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:
- Define the objective broadly, e.g. “Provide Amazing Customer Service.”
- 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”
- 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.