When you’re a fast growing company, everything is a priority – product development, marketing, customer service, finances and more. But when your business is experiencing a fast growth trajectory, it can be hard to scale operations, especially customer service. It’s common for start-ups to overlook customer service when other competing priorities come into play. And, even when there is a focus on customer service, fast growth can cause serious pain points, making it difficult for start-ups to grow and scale their operations. Challenges are common, and three in particular are shared by many start-ups. By anticipating the pain points your business will likely face, and evaluating how to overcome them, you can keep your customers happy and continue on a fast path to success.
Pain Point 1: Handling peaks and troughs in volume
Fast growing companies often experience customer service demands that fluctuate dramatically, making it difficult to provide consistent, quality service throughout the year. If you’re an e-commerce company selling much of your product leading up to Christmas, managing the surge in customer service demand in December is tough. If you only need 100 customer service representatives most of the year, but 300 for a month or two, then you will likely have to lease office space permanently for 300 and then look to hire and train temporary staff in peak periods. Another issue is sudden surges in volume. A successful ad campaign or celebrity endorsement may generate an overnight explosion in sales or a new product launch may exceed expectations. It’s difficult to accurately foresee how your customers will respond to any new offering. By assessing your variations in volume, you can calculate how to deal with likely peaks and troughs. Be sure to think through the following questions:
- Are you prepared for surges in volume?
- Are you able to forecast for volumes during peak seasons or new product launches?
- Do you have effective processes to hire and train customer service staff at short notice?
- Are there too many customer service agents when volume is low?
Pain Point 2: Expanding into new countries
Start-ups that are successful at customer service in their home markets often struggle with expanding abroad into countries where customers have different interpretations of excellent customer service.
The transitional period when a domestic champion becomes an international powerhouse is an exciting time, but also comes with its challenges. It’s often possible to replicate your processes and expand the product and service into new markets. But getting the customer service right can be tricky. Having built up a capability in your native market, it is easy to assume you can roll out the same models into new countries. This is a particularly common challenge when expanding into a fragmented region such as Europe, which has a plethora of smaller countries, all with their individual languages, cultural nuances and regulations.
Getting the right language support is just the start. Matching your customer service to the culture of the country is far more difficult. In Germany, for example, customers strongly favor voice-based customer service, as they do in the United States. In the UK, customers are more amenable to email or live chat. In Japan, people want online self-service options. To prepare for this, you’ll need to ask some critical questions:
- What are the local business practices and regulations where you are launching?
- Have you considered different cultural expectations of customer service?
- Which channels are most popular in different countries?
- Can you provide customer service in multiple languages and time zones?
- Should you offer customer service in the local language?
Pain Point 3: Physical and data security
Many start-ups don’t have systematic protocols for security, because they don’t need them. A small team of people will easily spot an interloper in their workplace. But, what happens when your start-up is bringing on thousands if not millions of new users, with several hundred customer service employees in one large site? Unless the security is well-managed, unauthorized strangers from outside the organization could gain access, because there are too many employees for everyone to be familiar with one another. Customer service teams can be especially vulnerable as they potentially have access to sensitive information.
Customers are also far more concerned than before about their personal data. They wonder who has access to it, what it’s being used for, and how tightly it’s being protected. You have to be confident that you know the answers to these questions, and to know that your customers are happy with the answers.
Assess the safety of your customer data and consider ways to minimize future breaches, by thinking through the following questions:
- Do you have dedicated and isolated secure customer service facilities?
- Are customer service representatives tracked as they enter and leave?
- Can you audit your IT systems and users to track usage and quickly monitor potential breaches?
- What specific legal or security processes does your industry demand?
- Is there an information officer who controls process, procedure and protocols?
You’re not by any means the first fast-growing company to face these customer service pain points. Many companies have encountered these issues and gone on to even greater things. The key is to consider every angle of your customer service, including changes in demand, local expectations and security, and to think systematically about them. You also need to develop the flexibility to deal with issues that are completely off your radar.
Teaming up with a customer service outsourcing partner is one way to get quick access to scalability, international and intercultural expertise and best practices in data security. Most of all, it’s the best way to start thinking about the problems that are not on the horizon yet, but will likely be within the next year. Experienced partners will have seen it all before. Because of this, they know how to ease pain points and help your business succeed.
This article based in part on the white paper Top 5 Customer Service Pain Points for Fast-Growing Start-Up.