Customer support can be a costly proposition. However, providing a solid support structure will stop customer erosion and add long-term, repeat customers.

Some argue that only small companies can supply a high level of customer service; that high levels of customer touch “don’t scale.” But supporting your customers well is a critical company commitment. If the corporate culture believes strongly in customer relations, quality customer service can scale to even the largest of companies.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started on the path to outstanding customer service.

Hire the right people

Don’t use the lack of local talent as an excuse for less than stellar support staff. Think creatively. Hire a small, talented core group and encourage them to mentor new employees. Divide the staff into units of expertise. Create a tiered system of talent. A well thought-out escalation path can resolve problems quickly while using the resources of existing staff. Scaling the support staff to remain equal with business growth will form naturally with this support model.

Have a good script for learning purposes

Note that a script should be a guideline to ensure a consistent brand narrative and problem-solving approach but it’s a beginning, not an endpoint. See the next bullet for more on that.

Don’t depend on scripts alone

Scripts alone just don’t work.

Computers and the Internet are complicated things with endless possible problems. One symptom can have dozens of different causes. If a script doesn’t cover a particular problem or address a specific customer need but you require your reps to stick to the script, you put your reps in a bad spot.

Teach your support team to have patience and compassion

Let them know what your company’s core values are and teach them how to portray that image consistently. When working with a customer, a positive attitude should be considered as important, if not more so, than technical accuracy.

Empower your customer service department

Allow them to “do the right thing.” Let them know that you trust their decision making capabilities.

Let your support reps vent

Be a willing ear when your reps need to let off steam. In addition, your support staff is your company’s eyes and ears into the customer psyche. From agents’ rants, you gain valuable information about product direction or weaknesses, missing features, and what additional tools might be needed.

Use metrics to understand where you stand

There are many metrics to help you understand customer experience and the effectiveness of customer service: NPS, CSAT, CES and more. Start by measuring where you are today and creating a baseline. Then compare your progress against those metrics, continuing to measure improvements over time.

Use the RIGHT metrics

That said, make sure you are using the right metrics. For example, you might be measuring average call handling time. However, if agents don’t achieve the goal (e.g., desired length of call) but accomplish more during their calls, maybe you are not using the right metric. And always keep in mind that sometimes a little bit of rule-breaking today will result in a long-term happy customer.

Use the right tools to encourage collaboration

It is so much easier to see and fix customers’ problems when you can see their screen, rather than trying to describe and diagnose the problem blindly over the phone. Invest in cobrowsing and screen sharing to instantly cut through frustration on both the customers’ and the agents’ sides.

Always put your customers first

The customer may not always be right, but he/she is always your customer. Be there to help out. And if you are out of options, be polite but be honest. Honesty, transparency, and respect are vital to providing excellent customer service.