Mar 10, 2023
The Complete Guide to Building a Customer Support Operations Team
customer experiencesupport operationsnext gen supportSupport Experience
We know that customers depend on customer service to handle their queries, but who does customer service depend on? The answer is an efficient, behind-the-scenes team known as customer support operations or support ops.
The benefits of a strong support operations team are twofold: satisfied customers and empowered employees. According to Zendesk’s CX Trends, 60% of customers now have higher expectations when it comes to service, but less than 30% of support agents feel empowered in their roles. This discrepancy between what customers want and what businesses are offering in terms of service leads to higher customer churn, disengaged employees, and profit loss.
A customer support operations team ensures that agents feel prepared and empowered to provide the highest level of service, which means higher customer retention and satisfaction. Learn about the benefits of support operations and how to structure your team from start to finish.
What are customer support operations?
Just as the name implies, a support ops team assists in the daily functions of a customer service team. “The best operations team is an operations team that’s fully focused, all the time, on how to help support engineers and managers do their absolute best job,” explains Judith Platz, Chief Customer Officer at SupportLogic. Support operations teams are normally small, but each role handles a wide variety of tasks.
Head of support operations
The head of support operations’ core responsibilities include tracking performance and progress, analyzing customer service data, and preparing reports for other departments and stakeholders. Their daily tasks might include:
- Tracking their department’s performance and adjusting budget expectations
- Measuring employee productivity, engagement, and achievements
- Analyzing industry trends and standards to adjust strategies
- Preparing and presenting reports detailing performance and customer satisfaction
The head of operations is a critical role on the support operations team because they steer the entire support strategy, which impacts not only the team but also the customer service department.
Support operations managers are the go-to leaders and decision-makers for the daily operations tasks. Their role focuses on ensuring support agents are able to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Core responsibilities can include:
- Communicating between departments, senior management, and frontline representatives to ensure information moves smoothly
- Forecasting workloads around downtime and peaks and assigning the proper agents to cases
- Ensuring customer service agents meet their goals and providing support when needed
- Analyzing workflows and identifying roadblocks to maintain service levels and consistency
Leaner support ops teams might have the managers taking on the roles of trainers and analysts as well as directly providing customer service. This highly involved position often changes based on the needs and size of your organization.
Systems analysts collect and analyze data to find roadblocks and inefficiencies within the customer support system.
“Now with our use of AI, with our use of data, and with our ability to get to more data than we ever have, it seems practical to have AI data scientists on the operations team. You want people who are very skilled in understanding where support is going in the industry and how to drive it there,” says Platz.
They might track queues to see which times have higher levels of requests and work with managers to better plan shifts. They might also identify problems within customer support processes and work with developers to optimize systems. Systems analysts’ core responsibilities revolve around ensuring customer support teams have smooth workflows and that satisfaction levels remain consistent.
Support trainers ensure that customer service agents are fully qualified to do their jobs. They’re responsible for onboarding new hires, training staff, and facilitating skills-upgrading sessions when needed. Trainers are often tasked with:
- Teaching new hires about company protocols and providing in-depth product training
- Mentoring agents through career-growth opportunities
- Providing empathy training to ensure service representatives handle customer queries with care
- Creating and distributing training materials and conducting workshops
Developers build, optimize, and deliver the tools that customer support teams use in their daily operations. Depending on the size and needs of the company, they might develop custom tools, find opportunities for automation, or ensure agents are successfully using subscription tools and software.
They often act as a help desk: solving technical problems, providing support when rolling out new initiatives, and managing upgrades.
The benefits of a strong support operations team
From streamlining operational processes to empowering staff, support operations deliver a wide variety of benefits.
Increase customer satisfaction
According to Salesforce’s State of Service Report, “Eighty-five percent of decision makers agree there is a direct link between employee experience and customer experience.” Boosting employee satisfaction through training and support is a key responsibility for the support operations team, but they also work to increase customer satisfaction in different ways.
Senior-level support department members, like analysts and managers, often scour queues, tickets, and feedback to find areas of improvement (as well as success). They might analyze customer sentiment, for example, to see what customers are saying about the company and its products and ensure that high-risk cases get immediate attention. This helps reduce churn and improve KPIs, like customer satisfaction surveys (CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS).
Support operations teams also work to eliminate roadblocks, implement efficient processes, and build custom tools to enable support agents to focus on helping customers rather than navigating complex CRM platforms. This directly benefits customers because agents dedicate more time to solving their problems and reducing wait times.
Set new hires up for success
Only 20% of agents are satisfied with the quality of their training, while even fewer are happy with the frequency of training. Thorough and effective training for new customer support hires is critical for the success of your customer service program. If agents don’t feel confident in their positions, customer satisfaction is bound to diminish. And many companies are recognizing this connection, with 81% of decision-makers claiming to be investing more in staff training this year.
Support operations take the guesswork out of training and onboarding new employees by analyzing how current staff performs and where they need extra support. Training programs are then adjusted to reflect these results, ensuring new hires feel confident on their first day of work. Confident employees are more capable of handling customer queries, especially more complex issues, and making decisions when it comes to offering solutions.
Boost employee productivity and happiness
In 2020, 51% of employees were not engaged at work, meaning they were actively detached from their roles and organization. Not only does this impact productivity levels, but it also leads highly qualified, valuable staff to look for new opportunities elsewhere.
“An operations team is there to keep unnecessary stress away from the agents and let them focus on helping and retaining customers. All these other issues get answered by an operations team, and answered in a way where agents want to stay with [the company]. We’re improving their day-to-day experience. If we’re not doing that, they’re going to leave,” said Platz.
Disengaged employees also affect customer service levels. After all, if employees don’t care about their company, why would they care about its customers? This translates into slower resolution times and unsympathetic responses, which only decrease customer satisfaction. Support operations teams work to engage employees through meaningful coaching and skills development while taking their feedback into consideration when onboarding new staff.
“I’m convinced that if we can keep our agents happy, we will keep our customers happy. They’re so synonymous,” says Platz.
Having direct access to developers and system analysts also lowers the risk of encountering major challenges or getting stuck on a process, which reduces stress. For example, if an agent experiences a bug in the system, they have a go-to competent source to remedy the problem instead of searching for solutions. And with systems analysts constantly looking for ways to improve workflows, agents have a higher chance of avoiding burnout.
How to build a support operations team
Building an entirely new support operations team starts with an analysis of your current customer service department. This includes gathering feedback, analyzing current workflows, and locating where you need extra support. Once you know what you need, it’s time to start building your team.
Define roles and responsibilities
With clearly defined roles and responsibilities, your hiring committee will have a detailed checklist of what they’re looking for, and new hires will have explicit career expectations. Not every company will have the full lineup of support operations team members mentioned above—some choose to combine job descriptions or outsource responsibilities.
For example, your support managers might also function as system analysts or support trainers. If that’s the case, make it crystal clear in the job description to avoid issues with certain functions down the line.
Make the (right) first hire
The head of support operations is one of the most important positions because they’re the basis for building the entire team, making them a crucial first hire.
“Make long-term investments in your team now. That means hiring the key critical people: strategic thinkers, critical thinkers, transformation type of individuals, the people who are curious, the people who can manage projects effectively. If that costs you a little bit more, that’s okay. Do that, because this operations team will end up being the team that the rest of support relies on,” explains Platz.
You’ll also want to look for a candidate who has experience with leadership and working across teams to complete projects. Experience within different levels of customer service is also helpful because it gives them a strong understanding of what each role requires to be successful. Finally, a solid drive to improve company performance and processes will lead to a more proactive, engaging leadership style that will benefit support operations teams.
Recruit based on skillset and experience
Skills like communication, collaboration, and significant experience working with customers and within customer support roles will allow new hires to adjust more easily to the team. But creativity, critical thinking, and a drive for change are also important.
“We need people to manage relationships. But we also need transformation people; people who are looking at our processes and saying, why? Why do we do that? Do we need to do it that way?” explains Platz.
Candidates who are highly motivated, engaged, and eager to learn are a strong choice for positions that require providing direct support to customer service agents.
Create a comprehensive onboarding process
Support operations duties span different departments and responsibilities, so they need to have a deep understanding of the company, the customer support process, the workflows, and all the tools used within the organization.
The onboarding process should be extremely in-depth and individualized for each role. Internal knowledge bases, mentorship opportunities, and thorough product demonstrations will help the support operations team learn their roles quickly.
Build effective communication channels
Support operations often have to communicate with multiple managers and across various departments, so having effective communication channels allows information to get across clearly and easily.
For example, an increase in support tickets about a bug in your product needs to be communicated to several departments. Customer service managers need to be in the know, so they can increase the number of agents on shift to handle extra calls, while product managers need to be looped in so they can tackle the bug. With reliable communication channels, these messages are delivered quickly to ensure customers get the support they need.
Set your support operations team up for success with SupportLogic
Building a strong support operations team is the first step in increasing customer satisfaction and empowering your workforce. Next, encourage long-term growth and company success by implementing a powerful support experience platform to streamline workflows, predict client escalations, and unlock customer insights.
Make SupportLogic SX part of your toolkit to ensure your support operations team can successfully handle every challenge, from analyzing customer sentiment insights to agent onboarding.