Companies these days are fixated on Customer Experience. If you’re not, I hope you’ve worked up an S.O.S. because you’re going to need one! It’s true, our customers are looking for much more than the product – they want to feel valued and be part of something special, something bigger than themselves. Leaders scratching their heads wondering how they can provide an “experience”, are turning to their Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) and counting on them to make it happen. After all, with long hours, demanding customers and complicated systems…how could things go wrong? 😉
Whether you work on a call center floor, manage the team that does, or have never stepped foot in one before, it’s not too difficult to see how hard (and at times overwhelming) a CSR position can be. If you disagree, I recommend you spend a week on the floor taking call after call, day after day. Answering the same question for the hundredth time while still wearing a smile and remaining patient and pleasant! Then come talk to me.
It takes a special type of person to handle the type of pressure and stress that comes with a CSR career. Most companies are searching for the “perfect” call center agent. They must be punctual, adaptable, a self-starter and problem solver. They should be a creative, out-of-the box thinker, while staying within the lines of appropriateness and acceptability. They must be professional, outgoing and energetic; someone who thrives in an ever-changing environment, but doesn’t get bored with repetitive tasks. And of course…a goal-drive, team player with an eye for customer service and experience.
Do you ever find yourself asking, “Does this person really exist?” If so, you’re not alone. But, alas, I have good news for you – they DO exist, and they’re on your floor right now.
In order to provide the best possible customer experience, you must first provide the best possible environment for your CSRs. If they are having a great experience, so will your customers. While culture plays a huge role, there are some simple but powerful things leaders can do to help those superstars emerge for the betterment of the customer experience!
Acknowledge the Difficulties
Break down the barriers and encourage team success by acknowledging what they do is not easy. If you’re reading this thinking, “is she crazy?!” the answer is no. Well at least not most days. Acknowledging that what they do is not always easy will go a long way in gaining respect and building trust. For those who are thinking, “But wait…this is an entry level position we’re talking
about here; their job is easy”, I have two questions: who knows your customers the best within your organization, and which team is held most responsible for revenue and customer satisfaction? It’s time we view these “entry level” employees differently.
To be clear, acknowledging the difficulties isn’t giving your team a pass to be rude, short, or to lose their patience while on the phone. It’s also not about throwing a pity party or encouraging everyone to be vocal about every part of the job that is awful. Instead it’s about giving credit where credit is due. Showing a humbled effort to empathize with the daily struggles that, sorry to say, are eminent.
Provide Ways to Bounce Back Quickly
Alright, so we’ve acknowledged their job isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. They feel thankful, appreciated, vindicated even. Now it’s time to provide tips and tools on how to bounce back quickly from setbacks in an environment that isn’t always friendly.
Allow CSR's to be "The Voice of the Customer" - Have daily huddles off the phones and give the team the opportunity to explain what’s hindering them or holding them back from blowing the top off the customer experience. Sometimes it is a simple as granting the agents more user rights in the software system to avoid the customer from being transferred. The feedback might be slow at first, but it will get them thinking of the customer experience and soon they will share amazing insights and suggestions to creating a positive and impactful journey for your customers. Create a forum for obstacles to be communicated – and do something with the information given.
Group “Deep Breath” - If there is a new product launch, a system malfunction, or any other highly stressful event taking place, have a group “deep breath”. It sounds silly, but hitting that reset button together, as a united team, makes a huge impact on the psyche of the individuals and the morale of the group as a whole. It acknowledges the current struggles while providing a healthy outlet for the stress (instead of spewing complaints or negativity on the floor, or worse – taking it out on the next customer). The group deep breath also sends the message that “we’re in this together” and we will prevail through this tough time as a one.
Introduce Stress Management Techniques - In addition to the group resetting activities during more trying periods, there will be many times an individual will need a personal reset. Encourage some common but proven stress management techniques which include taking short breaks to decompress, having a stress ball at the ready, or my personal favorite, a department Dammit Doll to be used by anyone who needs it.
Bottom line, setbacks will occur. Negativity will creep in and bad days will happen. The most important thing is to get the train back on the tracks and to prevent that negative energy from spilling over into the next customer interaction and jeopardizing the customer experience.
CSR's ARE The Bigger Picture
Ah, the big picture. Over my last nine years of training CSRs, one of my personal favorite, and perhaps the most impactful message, is that all customers have a “Moment Of Truth” (MOT) every time a customer has an interaction with your company. Furthermore, they use each
interaction to judge your company – be it positive or negative. This concept was first introduced by Scandinavian Airlines president Jan Carlzon in the 1980s. Carlzon believed that each interaction should be handled in a way that would create a positive or favorable outcome. If this attention to detail and “one at a time” philosophy was present, the business would be a success. What a tremendous responsibility for each person answering the phone each day! I enjoy conducting this training because many CSRs never thought of it that way before. They, and they alone, become the entire company to that individual on the other end of the line. I use this point to drive home the fact that THEY are the brand. THEY ARE THE BRAND. Wow. How powerful is that? As leaders, it is our responsibility to help our CSRs understand their worth within the company and how impactful they are each and every single day…after all, they are the brand.
At the end of the day, you don’t have to look far to have the stellar dream team you’ve always wanted. Invest in your people and they will do right by the customer. Respect their role in the company, give them the credit they deserve, listen to their feedback and be ready for the results. If nothing else always remember, if you believe what they do is amazing, so will they.
Lauren Lombard is the Corporate Trainer for a mid-sized company supporting four clients in the travel / hospitality industry. With almost a decade of Training & Development experience under her belt, Lauren brings a dynamic and well-structured approach to her training design. Leading the charge for many engagement and cultural initiatives, Lauren strives to create a collaborative and synergistic environment within her organization. Experienced in NPS, customer journey mapping, instructional design, coaching, facilitation and more, Lauren takes a consultative, well-rounded approach to identify training opportunities, and uses relevant information to make specific recommendations on training solutions. Recently named one of ICMI’s Top 50 Thought Leaders for 2017, Lauren displays a true passion and enthusiasm for learning development.