No matter how good your customer support folks are, the quality would still nose dive if there’s no management buy-in. If you are heading a customer support organization, the following tips are for you.

Six tips for running a well-oiled customer support organization

1.Hire people who can empathize well. Not everybody can do this job. It needs great visualization and the ability to put you into 100 others shoes on a daily basis.

2.Keep your support team and your development team together. The other way would prove fatal. If your support center is 100 miles away from your development team, then your support team will surely collapse. Latest developments won’t be available to them, they won’t know how a feature gets developed, and they won’t have hands on experience on the product. And they won’t understand what the customer is talking. Sure formula for failure.

3.Avoid templates. I once interviewed a guy for a customer support role and he told that in his current organizations they have around 150 templates. The moment they get an email, they look for a particular keyword, then they pick up the template matching that keyword and then shoot the email. I didn’t hire that guy. Avoid templates and also the people who opt for that. Use templates only if your product is free. If somebody is paying, give him or her the due respect.

4.Avoid too much of processes and close monitoring. You can run a customer support organization in two ways – either run it like a call center measuring people based on how many calls they attended and how many emails were sent OR you can run it like a technical consultancy where people offer rich knowledgeable help to people in need and help resolve a problem. In the second model your customer support guy will will make more typos than a call center guy, but will grow in knowledge day by day, stay with you longer, will sometimes provide quality product feedbacks, and will be respected by your customer. You decide who you want.

5.Provide right set of tools. A web based tool that allows all your support folks to login to send/receive emails can save a lot of time. With that tool you should be able to allocate an email to a support person, get monthly reports, measure against key metrics, do some load balancing etc. The tool should also archive all the responses made and should allow others to search the database easily.

6.Build quality by building quality people. A manufacturing unit can implement quality in two ways 1)measure all outputs for conformance to specifications or 2)build a quality process that will produce right quality output. Better adopt the second model for your customer support organization. Give them enough opportunities to learn the product and the domain. Make them play with the product, do some testing, and simulate customer problems. The more and more they grow knowledgeable the more quality the output is going to be (technically). Rest is plain english!