5 Ways to Tackle Customer Service Challenges
Customer-facing teams are vitally important, but often, it's not customer challenges that prevent this team from performing at their best. Take a look at our top tips to nurture high-performing customer-facing teams.
Research shows there is a direct correlation between engaged employees and the satisfaction of your customer and ultimately achieving your business outcomes.
Marriott International founder J.W. Marriott once said, “Take care of associates and they’ll take care of your customers.”
Engaged employees are described as being fully immersed in and enthusiastic about their work. This emotional attachment means that employees will go above and beyond the call of duty. Employee engagement differs from employee satisfaction. Satisfaction can be described as being happy at work, however, engagement takes employees to another level, ultimately leading to customer satisfaction.
These employees will go the extra mile to resolve customer service challenges or meet customer needs. They contribute to a culture that consistently delivers great service and customer support. They take ownership, deliver on their commitments, in and outside the organization, and are passionate about satisfying the customer and solving customer problems because they own the results of their work.
In short, engaged employees are a pre-requisite for building a high-performance team within an organization.
At Cooleaf, we believe that it’s not enough to simply measure employee engagement. Engagement is about much more than just job satisfaction. It’s about an emotional commitment where employees empathize, choose to go the extra mile, and give the very best of themselves at work - and that starts at the top with manager engagement and leadership buy-in.
And the research overwhelming supports this.
An IBM study showed that 80% of employees feel more engaged when their work is consistent with the core values of the organization. Keeping engaged employees takes more than just giving employees a pay rise, a bonus, or good benefits. Engagement is more about what the employee can do for the company, or for the stakeholders or community surrounding the company. Engaged employees will do all they can to improve the customer experience, as they want to see themselves and the organization succeed.
A OneReach report found the best way to improve customer service is to focus on the employee experience. Industry influencers who were interviewed named employee engagement as the number one way to improve the customer experience, followed by walking in the customer’s shoes, and reviewing the service values of the company.
The Demand Metric Employee Engagement Survey concluded that organizations that have more than 50% employee engagement retain more than 80% of their customers. A clear business case for leaders to focus on building engaged teams across the business.
An Aberdeen Research Report states that “Customer experiences don’t happen in a vacuum. They are the result of employee activities. Businesses that understand the importance of employee engagement and manage it through a formal program to align to their customer experience goals, achieve far superior results”.
This research validates the linkage between managing employee activities and experiences and in turn, these employees exceed customer expectations, contribute to customer loyalty and customer retention, and provide great customer service. In turn, the value creation for the customer leads to value creation for shareholders. Companies with a formal employee engagement program achieve 39% greater annual growth in revenue from new customers.
Additional research also shows that employee engagement and customer experience are directly related. Companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147%. And 79% of employees at companies with above-average customer experience ratings report being highly engaged in their jobs, compared to only 49% of employees at companies with average or below-average customer experience scores.
Even without the numbers, it makes sense: When employees feel valued and are equipped with the right tools to do their jobs, they’re empowered to perform at a higher level. Denise Lee Yohn, author of FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World’s Greatest Companies, points out that “employees can and will only deliver experiences to customers that they experience themselves. When you give your employees the kind of experience you want customers to have, they learn what it is and how it makes them feel, they appreciate how important it is, and they start to intuitively make decisions that support your desired customer experience.”
But all too often, companies don’t give their employees the tools they need to be successful — and as a result, employees struggle and don’t deliver an optimal customer experience.
Support Knowledge Sharing
While perks like Ping-Pong tables and free snacks in the office can boost employee morale, creating true employee engagement starts with equipping your team members with the tools they need to do their jobs quickly and accurately, with seamless workflows and logical touchpoints. This allows for troubleshooting in real-time, offering your customers a much improved experience with your organization.
Rob Maille, co-founder and head of customer experience and strategy at CommerceCX, put it this way: “When the back-office employee has better tools, they feel better about their job and the value they provide, which also translates into a better experience for the customer.”
A knowledge sharing platform is mission-critical when it comes to empowering employees. This is a software solution that centralizes all of your company’s information in every form it takes (including written documents, slide decks, videos, and questions and answers) and makes that information searchable. As a result, employees know exactly where to go to find the most accurate, up-to-date information that can help them provide exceptional customer service. This is especially critical for remote teams who are not in-office and cannot easily access paper files.
Empower Your Employees
Empowered employees are:
- More likely to be engaged at work
Organizational trust and psychological empowerment are predictors of employee engagement, according to recent research. Engaged customer support teams mean they are less likely to provide poor customer service, and more likely to close potential customers.
- Able to solve problems themselves, rather than passing them upwards
When employees are empowered to solve common customer service challenges, they not only feel better about themselves and their workplace, they make fewer requests for manager approval or review, meaning that managers can focus their time on more meaningful contributions such as coaching and career development. This also contributes to an improved customer journey and more positive customer feedback.
- More likely to contribute ideas and innovations.
“Empowered employees are more likely to be powerful, confident individuals, who are committed to meaningful goals and demonstrate initiative and creativity to achieve them,” according to research in the Harvard Business Review. Their knowledge base is vast - don’t be afraid to tap into it!
- Willing to go the extra mile.
Only 4% of employees are willing to make an extra effort when empowerment is low in an organization, vs. 67% when empowerment is high, according to a study reported in Forbes.
- Able to feel ownership and pride over their work.
The more control people have over their jobs, the more ownership they will feel over the outcome. And this matters a lot. In a survey of US employees, making a positive impact at work was the number one achievement people wanted in their jobs. This motivator was chosen 3x more often than ‘make a lot of money’.
- More likely to trust senior leadership.
In additional research reported by Harvard Business Review, employees are more likely to trust leaders who they perceive as being empowering. No one wants to be micromanaged, and an environment of empowerment and engagement will not only translate into strong new hire and employee retention, it will also lead to recruiting top talent.
Engage employees from day one
An employee’s first few weeks at a job can determine how long they stay with the organization. A study from 2019 found that 69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company three-plus years after a positive onboarding experience. You can inspire and motivate new hires with an effective onboarding experience that focuses on engagement.
- Provide a knowledge base of policies and a forum to ask questions.
Giving employees multiple channels to learn about the company in their first few weeks will help them ramp up faster and feel confident about taking on their first set of projects.
- Create a structured, easy-to-navigate onboarding experience.
Provide instructions for setting up their personal profile, managing subscriptions, learning about tools and processes, connecting with peers and SMEs, and finding important information. This will naturally lead to them providing excellent customer service from the get-go.
- Consider providing access to your onboarding center before day one.
New employees are excited to join your team, and are eager to learn about your company’s mission, vision, and values – and what it takes to succeed. Help them get a head start by providing access to your onboarding resources.
Treat employees like customers
In today’s job market, customer service representatives can be selective about where they work – and how long they stay. Treat employees like customers whose loyalty and attention must be earned, and you’ll have a better shot at retaining them for the long term.
- Map out the employee journey.
Be honest about potential career paths. Create clear expectations for their performance, with benchmarks to help them gauge their progress – and offer your full support every step of the way.
- Approach employee engagement like a marketing campaign.
As an HR leader, your “product” is the employee experience. Take steps to find out what employees think and feel to make sure you’re on the right track. Identify key influencers who believe in your company’s vision and mission – then harness their influence to launch positive change programs across the business.
- Adopt flexible workplace technologies.
These should allow employees to work on their terms. Do your remote workers feel equipped to do great work, no matter where they are? Provide online tools that offer easy access to peers, knowledge, content, and expertise – centralized on your company intranet via a single login.
Reward the right behaviors
Recognize employees who exemplify company values – and watch how it reinforces their commitment to your vision and mission. Employees who demonstrate behaviors and attitudes that align with the company mandate will help build your brand with customers and will encourage leadership buy-in for your recognition programs.
- Create an online recognition center.
Give leaders and colleagues a centralized spot to share company-wide kudos, peer nominations, and promotions.
- Launch employee performance incentive and recognition programs.
These should align with your organization’s culture and goals. Sharing exactly how employees have earned the recognition will help others know what to strive toward.
- Encourage employees to share stories.
This dialogue will show them “living” the company values. Find multiple avenues to celebrate staff achievements such as your intranet, departmental meetings, social events, etc.
There are a number of key activities to succeed in employee engagement. These include strong visible values in the organization, understanding and addressing employee expectations, career pathing with tailored development programs to help employees achieve their goals, great communication channels, and internal social collaboration tools for peer to peer learning and collaboration, knowledge transfer and helping the company expand the use of best practices, as well as a great reward and recognition program.
If your organization struggles to attain your customer experience goals, then consider a formal employee engagement program to help you establish the building blocks to ensure your company creates happy customers and happy customer service agents.