November 7, 2022
How To
 min read

How to build a customer support team (from scratch)

Rachel Ntantu
Rachel Ntantu
Member Support Manager

‘Here you go, we’ve decided to use Intercom and haven’t really touched it since. I know nothing about support but I want ours to be great, so it’s all yours!’

That’s what our CEO Tim told me on my first day at Yonder. I’d spent most of my career in various customer support roles, but I’d never had to build a whole function from scratch.

Challenge accepted.

Build your support function for your members, not your team

We know just how important customer support is for a new financial service. So by the time I joined, the team had already decided to offer 24/7 customer support to our members. In fact, the first time I’d heard we were offering 24/7 support was when Tom, our Head of Marketing, showcased the new website to the team and that’s what he was promising. Thanks Tom.

I knew from that moment that our customer support function would need all hands on deck, and that meant involving the entire team and not just the support team members.

Your whole team needs to speak to customers

It’s so important that every part of your business talks to its customers. Whether you’re writing code, designing our app, or building charts in finance – you should also be spending time chatting with customers. It’s something we implemented on day one and its a philosophy we’ll continue for as long as we can at Yonder.

Five steps for setting up your customer support team

Step 1: Define the standard you want to keep up front

We had one non-negotiable: no bots to cover chats end-to-end.

There are great virtual agents on the market but there’s so much power in human interaction (especially when you’re getting started). You can probe, you can give above and beyond service, you can troubleshoot faster, you can obsess over them – the list goes on. Customer support might look different at your business, but for us we’ll fight to always let our members chat with a real person as we grow.

Step 2: Pick the metrics to measure your success

There are so many support metrics in the industry that can measure how your team is doing; average first response times, average resolution times, number of chats closed/reopened, CSAT (customer satisfaction), CES (customer effort score) and more. My advice would be to not overcomplicate it. It takes up too much time to be monitoring everything, so pick a few really important metrics and focus on those.

We decided to not dwell on how long it takes to resolve and close a chat but instead chose to focus on the quality of service we’re giving, whether our members are happy and if we’re answering our members quickly enough. I wanted to set aggressive targets, so our first response time between in core hours (I’ll dive into this more in step 5) is 5 minutes and our CSAT benchmark is 95%.

Step 3: Make use of FAQs, macros and tags

I think we can all agree that the above are all useful in their own way. With our FAQs, I anticipated top questions that may be asked but I decided not to build an enormous library of articles. Why? Because we genuinely wanted people to message in so we can learn.

Learn about what people enjoyed, learn what people were curious about, and learn if our messaging was clear in what we were trying to display. Learn it all. It’s really easy to be a victim of the ‘curse of knowledge’ when you’ve been working on a product day in and day out.

For those that don’t know what macros are, they’re saved replies. Quick responses are sent for common questions asked. We had a handful of those but they were hardly used. We typed everything out and still do because sometimes macros can lose emotion and character and that’s just not the type of brand we are. Don’t get me wrong, use them but don’t overuse them. Your customers know a macro when they see one.

If there’s anything you should take from this blog, it’s this - tag every single chat. Data is so important. When you talk to members every day it’s so easy to over or under-guesstimate how many requests for a certain feature were brought up for example, but going to your product team or engineers or your designer with quantitive data is paramount. You’ll see how quickly items can get added and removed from the roadmap with this data. Not only is it useful for prioritisation but necessary for reporting, resource planning, business reviews and so much more.

Step 4: Train your whole team to offer support

As I was the only Member Support staff, I had to train the rest of the business on how to give great service. I had a 15 minutes 1:1 chat with every colleague so I can understand what they were apprehensive about and got these actioned. You’d be surprised how uneasy it can be to throw someone in front of real members when they’ve never done it before.

The main tip I gave: “You’re all experts on our product. We test the app day in, day out, hour after hour and we know it best. They’ll just be asking you questions about it. That’s all. Just speak to members how you’ll speak to people on WhatsApp and if you ever need me, I’m an @ away.”

Step 5: How to schedule shifts

This was our biggest learning. We initially launched with these 3 shifts:

  • 8am - 6pm (Core hours)
  • 6pm - 1am (Out-of-hours evening)
  • 1am - 8am (Out-of-hours morning)

Waking up from your sleep to be ready for a shift starting at 1am just wasn’t sustainable. Nor was doing your full-time job and then being on chat all evening until 1am, 5 days in a row.

So we tried these hours, removed shift blocks and added out-of-hours triaging.

  • 6am - 2pm (Core hours)
  • 2pm - 10pm (Evening)
  • 10pm - 6am (Out-of-hours morning)

Our chats are reasonably quiet between 10pm and 6am so we introduced automation that will ping the on-call agent to answer urgent chats or it’ll filter into a queue that’ll get picked up at 6am by the next on-call agent.

There’s more groundwork that was done but these are the foundations that have helped build the great team we have today.

Rachel Ntantu
Rachel Ntantu
Member Support Manager

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