Work to Make Your Support Staff’s Job Easier
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
A common thread throughout these posts is that a person—not a department or an organization—provides customer support. The two exceptions are self-service and automated bots, but even these often require—or, at least, should require—an actual person to back them up.
This means that your frontline employees are key to customer service success. You play a role in their work, their workload, and their associated attitude. Look for ways to make their jobs easier. Here are some actions you can take to better support them, to increase positive outcomes, and to improve their job outlook.
Look at your organization’s procedures and rules. Do these help your customer service staff do their job better or do these items make their work harder? Balance your policies between business acumen and customer service workload. Often, well-meaning business directives subject your staff to unnecessary customer complaints and workplace frustration.
For example, one employer I worked for had an internal policy that all payments were net 45, instead of paying within the standard thirty days, which most every company expects. This caused me to spend way too much time fielding calls from frustrated vendors about delayed payments.
Give your employees the authority to do the right thing for your customers. This is especially true in situations where managers have the latitude to make these decisions. Forcing customers to escalate their concerns causes more work for managers and diminishes the customer service personnel in the eyes of the caller.
Provide Supervisory Support
You can help customer service employees with wise supervision. This isn’t to monitor their behavior but to assist with difficult interactions. Sometimes a customer and an employee will not mesh, no matter how hard the employee tries. Doing a handoff to a supervisor (or even a seasoned coworker) can turn an ill-fated contact into a successful one.
Fix Problems First
How much of the customer service work that your staff does results from problems your company caused? This can result from an email sent too soon, a letter mailed to the wrong customers, or a website that contains misinformation. Avoid or fix these issues to keep customers from contacting support because of your company’s self-inflicted problems.
A confusing or hard-to-navigate website is another unnecessary source of customer service work. Even worse is a website that’s broken. I once tried for three days to update my credit card number on a vendor’s website, only to receive an error message each time. When I finally reached someone in support, she immediately understood the situation. “Sorry, but that section of our website isn’t working correctly.” I wonder how many needless chat sessions she, and her coworkers, endured because of this website problem.
Celebrate Their Work
Always do what you can to acknowledge the efforts of your customer service staff. Celebrate their positive outcomes and excellent work. Say, “Thank you.”
This occurs directly with your words, both in person and written. Notes, emails, and memos of heart-felt appreciation go a long way to affirm the work of a too-often underacknowledged but essential part of your operation. Acknowledging their work also occurs tangibly with their paychecks and compensation packages.
I once had a boss who combined these two elements. On Fridays he would deliver our checks. He’d walk into my office, hand me my paycheck, and say “thank you.” Then he’d leave to deliver the next one.
Never lose sight of the critical role you play in thanking your customer service staff for their work. This isn’t a once-and-done action, but an ongoing initiative.
Customer Service Success Tip
Make your support staff’s job easier by removing roadblocks that impede them from doing their job.
Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his career. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.