Can you build great customer service at scale?

How do you scale Customer Service?
Ultimately, you have to embrace the idea of Commander’s Intent (e.g. http://blogs.hbr.org/frontline-leadership/2010/11/dont-play-golf-in-a-football-g.html).

This means something like the following:

  1. Define the objective broadly, e.g. “Provide Amazing Customer Service.”
  2. Establish a command hierarchy and roles and responsibilities, e.g. “This person can engage on any topic”, “These people may engage on some topics”, and “these people may share canned messages and may not engage on any topic, but can acknowledge the customer and pass on their concern to a higher level in the organization”
  3. Set some guardrails, e.g. “NEVER do this. And if you have questions, ask these people.”

Beyond that, the devil is obviously in the details, but I believe that if these principles are upheld:

  • Delight the customer
  • Have fun
  • Try to do the right thing
  • When any of these things don’t apply, learn from the experience

You are going to be able to handle between 80-95% of the issues. There are a few things that demand high-level support, and they emerge so infrequently that most of the time, any employee you trust to talk to customers should be able to handle customer service.

Use All of the Resources At Your Command, Including Your Customers

To scale this idea, you need only follow the metaphor of commander’s intent and include resources outside of the organization.

This could include:

  • “community members” who answer on behalf of the company or product once vetted;
  • a “customer advisory board” that helps you on an ad-hoc or planned basis to discuss wacky and mundane issues;
  • and technology that helps you channel inbound inquiries from multiple channels into a central place where you can acknowledge, triage, answer questions and then close the loop with the customer.
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3 thoughts on “Can you build great customer service at scale?

  1. Great tips!
    Another one to consider, is when it comes to customer service specifically, one of the most scalable things you can do is templates and a knowledge base.
    Creating a culture where you can craft great responses that other people can reuse is really helpful. Also making sure that reps know that if they come across something no one knows and they figure out the answer (by asking for help or otherwise) they should document it, or add troubleshooting steps – making it much easier for the next person. This allows you to just do resolve even more issues faster :)

  2. Kate -

    Absolutely! Usually both in knowledge bases and elsewhere if I hear it three times, it’s time to build a macro or a KB article.

    Two great tools I’ve found for implementing macros across applications are Text Expander (http://www.smilesoftware.com/TextExpander/) and Active Words (http://activewords.com.)

    Both of these tools (and you can use them in conjunction with Dropbox (http://dropbox.com) to store your snippets in a central location if you don’t have a fileshare handy) give you the ability to drop your templates into any web form or other application you’re using with just a few keystrokes.

    I’ve also heard great things about both Zendesk (http://zendesk.com) and Assistly (http://assistly.com) for maintaining online knowledge bases along with your tickets.

    –g

  3. Pingback: Communicating during times of crisis [video] « Information Maven: Greg Meyer

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