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The True Cost Of Organically Expanding Your Customer Service Team

While growing organically is a great sign for a company, there are many expenses beyond salary you’ll need to consider.

Organically expanding a customer support team means to hire internally without the use of an outsourcing service. Now, while onboarding new agents is typically always a good thing for companies, it does come with hidden costs. You may know for a fact you need more customer support agents to solve your customers' needs, but you may not know how you could actually afford it.

Salary

Every company is different, and what they decide to pay their support team to handle customer needs is entirely up to them. But, as a general idea of what others are making, the median salary for customer service agents is around $13.50, according to common questions found on Google searches.

The cost of hiring an agent to support your customer base does not fluctuate too much with experience, often resulting in a few dollar difference for those candidates. $19.00 is the 90th percentile for customer service agent salaries nationwide. If you’re onboarding agents in the Greater New York Area, you can expect to shell out an extra 7% on average per agent. If you consider different time zones, let's say San Francisco, you’re going to get nailed with a massive 19% increase, whereas Austin, Texas actually sees their average agent salaries 1% lower than the rest of the nation.

All and all, the cost of your customer service department and the resulting customer feedback depends on the quality and the type of work of your agents to solve customer issues.

Employment Type

Salary, of course, is not the only cost of expanding with new agents to help customers. Are these new agents going to be full-time employees for your company, or simply independent contractors? If you decide to bring them on full time, you end up with a rather precarious teeter-totter. More full-time agents result in more support requests coverage, but it can also lead to more idle time. If you hire too many new agents too quickly, you may end up paying for someone with no work to do.

Not to mention the possible cost of having to offer health and other benefits. A follow up on Kaiser's "2017 Employer Health Benefits Survey" showed that annual group health insurance premiums for businesses with fewer than 200 employees totaled $6,486 for single coverage and $17,615 for family coverage.

Even if your new customer service agents come on as independent contractors your company will still be forced to keep accurate 1099 records. Each contractor would be paid through a series of invoices which can get cluttered and confusing if not handled properly. Not to mention, many contractors are often freelance and looking for the next best gig–that's their lifecycle. A high turnover rate can hurt the consistency of your overall customer success performance, and also bog down senior team members forced to constantly train new agents. Training programs such as Lessonly can help ease that stress, but what you save in time, comes with yet another cost.  

Equipment

Given that if you’re expanding your customer service team you most likely have a phone carrier or some sort of customer service software, many people do not realize the cost of simply upgrading their service in other support channels to improve their customer service strategy and overall customer experience. Some services such as Aircall charge $50 more per user monthly, says its faqs page. Hiring five new agents with this service would result in $3,000 more overhead annually just for their phone line.

Many providers, such as Talkdesk, or Five9, don’t even allow access to their pricing on their website without contacting them directly, thus leaving many managers with a dangerous guessing game when assessing and estimating the cost of hiring new agents. Popular customer service CRM software such as Zendesk, Helpscout, and Frontapp can run a business anywhere from $15 - $90 monthly for adding another user to their plan.

The Good News

Don’t forget there are many positives to organic expansion as well. The first and foremost is always being in control of your staff and having them be a real part of your company, always thriving to provide great customer service. Loyalty, passion, care, and attention to detail are indispensable qualities for top-notch customer service agents invested in improving customer relationships, keeping churn rates low, and increasing the nps.

Salesforce predicts that by 2020, 75% of customers will want to shop at companies that offer a more personalized customer experience. That is the level of service you cannot get through outsourced means or only chatbots. It must be built from the heart in-house. The bottom line is, while organically growing your customer service team with new hires may have some hidden costs, the costs of not doing so could be greater.

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