact resolution (FCR), which is  the percentage of customer inquiries that are resolved on the first contact
  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT), which measures how satisfied customers are with your customer service
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures how likely customers are to recommend your product or service to others

By tracking these metrics, teams can measure their performance and identify areas for improvement.

What makes a support team successful?

In the end, success is something that is decided by your business and based on your overall goals.

In order for your team to be successful at providing superior customer service, you need everything we've mentioned above  tocome together flawlessly: Clear expectations, great training and development opportunities, feedback and open communication, and the right processes and metrics in place.

You need a solid team, the right roles, an organization chart, and of course, processes and tools to empower your team to deliver great service.

If you have all of these things working together, your team will be well on its way to success.

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