Empower Your Team to Deliver the Best Customer Service
Cultivating an environment that inspires a love for their work in your employees is the number one way to improve your customer experience -- no matter how difficult these challenges may be. Here’s your roadmap to employee empowerment and happiness.
There are some workplaces where the employees show up to work early, are productive, effective, and goal-orientated throughout their workday, going out of their way to make the company’s customers happy and coming up with out-of-the-box ideas to resolve problems.
Yet, there are companies where the opposite is true: employees are frequently late, spend much of their working hours pretending to be working while actually scrolling through their social media feeds, sneak in as many long, extended breaks as they can get away with, and have no interest in their job, nor going out of their way to be good at it. So, what determines how your employees will act at your workplace?
Best-selling author and leadership expert Simon Sinek famously said: “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” And he’s so right.
- Create a culture of transparency
- Harvest inspiration
- Set achievable goals and rewards
- Treat employees like family (or at least really good friends)
- Foster growth and skill development
- Activate autonomy
One of the best ways to start cultivating a love for your company from your employees is by always being as open and honest with them as you can, while still maintaining your professionalism.
What does this mean? A few things. Firstly, don’t just encourage feedback -- request it. And so that no one is scared to “tattletale,” make it anonymous. Request 360-degree feedback so that you’re asking for feedback on your own performance, as well as any other higher-ups. And for the final step, encourage your employees to be as transparent as possible.
Secondly, create what’s called an Open Floor Policy. This is just like an Open Door Policy, but more cyclical. An Open Door Policy encourages open communication between employees and their manager or boss. An Open Floor Policy, on the other hand, encourages open communication between everyone in the workplace. Encouraging open communication between everyone at your company fosters both trust and transparency.
Finally, transparency also requires leadership to be present. That means that there should always (or as often as possible) be a manager present. And the reason for this isn’t because when the cat’s away, the mice will play (though this is also often true, it shouldn’t be the case for you if you’re implementing the tips and tricks from this article). The reason is more because employees will struggle with their motivation -- particularly on those stressful days with extremely high workloads -- if they know their boss or higher up is sunning themselves on a beach in paradise, or shopping the boutiques of Paris.
While transparency will stop your employees from becoming un-inspired, it’s also important to harvest inspiration in your company to motivate them to constantly do better.
The number one way to inspire your employees is by getting them to understand your company’s true “why”. In other words, almost all employees know what their company does. Many employees (not all) also know how their company does what they do. Few employees know why their company does what they do.
The ones that do know the why -- for example, Apple employees know that their company believes in challenging the status quo and thinking differently in everything they do -- are the ones who work the hardest and most effective for their company.
Be sure to reference your why -- along with any other inspirational company values and mission statements -- often. Plaster reminders of your “why” all over your office walls or have beautiful desktop wallpapers containing your “why” designed, and send them to your employees.
Employees who are stressed and dealing with tight deadlines and long work hours are far more likely to dig deep and find the inspiration and motivation to keep going when they know the reasons why they are doing what they’re doing.
Another way to harvest inspiration is by taking a page from Google’s book, and introducing a certain amount of time each week for employees to work on their own projects and creative visions for your company.
At Google, employees are allowed to spend 20 per cent of their work time on innovation activities that speak to their personal interests and passions.
In the same way that we open up Google Maps when we want to go pretty much anywhere these days, it’s important to set goals and map out how they’ll be achieved. Having a stated goal to work towards, with a path for getting there, is highly motivational for your employees. Goals make it far easier to prioritise when your employees are buried under a mountain of emails or messages to answer.
Kick things up a notch by designing gamification tools. Leaderboards and badges are excellent vehicles for public recognition, though tread carefully here. You’ll want to ensure that your employees are not more motivated by the vehicle itself than the goal, or you’ll start to see substandard work that’s done hastily just to receive the reward.
Finally, ensure the goals are achievable. Set daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals to allow your employees to measure their own success -- but you don’t want to make them too difficult to achieve as this will have the opposite effect and discourage them instead.
Instead, set goals based on what is achievable by just working that little bit harder than normal.
One of the most important ways to empower your employees is by making them feel like family. Tribe mentality states that kinship and proximity tend to make members of a group possess strong feelings of shared identity. So fan those kinship flames!
Start by being extra picky with your hiring decisions and only hire employees that will fit with your company values and will slot in well to your team -- considering the dynamics of your current team members in particular.
But it’s not just at the start of an employee’s work cycle that you need to make an effort. There will be times when your employees will be dealing with difficult emotions in their personal lives. Have a heart when it comes to these instances. Get to know the names of your employees’ partners, kids and dogs, and give them extra time off if a dear loved one dies (and don’t forget to send flowers). These personal touches will give your employees strength when they need it most, and they’ll reward you by working more effectively when they’re back on their feet.
Look at Zendesk, which uses something called a Weeble Wobble to connect emotionally with employees:
“A Weeble might wobble, but it won’t fall down. When we see a peer come through a tough situation or even if they’re in the middle of a tough situation, we pass the Weeble Wobble to them. Without saying a word, the employee feels seen and appreciated.”
It’s really important to allow your employees to grow in their role. To do this, you need to grant them (and actively seek) opportunities to develop their skills. If you can make them experts in their role, they’ll become more confident and they’ll also impress your customers.
Encourage your employees to actually use the product or service they’re selling. Complement this with monthly training and performance reviews. In customer-facing roles, implement call recording software, which can be replayed for employees to help them understand where they can improve.
Finally, ensure they have all the tools they need to not only do -- but excel at their job.
For those situations where your employees have to deal with difficult customers (which could be anything from daily to monthly at your company, depending on your clientele), having a toolbelt of skills they’ve learned for dealing with such situations will help your employees respond professionally, ethically, and empathically. This alone could save you from losing all kinds of unhappy customers, who can be converted to loyal-for-life customers with just a bit of TLC.
One of the most important ways you can empower your employees is by giving them the autonomy they need to make their own decisions when it comes to specific customer service cases.
With this freedom, you’ll likely be presented with a slew of out-of-the-box ideas to solve customer problems that you’d never have thought of on your own.
Your customers will be impressed, too, since their problems will get resolved without the ticket has to be escalated further to a manager.
Let’s face it -- customer service is hard. Dealing with difficult customers and mountains of messages can be taxing on your employee’s mindsets. It’s oh so important that you take the time to implement at least some, though ideally all, of the ideas detailed in this article -- from being transparent to harvesting inspiration to goal setting to sharpening skills, and finally giving them the autonomy they need to do their job best.
Doing so will enliven, encourage, and most importantly empower your customer service employees to deliver the best experience for your customers. In turn, you’ll get more happy customers and of course, bigger profits. Win-win, right?
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