Motivating co-workers, colleagues and staff to deliver excellent customer service can be daunting. With customers becoming more and more demanding, customer service reps handling higher workloads due to layoffs and cutbacks, and managers feeling overwhelmed with the tasks of managing tired professionals…becoming a cat herder sounds more doable than this does. And yet, some companies are doing it. They’re motivating their front-line people and providing consistent customer service.
Here are five strategies that are working for the successful companies, and they should work for you, too.
1. Get Excited
Managers have to first be excited and motivated themselves. Because employees look to their managers for guidance on what is acceptable behavior, if a manager shows their motivation by smiling, encouraging positive communication, saying a thank you as a pat on the back, getting excited when a customer service rep successfully works with a customer – this is priceless motivation to the employee. Emotions communicate on a deep level, from inside out. If the manager isn’t motivated, the employees won’t be either.
Don’t fake it, either. Every human being is equipped with B.S. detectors – some are better than others – but everyone has it. There is nothing more demeaning to an employee than to have a manager fake their appreciation for quality work, or to be recognized for great service inside a staff meeting but ignored by management the rest of the month. Respect your employees enough to be real, be honest, be ready to communicate your excitement about their successes.
2. Hire Motivated Professionals
If you aspire to have a world-class customer service staff, then hire people motivated by the same goal. They’re not that difficult to find, but they may be difficult to detect – unless you involve a world-class customer service person in the interview process. It’s not just skills, i.e. ability to answer the telephone appropriately, can do data entry at the speed of light, can file correctly while blindfolded, etc. Nor is it just a smiling face, pleasant countenance or willingness to learn the company’s product or service.
Motivated professionals have the “IT” factor. That intangible yet distinct desire to be of service to others. To be helpful. To want the other person to walk away with their needs fulfilled. These professionals get tremendous satisfaction from solving their customers’ problems. They are out there. They are looking for a team just like yours.
3. Empower Your Team
The most difficult part of managing a customer service team is empowering them to make the decisions that will serve the customer well. Too many companies have upper management people that simply don’t trust their front line employees. What a shame. They’re willing to have these people as the first contact for customers, but aren’t willing to let them help those customers fully.
Consider this: a customer calls with a complaint, but the person answering the phone must escalate that complaint to a supervisor. The supervisor is working with another customer service rep, so is unavailable to assist the customer. The customer then gets put on hold and is transferred to a voice mail system, and encouraged to leave a message about their issue. No matter what is done from this point forward, no matter how well the supervisor is able assist the customer…the customer will be annoyed and less likely to do business with you again.
If a well-trained, professional customer service rep is given authority to make decisions that can assist their customers, they will be loyal to the company and the bottom line, and the customer will believe you when you talk about providing excellent customer service.
Are you wanting a world-class customer service team…for real? If you’re serious about motivating your employees, training the professionals, empowering the front-line customer caretakers, then you should be serious about measuring what works and what doesn’t.
Measure something, anything, that is relevant to your employees, your customers, your bottom line. Performance measurements with rewards can focus an employee’s energy faster than knowing the CEO is coming to visit.
Employees get motivated by measurements for many different reasons. Knowing these reasons will be helpful to you when determining what and how to measure their performance. Are they competitive? Do they thrive on being distinguishing their performance from others’, or are they more interested in comparing this month’s results to last month’s? Make this distinction and they will move mountains to reach the wanted results. Keep in mind, though, that there are employees that are not competitive…at all. These are the employees that are motivated by duty and will focus their energy on whatever is the priority they are told to focus on.
5. Reward with Money
If you want to motivate employees even more, tie the measurement to a reward.
Sales professionals receive commissions based on their measured results: sales and sometimes repeat business or renewals.
Administer customer satisfaction surveys to every customer. If the team meets or exceeds a predetermined satisfaction rating, they all receive a bonus in their paychecks.
If the customer service department is set up to provide custom product quotes to customers, then set a goal of % quotes closed/sold for each customer service person. Reward with a bonus in their paycheck.
Because each customer service department is different, it is important to note that money does not always work. There are some companies that reward with catered lunches, others that reward with bonus points to be ‘spent’ on personal time. Being creative will only serve to enhance your customer service team’s relationship with the company and their customer.
To motivate employees, act like you want them to act. You will attract and hire motivated professionals.
Focus employees’ energy through measurement and reward strategies.
Then…listen for the “Wows” from your customers start to come in.