How to Foster Happy Customer Service Agents that Want to Stay in Your Company
Your customer service agents are one of the most important drivers of customer happiness. The way they handle customer queries decides whether your customers go away with a positive impression of your company or a negative one.
There are two key reasons why your company needs happy agents.
1. Happy employees lead to happy customers. Agents who are satisfied with their job are more engaged, more dynamic, and more likely to put extra effort into solving customer issues.
2. Happy customer service agents are more likely to stick with your company. Finding and training new agents costs money - Research suggests that direct replacement costs can reach as high as 50%-60% of an employee's annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover.
With Gallup finding that only 20% of employees are engaged at work, it’s vital that you pay attention to CS agent happiness. Here are five ways to motivate customer service reps and keep them actively wanting to be part of your company’s journey.
1. Nurture empathy and flexibility in your company culture
A dog-eat-dog culture might leave agents feeling unable to ask for help. It’s hard to motivate customer service reps who feel unsupported.
Broadly speaking, there are two areas that can impact agent engagement: External factors (their personal life outside of work) and internal factors (the working environment. Nearly half of employees believe leadership is “minimally” or “not at all” committed to improving company culture. Show your team that you are committed.
External factors that impact engagement
If agents are dealing with mental or physical health worries, family crises, or financial pressure, that can affect their performance and motivation at work. So how can your organization help?First, don’t lose sight of the value of communication for motivating customer service employees. Create an environment where agents feel able to share their difficulties with management. Make a regular habit of checking in with each individual agent.
McKinsey recently found that employees who work remotely are more engaged than those in non-remote jobs with little flexibility. Of course, you cannot simply send your CS team to work from home! But you can provide flexibility and show them that you’re willing to adapt to their needs.
Internal factors that impact engagement
If agents feel undervalued or unheard, that can negatively hit their performance. Build a culture of open communication where agents can share worries and frustrations, and feel confident that managers care.
Don’t be afraid to accept feedback from agents. If they feel supported enough to tell you why they feel stuck, then you can help them.
2. Give meaning to their work
No one likes a thankless task. One way of motivating customer service employees is to show them how their performance impacts both their team, and the company as a whole.
You can do this by leveraging agent performance metrics, including:
This gives agents real, measurable facts about their performance and the impact on the company. Let them know what their ideal scores should look like, and help them develop a game plan to get there.
Use both successes and failures as teaching opportunities. When agents see their own experiences being used to educate their colleagues, it cements their role in their team’s success.
You can also facilitate meetings between your sales team, product dev, and marketing. Help your team understand what role they play in the larger organization, and how their work influences other departments.
3. Put a recognition program in place
A report by Harvard Business Review found that 72% of executives rank recognition given for high performers as having a significant impact on employee engagement.
Check if HR already has a recognition program in place. If not, suggest one.
Recognition can range from simple acts such as telling an agent they did well, through to structured rewards programs.
Recognition programs don’t have to be difficult to implement. Start by identifying some behaviors you want to reward, such as:
A certain level of CSAT or NPS score
Showing empathy to customers
Upselling or upgrading a customer
Showing particular initiative
How can you reward them?
You could highlight agent achievements to leadership, leverage public praise or shoutouts, or ask successful agents to mentor other agents. Be specific in your praise. Pick out what each agent specifically did right, and praise them for that.
You can also offer Customer Service agent benefits such as:
A better parking spot
An extra half-day vacation time
You can tailor the rewards to the individual agent, such as game tickets for a sports fanatic or a discount on gym membership for someone who loves to work out.
4. Create growth opportunities for our agents
Agents don’t want to stagnate. Your customer support team needs to know your company actively supports career and skills development.
Try using a set methodology that makes it easy to show agents where they can or need to improve. Quality assurance is the ideal method for this.
For example, you can do QA on tickets that have a low CSAT, or where the issue was a particularly difficult one. Or if you notice an issue with conflict resolution, you can run some feedback sessions on how to de-escalate conflict.
Depending on your resources you might run:
Individual feedback sessions with team leads per quarter.
Weekly or monthly one-on-one sessions with a quality coach.
Retraining sessions for groups of agents, focused on specific areas for improvement.
Agents need to know the company supports career growth, too. What are their career options? Are there adequate chances for promotion? What opportunities will they have to earn more money or gain new skills?
Happy customer service reps who know they can progress in your company don’t need to look elsewhere for a promotion or raise.
5. Involve agents in new team projects
The work of a CS agent can be repetitive. One way of motivating customer service employees and breaking the boredom is to involve them in projects outside of their day-to-day customer service activities.
Involve your agents in projects that will contribute to improving both the team and your organization. For example:
Identification of new friction points or undocumented issues in the customer journey to better grasp contact reasons
Methodology for resolution of queries
Productivity boosting initiatives
There are three benefits to involving your agents in team projects:
Agents get involved with new and interesting activities that add variety to their working week.
Agents can see the results of their involvement and the ways in which they helped improve the organization.
Management benefits from agents’ expertise. Your agents are on the floor every day, dealing with queries, using systems, collaborating, and problem-solving. That means they have valuable insights to share.
Working together on projects also fosters extra opportunities for collaboration with other agents, and communication with management.
Happy employees lead to happy customers. They’re more engaged, more enthusiastic, and more committed to the company - and the whole team gets to benefit from their experience and knowledge. With Gallup recently reporting the greatest drop in employee engagement since record-keeping began, the time to start paying extra attention to employee happiness is now.