How to Scale Customer Service to Reach the Mass Market


When you serve your first customer, you get to spend as much time as possible to make that relationship right. When that first customer becomes one of many, you need a way to take that same energy and focus that you delivered to the first customer and make it available to the next one (however many next ones there are).

There is a repeatable set of steps that can help you from your first fan through to your 1Mth “True Fan” to reach mass market adoption. Those steps use People, Process and Tools to magnify and repeat the ideas you had at customer #1 and make them applicable at scale.

Scaling Customer Success Starts With People

You need to start by hiring for the attitude and aptitude. You can teach someone how to use new technology tools. It’s difficult to teach them to be resilient, to learn how to learn and to treat people well if they don’t already know those skills. And you need those skills for customer #1 and for customer #1,000,000.

What does a successful person look like who can help you scale?

They are probably a lifelong learner. They are probably interested and empathetic when hearing and speaking to new people. And they can probably make small talk with anyone. They also do a great job. And they are interested in taking on new roles and in teaching other people what they can do.

Building a Systematic Process to Delight Your Fans

When you find the right people to build the team that can scale, you also need to give them a framework – guidelines, really – that will help them make daily choices to provide great service for customers even when new situations occur that aren’t explicitly described.

The Incident Command System is a great example of such a system. This system, developed by the US Forest Service, has the following tenets at its core:

1. The system must be organizationally flexible to meet the needs of incidents of any kind and size.

2. Agencies must be able to use the system on a day-to-day basis for routine situations as well as for major emergencies.

3. The system must be sufficiently standard to allow personnel from a variety of agencies and diverse geographic locations to rapidly meld into a common management structure.

4. The system must be cost effective.

Delighting the customer results when the experience exceeds expectations, so how can you better understand the expectations? You can start by asking yourself how you would feel if you were in the customer’s shoes. And if you can exceed those expectations and remove the root cause of the issue at the same time, that would be awesome.

So that leads to another set of questions. How can you exceed customer expectations while removing root causes at the same time? Using a process like the Incident Command System can be an answer – and you should know that there’s no silver bullet in systems, technology, or process. But you can put steps in place that make what you do repeatable and better.

What Tools Do You Need To Scale Customer Support?

At the beginning, you really don’t need much. A simple VOIP tool might suffice for phone, and a shared Gmail inbox for inbound questions. And you will quickly need a bit more. As you grow you need to build systems that solve the present need of the business and can scale as well.

An example is case management – at the beginning you might need a relatively simple tool like UserVoice or or Zendesk or Helpscout to manage cases. As you need more people to handle cases, as you take on additional channels (apps, social media, etc), you may find that you have a more complex workflow.

Scaling is a constant exercise in balancing the tools you know against the switching cost of changing the configuration and adding risk to bring the benefit of new capability. My advice here – make the system as simple as possible, and be open to the possibility that you might have to consider new ideas from time to time.

The Customer Service Formula

It starts with the best people who are lifelong learners and who can adapt to the changing form of the business. To find the best process and tools, you need to identify the business drivers that matter to the business. Build the system that you need to meet the goals you know about – identifying the people that you need, the process they will learn and adapt to make change, and the tools that will get you there.

Worry about the current customers in the present. If you can please them, and you can do that for most of your customers (and over time, almost all of them), you’ll get to scale.

If you want to start today, here are 50 Small Things You can Do to Improve Customer Service that I came up with to help you delight your customers.

This post originally appeared on Clarity’s Blog

Image Courtesy of GlobalPost


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