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Improve Your Small Customer Service Team's Productivity

Find out how to handle growing volume without the stress (and cost) of recruitment.

April 3rd, 2018


Becca Le Blond

A need to scale is one of the best problems to have as a business. You’ve grown so quickly that your team needs extra support, and fast. But despite the general consensus that you need a larger customer service team, you’re struggling to get one with the budget you've got.

Luckily, you can scale your current team's productivity and delay the need to hire new colleagues. We’re going to talk about how you can maximise efficiency with:

  • Integrations
  • Automation
  • Self-service customer support
  • Simultaneous customer conversations
  • Personality focused recruitment

Connect your tech

Technology is the foundation your operation is built on - advisors can only respond as quickly as the systems they’re using allow them to. Enable your team to be more productive by reducing the number of steps in your processes, and the number of systems an advisor uses.

How? Use integrations. With the right customer service software, APIs let your systems send relevant information to each other, presenting advisors with a full view of a customer’s history with you.

Integrated customer service platform Integrated customer service platform

This may need some developer time (if your software solution doesn't have the integrations you need built in), but a CS software supplier will be able to do this for you if their product supports it.

Having all the information an advisor needs in the same screen as a customer’s question makes the time it takes to find and communicate a solution a lot shorter. An advisor would only need to confirm the customer’s identity first.

Once you’ve created this efficiency in your tech setup, you can improve it further with automation.


Introducing automation alone isn’t going to soothe your growing pains, but it will enhance the improvements you make to your tech setup:

Automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency... automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency - Bill Gates

The best way of automating your operation will depend on what your current challenges are.

Challenge: long handling times

Reduce the amount of time it takes for your team to send messages by automatically recommending responses.

A bot does this by recognising phrases in the customer’s message and matching them with a response you’ve created. An advisor can then choose to:

  • send that response
  • personalise it before sending it out
  • feedback to the bot that the response wasn’t correct

depending on the bot’s accuracy. The ability to give the bot feedback is crucial, providing an inbuilt method to make it more intelligent over time.

If you’re wary of handing over full interactions to bots but still want to reap some of their benefits, this is a great way of doing so.

Challenge: repetitive, simple queries

Bots are great at handling queries with simple, data-driven answers. The sort of task that, if handled by an advisor, would be a simple copy and paste job.

This lets advisors focus on more complex, rewarding tasks. Those that require empathy, deeper investigation, or knowledge of recent events (the effects of bad weather, for example).

Automations will replace repetitive processes, while live agents will focus on the human value they can bring to the conversation – Mikhail Naumov, AI Is My Friend

This style of automation would work in a very similar fashion to the ‘recommended response’ bot we described above. The key difference is the lack of an advisor working as the middle-man between customer and machine.

Challenge: simple ticket allocation

Customer service platforms that are popular with growing businesses, thanks to their relative ease-of-use and low cost, tend to have one major drawback – their ticket allocation isn’t customisable. Assignment is nearly always time-based, meaning tickets get distributed on a first-in, first-out basis.

That doesn’t have to be the case. With workflow systems like the one used by our recommended supplier, Gnatta, tickets can be assigned to an online advisor based on data tied to the interaction. Their priority can be set in response to a variety of triggers like customer profile or time spent in queue, and they’ll be presented to advisors in priority order.

maximise customer service productivity with workflows maximise customer service productivity with workflows

This improves your team’s efficiency in a variety of ways.

Assigning conversations by query type to specialists will reduce their handling time, letting advisors handle more queries over the course of their shift.

If a customer’s conversation is escalated for any reason their messages can be assigned a higher priority so they can be handled faster, preventing the message-chase-message cycle from a distressed customer overwhelming your customer service team.

Let customers help themselves

Creating a well-organised, simply presented FAQ system is a great way to reduce the strain on your customer service team without alienating customers. The most important factor to an FAQ section that customers like is presenting answers in a logical, easily navigated system.

If you notice a lot of contacts about a support or product issue, write a blog post about how to resolve it. 

customers prefer search engines to find answers customers prefer search engines to find answers

Customers get content they can use to resolve their own query, you don't clutter your FAQ system with an unwieldy how-to guide, and your marketing and sales teams get valuable assets.

Get your channel mix right

When it comes to efficiency, not all communication channels are created equal. Getting more productivity from a team that can't grow is possible if you focus on the right ones.

Telephony only allows customers to handle one conversation for an extended period. That might be ok when you're just getting started and the small number of calls you take are an average of 5 minutes long. But when your customer base expands, so does the variety and complexity of questions.

Therefore, you need to look at on-website messaging options like social media and webchat. Social media messages are a lot faster to resolve than a phone call, particularly if you use integration and automation. Webchat lets operators handle multiple conversations at once, an obvious advantage over phone-based CS.

If you sell online, you need to be available online. People are used to convenience, and would rather find a brand that’s easier to contact than go to extra effort to find your customer support.

We recommend a hybrid approach to customer service. Use CS software which lets operators handle non-live messages (like email or social media) whilst waiting to hear back from customers on webchat. This will improve your productivity by at least 17%. 

A happy team is a more productive team

Our final point is one for when you do get that recruitment budget: the first step to creating a productive team is hiring the right people.

There’s many a blog out there that talks about traits to look for when you’re interviewing candidates. We aren’t going to contradict that advice, but add that you also need to keep in mind the personalities that are already on your team. A cohesive team is a happier one, and a happier team is a more productive team.

Personality fit is really important when you're hiring a new member of an established team. Think about how they'd interact with people already on the team. We have subconscious biases and naturally get along better with people with similar traits. This is something I always look out for when hiring – you want to know they'll be happy and excel, not simply meet a target number of heads at desks. - Sally Chandler, CEO, FM Outsource

In a rapidly growing team like yours the focus must be on productivity, so you need to hire people whose personalities will fit into your current team dynamic.

This also helps you avoid the costs of recruiting and hiring new team members. HR resource, job listing costs, and training costs all add up, so create a team that will stay with you through your growth.


Scaling up doesn’t just mean adding new bodies to your team. FAQs and blogs will give your customers the tools to find their own answers, and automation will help your team handle the messages they receive more efficiently.

We help small businesses scale up their customer service without the costs of recruitment, training, or supervision. If you’d like more tips on scaling up your own CS team, or if you’d like to talk to us about outsourcing, contact us today.


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