Sarah places an order online and immediately realizes that she made a mistake on the order form. She calls the customer service line, but the representative tells her that he can’t fix the order—it was already sent to the fulfillment center. He places Sarah on hold while he tries to find someone with the authorization to change the order. After a half-hour on hold, he returns to tell Sarah that the only person who can make the change is out of the office for the week.
Dismayed and exasperated, Sarah cancels the order completely.
Bryan, the customer service representative, is also aggravated. He truly wants to help Sarah, but can’t due to the red tape of an antiquated policy. Unfortunately, Bryan still doesn’t have the discretion—or necessary training— to resolve a simple problem like Sarah’s. He feels defeated and vents his frustration through unfriendly interactions with other customers.
This situation emphasizes the importance of empowering customer service reps. In fact, one study found that companies leveraging employee empowerment receive 50% higher degrees of customer loyalty. However, many employers misunderstand what empowerment really means.
At its core, support team empowerment is a way to give representatives the tools they need to take care of the needs of customers. If done correctly, reps will find long-run engagement and motivation, while customer service leaders will have more time to focus on other tasks.
So, what does it take to truly empower customer service reps?
Create a shared vision of service
Empowering customer service reps begins by offering a mission to work towards. That mission must be a strategic vision of service that provides clear direction for every representative. Jeff Toister, Founder of Toister Performance Solutions, Inc. notes, “Customer service leaders need to get teams on the same page when it comes to outstanding service. This means creating a shared vision that is easy to understand, customer-centric, and authentic.”
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A shared definition of customer service points reps in the right direction. Customer service representatives who work in a silo, without a true understanding of how their actions impact the entire company, are unlikely to feel empowered to take the organization to the next level. On the other hand, a shared vision of service makes it easy for reps to go the extra mile to make customers happy and bring the vision an amazing customer experience to life.
The idea of autonomy often induces panic for customer service leaders. Contrary to popular belief, autonomy is not about letting reps loose to do whatever they please. Meaningful autonomy simply means giving reps the freedom to resolve customer needs and provide the best service possible—at their own discretion. Jeanne Bliss, President of CustomerBliss, advocates for autonomy, noting that “Reps ultimately need to feel assured that they are trusted and have the appropriate power to act to solve a problem.”
One key to encouraging autonomy is asking reps to use the same care and intentionality about the business as their own finances. Establishing a solid framework with general guidelines for approaching customer requests ensures that reps make the best decisions for the organization and customer. As an example, Ritz-Charles empowers its employees to spend up to $2,000 to solve customer problems without asking a manager. While this amount may seem steep, the average Ritz-Carlton customer spends $250,000 with the Ritz during their lifetime. By creating guidelines and boundaries for reps, employees are enabled to provide a level of service that delights the customer, builds their trust, and strengthens their relationship with the brand.
Deliver training to create experts
Customer service reps won’t provide exceptional service if they aren’t trained with the skills and knowledge they need to make smart decisions. Mike Aoki, President of Reflective Keynotes and a 20-year industry expert, adds that customer interactions are more complicated than ever before which, “requires customer service professionals to have more knowledge and a higher skill level.”
A well-trained customer service rep will feel comfortable, confident, and empowered during customer interactions. They won’t hesitate to answer questions or fix a problem because they know the products, services, and processes inside and out. Instead of overloading reps with too much knowledge at once, consider implementing a program that allows reps to learn at their own pace. Self-paced learning may help them better understand the information as they take time to digest the new material. Rushing through materials and new knowledge in a flurry of training will ultimately fluster reps, rather than empowering them.
Provide coaching and mentoring
Coaching and mentoring is an effective extension of customer service training. Coaching and mentoring gives reps the chance to gain more hands-on knowledge from experienced veterans and contact center leaders. With 20+ years of customer experience leadership, Steve DiGioia points out, “A successful team should receive constant reinforcement of best practices and procedures from their leaders.”
Mentored reps often receive one-on-one training, support, and advice from customer service veterans that help them better understand their role. From asking questions to providing helpful feedback, coaching helps reps think through a problem and practice possible solutions. Mentors also serve as a helpful resource, push reps to meet goals and objectives, and pursue professional development. Ultimately, this investment motivates and empowers reps to do better work—independently—with the new skills and expertise they’ve gleaned from coaching and mentoring.
A customer service team cannot truly be efficient until leaders deeply empower their representatives. This also creates a win-win-win situation. Reps are happy because they help customers—and grow in the process. Contact center leaders are happy because they can focus on more difficult, and high-value tasks—rather than stepping in to help reps all the time. And customers are happy because they get their problems solved—faster, better. In short—employee empowerment is the foundation of lifelong, enthusiastic customers.
Start empowering reps with training from Lessonly
Customer service leaders across the globe rely on Lessonly to empower their teams. Reps learn, practice, and perform better when they’re enabled to do their jobs at the highest level. See how empowered teams do better work and schedule a demo today.