3. Ramp up: Get your customer support reps up to speed

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A well-constructed onboarding process will lead to a high-functioning team with a low attrition rate. Having these plans in place from the beginning will help your reps’ success from day one.

Providing new customer service representatives with a comprehensive training program is critical to their success and to your customers’ happiness. Consider implementing an initial onboarding program that covers everything from company core values to product details.

3.1 Effective onboarding & training

Core training

Business basics

  • Company Mission and Vision
  • Company Organization
  • Organization of Customer-Facing Departments

Support team overview

  • Mission
  • Values
  • Expectations

Support team policies

  • Organization of the Support Groups
  • Support Group Policies and Processes

Product basics

  • Tools Overview & Training
  • Performance Indicators

Next, consider implementing a “shadowing” period in which new reps learn the ropes, are carefully monitored, and are given frequent feedback to ensure they’re performing according to expectations. With a team leader closely involved to provide guidance and act as an escalation point, the representative will answer tickets and become more familiar with your product. At the end of 90 days, look at the reps’ stats to see how many tickets were answered, their Customer Service Score (CSAT), and their mean time to resolution. By comparing these metrics, you can quickly identify your top performers.

Pro tip: Invest in knowledge-based support.

One support methodology centers around a searchable, in-house knowledge base for reps to reference. By providing the support team with answers to frequently (and not so frequently) asked questions, they can address customer questions more quickly and take the guesswork out of their responses.

Companies like Zendesk can provide the backend technology to set up a knowledge base-you’ll be responsible for populating the content, beginning with the most common support questions first and adding more as your team encounters additional support situations. Combine this with a robust training program and you’ll have a very effective and efficient support team.

3.2 Pave a clear career path

Distributed team members, just like on-site employees, want to know there is room to grow within an organization. Having a clear path for advancement will inspire higher performance and lower attrition in your service team. Here’s an example of how you could build a team structure to encourage and engage superstar reps, from training all the way up to leadership:

Level one: Tickets

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It typically takes at least six months for customer support reps to become proficient in all aspects of a business. The first six months (including the 90-day onboarding period) can be spent answering tickets, which allows them to learn the product and how to address customer issues and escalations.

Level two: Chat

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Chat reps need every bit of knowledge they acquired during their time as ticket reps. They may be asked to handle two chats concurrently, sometimes dealing with very complex issues. Occasionally you’ll have a rockstar chat rep with great stats-those high performers may be ready to jump straight from chat to team lead.

Level three: Phone & chat

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A breeding ground for future team leaders, this level can be made up of phone reps as well as very experienced chat reps. Representatives at this level are given additional permissions, like the authority to run credit card transactions.

Level four: Team leaders

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Team leaders are responsible for the care and success of their customer support teams, as well as for addressing the more complex client issues. They should have no more than eight to 10 representatives reporting to them. This is the “golden ratio,” and it has become a go-to rule of thumb for structuring efficient, effective teams.

3.3 Case study: Tango.me

“Hiring online allows me to locate the people that I need and hire them quickly. That’s huge for us!”
–Art Grigorian, Marketing Manager, Tango

Tango is a leading all-in-one mobile messaging service with 300M+ registered users who can play games, connect, and interact with with friends and family in meaningful ways.

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Tango at a glance:

Founded: 2009

Industry: Communications

Team Size: 200+

Support Team: 3 onsite and 10 remote

Location: Mountain View, CA

tango.me

The situation. After raising $369M in venture capital and experiencing rapid growth, Tango was looking to expand its customer support team to handle both customer service requests and simultaneously address high-priority strategic projects. Art Grigorian, who is now the marketing manager but was head of support at the time, needed to hire fast.

The solution. Art learned about Upwork™ and online support reps from friends in the startup scene. He signed up and conducted thorough profile reviews and interviews before bringing new reps onto the team.

The result. After screening a number of candidates, Art augmented his existing in-house team with eight online customer success agents. Tango is now delivering top-notch customer service with the help of distributed talent, while their in-house team has doubled their bandwidth to work on high-impact projects.

Next steps. Tango plans on hiring more customer success agents to support its U.S. users. They’ve also expanded beyond the customer service category, hiring a 10-person distributed team to help with technical support, marketing, business development, and engineering.