14 customer support managers share their experience of how they’ve built industry-leading customer support teams in this series of posts, packed full of practical steps to help you make progress no matter what stage you’re at.

Guest post by Matthew Dixon, Chief Product & Research Officer at Tethr, Co-author of The Challenger Sale, The Challenger Customer and The Effortless Experience.

When Customer Support Managers ask me who does customer service well, the honest answer is that very few companies do it well. But, if you want a window into how service should be delivered – and likely will be delivered in the future – look to early stage companies. Why? Because they’re building a greenfield way – a service model architected from the ground up, one that’s more in keeping with what their customers want.

These are nimble companies, free from decades of legacy infrastructure and processes that are ingrained in larger, established organizations. They’ve rethought the operating environments and the culture of the organization to enable agents to be successful in a world of more complex and varied issues. They’re also smart enough to invest in documentation and capturing knowledge.

This doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. Often it’s the constraints of having fewer resources that force these smaller companies to find efficient, sometimes innovative ways to deliver support experiences that satisfy customers without going overboard.

Often when companies are at that very early “firefighting” stage –when day-to-day it feels like you’re constantly battling several fires at once – there are the biggest gains to be had.

At this stage, there’s often little opportunity for repeatability and no application of knowledge. Sure, lessons are learned from putting out these fires, but it’s a deadlift every time a customer issue comes up. There’s a lot to be said for documenting and capturing how you respond to customer issues so that the next time around it’s a lot easier for your agents (and your customers). For most organizations the 80/20 rule applies, whereby 80% percent of your customer issues are driven by a fairly small set of problems. So – once you identify what the 80% of common issues are – the ability to rapidly wash, rinse, and repeat, means you can handle those queries quickly and efficiently. Of course, in an early stage venture, part of the challenge is even knowing what those 80% of issues are.

Then as you build that out, and as you’re documenting that knowledge, we already know that customers actually want to self-serve. Whether that’s the business customer or whether that’s the consumer, they don’t want to actually talk to people if it can be avoided. So, once you know what the 10–20 most common customer issues are, the question is whether you’re making that knowledge available to your customers? Because, if it is and you make it easy to follow, they will self-serve on these issues, and you’ll end up deflecting a lot of call volume. Of course, once those common issues go away (as customers handle those issues themselves), what ends up in the live support channel ends up being the more complex issues.

What’s interesting about channels is that customers don’t think about them as replacements for one another. Companies tend to assume we need to offer all of these channel options to our customers: chat, social, phone, email, you name it. And each of those channels has to be equally well suited at addressing all of the issues that a customer might have. But, in the customer’s mind, each channel actually does a very specific job. You’ve got to really think about the simplest set of channels to offer–the ones that are must-haves–and then ask whether you’re guiding your customers to the channels that are optimized to serve different issues. In the eyes of customers, different channels are good for some things and bad at others…and you need to guide customers with that knowledge in mind.

Customers really do want us to offer them guidance. If we we tell them, “Here’s what we recommend,” customers will almost always go with the recommendation. They don’t really care about you meeting them where they are; they don’t want to be seamlessly handed off from one channel to the next. They just want to get back to what they were doing before. So if they have an easy path to victory, they’ll take that path all the time. This is the key to providing a streamlined, low-effort customer service environment.

Whether you’re a seasoned customer support manager or it’s your first time at the wheel, the Center of Happiness is essential reading for anyone responsible for delivering exceptional customer service. Not only does it champion a strategic approach to customer support, it also demystifies how to do it. You’ll receive actionable advice and tips from influential customer support leads that you can use immediately.

Read other posts in the Center of Happiness series

Stages of a customer support team


You’re swamped, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Carving out time to think beyond the barrage of tickets, and being smart about your priorities, can turn things around.

Levelling up

You can’t firefight forever. It’s time to get some fundamental tools and processes in place, so you can give consistently brilliant support to your customers.

Above and beyond

Your team is firing on all cylinders and your customers are delighted. How do you take things to the next level?

Advice articles

Tools of the future: are the robots really coming?

The landscape of tools and software for support teams is vast and ever-changing. Get up to speed with some of the emerging trends that can help give your support team the edge.

Channel overload: less is more

It may be tempting to offer support through many channels, but do your customers really care? Learn how trimming the number of channels you offer can help improve service levels.

Persuasion & buy in: how to sell customer support internally

Customer Support sometimes doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, but a few easy tactics can help you and your team become superheroes in the eyes of the company.

Metrics: how to choose them and define what success looks like

Numbers might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but they’re critical for guiding your team and keeping the rest of the company in the loop.

Hiring: getting it right

Finding, recruiting and interviewing quality candidates can be a daunting experience at the best of times, but stick to the fundamentals and you’ll have a great fit in no time.

Motivation & happiness: stay energized!

Providing great support is hard, so it’s really important that managers understand how to motivate their team to keep them happy and productive.

Self-service done well: help your customers help themselves

Move beyond a simple knowledge base or FAQ and reap the benefits of a channel that’s efficient, functional, relevant and open 24/7.

Onboarding team members: make the first weeks count

As you bring new talent into your team, get your new hires off to the best possible start by helping them to integrate into your company structure, processes, culture and tone of voice.

Distributing workloads: balancing inbox zero and long term improvements

Your team knows more about your customers than anyone else. Organize regular time out of the queue for them to work on long-term support projects that will benefit the whole company.