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Support operations: An introductory guide for 2024

Learn how support operations teams provide customer service agents with the tools and processes to improve efficiency and productivity.

Por Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Última atualização em May 20, 2024

What are support operations?

Support operations are essential for enhancing the productivity and efficiency of a company’s support team, enabling them to deliver excellent service to customers. Their primary responsibility is to create a conducive work environment that allows the customer support team to perform at their best without any interruptions or setbacks caused by tool, process, or logistical issues.

Similar to a pit crew keeping race cars running smoothly on the track, a support operations team helps ensure customer support teams run like well-oiled machines. From providing team training to enabling internal collaboration, support operations play an essential role in customer service.

Learn about the responsibilities, benefits, and roles of a support operations team in our guide.

More in this guide:

Why do support operations matter?

A woman walking upstairs while holding a purple book represents the benefits of a support operations team.

For organizations prioritizing customer orientation, support operations offer internal assistance to customer-facing employees. Because support operations teams don’t get buried in the day-to-day trenches, they have a different perspective on quality service and customer support, providing several additional advantages.

Reduce agent churn and turnover rates

Support operations prioritize agent development and identify growth opportunities for support teams throughout the agent lifecycle. By equipping agents with the right tools and processes to do their jobs well, support operations can boost agent satisfaction, which helps reduce employee turnover, churn, and burnout.

Additionally, support operations provide services and internal aid so employees feel more supported by their organization—this can positively impact employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Streamline agent onboarding and training

Support operations encourage internal growth, especially regarding customer service skills. These teams use emerging technology and tools like workforce management (WFM) and quality assurance (QA) software to identify internal knowledge gaps and skill needs, which businesses can prioritize in training sessions.

Support operations teams can also recommend new technology for agent onboarding, such as AI, which can suggest replies for agents or ensure they use the appropriate voice and tone during interactions.

Boost efficiency and lower costs

Effective customer service management and internal visibility into employee performance, staffing needs, and coaching opportunities help support operations improve agent productivity and efficiency. Support operations are also responsible for keeping processes cost-effective. An operations team might use WFM tools and workforce forecasting to find ways to reduce staffing costs or determine what tasks can be automated to help lower operating costs.

Assess customer service quality

Good customer service isn’t possible without a team dedicated to monitoring support quality. Support operations teams leverage QA software to evaluate customer interactions and share feedback with agents to reduce customer churn. By simplifying QA and improving agent performance, support operations help organizations meet customer service objectives and deliver top-notch service.

Integrate emerging technology and tools

Support operations evaluate your customer service tech stack to ensure agents have the tools they need to operate and provide high-quality support at scale. These teams often oversee the implementation of customer service software to optimize performance.

Support operations teams can also research and help organizations invest in AI for customer service, which improves team productivity and maximizes operational agility. For example, AI can automatically route incoming interactions based on what the customer wants, how they feel, and the best agent for the job—saving teams valuable time and enhancing agent workflows.

The side view of a mannequin head with green pathways next to a statistic about AI use and productivity.

Provide additional expertise

Many support operations team members have professional backgrounds with in-field and on-the-job experiences and skills. If these team members were previously agents, they possess a deep understanding of the business based on firsthand experience working with customers and other agents.

As a result, they can strategically build out new processes and workflows. This trait is especially invaluable when assessing and building custom support processes because they know the main issues and challenges facing support agents from first-hand experience.

Share data-driven insights

As a dedicated internal customer service team, support operations has the time to thoughtfully implement tools and processes for measuring and analyzing QA and workforce engagement metrics. Support operations also oversee customer service quality to ensure support teams meet SLAs, and they often monitor support conversations to find opportunities for agent coaching.

Consumed by day-to-day customer interactions, agents typically don’t have time to analyze what’s working, what’s not, and why. So, it’s also critical for support operations teams to draw informed conclusions and report insights based on customer feedback.

What do support operations do?

Support operations provide strategic and operational assistance in addition to aiding agents. Let’s dive deeper into the four primary responsibilities of a support operations team.

Train team members

The support operations team streamlines customer service training for new hires. This team is responsible for maintaining handbooks and organizing legacy information. Support operations teams also hold ongoing training sessions dedicated to ethics, skill growth, and customer experience (CX).

A sketch of a resume next to a statistic about the importance of developing and retaining talent.

Manage the workforce

Customer service companies depend on workforce management to forecast, plan, and adjust employee schedules. Workforce management software allows the support operations team to structure schedules based on lulls, peak periods, and worker availability, simplifying organizational planning and reducing bottlenecks. Plus, AI-powered WFM tools automate forecasting and activity tracking, which improves efficiency and productivity.

Track and report metrics

Support operations are responsible for helping employees maintain quality customer service, which means they must track and manage KPIs and customer service analytics. This team monitors metrics like resolution time and then reports performance data and insights to the organization. More complex businesses may require larger support ops teams to collect, organize, track, report on, and manage different data types.

Collaborate with other teams

One of the top responsibilities of support operations is internal collaboration. Support operations strive to reduce silos across teams to streamline processes so support teams can work effectively. Team members must work alongside other departments to support organizational goals and improve performance across the board.

For example, the support operations team may need to connect with the product team to share customer feedback related to products and then relay potential product changes back to the customer service team.

Strategically structure your support team

Your customer support is only as strong as your customer service structure. Build a powerful, effective support team by implementing clear strategies and well-defined expectations today.

7 roles in customer service operations

Seven icons represent the key roles in the support operations team.

Whether they’re supporting and managing a help desk, running team training, or managing internal data, support operations team members generally require more senior-level experience and expertise. At Zendesk, we staff and manage support tiers that typically include one or more of these seven customer service operations roles.

1. Systems analyst

Sometimes called the operations specialist, a systems analyst is a complex, diverse role. Individuals in this role must complete various operational tasks, from planning schedules to reassigning cases.

The common responsibilities of a systems analyst include:

  • Developing, maintaining, and upgrading internal systems

  • Configuring complex information systems

  • Troubleshooting technical and system problems

  • Testing and adjusting system specifications

  • Supporting system users and solving queries

Depending on organizational needs, systems analysts may work within an agency or as independent contractors.

2. Support trainer

The support trainer’s main responsibility is instructing new and current agents on numerous processes. An individual in this role will mainly instruct onboarding sessions but is also responsible for generalized team training.

The primary responsibilities of a support trainer include:

  • Developing training materials

  • Informing new employees about company protocols and products

  • Running training sessions about product or process updates

  • Conducting or arranging customer empathy and DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging) training
  • Organizing, scheduling, preparing, and holding customer service training

Support trainers typically coordinate with their HR departments to develop unique, organization-specific training programs.

3. Quality assurance manager

Quality assurance managers oversee the systems and solutions an organization uses to provide pre-determined levels of quality service.

The main responsibilities of a quality assurance manager include:

  • Implementing new and improved QA processes

  • Researching QA software and solutions

  • Monitoring automated QA processes

  • Performing manual QA when required

  • Reducing customer churn

  • Sharing feedback with agents

Customer service quality assurance is vital for ensuring support teams provide consistent service that exceeds customer expectations.

4. Developer

Developers on the support operations team typically focus on maintaining applications that track customer interactions. Some businesses may refer to this role as the product manager.

The responsibilities of a developer commonly include:

  • Securing and maintaining current systems and solutions

  • Designing, developing, and implementing support service offerings

  • Building and customizing internal tools

  • Troubleshooting system malfunctions

  • Automating data collection and analysis

  • Writing code for customized solutions

Depending on the company, support operations developers may be the first form of defense when troubleshooting help desk or AI-powered software issues.

5. Knowledge manager

Individuals assigned the knowledge manager role create and maintain a knowledge base of resources. This centralized base helps customer service representatives quickly find answers to recurring internal queries.

The responsibilities of a knowledge manager typically include:

  • Establishing systems designed to collect firsthand organizational knowledge

  • Creating collaboration opportunities

  • Managing and distributing resources

  • Monitoring knowledge management activities
  • Developing knowledge management platforms and programs

  • Reporting knowledge-based performance metrics

This role focuses on organizational knowledge management rather than external and customer-centered knowledge management.

6. Workflow coordinator

The workflow coordinator streamlines employee workflows. In customer service, this role focuses on managing support tickets, prioritizing requests, and assigning agents to tickets based on skill sets.

The common responsibilities of a workflow coordinator include:

  • Allocating tasks and tickets based on individual skill sets

  • Maintaining systems with accurate schedules and assignments

  • Supporting team efficiency efforts

  • Conducting a workload analysis for each project
  • Prioritizing workflow optimization

  • Utilizing workforce forecasting and AI-powered scheduling

Workflow coordinators also work with QA teams to uphold quality standards and compliance regulations.

7. Support operations manager

Also known as the head of operations, the support operations manager typically focuses on support strategy. Depending on the company, the person in this role may also act as the customer service manager or hold operational support responsibilities.

The primary responsibilities of a support operations manager include:

  • Identifying, building, and maintaining quality and service tools

  • Onboarding and training support operations team members

  • Monitoring and improving workflows

  • Providing input about service changes and agent activity

  • Recommending or designing new support and service products

  • Managing support operations schedules

  • Reporting on agent performance

  • Collecting, organizing, and managing organizational data

Support operations managers also typically oversee the day-to-day operations of the customer service team.

Essential customer service and operations skills

Support operations teams may not have direct contact with customers, but it is still important for them to possess customer service skills and continually hone them. Just as agents must use the right tone of voice, support operations need to be proficient in the following customer service skills:

  1. Written and verbal communication

  2. Problem-solving

  3. Critical thinking

  4. Empathy

  5. Product knowledge

  6. Tech proficiency

  7. Digital literacy

  8. Collaboration

While this is not an exhaustive list of essential customer service and operations skills, these are the most essential skills for support operations teams to learn and improve.

Frequently asked questions

Improve your support operations with Zendesk

Just as a race car driver needs an exceptional pit crew, customer service teams need powerful tools and processes to work efficiently. Even after hiring and training a support operations team, they can’t do their jobs effectively without the right solutions in place. With Zendesk, support operations teams have AI, QA, and WFM tools at their fingertips, enabling them to scale support operations, reduce operational costs, and provide insights to boost team productivity.

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