- Rather than micromanaging them, empowering employees involves giving them the freedom to work through issues on their own.
- When you empower your customer service team, you increase your chances of having not only a happier customer base, but also more satisfied employees.
- Providing the proper tools and training is key to empower your workforce.
- This article is for business owners and managers who have a customer service team and want to help them do their best work.
To get the most out of your customer service team, you need the members to feel like they have the authority to make decisions on their own, without asking a supervisor for guidance every step of the way. Empowerment of your customer service reps will lead to a better experience for your customers, which will increase customer retention.
Given how critical it is to provide solid customer service, it is important to understand what employee empowerment is and the steps you can take to make that empowerment happen for your customer service team.
What is employee empowerment?
Employee empowerment, on an employer's or manager's part, is making sure staff members feel some sense of freedom to get their work done on their terms, rather than asking for permission every step of the way. In other words, it's when employees have some autonomy.
Empowered employees get to play a role in making important decisions for the business. For them to feel empowered, though, they need to have all the resources to successfully complete their jobs without help. These resources include both knowledge and tools. You need to give your employees the necessary tools to physically complete their jobs and also enough training for them to feel confident that they know how to handle most of what they'll encounter.
"For us [at our company], employee empowerment comes through engagement," said Christy Lobst, chief parent officer and general counsel at Colugo. "Ensuring that employees connect with our mission is a key first step. Then, we give them the tools and confidence to always respond to customer questions in a way that furthers our mission."
Tip: Employees are empowered when they aren't micromanaged and have the tools and knowledge to complete their jobs.
Why is it important to empower your customer service team?
The importance of empowering your customer service team ties back to reaching your company goals. But why should your customer service team members go above and beyond to help you make more money? Sure, wanting to keep their jobs could be one reason, but if every employee does good work instead of great work, you'll miss out on a greater return on investment. Operating a business is about more than money – it's about people too, and empowering your customer service team can help you keep your people happier – employees and customers alike.
These are the main benefits of customer service team empowerment:
Employees feel free to do their jobs in the most effective way.
Micromanaging employees is time-consuming and not always possible when it comes to customer service teams who need to handle a constant stream of customer inquiries. When employees are empowered, they feel free to do their jobs properly by addressing customers' inquiries as they come in and also feel good about owning the process.
It leads to higher customer satisfaction.
Customers who have a problem don't want to be put on hold with long wait times or bounced from agent to agent. They want the person they're speaking with to address their concerns. Empowered employees can take care of customer issues without asking others for help. The quicker a customer service rep can resolve a customer issue, the happier that customer is going to be.
If the rep leaves the customer on hold while they ask their superiors what to do or the customer keeps getting passed off to someone else, the customer will probably leave the encounter far from satisfied and take their business elsewhere. A skilled and empowered service rep, on the other hand, could turn an angry customer into a happy one who would be glad to continue giving you their business.
It boosts employee retention. When your employees feel empowered, they are more likely to stay with your company. A LinkedIn study found that there is a 47% chance of employers holding on to employees who feel they have influence in the workplace for longer than three years. Companies viewed as less empowering only have a 35% chance of employees sticking with them for longer than three years. High employee turnover often looks bad to customers, especially ones who speak to your customer service team often and have built relationships with them.
Did You Know? Empowerment of your customer service team can result in a number of benefits, including higher customer satisfaction and employee retention.
How to empower your customer service team
There are several things you can do to empower your customer service team, some of which only cost you your time. Here are a few tips to get started.
1. Provide the right tools.
Not having the right tools can make doing business difficult for anyone. There are many customer service tools that can make service reps' lives easier:
- Phone systems
- Internal chat platforms so that reps can get fast response from co-workers while they are on the phone with customers
- Help desk software (such as ticketing systems) to serve as a resource for customer questions and to troubleshoot problems in a timely fashion
- Automation tools to streamline tasks
- CRM systems to store client contact information and important notes about support requests
- Webcams so reps can have personalized calls with customers through video support
- Survey tools to track how customers rate their service
2. Provide proper training.
As your products, services, and policies evolve, it will be important to keep your customer service reps up to date on all the changes. While your customer service team does not need to know the ins and outs of all your products and services like your sales and marketing teams should, they do need to be trained enough that they can assist customers accordingly and know how to solve both common and unique problems without always asking for help.
3. Offer professional development.
Some industries require employees to take ongoing professional development courses. Even if your industry is not one of them, offer employees the option to take professional development classes paid for by your company.
There are several training programs specifically for customer service reps, many of which are free or cost less than $100 each. Consider these resources:
- Udemy. Udemy's customer service training courses include topics such as how to delight every customer, dealing with difficult customers, how to increase sales with excellent customer service, and hundreds of others. Each of these courses is currently on sale for $19.99 or less.
- Alison. This company's free customer service training course teaches participants how to improve their customer service skills, with insights into the tricks and techniques involved.
- LiveChat. This customer service training course is also free. Some skills that participants can expect to learn are how to retain happy customers, techniques to stay positive, and how to best handle customer service complaints.
4. Provide support.
To support your customer service team, you must listen carefully to them. When talking through problems with them, don't interrupt them or think about how you are going to respond before they are done talking. To ensure you are on the same page, try rephrasing their message in your own words and asking if you understand the issue correctly.
You should also show appreciation. Let them know when they are performing well. Thank-you emails or even a handwritten note when an employee handles a difficult issue particularly well could go a long way. If you don't already have an employee appreciation program in place, you may want to consider starting one. Such programs are structured to ensure employees are being recognized for their hard work.