Customer Experience or CX. Every company has one whether you design it with intention or not. CX encompasses every touch point your Customer has with your business and obviously this includes Customer Service and Support, CS. What exactly does your support team do for the business? Most would say they answer calls, emails and live chats. That’s part of it, but in reality, literally every facet of the business touches your support team. They are your conduit to your Customer. Believe it or not, this functional area is complex.
CS has roots in Marketing, Tech, Product and Operations. All initiatives designed by any of the mentioned functional teams are done with the Customer in mind (hopefully). CS requires tactical and strategic thinking, with the ability to simultaneously be in the past, present and future, plus a bit of Human Resources sprinkled on top. Think about it. What other functional areas are you aware of that includes a high number of employees, many of which are new to the workforce and mostly are seeking the next level almost immediately?
What makes a solid Support Team?
Within CS, there are four main components: Workforce Management, Learning and Development, Support and Quality Assurance.
Workforce Management (WFM) supports all planning aspects for the Contact Center and includes a few minor miracles by way of a crystal ball and magic wand. WFM allows you to look out and determine how much work needs to be done and ultimately, how many people you will need to do the work and when.
Learning & Development (L&D) is the process of ingratiating your team with your culture, practices and processes. Once you know how many people you will need (WFM), you’ve got to show them how to be successful in your company and their new role. Some also refer to this component as Training.
Support is the most commonly known piece of Service and this area is where most companies actually begin building their team. Support is the action of engaging with Customers via different channels (email, live chat, phones, social, etc.). Within Support, you will find tools and systems as well as Voice of the Customer.
Starting with this piece when building your team will make it really difficult to scale. If you didn’t grow up in CS, or haven’t worked in large scale contact centers, the other three components (WFM, L&D and Quality) may be foreign to you.
Finally there is Quality Assurance (QA) which is how you’ll validate that the experience you’ve created is what’s actually being delivered. It’s also a great way for you to provide coaching and feedback to your team members.
Why are all of these functional areas necessary?
Movements like we’re seeing in Silicon Beach are forcing starupts to grow up. Fast. New ways of engaging with Customers is causing mature companies to evolve. Quickly. We’re now in a place where the newer CS Manager can’t quite prepare the team for the next level of growth. This has zero to do with capability. There’s just not enough time to learn as you grow.
Budgets are not allowing startups to hire seasoned CS leaders. Truthfully, they may really want fresher ideas and that works for a period. But when you’re seeing growth of 50% month over month and the answer to the growth is hire more people, suddenly the stuffy person with the experience doesn’t seem so bad. But how does that person impact culture?
Human Resources seems to have found a solution to the rapid changes and needs for many different roles. They quickly realized that the need to wear different hats and switch functions could become quite expensive for companies, especially those scaling rapidly. The answer to the evolution of the business needs and roles is the Business Partner model.
A business partner is someone with the know how and experience to deliver results for your company. As a strategist, they don’t replace the need for all roles to get work done, but they can help you fill the right roles only when needed to deliver the most efficient outcomes possible, positively impacting your ROI. Who doesn’t want better results for less?
Wouldn’t it be most advantageous to start with a role that can oversee growth and scale your business? Yes, we know, strategic roles are more expensive. It can also be argued that the less strategic roles are not as important. So why is it that of all the roles within CX, we start with hiring the least strategic (someone to talk with Customers) and work backwards? This causes you to spend so much more in the long run.
Dollars and Sense
It’s proven that the BP model has shown a nice ROI in HR. Let’s see how it applies for Customer Support.
Customer Support Person about $41,600 per year.
This person has the capabilities of engaging with Customers (inbound and outbound). They can set up your out of the box CRM, but may not have the ability to configure the system to maximize performance. You may be missing critical feedback from Customers, because they’re not quite sure how to identify pain points just yet.
A CX BP will have the experience to setup your CRM to maximize its benefits, leveraging apps, APIs and automation. These initiatives will automatically reduce your inbound contacts by about 20%. Thus, reducing your staffing needs about the same.
Lead Customer Support Person about $50,000 per year
Your point of escalation for your Customer Support Person. This role usually becomes critical when you have 5–6 support people and they need a decision maker for areas that are not black and white.The person in this role is likely homegrown and may not have had the responsibility of leading people. You’ll find many issue handoffs to HR as a result.
A CX BP will proactively look out to determine what’s coming in and will have the ability and foresight to determine when leadership is required. At the end of the day you will have a Manager placed before a Lead. The lead will then have guidance, direction, goals and expectations. Setting them up for success is critical as they will understand what’s expected at the front line and will be able to introduce accountability in the right way.
Manager or Head Customer Support about $75k-$150k per year
Often, this person is brought on after some proof of concept or growth and is now required to go back and rebuild the foundation laid by our Customer Support person. They’re expected to rebuild while simultaneously preparing the team for growth. When they suggest to you Workforce Management ($90k per year), Learning and Development ($90k per year) and Quality Assurance (minimum $50k per year if homegrown), that sounds insane. However, these are all critical components of your Support team.
A CX BP will have created the foundation including the 3 components of the Support team enabling your functional head to scale the team on a foundation made for growth. No more hiring after the need, or seeing huge backlogs before action is taken. They will have the foresight they need to lead proactively.
Getting your money’s worth
A team of 10 can cost a company somewhere in the realm of $830k per year (assuming the Head of CS is on the low end) and we haven’t accounted for WFM and L&D.
Working with a Customer Experience Business Partner will help you offset the costs of WFM, L&D and Leadership in one place. The idea is that we work with you during the early stages in a shared resource model, where you get all of the benefits of the planning (WFM) and preparation (L&D) without the overhead. After the completion of the initial project, the managed services piece is about maintenance and costs you less than $15 per hour with a monthly retainer.
Additionally, you’re getting expertise in scaling your business at the start. Instead of hiring more front line people to handle the volume, a BP will look at ways to reduce the volume, create a plan and hire only what you need when you need it. They’ll also offer white label Customer Support to supplement support instead of going through temp agencies where the knowledge leaves when they do.
An annualized budget with a Customer Experience BP will result in a ~66% return on your investment (conservatively).
We think this model is a no-brainer. We know it’s different than what you’re used to, but it works.