Customers are the one thing your business cannot do without – if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. Keeping customers happy is what brings them back. Customer service, then, is at least as important as any other part of your business and motivating the people who give it is vital to any organization that wants a long-term future.
The question, then, is: how do you motivate your customer service team?
These people are, after all, at the sharp end. When something goes wrong somewhere else in the business, they are the guys who have to deal with a sometimes irate customer, interpret a complaint that may at the outset be difficult to understand, find out exactly what happened and then ensure that it is put right. Not an easy job, and yet you need to know that when your customer service people wake up in the morning they are looking forward to getting to work and pitching in and not dreading another day of misery.
We’re going to assume that the obvious things are in place, which really means that you pay people enough that they don’t have to worry about feeding their families and keeping a roof over their heads and that their workplace is physically an okay place to be.
Here are some of the things that come next – the non-pay items; if you like, the psychological motivators:
A lot of studies over a number of years have all produced the same result: that people whose managers tell them they’re doing a good job are twice as motivated as people who don’t have that. So show that you appreciate your customer service people. Tell them. And tell the people they work with, because:
People are naturally competitive. They don’t (necessarily) want to beat the other guy into the ground but they do want to show that they are at least as good as the next person, and ideally a little better. Give them the chance – not by setting targets (“You must clear up, at least, thirty-eight cases a day or it’s the street for you”) but by saying, ‘Last week, we hit one hundred and forty-eight successful cases. Let’s see if we can beat that this week.’ And notice that “we” because:
Teamwork Works, Too
Yes, you want people competing to show how well they can do, but you also want them working together because a bunch of people all pulling in the same direction will produce better results over time than the same people working as individuals. Which leads us on to:
It’s a good idea (and one practiced by many of the largest companies you can think of, including Amazon) for everyone in every function in the company to take their turn in Customer Service. And by “take their turn” we don’t mean “watch what’s happening and occasionally offer advice”. If everyone in the company spends a little time sitting alongside the customer service team, answering the phone, understanding what went wrong, finding out why and fixing it, then two things will happen:o The customer service team will feel that other people understand what they do and knowing that will motivate them; and
- The customer service team will feel that other people understand what they do and knowing that will motivate them; and
- When those part-time customer service people go back to their own jobs, they’ll have a clearer understanding of what they can do to make the customer’s experience better.
Tell People What The Customer Service Team Does
Customer service matters and you need to tell people so – “people” being staff members who are not part of the customer service team. Salespeople are (rightly) fond of saying, ‘Without us, no one eats.’ The same is true of customer service people; your sales team wins new customers for the company but the customer service team makes sure you hold onto them. So, look for customer service success stories and tell the rest of the company about them. Put them in the staff newsletter – send emails – put a note on the Notice Board – whatever suits the way your company operates but make sure you tell people what customer service are doing.
Give Customer Service The Tools To Do The Job
Make sure their telephones and computer screens and keyboards are up to the job. Don’t, as so many companies do, let the customer service team have other departments’ hand-me-downs. This is not an entry-level, low paid job – not if you want your business to thrive in the long term in a highly competitive world – so equip them properly. And give them software that (a) spreads the workload evenly (because you don’t want some of your agents leaving because they’re burned-out) and (b) is written by customer service experts to give the agents the tools they really need. (If you want to know more about what this should be, take a look at the Products page on our website).
How do you make sure your customer support team has the desire and the motivation to keep coming back to this difficult job day after day and contributing to your company’s well-being?