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Why Someone Has to Own your Support Queue – or – How We Left Customer Emails Waiting for 48 Hours

This is part of our ongoing series on scaling customer service, based on our Customer Service Scaling Timeline. This month we're covering Stage Four.

It’s common for support teams to have a support “bucket”: unassigned support requests that any team member can grab when they have a free moment. We think this is a fine system, especially if all your support employees have similar skill sets.

But even if everyone is contributing someone has to own the support queue. The buck has to stop with somewhere, no matter how well-intentioned your team is.

Here’s why.

graffiti: ignore it and maybe it'll go awayWe like to experiment with different methods of doing support, so we spent a few weeks this year using the “bucket” system, with nobody expressly in charge of it. We expected that the result would be top-notch support – my job description is making customers happy, and the other folks joining me in the support queue were our founders, who obviously care deeply about helping customers.

We totally dropped the ball, several times.

The problem wasn’t lack of enthusiasm about helping customers – everyone was and is passionate about that. It was the lack of responsibility. With nobody ultimately responsible, we all pitched in, but didn’t worry about the state of the queue. We had many other responsibilities demanding our time, so we often took a bunch of easier tickets rather than the hard questions. Nobody ended up taking those questions, in fact. And some of our customers were left waiting for answers for 48 hours or more.

If a community manager and two founders can screw this up, anyone can. What we needed (and have since implemented) is someone who is ultimately in charge of the queue (currently Ted, as a matter of fact). At the end of the day it’s up to the owner to make sure customers are getting answered. That may mean asking for help or assigning specific tickets to other people. But it’s on the owner’s shoulders, nobody else’s.

Build out your team as large as you need it to be – but never let the responsibility be diffuse. Always have someone own it.

Photo courtesy of Lulu Vision.