When problems occur, support teams often bear the brunt of customer frustrations; and during times of upheaval, this only increases. As crucial advocates for your business, how do you create an environment where agents feel empowered to do their best work?
It’s not always easy being on the front line of customer service.
Even with the most satisfied customer base, mistakes can happen and issues arise. As a result, customer service agents need to be prepared for rough waters as well as smooth sailing and know how to navigate customer complaints with a ‘can do’ and positive attitude.
Productivity can plummet if the problems start to pile up though. Try putting yourself in an agent’s shoes, and imagine that complex issues and dissatisfied customers were awaiting you at every turn, each time you answered the phone or received an email. How would you feel?
You probably wouldn’t be all that keen to come into work every day. Luckily, the reverse can also be true. If the majority of an agent’s day is spent having efficient and productive conversations, where they can problem-solve for customers, then they will naturally experience higher levels of satisfaction and fulfillment, and pass this sense of positivity on to the next customer they speak to.
The undeniable link between happy agents and happy customers
To unpack this point, a recent Glassdoor Economic Research study found that, “Across all companies and years, customer and employee satisfaction are positively linked,” with the relationship between the two not only increasing motivation internally, but impacting commercial results positively as well.
A reason for this is because happy customers are far more likely to recommend your product or service to their networks. And with referrals being “the most credible form of advertising,”—83% of consumers say they act on the advice of their friends and family—a happy customer can be an invaluable acquisition tool. For some reason, many brands haven’t grasped this concept yet, though.
When it comes to the role satisfied customers play in profit-building, one could argue that it all starts with the individual agent. Especially given the growing role online transactions play in our shopping habits these days. It’s then very possible that the only human-to-human interaction a customer might have with a brand is when they reach out to customer service. In these instances, the agent becomes the ‘face’ of the brand and has the power to shape a customer’s entire perception of the company.
Additionally, according to Harvard Business Review: “There is a strong statistical link between employee well-being reported on Glassdoor and customer satisfaction among a large sample of some of the largest companies today. A happier workforce is clearly associated with companies’ ability to deliver better customer satisfaction—particularly in industries with the closest contact between workers and customers, including retail, tourism, restaurants, health care, and financial services.”
In fact, keeping your sales team happy can boost sales by up to 37%. What’s more, employee satisfaction adds value to your organisation—landing a place on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For list can grow stock prices by 14%.
Indeed, there’s little doubt that happy agents do make happy customers, and together this contributes to a healthier bottom line. But how do you foster happiness at work? How can businesses ensure customer service teams are ‘happy’?
Give agents the right tools they need to do the job without unnecessary stress
Your customers are omnichannel—they research, browse, and buy on a variety of platforms—which means your customer service agents need to be omnichannel too.
Investing in omnichannel customer service software is one way to give agents the tools they need to be where the customer is, when the customer needs them. Whether that’s replying to a Facebook message, following up on an email, speaking on the phone or sending a quick text via WhatsApp.
Not only does this quite clearly improve the speed and seamlessness of the customer experience, but it also helps mix up the agents’ working day. Sitting on the other end of a continuously ringing telephone—or worse, waiting quietly for a call to come through—can be monotonous and demotivating for the best of us.
Combat this by keeping your agents active and engaged with a full offering of communication channels at their disposal.
However, this only works if all of your channels are synched up and working together too. You need to have the software in place to better integrate sales and CRM data with customer service history, enhancing both the customer and agent experience.
78% of customers get frustrated if they have to repeat themselves to service agents — and who can blame them?
Service agents know a lot about customer experience, empower them to enable change
It’s almost unavoidable that customer service agents will have to bear the brunt of customer frustrations. However, witnessing consumer pain-points first-hand puts agents in a unique (and powerful) position to improve the customer service experience.
Your customer service agents are the ones out there, day after day, responding to positive and negative consumer input alike. It’s their job to resolve issues as quickly as possible, and, crucially, represent your business in the most positive light.
For agents to be the best advocates for your product or service, they need to feel capable and ready to act on what they see quickly and autonomously. This may be as simple as being able to deal with a customer complaint without having to bring their team manager in. Or it may be as radical as becoming a ‘citizen developer’ — making use of low code software development to proactively prototype and build better customer service solutions.
A citizen developer refers to any employee who can develop a business-led solution using a no-code or low-code platform developed by IT experts themselves. Citizen developers drag and drop code snippets into place without programming knowledge, digitizing processes, and streamlining workflows. Therefore, a citizen developer spends more time thinking of strategic business solutions and performing critical tasks.
When customer service agents become citizen developers, they don’t have to submit tickets to the IT department because they can manage IT problems on their own. They can quickly access data and create solutions to benefit their customers. Therefore, they feel empowered, demonstrating confidence in performing their roles and duties.
Within the organisation, leaders should also strive to create a culture of autonomy and trust by reaching out to customer agents for valuable insights. By doing so, you can learn a great deal about the real customer service experience, and increase employee motivation at the same time.
Using intrinsic rewards and recognition to organically motivate agents
Hard work deserves reward. But reward and recognition is about much more than a cash bonus for meeting a service target.
While there will always be a place for extrinsic rewards like this, customer service managers should look to more intrinsic ways of rewarding and motivating their agents too.
Customer service agents must feel valued by providing them with a comfortable, safe, and less stressful work environment to boost employee satisfaction and happiness. For instance, customer service agents can work more comfortably when they sit on ergonomic chairs and use problem-free computers. In addition, managers must also ensure agents take breaks and lunches on time and have access to health and wellness programs and facilities.
Increased responsibility, as well as personal development within the role, will help keep agents happy and motivated at work. Intrinsic reward comes from within—from the feeling of a job well done combined with a greater sense of purpose—so leaders should always ensure that agents know how important their job really is.
Leaders can accomplish this goal through regular coaching and training. It’s crucial to assess the customer agents’ metrics and feedback about their job roles. Because they’re frontliners speaking with different types of customers, they may also experience burnout. Coaching and training sessions serve as a break time or refresher to keep them on track.
Additionally, agents are a wealth of knowledge for any business as they are on the front lines and closest to the customers. Some of the best suggestions for improvements to products, processes and more come from happy, motivated agents.
To put it bluntly: your business doesn’t just need a great customer service team, it relies upon it.
So, make sure agents feel seen, heard and valued — broadcast their achievements, recognise hard work, respond to the changes they’d like to see, and give them the tools they need to delight customers across multiple channels every single day.