Customer service departments have seen a high rate of attrition over the last decade, which has now made the department look like an area of work that doesn’t offer the same level of opportunities as others. That can be blamed on various factors; it is hard to listen to people’s problems all day long and be the vent for their aggression. It is even harder when the company has made a gigantic botch-up of order and you must now listen to the customer’s concerns, which might soon result in the customer crying over the phone. There is only so much negativity a person can take even if the customer care representative is supposed to act professionally and detach themselves from emotions to solve a problem. That is one of the reasons why call center outsourcing industry has seen such an attrition rate over the years.
Another reason is that even with enormous budgets a company spends on its customer service department, they do not offer the training or opportunity required to make the customer service representatives grow as professionals. Customer service professionals are trained in a rigid system and usually them to deviate from the set procedures. As a result, they seldom have any inputs or are invited to share them for the shrinking space they were allowed to operate in.
For customer service employees to develop professionally, a company needs to put more resources and efforts directed towards the customer service department. The company needs to allow space for creativity to its customer service personnel. They need to be allowed to make decisions to solve a problem using their creativity and intuition. . The more they apply their mind to solve problems, the more they learn to be creative, imaginative and proactive problem-solvers, which is an absolute necessity in the customer service department. Also, they start feeling an integral part of the company. To breed loyalty, trust, creativity, and proactivity; a company must trust its employees to make the right decision. Here are a few points to pay heed to:
Allow time and room to explore
To transform your customer service employees from play-by-the-book nerds to imaginative problem solvers, you will need to push to be creative and craft their own space to self-learn. To achieve that, first and foremost, you will need to free up some time for your customer service employees from all the routine tasks of dealing with customer queries. Provide them time and encourage them to seek their own interest, take up individual projects unrelated to their jobs and complete those. Time away from routine tasks allows them to use their creative senses and apply their mind to initiate and complete projects taking care of all the problems themselves without worrying about failure. Employees appreciate the level of trust thus entrusted in them and see that their growth is a priority in the company. This would naturally push them to be creative, imaginative, sensible, and decisive in dealing with customers.
Complement learning with varied classes and experiences
For anyone to grow personally or professionally, he/she must seek new experiences. Much like that, a customer service representative needn’t be pushed into various client-facing tasks to grow professionally. Companies can get their customer service employees enrolled in various programs to ensure they grow on all fronts. Cisco offers gym services, football grounds, table tennis equipment, swimming pools, and kindergarten services for use by its employees. Much like that, many companies offer a chance to its customer support employees to don the comic hat for a day and have a go at stand-up comedy on stage. On the same pattern, you will find employers providing even cooking classes to its employees.
A company conducts these activities to make a deep impact on its employees and form a lasting connection. This also makes the company one of the better places to work and attract top talent all this while. If we are talking specifically about customer service department, you can ask them directly about the exercises they would want to be conducted. It might be that they want an activity outside office premises to escape the negativity that comes with handling customer grievances all day. Trust exercises might be a good idea when it comes to the employees as they have proven to be quite effective at building bonds. They might even want e-learning classes as many companies are wont to spend money on that to build a stronger workforce. Lot of customer service outsourcing companies arrange such classes for the development of their employees.
Recent surveys have shown that most job skills at the present would become redundant by 2020. The vital skill now and in the future would be leadership with every person from baby boomers to Gen Z regarding it as one of the greatest skills to have. To inculcate it, one can’t simply ask the employees to be their own masters at once. Time and time again, we have seen how even introverts changed themselves and took on leadership roles. Winston Churchill being one of the best examples of that. Leadership skills though usually acquired naturally can be inculcated in an individual as well.
Let us say you have a team of customer service representatives and you have no idea how to spot the leader in them. Ask them about the problems they face daily and their experiences. See if some have a greater level of enthusiasm than others. Ask them to build a knowledge management system to resolve any issues that arise daily and quickly pass on information to others. Push them to proactively engage with other departments when it comes to problem resolution and smooth out processes. Surveys have shown that leaders are courageous, imaginative, and thrive in ambiguity. If you lead by example, your employees will take the cue and work on building up their leadership skills.
Well, this can be quite tricky. A team of customer service representatives might have been given the same procedural manual and the same kind of orientation to begin with. They would be working in a rigid space where for any escalation they would have to talk to upper-level management. For detailed information, they would have to connect with the product and delivery team in case of issues or with the sales team for detailed information. If you want a team of experts, you will have to trust them and spend your resources training them. Not only that, you will have to identify the core skills of each employee and focus on developing them to make for the full package.
There are three steps to developing expertise:
- Firstly, you will have to identify the parts of a skill
- Secondly, spend on training to develop those skills
- Thirdly, ask employees to focus on weak links and help overcome those
You need to get employees to work on the areas they thrive in. Expertise in a single skill is much better than being mediocre and having an average skill set. Get to do that and you will have an excellent team in your hands.
Why do customer care executives leave? Simply because they are not made to be feel valued in the company. A customer care executive must listen to complaints, grievances, abuses, and even people crying over the phone. After all this, the employee needs encouragement from the company, as monetary motivation can’t lift your spirits up in such cases. Rigidity in processes, by-the-book procedures, hard-to-follow routines, all make up for the loss in motivation levels of employees.
Companies that spend time and resources on employees do this to make the employee feel valued and put additional efforts in return. If the employee’s inputs are valued and his/her decisions given importance, it will inculcate a level of creativity and imaginative problem solving making them invaluable employees.
If that happens, a company will be able to attract the best talent in the industry as word-of-mouth travels faster than you can imagine.