Why you need a customer support operations team
As demands on customer service teams continue to grow, more and more support leaders are realizing the benefit of a customer support operations function.
Support leaders need to be able to balance efficiency with a great customer experience, meet rising customer expectations, and keep team morale high, all while ensuring that they don’t blow through their budget or burn out their team. It’s a huge responsibility, but an operations team can help.
What is customer support operations?
The aim of customer support operations (or CS Ops) is to increase the effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity of customer support teams.
By guiding the operational, strategic, and technical support processes in place, a customer service operations function can help to reduce the strain on your support managers, empower support reps to work more efficiently, and deliver insights that help you to provide an excellent customer experience in the most effective way for your business.
What is a customer support operations team?
Much like their business operations counterparts, CS Ops teams aim to evaluate your existing customer support processes, metrics, and data to get insights and identify opportunities for optimization. These optimizations can then be used to empower your support managers and reps to work more efficiently, and give greater visibility to execs and key stakeholders.
“The CS Ops team covers a wide remit, so the roles within the team span a range of skills”
CS Ops team roles and responsibilities
The CS Ops team covers a wide remit, so the roles within the team span a range of skills. While the layout of your CS Ops team may not follow exactly the structure laid out here, it will generally contain most of the skills discussed.
Customer support operations manager
Depending on the size of the company, the customer support operations manager might spread their time across customer support duties, and more operational and strategic tasks. Essentially, the CS Ops manager steps back from the day-to-day work of the team to monitor workflows, morale, efficiency, and tools – and focuses on building an overall vision for your customer support.
“The systems analyst monitors, optimizes, and maintains the tools used by the support team”
The systems analyst monitors, optimizes, and maintains the tools used by the support team. They make sure every tool provides maximum value, and spot opportunities to improve efficiencies and automate workflows. Systems analysts play an essential role in keeping costs low and in future IT planning.
The developer helps to smoothly install and implement new tools and support channels within the customer service team, ensuring that they’re configured to suit the needs of the reps. They might even build some custom features to simplify support reps’ jobs, reduce their workloads, or facilitate cross-team collaboration.
“It’s vital that every support team member feels they have the necessary skills and knowledge to confidently engage with customers”
The customer service team is on the front lines of a business every single day. It’s vital that every team member feels they have the necessary skills and knowledge to confidently engage with customers. Support trainers make sure that the whole team is up to speed on your product or service, informed about the latest releases, and knows where to go for answers to any question.
Support trainers also offer support for team members who, for any reason, might be struggling to reach their potential and offer an excellent customer experience.
Signs you need a CS Ops team
Staff workload and stress
According to our research, more than half (51%) of customer service leaders saw a drop in team morale in 2022, and 42% report that it’s impacting their team’s performance.
In this kind of situation, it can be difficult for support managers to balance long-term, strategic improvements with the day-to-day wellbeing and development of their team members. Separating out CS Ops takes a significant amount of that time-consuming operational work off your support managers’ plates, allowing them to focus on people management rather than operations management.
“The added efficiency gains your CS Ops team can provide means reclaimed time for your people managers to focus on their reps’ personal development and team morale”
Not only that, but the added efficiency gains your CS Ops team can provide – for example, by streamlining processes or identifying more opportunities to proactively support your customers – means reclaimed time for your people managers to focus on their reps’ personal development and team morale.
2. Lack of metrics and helpful insights
There are tons of metrics you can use to measure your customer service team’s performance. But whether you’re tracking CSAT (customer satisfaction), FRT (first response time), or any other combination of letters, if those numbers aren’t where they should be, it might be time for operational intervention.
“Offering concrete insights about the value your support org is delivering enables the team to make better decisions”
Not only can customer service operations help you to measure and improve those results, but they can also help you to demonstrate the value driven by your support team to stakeholders and leadership. Offering concrete insights about the value your support org is delivering enables the team to make better decisions about where to allocate budget going forward.
3. Your organization is growing
If you’re having growing pains – or anticipating a period of high growth – you need to put a plan in place that can scale with you, so you can manage high volumes of queries in a way that still allows you to build personalized, conversational relationships with your customers.
Benefits of having a CS Ops team
Aside from taking some work off your plate so you can focus on what needs your expertise most, there are countless benefits to having a CS Ops team working alongside your support org.
Maximizes your team’s efficiency
The customer support operations team is perfectly placed to spot improvements in workflow efficiency, tool implementation, and resource management that might otherwise be missed. An example might be finding ways to automate tasks that are slowing down or frustrating your teammates.
“Having a dedicated function that finds ways to remove the burden of repetitive tasks is not only a cost-saver – it’s a value creator”
In 2023, 71% of support leaders are planning to invest more in automation to increase team efficiency, and 68% to reduce costs. Automation can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run, and having a dedicated function that finds ways to remove the burden of repetitive tasks is not only a cost-saver – it’s a value creator, with companies that implement automation 4x more likely to increase their customer satisfaction (CSAT).
CS Ops also ensure that your team is getting maximum value from your tech stack, and cut any tools that may not be earning their place. According to the Intercom Customer Service Trends Report 2023, 76% of support leaders believe that their current customer support stack is holding their team back. CS Ops can help your team to unlock new efficiencies and boost morale with technology that helps your team instead of hindering them.
Allows support reps to focus on customers
Those seemingly tiny team organizational tasks, reporting requirements, or workflow improvements can build up to fill time your support reps don’t have. Allowing the CS Ops team to handle the overarching operational tasks means that your support reps can focus on what they do best: helping your customers.
“The CS Ops team are involved in the everyday work of support teams and have unique insights into the strengths and areas for growth among support team members”
At Intercom, the CS Ops team creates dashboards that give leaders and managers greater visibility into individual and team performance against our KPIs and goals. They analyze the data to provide segmentation recommendations that will improve our customer service strategy; and maintain the overall customer service roadmap, ensuring that important customer support initiatives are moving forward, including the right people, and being communicated effectively internally.
These are vital steps that help our support org to function more smoothly and impactfully so the team can support our customers at scale, without needing to increase budget or headcount.
Facilitates support reps’ career development
The CS Ops team are involved in the everyday work of support teams and have unique insights into the strengths and areas for growth among support team members, as well as team developments. As a result, they can spot opportunities for team members to take on new challenges, and also offer training to help reps upskill in valuable areas or grow into a new role.
“As a support manager, it can be difficult to get off the ‘reactive support’ treadmill and focus on long-term optimization”
Not only does this work help to build a strong, skilled team – it also increases team morale and employee retention. According to McKinsey, lack of potential advancement is one of the main reasons that customer support reps are leaving their jobs. Having a team focused on identifying opportunities and employee achievements goes a long way towards offering meaningful progression.
Prioritizes long-term team strategy
As a support manager, day-to-day responsibilities stack up, and it can be difficult to get off the “reactive support” treadmill and focus on long-term optimization. That’s where CS Ops can help. They take a higher-level view of your team’s goals, current and future business opportunities, and market trends – and use these insights to build a roadmap for your customer support team.
How to get started with customer support operations
Luckily, investing in customer support operations doesn’t require a ton of extra tools or headcount – you can start by getting smarter about using the resources you already have in your arsenal. Here are three things you can do now to start building your CS Ops framework.
Map out existing workflows
The first thing you need to do is understand exactly how things are going right now, so you can spot the areas for improvement.
One powerful way to do this is through journey mapping. CX expert Annette Franz argues that journey mapping is both a powerful tool and a process in itself.
For the most effective journey mapping, you need to experience the journey from your customers’ perspective so you can properly identify their pain points – but you also need to get team input on where the friction lies for them. Where are customers experiencing frustrations? What are the blockers stopping them from achieving their goals? Where does most time get sunk for your team?
“Pick something that you know is a pain point for the customer. Map that, and then move on to something else. Map that, make your changes, show your improvements, communicate with customers, close the loop” – Annette Franz
This deeper understanding of your existing processes and workflows will help you to understand where you can optimize to make things more efficient for your customers and teams.
Not sure where to start? “Pick something that you know is a pain point for the customer,” Annette recommends. “Map that, and then move on to something else. Map that, make your changes, show your improvements, communicate with customers, close the loop. Baby steps, for sure.”
Hire the right people
Starting to build out a customer service operations function doesn’t necessarily mean adding headcount straight away. Depending on your existing resources, you may find that you already have the right person in your talent pool – so long as they’re willing to grow their skills in the right direction.
“The right person has to be willing to get deep into the weeds with numbers, and be able to creatively use the tools and tech at their disposal to solve problems and answer questions”
A support team member with experience on the ground can be a big benefit because they’ll have innate experience with those pain points and customer journeys already. But they also have to be willing to get deep into the weeds with numbers, and able to creatively use the tools and tech at their disposal to solve problems and answer questions.
That said, your new CS Ops hire doesn’t have to come from a support background. There’s no specific playbook; the key thing is to look for skills, not titles. Things like presentation skills, an ability to parse data to glean insights, a proclivity for project management, experience with risk tolerance and mitigation – all of these things will come in handy.
“Think about who your CS Ops team can partner with cross-functionally for the best results, and build those connections from the outset”
Think about who your CS Ops team can partner with cross-functionally for the best results, and build those connections from the outset. Customer success? Analytics? Product? Marketing? Just like sales data can help non-sales teams, so too can support data be used in strategic ways to help create a more customer-centric experience across your whole organization.
Use the right support tools
Rather than investing in new tools, think about strategically leveraging the tech stack you’re already using. This goes for both the analytics and operations side. How many great reporting insights can you unlock from your existing support tool, for example? What previously unused features can you dig into to make your support workflows more efficient?
“Once you have a few quick wins under your belt, you can use that proven track record to advocate for more budget or resources in the future”
As with anything, support tools should complement your strategy, not replace it. Rather than investing in a shiny new piece of software, think mindfully about your goals and KPIs, and how you can set your team up for success with quick wins. Once you have a few of those under your belt, you can use that proven track record to advocate for more budget or resources in the future.
Operating at your full potential
Building out your customer service operations team helps you to ensure your support managers and agents are empowered to have the greatest impact on your business – and gives you the tools to measure, interrogate, and improve that impact.
Looking for more insights on how to create a customer service function that moves the needle? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Customer Support.
Frequently Asked Questions