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3 Signs That You Need to Scale Your Support Team

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When working smarter doesn’t cut it anymore.

Last week, we talked about a few things you can do to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your existing support team.

However, even if you’ve gone through all the options to make sure you’ve optimized your current team for epic productivity, there will soon be a time when even that won’t cut it anymore.

Deciding when you absolutely need to hire more support agents can be tricky⁠—not to even mention the fact that it’s an incredibly important decision to make, so you should be 100% sure of it before calling the shots.

How do you know when scaling your support team absolutely can’t wait anymore?

Today, we’re going to talk about three telling signs that you absolutely have to start thinking about hiring more support agents.

Your Whole Team Is Doing Support (And Then Some)

A mindset of “everybody does support” and a generally service-focused culture are both awesome.

Having everyone⁠—from the CEO to developers⁠—dipping their paws into support tickets every now and then means that the whole team has a much better understanding of your customers and their concerns.

It’s a practice that a ton of successful companies vouch for⁠—including 37signals, for example, who made a compelling point in their post about having everyone on support:

Putting designers and programmers and everyone else in direct contact with customers isn’t about putting out fires; it’s about fire safety.

It’s about having the kinds of conversations that lead to better products in the first place.

Emily Wilder, 37signals

Buffer also has a similar mindset⁠—they have a 5% support rule in action⁠—every team member in the company sets aside a few hours one day a month to handle support emails or answer to tweets.

However, it’s when people who are not support agents are doing a large amount of customer service on a regular basis because there is no other way when you have a problem on your hands.

Small teams are all about being resourceful, but the important part is that the resources you have need to be used appropriately most of the time.

If your CEO is spending half their time answering customer support tickets every day, they would be better off working on the business rather than in it. Your developers should be spending their time improving your product, and your marketers should be out there proving your value.

Being scrappy is great, but customer support is a high value task in its own right, and you need to have enough people who specialize in only that sooner rather than later.

So, even when you do have a specialized customer support person already, you need to be very mindful of their work overspill not interfering too much with everyone else’s load⁠—and if it does, you need to hire more support people ASAP.

You Have a Growing International Customer Base

Here’s the thing⁠—speed really does matter in customer support.

One survey by Forrester found that 41% of customers expect a response to a customer support email within six hours, but that only 36% of businesses studied actually responded within that timeframe.

If your customer base is growing with your company and you’re starting to notice an inflating user base in a completely different part of the world, you should probably hire extra help regardless of whether your current team is technically handling the entire workload or not.

The issue is that technically being able to manage the work is great, but that might come at the expense of not being able to deliver prompt support to customers who are located half way around the world.

However, as much as hiring an agent in a different time zone⁠—whether full- or part time⁠—will help you out with getting speedy responses back to your customers, never forget that you should still always focus on great support before fast support.

To that end, don’t just hire for time zones.

Your first priority should be to hire the best customer service agents you can, regardless of where they are.

That being said⁠—as long as you’re still 100% focused on maintaining the quality of service, it’s definitely healthy to have a customer support team that spans the same key geographies as your customers.

When You Can’t Keep Up

The most obvious sign of needing to hire is when the customer service metrics and indicators you’re keeping your eye on are getting worse over time.

This assumes that you already know which customer service metrics matter to you and why. If you don’t, we can help you get started.

There’s a lot of indicators to track, but there are a few that send an extra strong signal about your customer service falling behind:

Ticket Backlog Is Growing

Ticket backlog refers to unresolved customer support requests in a particular time frame⁠—the tickets that stay open beyond your usual response time.

If your ticket backlog seems to be too cramped or even worse⁠—is growing over time, it’s a surefire way to tell that there’s something is off with your customer service process⁠—and tons of unresolved tickets are a slippery slope to customer dissatisfaction.

Response Times Are Up

Both the average first response time and average reply time are important when it comes to deciding whether your support tickets are being handled efficiently enough.

We already know that good support is more important than fast support, but average first reply time helps you ensure that your customers are getting responded to within an appropriate window.

Customer Satisfaction Is Down

This is actually one of the most important metrics you can measure because it’s as direct as measuring your customers’ happiness gets for you.

There’s no assumptions⁠—everything is brutally honest, straight from the people who have put their faith in you and your company⁠—and if they’re not happy, you’re in trouble.

Your Support Agents Are Burned Out

Last, but definitely not least⁠—the general well-being of your existing support team. We’ve talked about avoiding burnout in customer service before, and a big part of it is open communication.

We are a massive advocate for regular one-on-ones at Groove.


Because it’s easy for things to go unnoticed.

If your employees are having a bad day or week, or are feeling more stressed out than usual, or if just about anything else is wrong, it’s easy for them to hide it.

And that’s scary.

Talk to your team.

Ask them how they’re feeling about their workload as well as life in general.

Encourage them to be honest and confident in their discussions⁠—and they will never hesitate to tell you if they need help keeping up.

Know When to Scale, and Do It Well

We all know hiring people⁠—especially into a small team⁠—can be an intimidating and complicated process.

However, it’s also exciting and offer tons of new opportunities to improve your business.

Nobody’s safe from having to scale at some point. Your job is to first make sure that you’re getting the most out of your existing team, and then start recognizing the signs of that not being enough anymore.

What have been the moments that made it clear it’s time to start hiring? Let us know in the comments!

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About the Author

Elen Veenpere is part of the marketing team at Groove. She’s passionate about writing and building marketing strategies based on in-depth analytics and lots of coffee.

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