What “Big is Beautiful” in Support and why it matters


Because of queueing theory, large queues resolve faster than multiple small queues (think about the way you wait at an airport counter versus how you wait for a supermarket cashier). Support, even complex support, is very much subject to queueing theory, and the Big is Beautiful motto.

Here are four do’s and don’ts that apply to support.


  • Overspecialize frontline agents. It’s very difficult to manage coverage and scheduling with small, specialized teams. Instead, embrace generalists so you can create larger pools of agent that can provide consistent, fast responses. Of course, if you have hundreds of agents, feel free to specialize as long as the subgroups are not too small.
  • Assign named contacts for day-to-day tasks. Named contacts are the extreme version of specialization: a customer with a named contact can only transact with that one individual, at least in theory. If you want to provide personalized service to your more strategic customers, offer access to a specialized team instead, which can provide high-end service from a pool of senior agents. (It’s fine to offer named contacts for non-urgent tasks, such as proactive account management, which are not subject to queuing pressures.)
  • Create small teams. With a small team, say under five heads, the manager is usually a working manager, which creates divided loyalty. If your entire team is small, that’s fine, but otherwise group small teams under a single manager who will focus solely on management tasks–even if the direct reports are accomplishing different tasks.
  • Design for small manager ratios. My pet peeve is to automatically set up two managers under one senior manager as the team size increases. This creates a lot of overhead between the three managers (and not enough to do, IMHO, for the second-level manager). Instead, add just one manager to handle part of the too-big team, reporting to the original manager, or look up and sideways for other solutions.


  • Embrace generalists. If you want to stay away from over-specialization, you will want to cross-train agents to handle a wide variety of issues. They can get help from experts when needed.
  • Develop T people. With a large product line, or a complex product, it’s hard enough to be a generalist, and pretty much impossible to become an expert on everything. Encourage team members to develop expertise in one or more areas while still maintaining generalist knowledge on the basics.
  • Leverage swarming. Less-specialized organizations benefit from strong collaboration mechanisms, aka swarming. Set up a mechanism to request and provide help, and incentives to do so.
  • Use virtual teams to deliver bespoke experiences. Don’t hesitate to give overlays role onto existing teams. For instance, let’s say you want to provide access to a senior team to your premium customers. You could select a couple of senior agents to serve as the premium team, but that makes scheduling hard and deprives the existing team of the likely excellent skills of the senior agents. Instead, designate senior agents to belong to both teams, so they work with premium customers as a priority but also help out other customers as time allows.

What have you done to abide by Big is Beautiful. Tell us in the comments!