· Eve Church  · 7 min read

Why You Need Your Customer Service Team to be Fully Engaged

If you have a customer service team, you want them to be outgoing, friendly and knowledgeable individuals who put delighting your clients above everything else they do.

It stands to reason that if you have a customer service team, customer helpline, customer support team or [insert the name of your customer facing people here], you want them to be outgoing, friendly and knowledgeable individuals who put delighting your users or clients above everything else they do.

Indeed, every organization needs to deliver some variety of customer service, even if you don’t have a dedicated department staffed with dozens of people all wearing headsets or manning chat support apps.

The problem is, customer support or service tends to get a bit of a bad rap.

Automated menus, frustratingly long queue times, being left on hold, getting cut off when you’re being transferred to a different department, and then - ugh - being dealt with by someone who either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or who merely parrots a script without getting to the root of your issue.

Read more: How to Build Remote Teams That Excel at What They Do

Of course, this is the worst case scenario and there are plenty of great customer service teams out there who go above and beyond. But why?

What makes some customer service teams awesome and others, well, awful?

Could it all come down to something you might consider when managing the other teams in your organization but overlook when it comes to the customer service department?

We’re talking about employee engagement.

Why you need your customer service team to be fully engaged

It’s funny isn’t it - we all know that employee engagement strategies are crucial when it comes to encouraging our people to show up as their authentic selves day in day out and to be a positive and productive member of staff.

Read more: 10 Ways to Motivate Disengaged Employees

We actively reward and recognize our sales teams, marketing and design people, business development guys and more. But what about the customer service team?

If you’ve come to the realization that your customer service levels are somewhat lacking, it’s probably time to invest as much time and effort into those employees as you do with their coworkers.

Change your culture, change your customer service

It makes sense that if your customer support people feel like the forgotten department within your organization that negativity and resentment are going to fester.

Employees won’t stick around and will seek employment elsewhere and their replacements are simply walking into a pessimistic environment which will quickly kill any enthusiasm they had for their new role.

And this, of course, has a knock on effect on the way that your employees deliver customer service.

Why go the extra mile if you feel like your bosses won’t notice, don’t care, and won’t reward you for it?

Read more: 8 Ideas for Better Engagement with Your Remote Workers

So, to change the way customer service is delivered by your people, you need to change the culture within, if not your entire organization, within that department at the very least.

How to engage with your remote customer service team

We’ve looked before at engaging with your remote teams and it may well be that some or all of your customer service people are working remotely or from home.

If this is the case, let’s look at a few key pointers to help remote workers feel more engaged:

  • Check in with remote employees who’ve just joined the company
  • Ensure that communication and being able to communicate is straightforward
  • Communicate with consistency
  • Hold virtual team building events
  • Hold regular team meetings
  • Provide the same opportunities you would to office workers

Crucially it is this last point that you need to focus on. Specifically, you need to be providing your customer service team with the same opportunities that the rest of your teams and departments enjoy.

Read more: Don’t Go! Retention Strategies to Increase Employee Loyalty

You also need to create a work environment and company culture that motivates and inspires these employees to deliver excellent customer service.

How to engage with your onsite customer service team

Let’s address your physical environment first.

Create an environment that inspires

Customer service departments are traditionally associated with small cramped booths or gray banks of desks stretching as far as the eye can see.

But employees who are crammed into rabbit hutch sized cubicles with strip lighting overhead and screens between them and their coworkers probably aren’t going to deliver first rate customer service.

Now, granted, changing your entire set-up might not be possible, but are there ways in which you can make your customer support department’s surroundings a more pleasant place to be? After all, it’s a rare employee who’s going to feel engaged if they hate their office and feel excluded or forgotten about by the powers that be.

Read more: Why Your Company Culture May Be More Important Than You Think

Plenty of natural light is important in maintaining employee wellbeing, as are plants and greenery - aka biophilic office design. You could also ask your team what they want their office space to look like.

Develop policies and procedures that benefit employees

Whether your people are remote or onsite, you need your policies and procedures to work with your customer support people, not against them.

If unwieldy systems and workflows are making life more difficult than it needs to be, your people are going to be stressed out and frustrated - and they aren’t going to be delivering awesome customer service.

Especially if those procedures directly affect your customers.

Solid policies and solutions that make life easier for everyone will increase job satisfaction and engagement and enable your team to better help your customers or end users.

Recognize and reward your customer service people

If someone on your business development team lands a big contract or a new client, chances are their manager recognizes this and gives them a shout out, a small reward - such as a gift card - or even a bonus.

If your sales team upsells a service or product, resulting in great end of quarter figures, a team lunch or night out might be in order.

But what about your customer support team? The unsung heroes on the frontline?

Employees who deliver excellent customer service deserve rewards and recognition too. When someone consistently exceeds expectations, tell them. Acknowledge them in the team meeting. Say thanks with a gift card to the local coffee shop.

When your employees feel valued and recognized, they’ll be more engaged and will continue to provide great service. It’s a domino effect, and a positive one at that.

Even better, when employees are feeling seen and know that their efforts are appreciated, they’ll be more likely to be proactive. For example, thinking on their feet and offering a solution if a customer is threatening to take their business elsewhere, or even figuring out ways to increase customer satisfaction without spending loads of money.

Set (realistic) expectations

We’ve all heard the stories about companies who demand that employees answer a huge amount of calls, pick and pack an eye-watering quantity of products, or make a barely-possible number of deliveries.

And these stories never fail to mention how stressed and unhappy their workers are.

Of course, you need targets but you need them to be achievable. Your customer service team deserves some sort of work-life balance, just like the rest of your staff.

Employees who don’t know what they’re aiming for - or who are given unattainable goals - are not going to be engaged. They’re going to be listless in the first instance and frazzled and burnt out in the latter.

Read more: How to Spot (and Support) Employees with Burnout

Set customer service performance expectations and track employee performance and then, crucially, provide feedback, training and support if necessary. (And recognition if it’s not!)

Why you need a fully engaged customer service team: conclusion

The obvious benefit of an engaged customer support team is better customer service. But in order to up your customer service levels, you need to have a happy, productive workforce. And that means ensuring that people are engaged.

And for your employees to be engaged at work, they need to understand that they’re not viewed as faceless drones on the end of a phone, but are a crucial part of your company’s bigger picture and success story. And that can only come from Human Resources and the top down.

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