Ensuring Your Customer Service Initiative Will Be Successful: The Second Key


Share on LinkedIn

In Part 1 of this series I touched the impor­tance of know­ing the WHY – the pur­pose, the belief, the INTENT behind your strat­egy– so we can inspire and lead our teams to go after the dream of what could be.

In this post, I’m going to intro­duce the next key ele­ment that if imple­mented will ensure your cus­tomer ser­vice strat­egy takes hold and flour­ishes. This key ele­ment is com­posed of two of the most pow­er­ful action verbs in the Eng­lish lan­guage: Empower and Enable.

EMPOWER and ENABLE your work­force. Empower is one of those words that tend to be overused in busi­ness and yet in real­ity is under­uti­lized. Empow­er­ing your staff means giv­ing them some mea­sure of author­ity, some degree of own­er­ship over their jobs and work lives.

We know from see­ing it first hand in dozens of sit­u­a­tions that empow­er­ing your work­force can increase their moti­va­tion, their self-discipline, and their abil­ity to learn from their mis­takes. It also shows that you’re will­ing to trust them – at least until they’ve given you rea­son not to. Most impor­tantly, empow­er­ing employ­ees allows them to feel that they are respon­si­ble for their own success.

Of course the degree to which you empower your team will depend on var­i­ous fac­tors. Some con­tact cen­ters allow a lot of auton­omy; oth­ers are strictly reg­u­lated. In either case, you, as a man­ager, can take a look at where you can take some accept­able risk. Look­ing doesn’t mean you have to do it. Think about it. Maybe talk to peo­ple on the floor.

Speak­ing of talk­ing to your peo­ple on the floor, another way to empower is to ask reps how they would ide­ally do some­thing (for exam­ple, solve a prob­lem) and if you like the sug­ges­tion, encour­age reps to do it.

Here’s another idea—you’ll, of course, have to take a look and see what’s doable, but con­sider this: Give your team the respon­si­bil­ity for mak­ing cer­tain cus­tomer ser­vice deci­sions that affect cus­tomer expe­ri­ence or their rela­tion­ship with the customer.

Yes, ced­ing respon­si­bil­ity can be uncom­fort­able. Risk is scary but the rewards of trust­ing your team are huge.

Another thing you can do as a man­ager or super­vi­sor is “share the wealth.” Pre­sum­ably, your knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence had some­thing to do with get­ting you where you are today. So take the time to teach your team mem­bers what you know.

I know that your time is valu­able and that you have a ton of work on your plate but, come on, who in your orga­ni­za­tion has more to gain by hav­ing a knowl­edge­able, well-trained team than you?

This kind of train­ing doesn’t have to be in classroom…

  • Some­times you can share an anec­do­tal experience;
  • Some­times you can explain what you’d do in a given situation;
  • Some­times you can guide what the rep is doing with feedback;
  • Some­times it’ll work best to demonstrate.

What’s impor­tant is knowl­edge transfer.

The other half of this key ele­ment is “enable”. A team with a great atti­tude can still be hob­bled in their efforts to deliver great cus­tomer ser­vice by things like the company’s inter­ac­tive voice response unit. IVRs can help boost pro­duc­tiv­ity and stream­line get­ting callers to the right place BUT if the IVR is poorly designed – in other words, has too many branches, too many hoops to jump through or directs calls to a team that can’t really help the caller – it actu­ally makes the rep’s job a lot harder. The poor rep hasn’t had a chance to say “hello” and the customer’s expe­ri­ence is already in the dumpster.

So part of enabling your team to be able to imple­ment your won­der­ful cus­tomer ser­vice strat­egy is to:

  • Make sure your com­pany voice response units helps both your com­pany and the customer
  • Make sure your com­puter tele­phony inte­gra­tion (CTI) really is inte­grated. Is infor­ma­tion being pulled from the appro­pri­ate data­base and pre­sented to the rep tak­ing the call? Is it the right infor­ma­tion? Does the infor­ma­tion make it to the desk­top with the call?
  • If you can’t inte­grate legacy sys­tems seam­lessly with CTI, at least make sure reps know how to tog­gle between them efficiently.
  • Does your cus­tomer rela­tion­ship man­age­ment soft­ware help the rep or does it slow things down because peo­ple aren’t using it con­sis­tently or cor­rectly? Is the infor­ma­tion that reps need captured?
  • And, is there a reli­able way for reps to get the infor­ma­tion they need…quickly?

Recently I heard a pre­sen­ta­tion about a call cen­ter start-up; I thought they han­dled the knowl­edge man­age­ment issue well. They were a start-up and knew they wouldn’t have all the answers they needed on file when they went “live.” So instead of pre­tend­ing they had all the answers, reps were asked to write up ques­tions and answers and doc­u­ment solu­tions as they took calls to begin flesh­ing out the knowl­edge base. The idea was “if I don’t know this, some­one else prob­a­bly doesn’t either.” As a result of this respon­si­bil­ity the floor built a tremen­dous sense of pride and own­er­ship of the infor­ma­tion and how well they were able to help each other and callers.

So to help ensure your cus­tomer ser­vice strat­egy doesn’t end up being reduced to a dis­tant mem­ory and a bunch of really cool posters in the cafe­te­ria, empower and enable your team.

Let them bring the strat­egy to life. Give them author­ity to make deci­sions that will help cus­tomers. Let them act to carry out the intent of the strat­egy. And be sure, while you’re at it, to enable them… Make sure your sys­tems sup­port their efforts and your intentions.

Here are some ques­tions to think about related to empower and enable:

  • What are the risks you’d asso­ciate with giv­ing your team more deci­sion responsibility?
  • What could be done to reduce the risk?
  • What are some of the deci­sions that are too risky to let your team make? Are they really? What if it would vastly improve the customer’s expe­ri­ence if your team mem­ber was able to take care of some­thing right away?
  • What is the state of your team’s tools sup­port? On a scale of 1 to 10, how well do they enable your team to do a great job for your customers?

In Part 3 of this series, I’ll touch on at what “proper train­ing” means and the cru­cial part it plays in imple­ment­ing a cus­tomer ser­vice strategy.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Monica Postell
Customer Satisfaction Expert @ Impact Learning Systems | Instructional Designer | Performance Improvement Specialist | Call Center Consultant | Artist | Global citizen and world traveler making the world a better place once class at a time.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here