How to turn your customer support team into a profit centre
Scaling a customer support team starts with assessing the support function as it currently stands, and being brutally honest about one thing: is it a cost centre or a profit centre?
Within an organisation your customer support team is either a profit centre or a cost centre. It can’t be both and you need to be clear on which one it is as that trickles down to decisions on how you structure and scale your team.
Often (but not always) more traditional businesses treat their service team as a cost centre. This isn’t necessarily tied to how they perceive profit opportunities and not realising the potential for a support team to drive retention, but more a result of how their team has been historically structured and how incentives work.
Regardless of what type of centre your customer support team currently is, the points mentioned below are vital to ensuring future success.
How to turn your customer support team into a profit centre:
- Empower your customer support agents
- Provide comprehensive support agent training
- Use holistic customer success metrics
- Implement collaborative team planning software
Empower your customer support agents
As a customer support agent (or surfer, as we call them) one of the most frustrating and disappointing parts of the role is being confined to act within certain parameters when helping customers. What this means is that even if a surfer has the ability and knowledge to solve a customer problem, they are unable to help them due to organisational inertia (outdated processes whereby surfers have to ask for specific internal permissions or access to solve specific problems).
To turn a support team in to a profit centre, the first step is for customer support leadership to give surfers the autonomy to solve customer queries without having to follow endless internal procedures. Following internal best practices and procedures is undoubtedly an important part of the role, but if it negatively affects a surfers ability to provide great customer experiences, something has to change.
Customer support managers know the fear of getting rid of too much internal processes all too well. That’s why training surfers is so vitally important.
Provide comprehensive support agent training
Empowering surfers is not a starting point, it’s more of an ideal destination. In order to get to a point where surfers can be empowered to provide amazing customer experiences, they need to receive comprehensive training. That doesn’t just mean training them in one area. It means giving them the knowledge and expertise they need to solve any customer query that comes their way. The goal is to have surfers that are trained to solve a broad range of queries rather than having customers routed numerous times to different departments to solve a single issue.
Surfers who are well-trained and empowered should be able to provide excellent customer service, as long as they’re not confined by metrics that don’t truly measure customer satisfaction.
Use holistic customer success metrics
Whether you manage a customer support team or work as a surfer, you’re well aware by now that metrics are a foundational part of the organisation. If surfers find themselves working within a set of restrictive metrics that hinder their ability to provide excellent customer support, that’s a clear indicator that they are working in a cost centre, not a profit centre. To turn a customer support team into a profit centre, using the right metrics is essential.
Metrics like average handle time (AHT) are useful, but in order to truly measure the customer experience, support teams need to look at the whole picture. Metrics like churn rate, net promotor score (NPS), and customer satisfaction score (CSAT) are how the support team can more accurately judge whether or not they are a cost centre or profit centre.
Implement collaborative team planning software
The final step in turning a customer support team into a profit centre is the implementation of team planning software. Forecasting and scheduling surfers and their corresponding shifts and activities on spreadsheets just doesn’t make sense if the support team is going to scale. Spreadsheets are a starting point, but there comes a time in the evolution of every support team where the planning tool they use has to match their ambitions if they want to turn into a profit centre.
What’s worrying it that some support teams do use software, but very often it’s not fit for purpose. It’s not team planning software that empowers surfers to do their best work. It tracks and monitors their time and attendance, demoralising and dehumanising them in the process.
At surfboard, our mission is to make work more human. We are building the collaborative support team planning tool that enables organisations to position their support team as a profit centre, not a cost centre.