Employees at every level perform better when engaged, but those working in customer service have unique job responsibilities and engagement needs that may not be fulfilled by general engagement programs.
Why make special investments in engaging customer service workers?
- Customer service workers are the driving force of customer retention, regardless of industry or setting.
- Service work is especially challenging, often requiring patience, quick problem-solving skills, and overtime.
- Service workers are the face of your company and reflect company values to the public.
- 70 percent of unhappy customers abandon the company because of poor service.
- An engaged workforce increases profitability by more than 20 percent!
“The more your employees know you care about them as individuals, the more engaged they will be in their jobs and in providing an excellent customer experience,” writes Tom Smith in the Smart Customer Service article, “Empower Customer-Facing Employees to Engage Customers.”
“After all, your employees will only treat your customers as well as they are treated themselves,” Smith writes.
Read on for helpful tips for engaging customer service workers.
8 Engagement Tips for Customer Service Workers
Recently, Kevin Sheridan was pleasantly surprised to experience great customer service in the last place he expected it: his local Department of Motor Vehicles’ office.
Sheridan, an engagement expert, keynote speaker and bestselling author of “Building a Magnetic Culture,” wrote about this experience in a blog post last month, “Employee Engagement at the DMV.”
Sheridan’s extensive background in HR enabled him to pinpoint why these DMV employees were so engaged in their work, from managerial attitudes to the physical organization of the office.
The big takeaway? Engaging customer service workers is a company-wide effort!
Here are eight tips, based on Sheridan’s experience and other expert research, for building a highly engaged, high-performing customer service workforce.
1. Organize a simple service flow for customers
Sheridan notes that the DMV he visited was so well organized, it was “almost like a hospital emergency room department.” The signage, pathway and friendly greeter at the entrance made it easy for visitors to navigate to the correct line or window on their own. A simple service flow allows employees to focus on helping the right customers at the right time.
2. Empower managers to be models
Your customer service managers shouldn’t be chained to a desk in a back office. When they interact on the front lines, they model excellent customer service to employees. When managers are trained and empowered to be engagement models, their teams follow the lead.
3. Empower employees to make decisions
“Give your frontline employees some leeway so they don’t feel that they can’t make any decisions without management intervention,” recommends the CorporateRewards WorkStride blog. Empowered employees have a sense of ownership of their jobs. It’s also better for customers, allowing for a more seamless experience with less wait time and fewer hoops to jump through.
4. Take all feedback seriously
Most companies take customer feedback seriously, but are you also listening to employee feedback? Customer service workers are a valuable asset in learning how to improve your company’s service model because they’re living it on a daily basis. Listen, then keep them informed. Let employees know what actions you’re taking based on their feedback. Employees will appreciate knowing their insights make a difference.
5. Hire right
It takes patience, empathy, a positive attitude, and a heightened a sense of urgency to work in customer service. When you hire people with a natural emotional commitment to customer service, you assemble a team equipped to hit the ground running without much coaching.
The Apple Store and Virgin Airlines are known for exceptional customer service, and they’re very picky about who they hire, according to Forbes. As one Apple manager explained, “I can teach you to sell an iPad. I can’t teach you to be friendly.”
6. Help them see the bigger picture
It takes more than emotional intelligence to provide good customer service. Great companies help customer service workers feel connected to organizational goals. “Employees must understand how their individual contribution relates to the success of the business,” according to the Performance Improvement Council white paper “Engaged Employees Provide Better Customer Service.”
7. Share appreciation daily
Hopefully, your service workers are hearing “thanks” from customers. But this isn’t enough! They need regular recognition from management, too. Be sure your managers a) understand just how important gratitude is to employee happiness, and b) know how to effectively communicate recognition. Read our blog post “Why You Need to Invest in Employee Recognition Training” for tips on training managers to share their “thanks.”
8. Have fun!
One of the most surprising observations Kevin Sheridan made at his local DMV is that the atmosphere was fun. How “fun” looks depends on company culture, of course — it’ll be different at a telecommunications service provider versus a casual restaurant — but in any workplace having fun it means employees are able to enjoy themselves while they work. “If you have fun, so will your employees, and your customers will notice,” writes Forbes contributor Carmine Gallo.
Above all, remember that engaging customer service workers is just the first step!
“Great companies understand employee engagement itself is not
a destination — it is a platform to even higher performance, greater productivity and increased revenue,” write Gallup’s Susan Sorenson and Keri Garman.
For more great tips and insights into building a vibrant culture of engagement and recognition, be sure to download our free e-book, “The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should be Reading.”
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