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Updated Dec 20, 2023

The Benefits of Empowering Your Customer Service Team

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Marisa Sanfilippo, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer

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Your customer service team interacts directly with your customers, especially when they have a problem. As a result, they’re a crucial part of driving customer satisfaction and building brand loyalty. If you want them to perform at their very best, you’ll need to do something that some managers have a tough time doing: letting go. By giving your customer service team a sense of independence and ownership over their duties, you can empower them in a way that drives better results and a better experience for your customers. 

What is employee empowerment?

Employee empowerment, on an employer’s or manager’s part, is ensuring staff members feel some sense of freedom to get their work done on their terms, rather than asking for permission every step. 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, however, they need to have all the resources to complete their jobs successfully without help. These resources include both knowledge and tools. You need to give your employees the necessary tools to physically complete their jobs and enough training 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 MacGregor, co-founder of 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.”

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.

It gives employees the confidence to create their own workflow.

Micromanaging employees is time-consuming and not always possible for 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. Since they’re the ones doing the day-to-day work, they’ll naturally identify opportunities to improve customer communications and can help you to refine your processes.

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 will 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, they will probably leave the encounter far from satisfied and take their business elsewhere. Meanwhile, a skilled and empowered service representative could turn an angry customer into a happy one who would be glad to continue giving you their business. [Learn more about customer service phone etiquette to help your team succeed.]

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 over 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?Did you know
Empowerment of your customer service team can result in several benefits, including higher customer satisfaction and employee retention.

How to empower your customer service team

You can do several things 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 to your employees.

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 and computers
  • 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
  • Use one of these best customer relationship management (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. Create processes and systems ― and update them regularly.

It’s easier to take your hands off the wheel and trust your team to run things smoothly when there are documented processes and systems in place. Take some time to work with team leaders in developing clear workflows and creating step-by-step instructions and documentation for your customer service team to reference. These can also be used to train new hires and help them get up to speed more quickly.

For example, create a workflow for every customer interaction. It may include the usage of a script or guidelines for agents to use during the call, as well as a step to fill out detailed notes about the interaction in your CRM software. If your agents need to complete any additional work after the call is completed, make sure to spell each step out in this workflow as well.

Remember, your processes exist to make the job easier and more effective, so don’t be afraid to periodically revisit and update them. Always work with your customer service team leads to make sure your standard operating procedures (SOPs) reflect the reality of the day-to-day work; don’t fall into the trap of dogmatically adhering to an idea of what should work. 

3. Provide proper training for your customer service agents.

As your products, services and policies evolve, it will be important to keep your customer service reps updated 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.

4. Offer professional development opportunities.

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.

Several training programs are 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 like 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.

5. Provide support to your customer service agents.

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 will 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.

It would be best if you also showed 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.

Empower customer service agents to improve customer satisfaction

It can be difficult to take yourself out of the trenches as a manager but you must do so to demonstrate to your employees you have faith in them. By giving them the tools and training they need to succeed along with clear SOPs and professional development opportunities, you can build an empowered team that drives positive results for your customers. An engaged and proactive team and loyal, repeat customers are two key ingredients in building a successful business and driving a healthy bottom line. 

Tejas Vemparala contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Marisa Sanfilippo, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
Marisa Sanfilippo is an award-winning advertising and marketing expert who uses her skills and hands-on experience to help a variety of companies — perhaps most notably, finance-focused businesses — attract customers, generate revenue and strengthen their brands. She advises and executes on top marketing strategies and tactics for email and social media marketing, print marketing, events, partnerships and more. Sanfilippo's expertise has been tapped by companies like First Financial Credit Union, McGraw Credit Union, Priority Payments Local and iink Payments. She has hosted webinars and in-person workshops to educate business owners on marketing best practices and works with RevGenius, a group that brings together sales, marketing and customer success professionals to trade tips on B2B go-to-market strategies geared toward scaling SaaS companies.
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