Having an engaged workforce can increase your profitability by more than 20%. Nowhere are engaged employees more important than the front lines—dealing with your customers. You can have the best product in the world, but if your customers don’t like interacting with your company you have a major problem on your hands. Think about it
- Would you return to or recommend a restaurant that serves delicious food but has rude or inefficient service staff?
- Would you seek out a business if their online reviews mentioned bad service?
- How often would you shop at a retailer that had good prices and merchandise, but slow-moving and unpleasant cashiers at the checkout?
You might have a great product, but if the people servicing it do not give customers a great experience they will not come back, and they may even spread their discontent. Customer surveys have found that people are more likely to speak to others about a bad customer service interaction than a good one.
So how can you engage your customer service employees?
Hire for fit: Some people should just NOT work in customer service based solely on their personalities. (We’ve all met them at the DMV!) Yes, they might have experience with your phone system or know your particular industry very well. But if they lack patience, empathy, and a sense of urgency, they should be placed elsewhere in your organization.
Provide training: If your employees feel unsure of how to handle certain customer issues they will likely try to avoid dealing with them or become palpably frustrated when they arise. Train your representatives completely before letting them talk to customers, and provide a place to go to ask questions. Make sure that customer service is a priority within your company values and strategy discussions, and emphasize that in your new hire orientations.
Recognize them: Highlight those that go above and beyond in serving your customers to offer encouragement to those who are doing a great job and inspiration to those who may need it. You can print out and post positive customer emails in the break room or have a more formal recognition software platform in place where managers, employees, and even customers can offer feedback and encouragement.
Offer incentives: Many retail sales employees work on commission, which may help them be more attentive, but most customer service representatives do not. You can tie incentives to positive customer service survey results, issue resolution times, or overall sales goals for the store to encourage everyone to work as a team. Incentive rewards can be monetary or even perks like an extra paid day off or cross-training.
Empower them: Give your frontline employees some leeway so they don’t feel that they can’t make any decisions without management intervention. For example, give them a small budget that they can use to make things right with dissatisfied customers or let them authorize returns below a certain amount without manager approval so they feel ownership of their jobs. It also makes things more seamless for the customer, who won’t have to be placed on hold, transferred, or jump through hoops.
Ask them for feedback: As a manager you might not realize that certain customer complaints or questions are coming up over and over, or that your internal processes are inefficient. By getting feedback from your frontline employees you will be able to improve service, operations, and even your product. Employees will quickly get frustrated and disengaged if they have to work around obstacles such as outdated technology or excessive red tape while trying to please the customer.
Hire good managers: Keep in mind that someone who was a whiz on the phones or could sell out your shelves in a matter of hours may not be a great manager of others, despite your feeling that they deserve a promotion. Hire or promote managers who know how to motivate and engage a team. Make sure your managers know that engaging employees is a priority to your organization.