Customer Service: Welcome To The Least Fun Part of Your Company

August 6, 2023

CS: The No-Fun Club

Over the past half-decade, we have immersed ourselves deeply into the intricate world of Customer Service. Whether it was selling SIM cards and iPhones or trading in streetwear and homegoods, our business ventures have seen us dabble with an assortment of help desks, CRMs, and, quite honestly, an embarrassing amount of Google Sheets. 

It’s easy to downplay the complexity of this endeavor. While it might not be equivalent to rocket science, there's no denying that it is one of the most underestimated challenges in fueling your company's growth trajectory. It's a labyrinthine task, and its significance can't be overstated when it comes to supporting the expansion of your business.

This is in homage to the pitfalls, the errors, and the missteps that entrepreneurs often stumble upon, and more importantly, it's a guide on how to steer clear of them.

When Sales Grow, The Love For Customer Service Fades

During the highs of sales growth, the importance of customer service can often recede into the background. As businesses rush to match the surge in sales, enhance production capabilities, and expand the company's infrastructure, customer service, once a priority, can inadvertently be relegated to an afterthought. 

This isn't to say that you don't value your customers - far from it. But as your customer base scales, the complexities that come with it also grow exponentially. Dealing with customer issues at such a vast scale can become an overwhelming task, making it challenging to address each one adequately and empathetically.

Whether it's navigating through the establishment of a help desk replete with an array of macros and third-party integrations or enabling efficient self-service options, the learning curve can be daunting and significantly time-intensive

Actually Having To Learn Customer Service Sucks

The bitter pill to swallow in the realm of customer service is that before you can effectively dish out solutions, you must first taste the meal yourself. In other words, a prerequisite to overseeing your customer service team involves diving headfirst into the nitty-gritty of customer management. This immersion is a necessary step to comprehend the nuances and challenges that come with the territory.

Beyond managing the people, mastering the technical aspects is an equally crucial task. Setting up a help desk, for instance, is a massive load of work in itself, almost warranting a separate learning certification. The journey from understanding macros, integrating third-party systems, to tailoring self-service options can be an arduous one. The learning curve can be steep, and to truly become proficient at configuring a help desk, it could take weeks of dedicated effort. 

Wanting To Reinvent The Wheel That Doesn’t Need To

Embarking on the journey to construct customer service operations without the guiding light of prior experience can often result in an endless cycle of solution-building. There is no shortage of external help available for hire, but finding individuals who gel with your company culture can be quite a challenge. Moreover, having well-intentioned individuals assigned to tasks that don't align with their skillset can be counterproductive, leading to inefficiencies rather than solutions.

This misalignment often culminates in the creation of additional, unnecessary steps and processes. For instance, trying to juggle between various platforms like Monday, Notion, and Google Sheets, to manually track every detail can become a laborious and convoluted process. This over complication not only muddles the workflow but can also distract from focusing on the core aspects of delivering exceptional customer service.


Customer Service Is The Least Sexiest Cost Of Your Expenses

Let's face it, customer service can often seem like the least glamorous expenditure on your financial books. Whether you're employing remote agents or hosting an in-office team, the escalating cost of staffing is an operational expense that can quickly turn exorbitant, casting a long shadow over your balance sheet.

Seasonal peaks can further exacerbate the issue by necessitating a bloated staff to handle increased demand. The challenge then lies in figuring out how to optimally utilize this expanded workforce during the off-peak season. Balancing staff productivity throughout the year, while still keeping costs in check, is a common problem many entrepreneurs grapple with when navigating the waters of customer service.

Hiring (And Firing) Friends & Family

Recruiting friends and family into your customer service team may seem like a straightforward solution, given the apparent simplicity of tasks such as answering emails. However, managing productivity expectations within close-knit relationships often proves to be a complex endeavor. Balancing professional demands and personal dynamics can create a unique set of challenges that are not typically present in conventional work relationships.

The deceptive simplicity of customer service tasks often leads to the question - "It's just answering emails, how hard could it be?" As your business grows and the demand for resources amplifies, the need to divide and conquer tasks becomes inevitable. However, it's essential to recognize that customer service goes beyond mere email responses and requires a comprehensive understanding of problem-solving, customer satisfaction, and consistent communication, among other skills.

We Need People That Understand “American” 

Much like organic enthusiasts insist on locally-sourced produce, some businesses emphasize the need for customer support agents who understand "American" culture, in hopes that they can navigate cultural nuances with more ease. Whether hiring within the U.S. or Canada, this perceived need often surfaces when businesses employ call-based agents.

This is a classic misconception. The cultural proficiency presumed to be crucial for voice-based customer service does not necessarily apply to chat-based agents. The digital nature of chat-based service allows for more universal communication, and the cultural nuances that may be critical in verbal communication are often less significant in written exchanges. Hence, this highlights the importance of recognizing the different requirements for various modes of customer support.

BPO's Are Wild Rip Offs

The primary intent behind outsourcing customer service to a remote call center is typically cost-saving. However, this isn't always the case. The monthly cost for a standard BPO agent can range between $2,000 to $3,000 per agent, and this often entails binding contract agreements. This substantial investment might lead one to believe that higher costs equate to superior service, but this isn't guaranteed. High prices don't necessarily mean you'll be securing better agents.

Moreover, the logic behind signing BPO contracts with minimum ticket requirements can sometimes be flawed. These stipulations may not align with your business needs, creating unnecessary financial and operational burdens. Thus, while outsourcing might seem like a viable solution on the surface, it's crucial to consider all factors and potential hidden costs before proceeding with such a decision.

Scaling Bandaids Instead of Solutions

The lure of an apparently infinite pool of remote agents can make it tempting for companies to merely scale their staff when challenges arise. Rather than honing their product, streamlining workflows, or consolidating systems, operations may hastily resort to adding more personnel. However, this approach can inadvertently lead to the creation of a bloated workforce, leading to higher costs and less efficient processes.

The key to successful management, particularly of remote teams, lies not in the simple multiplication of manpower, but in fine-tuning the processes that drive productivity. A well-structured and optimized workflow often trumps the advantages offered by a larger team. After all, the process often holds precedence over the individual. Resorting to hiring additional staff as a makeshift solution for underlying issues can lead to inefficiencies, wasted resources, and a constant struggle to adapt staff activities to meet productivity targets.

Customer Service is Operational Quicksand

Let's face it, customer service can often feel like sinking into operational quicksand. Regardless of how efficiently you resolve issues, the nature of a thriving business guarantees a continuous influx of customer queries, tickets, emails, and messages. It's a never-ending cycle that, if not managed strategically, can become overwhelming.

The real game-changer here lies in constructing a process that can be entrusted to a team of e-commerce experts. This shift not only allows for more specialized handling of customer issues but also frees up invaluable time for business owners. Their efforts can then be redirected towards more strategic tasks such as audience expansion, product development, and community building, thereby leading to a more balanced and productive business ecosystem.

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August 6, 2023