The Customer Support Hierarchy Of Needs
Alan Berkson

As organizations mature, so should their customer support strategies and practices ~ ensuring that culture permeates every facet of an organization. In an article for Harvard Business Review back in 2013, we at Freshdesk called this The Great Hierarchy of Support Needs. As we’ve grown, like most successful businesses, we are moving through the hierarchy. Six years later -- 6 products, over 100,000 customers in 140+ countries, and offices on 4 continents supported by $149 million in funding -- we’ve seen the benefits of a consistently strong focus on customers and service.

Customer Support Hierarchy Of Needs

It’s no surprise that as companies grow, their needs change. The Great Hierarchy starts at the base as new companies are being formed and acquiring their first customers (the most difficult customers to get and the ones you want to keep!), through process implementation and growth, to finally achieving success at the peak ~ Alignment of business and support objectives ~ which results in an amazing experience for your customers, and thus long term success for your company!

This is reflected in the Freshdesk Customer Support Hierarchy of Needs:

Chaos To Control

- We see so often in small businesses and early stage startups that there’s a lot of chaos. You’re trying to build a product, sell it, service it -- there are a LOT of moving parts. There are too few people wearing multiple hats and you risk having things like customer inquiries fall through the cracks. From a customer service point of view, it is critical to create consistency, organization and set expectations appropriately. This can be done initially with simple steps like communicating to customers how to best reach you, and consolidating inquiries in a single location like an email box, a spreadsheet, or better yet, a system of record like Freshdesk.

Reactive To Proactive

- When you’ve tamed some of the chaos you now have some time to think proactively about helping your customers and anticipating their needs. This can involve simple things like setting up a self-service knowledgebase for common issues, expanding channels of access like chat for more convenience, or listening for customers on social channels like Twitter or Facebook.

Growth Pains To Scale

- To properly scale your customer service, you not only need good tools but you also need improved processes. What you did as a small company may not scale well, which can negatively impact the high levels of service you have been striving to achieve. Focusing on automation and agent productivity are keys to success here. Automation isn’t a bad thing provided you are keenly aware of the customer experience. After all, the goal is to get the customer back to doing what they wanted to be doing before they reached out to you, as effectively as possible.

Silos to Impact

- This is the hardest level for any business to attain. This is about finding ways to continue to align product development and service delivery with customer needs. To be successful here requires cross-silo (customer service, product engineering, sales, marketing, et al) coordination and cooperation. This can be the most challenging issue for an organization to tackle, but once it is achieved, the impact that your entire organization will feel is priceless. Customer support becomes a part of your organization and everyone in your company feels responsible for it on some level. The focus is on the customer experience ~ which every employee in an organization can impact!

All companies fall somewhere on the hierarchy and it’s not a linear process. You can have concurrent issues in terms of controlling chaos, scaling and alignment at various stages in your growth.