14 Aug Creating Company Culture to Strengthen Customer Service Agent Support
Customer service agent support is key. Agents have a tough job. Let’s be honest, the work is repetitive and dull. These are human beings tethered to a headset at a desk for hours listening to people complain. There are many demands from supervisors and executives. Agents are expected to be:
- Fairy godmothers, solving customer issues with empathy and a smile
- Gurus, knowing all company policies
- Salespeople, upselling whenever possible
- Admins, filling out all the necessary forms
- PR, giving great customer experience with the brand voice in mind
- Psychic, divining customer issues with little accurate information (or none at all)
Agents are required to provide all of this while being abused by customers.
The agents are only as good as the companies who employ and empower them. There are ways to strengthen customer service agent support resulting in quality work and reducing churn. With excessive turnover in contact centers impacting metrics, keeping great agents is good ROI.
Agents represent your business. Setting your agents up for success sets your business up for success, particularly for in-house contact centers where you create the training program.
Confident agents inspire customer confidence. Agents are confident when they know company policies and how to effectively and efficiently handle customer queries start to finish. That is why training is so vital. Under trained employees are a liability. From Shep Hyken on Forbes: “Your company’s customer service can make or break you. Of almost 1,000 consumers polled, 92% say they would stop purchasing from a company after three or fewer poor customer service experiences.”
Customer service agents aren’t just pawns to throw on the front lines. They are a part of your success framework. The companies that get that reap the financial and reputation benefits.
Learn From the Masters
Zappos has become synonymous with great customer service. They even have a “School of WOW” that helps other companies channel the Zappos customer service magic.
Hubspot has a great in-depth article on customer service training that includes the importance of language used in interactions. They also touch on the LAST method for dealing with hard interactions: “LAST stands for Listen, Acknowledge, Solve, and Thank. Teach your team to pause, listen to, and acknowledge upset customers — these steps can make the difference between solving an angry customer’s problem and turning an angry customer into a satisfied one.”
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are companies that have laid a great foundation to draw from.
It’s hard to cut a thick rope with a butterknife. Tools matter. Your customer service agents need tools that work as seamlessly as possible so that they can handle customer inquiries as quickly as possible. That’s just good ROI.
If agents are having to log out and then into different tools, or are missing key tools their job is not only harder it is slower. That increases cost per call. Integration is just as important as individual tools.
Customer service is an omnichannel experience now. However, each channel has their own special spice. It is vital to understand the differences and plan your customer support with these channels in mind.
Nextiva makes a great point in their blog about having a separate social media service strategy. They give the example of the problem with using one Twitter handle for brand and customer service: “If that is the case, your support reps, PR manager, community manager, and QA all need access to your Twitter. You’re also going to get all kinds of tweets — refunds, billing, shipping, brand mentions. Phew! Imagine the chaos.”
Instead, having a separate handle for customer service and training agents on how to handle these very public requests is clearer and better for the brand.
Training and tools are necessary, but your agents need human support too. Honoring achievements and listening to agent feedback are good starters, but a personal touch makes these efforts more powerful.
Your agents are individuals. There are agents that like sharing their opinions with the room and there are agents that rather have a one on one. Take time to know them, and honor their preferences in regard to praise and reward. That creates real lasting relationships.
As detailed in a previous article, agents are subject to multiple forms of abuse. Per Psychology Today: “Customer service employees often average up to 10 hostile calls a day and must tolerate personal insults, screaming, cursing and even threats—regularly.”
Your company needs a plan to address such abuse, and not just before or during an episode. Agents needs support after abusive experiences.
Also from Psychology Today: “Not surprisingly, customer service representatives have one of the highest employee attrition rates in any industry because few workers can manage the heavy barrage of psychological and emotional assaults they sustain.”
These kinds of encounters have lasting physical and emotional effects if they are not managed healthily. Just as employee physical well-being is important to their performance, so is their emotional well-being.
Creating a company culture where agents feel comfortable reporting abuse is important. Also, giving the agent time to recover may be needed.
It is difficult for some agents to come forward about abuse, especially when they are still emotionally affected by it. CSAT.AI removes the pressure from the agent. It gives management the information they need to take appropriate action, by alerting them when an agent is abused.
Agents do a lot for your business. Help them to take a breath and recover.
(Don’t forget to take a breath for yourself too.)