How to Organize and Structure a Customer Service Team

Nouran Smogluk
Nouran Smogluk
May 9, 2024

One company maintains a small customer support team of 100 people and still manages great resolution times, amazing customer satisfaction, and consistent collaboration across all members, boosting customer loyalty and customer retention.

Another company might have a much smaller customer service team of only 50 agents, handling a much lower volume of cases.

And yet, they have disjointed processes and unclear priorities, leading to frustrated customers and prolonged resolution times.

The difference between the two — more often than not — is the customer service structure of their customer service team.

What is the typical customer service team structure?

A customer service organizational structure outlines how the team is set up, including the different roles, responsibilities, and hierarchy within a functional organizational structure.

Typical customer service teams consist of the following roles:

  • A director (often fulfilling the role of chief customer officer) overseeing the development of the department and long-term strategy.
  • A manager or team leader responsible for managing team performance and ensuring smooth day-to-day operations.
  • Some teams might also have supervisors who handle escalated issues or manage specific shifts.
  • Customer service representatives are the frontline agents responsible for daily customer interaction with customers.
  • Some teams have dedicated quality assurance specialists who review interactions to ensure quality standards are met and provide feedback, training, or coaching to agents.
  • As teams grow, they often introduce a support operations role for process improvement and managing customer service tools.
  • Some might even have dedicated analysts to identify trends and patterns in customer service metrics.
  • This is still a fairly specialized role but is becoming increasingly common, especially as a result of AI improvements. More and more companies have dedicated knowledge managers who maintain and update customer-facing documentation.
  • Larger customer experience (CX) teams might include customer success managers or even an account manager. Since the types of challenges CSMs face often have a lot in common with customer service, keeping these under the same umbrella along with the sales team can have a massive impact on the customer experience.

Each of these roles should work holistically to ensure that customers experience the brand exactly how you want them to.

Customers with a Net Promoter Score (NPS) Promoter score have a customer lifetime value that’s 600%-1,400% higher than Detractors. When every member of the team plays their part effectively, they each contribute to those higher scores.

The challenge is in identifying the right times to introduce these roles and in choosing the right organizational structure that helps them all collaborate productively.

⭐️ Recommended: What is customer service anyway?

The benefits of an effective team structure in customer service

Badly structured teams often feel overwhelmed and struggle to perform at their best level consistently.

You’ll know you’ve found the right structure for your team if you’re seeing:

  • Enhanced customer satisfaction. It should empower the team to deliver consistent and excellent customer service, whether it’s by proactively identifying issues and tackling them, ensuring clear communication across your organization, or simply providing clarity and direction.
  • High levels of efficiency. A well-organized team structure ensures that responsibilities are clearly defined, leading to smoother workflows. When everyone knows what they need to focus on when, they’ll be able to respond to a higher volume of requests or customer inquiries without compromising quality.
  • Regular collaboration. Ideally, your team structure should create an environment where everyone understands their role, how they contribute to the overall success of your company, and how they communicate with each other to enable that.
  • High employee satisfaction. Employees should have a sense of purpose and opportunities to grow in responsibilities throughout their tenure.
  • Effective training and development. A structured team should make implementing training programs and professional development opportunities tailored to employees’ roles and career aspirations easier.

7 ways to organize a customer service team

There are seven (yes, seven!) very common ways to organize a support team. 

1. Tiered support team structure

Tiered support involves organizing the customer service team into multiple levels based on the complexity of inquiries.

The most common way of splitting this up is to have Tier 1 agents handling basic inquiries and providing initial troubleshooting, while Tier 2 and Tier 3 agents handle more complex issues that require specialized knowledge or expertise.

Here’s how Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 support are generally defined:

  1. Tier 1 Support (Basic Support)
    • This is the first line of support and typically involves handling basic customer inquiries and issues. Tier 1 support agents are usually equipped to handle common problems that have predefined solutions, such as password resets, user account problems, or basic technical questions. If the issue can’t be resolved at this level, it is escalated to Tier 2.
  2. Tier 2 Support (Advanced Support)
    • Tier 2 is more specialized and deals with more complex issues that Tier 1 is unable to resolve. Support personnel at this level have deeper knowledge and more access to the company’s products or services. They can perform advanced troubleshooting, including deeper technical issues, configuration problems, and software discrepancies. When solutions at this level are not sufficient, issues are escalated to Tier 3.
  3. Tier 3 Support (Expert Support)
    • This level of support handles the most complex problems that require expert skills and knowledge. Tier 3 support often involves the development team, engineers, or product specialists who have the expertise to develop custom solutions, handle software bugs, and provide detailed technical support. This tier deals with problem resolution and innovative solutions, and often works on problem fixes that might be included in future product updates.

This structure works well for companies that want to maximize the productivity of Tier 1 agents, so it’s ideal if there’s a big bulk of Tier 1 tickets. It’s also great because it creates a structure that enables escalation. 

2. Functional support team structure

In this case, the customer service team is organized based on functions. Those can be defined by channel (e.g., separate teams for chat and email support) or based on types of inquiries, like billing. 

It only makes sense for larger organizations with diverse customer service needs, where this level of specialization leads to an improved experience across functions. 

3. Product or service-based team structure

Companies that provide multiple products or services might structure their service team around that.

This is ideal if you aim to provide a specialized service (like a Professional Services team) for specific customers. It also works well if you have multiple products, and maintaining a good depth of knowledge across all of them is challenging for your agents. 

4. Customer segment team structure

The most common way to split based on customer demographics or segments is to have a dedicated team for VIP customers. If your business offers B2B and B2C packages, you might also split the team along those lines.

Customer-segment structures are great when you want to provide a tailored experience for a particular segment. 

For example, your business customers might need a more personalized, in-depth style of service than your consumer customers, who might be more interested in fast, tech-touch responses that resolve their issues. 

5. Based on stages of the customer journey

Customer journey splits are most common in customer success team structures or large enterprise organizations that try to optimize each stage of the customer journey. 

One team might be responsible for presales support, one for onboarding, another for existing customers, and a separate team for long-term retention and engagement. This is a structure that’s heavily dependent on how well communication flows in your organization to be successful. 

6. Location-based team structure

Another extremely common split, especially in global companies, is based on market, geography, or language. Each region or country has its own customer service team responsible for serving customers in that area, taking into account language, culture, and local regulations.

This structure ensures localized support and efficient communication with customers in different regions. It can introduce some challenges with the team dynamics, however, because it’s hard to maintain consistent policies across all teams. 

7. A hybrid team structure

A hybrid structure combines elements of different organizational approaches to meet the company’s specific needs. While each of the above structures have strengths, it’s very common for companies to opt for a mixture of structures. Organizations are constantly evolving and changing, and customer service teams will adapt and restructure as their requirements change.

For example, a company might use a functional structure for handling inquiries across different channels (phone, email, chat) and a product-based structure for providing specialized support for different product lines. 

A hybrid structure can be the best option for delivering a great customer experience, but it’s important to ensure that the structure doesn’t become too complex for agents or customers to navigate easily. 

How To Build Customer Service Teams For Different Company Sizes

There are two key points at which you have to consider how your team is organized and whether it’s holding you back from achieving your goals:

  • As you scale, it’s easy to recognize that you need more staff, but it’s a little harder to judge when to split into multiple teams, introduce specialization, or even roll back specializations. 
  • When you introduce big changes across the company, like a new product or market launch. The challenge in support is that there’s often a lag between big company changes and when they require structural changes in support. For example, it takes time for a new product to gain enough traction and needs a dedicated team to support it.

Here are some tips that will help across all situations. 

1. Customer service team structure in a startup

Startups and scale-ups have very different needs from an established enterprise company. 

Resources are typically limited in a startup, so having agents who can handle various tasks is crucial. These generalists should be able to handle inquiries across different channels (email, phone, chat, social media). Establishing close communication lines with product teams at this early stage is important to ensure customer feedback is shared.

While a lot of people might start investing in self-service or AI solutions at a later stage, doing this early can actually make a lot of sense for your business. 

2. Customer service team structure in an SMB 

Small and medium-sized businesses might have support teams that start to specialize. They might also consider implementing a tier support system. With a slightly larger team, SMBs can invest more in training and development programs. 

When working across multiple teams, a CRM or ticketing system is essential for tracking interactions across various touchpoints. 

3. Customer service team structure in an enterprise company

Enterprise companies often have the resources and the need to divide the customer service team into specialized departments, like technical support, finance, and customer success. They’re also a bit more likely to try to go for 24/7 coverage.

Many tools for customer feedback tend to have enterprise-level pricing–as you’re handling a massive volume of inquiries, it takes a lot more analytics effort to analyze, monitor, and improve customer service metrics. 

More tips for building a good customer service team structure

1. Have clear leadership for your customer service team

Good leadership makes a massive difference, especially if you’re managing your team through a restructuring or any other change.

A well-designed team hierarchy creates a better team by providing defined areas of responsibility and oversight, ensuring that each team member knows their role and how it contributes to the overall objectives of the department. 

It takes a lot of empathy, open communication, and problem-solving skills to maintain this over time. 

2. Enable collaboration between different support teams

One of the biggest challenges with introducing specialized teams is avoiding silos. Miscommunication will obviously result in longer queues and an increased time-to-resolution for customer issues–which is ultimately a worse customer experience.

The trick is to identify where the bottleneck is happening and try to improve that. Collaboration will enable your teams to leverage each other’s expertise and resources, so look for ways to enable that with the tools you already have. Invest in great handoffs both internally within the support organization and across the broader company. 

Great knowledge management as the foundation of growing support organizations (Add Tettra)

Figuring out a team structure that works (and noticing when it stops working) is one piece of a larger puzzle.

The good news is that you can empower your team with tools that support them through all transitions. 

Great knowledge management is the perfect example.

Tettra is a cutting-edge knowledge management and collaboration tool designed specifically to streamline internal communication within customer service and support teams.

By leveraging its integrated AI bot, teams can efficiently manage and access collective knowledge, enabling quicker resolution of customer queries and enhancing the overall support experience. The platform excels in centralizing information, making it easily searchable and accessible, thus reducing response times and increasing the accuracy of information provided to customers.

  • AI-Powered Assistance: The AI bot offers real-time suggestions and automations, helping teams access the right information swiftly.
  • Easy Knowledge Sharing: Simplifies the process of documenting and retrieving internal knowledge, crucial for consistent customer support.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: Facilitates better teamwork by integrating seamlessly with tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

At Tettra, we’ve developed an AI-powered knowledge management system that will help your team consolidate and manage all of that internal knowledge.

Start your free 30-day trial of Tettra.