Managing customer service as you grow is difficult. Not only is training new customer service agents tough, but as you scale, you’re going to be constantly bringing on additional agents. So training alone can become a full-time role if you are not strategic about it. Also, if you don’t manage customer service well as you scale, the customer experience can significantly drop, which hurts sales and causes you to shrink.

In short, it’s critical that you must have strong systems for managing customer service as you scale.

But how do you do it? What do successful big brands do to break through the customer service bottleneck as they scale?

These brands use some variation of a customer service playbook to define how great customer service is done for their brand. They define everything from processes to templates and tone, and then they use the playbook to train and manage the team as they grow.

Having a playbook enables you to rely less on special skills when you hire and focus more on culture fit. In addition, the people you hire will be able to learn how to run customer service based on the playbook. This makes scaling WAY easier. 

At HelpFlow.com, we run 24/7 live chat and customer teams for over 100 e-commerce stores. Our team works deeply in the systems of the brands we support, and we get very involved in helping them improve their customer service operation.

In this post, which will likely become a series, you’ll learn what a customer service playbook is and how to think about using it in your business. Then, in later posts will then go much deeper into specific parts of the playbook. 

Let’s get into it… 

Playbook Basics (What It Is, How It’s Structured)

A playbook is essentially a single place where you define how everything is done regarding specific parts of your business. For example, for customer service, your customer service playbook would have training information about the systems the team uses, an overview of key processes the team executes, and resources to use when executing those processes.

The playbook can be structured in many ways, either as an online wiki that the team uses or even a complete process documentation software suite. 

  • What we have found to work best is a well-structured Google document that leverages multiple different forms of media to communicate information.
  • Using a Google Doc means it will be familiar to the entire team and also will be easy to update over time.
  • Google also provides a wide range of permission features to effectively share the document without errors or edits

It’s also important to understand that the playbook evolves over time. There are specific types of information that should be included from the beginning, but the playbook is never really “done”. Instead, it’s something that gets edited and added to constantly so that it’s a more and more effective asset for your team.

What to Include In Your Customer Service Playbook

As I mentioned, the playbook gets updated over time but below are the initial sections that should be included.

  • An overview of the customer service software the team uses. For example, where are orders processed, where is customer service communication happening, etc. 
  • The specific information of how your team uses the customer service software, such as specific tags used on customer service tickets, specific format for order notes, etc. 
  • The high-level process outlines how to handle specific customer service situations. For example, the most popular customer service questions, daily or weekly recurring processes, etc. These do not need to be in-depth videos at the start as those can be added the first time you use this playbook to train a new employee.
  • Templates and content snippets your team can use to answer certain situations. Often these will be references to an external tool where the templates are stored. More on that later.

The document should be structured with a clear table of contents that can be clicked to navigate to specific sections and have effective headings, subheadings, and bullet points. This makes quickly navigating the document easier.

Those are the basics of what to include in a playbook, we will go much deeper into specific sections in future posts.

Updating the Playbook Constantly

The playbook should be constantly updated, so it is accurate and always improving. With small tweaks to your workflow with your team, you can make sure the playbook is an asset you can use with the team constantly rather than just some other document to be updated.

This could be covered deeply in another post, but here are the basics:

  • Start with a well-thought-out playbook. Spend the time to include the above items to start out as a strong resource. That way you’re updating an already strong foundation rather than creating a hodgepodge of information over time that the team will give up on eventually.
  • Have someone own the content of the playbook and updates. This is typically a customer service manager but can also be a lead agent on the team as a growth opportunity for them. 
  • Anytime there’s a situation where someone realizes the playbook should be added to or edited, they can flag this to the owner. The flagging of additions or edits only needs to communicate what needs to be changed or added, it’s not expected that the team member creates the entire documentation. This constantly feeds the playbook owner with information to update without overwhelming the team or the owner.
  • Periodically, the playbook owner can choose the most impactful updates to make and create the actual playbook content and other documentation to update the playbook. On a monthly or quarterly basis, the entire team should review potential edits and additions to make sure that they are prioritized and progressing.

What Now?

By creating a playbook and including the information above while also having a playbook owner responsible for edits and updates, you’ll have a strong foundation you can use to manage the customer service team and easily scale the customer experience that made you successful.

Because this topic is so in-depth, we will definitely dig into specific sections of the playbook in future posts. To get updates as these posts are published, be sure to follow us at HelpFlow.com

If you have any questions as you start to create your playbook, feel free to reach out. Even if we never end up working together, we’re happy to share additional tips as you build this resource for your business.

Jon Tucker

CEO, HelpFlow.com

Jon Tucker is CEO of HelpFlow, a provider of 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for 100+ eCommerce stores. Launched in 2015, their team of agents has produced nearly $100M in chat revenue for a wide range of stores using a conversion-focused approach to live chat.

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