If you think the most important person in your company is the CEO, you're wrong. The most important face of your brand is the customer service agent, usually hidden well behind the scenes.
These agents have the power to influence customer happiness on a day-to-day basis. They are on the front lines communicating directly with your customers, often taking the brunt of their ire and frustration. Frequently referred to as "reps" and "agents," these critical individuals need to be elevated to the status of customer care professionals (let's call them CCPs) and given the tools to succeed, so they can represent your company in the best light. They can do much more than put out fires -- they can create meaningful connections with your customers and make fans for life.
Yet, as business leaders, we don't necessarily invest the time or resources with this group of "everyday heroes." And that's a big mistake. When you neglect your CCPs, it can cost you big. If you don't believe me, you can Google "Comcast" and you'll see thousands of negative headlines that were generated by one customer service call gone very wrong.
The outdoor gear retailer Backcountry is a great example of a company that's empowering its CCPs, or as they call them, "Gearheads" to thrive. Backcountry's mission is to deliver their passion for outdoor sports, beyond just specialty gear. On their website, they display personalized profiles for each Gearhead, so that customers can reach out to the Gearhead that shares their passion, via online messaging. For Backcountry, empowering their Gearheads to shine has led to increased revenues, customer lifetime value and loyalty.
So, how can you take a page out of Backcountry's book and celebrate your "agents" as heroes of customer care? Here are four ways to empower your CCPs.
- Let them be human.
While advancements in new technology let brands connect more efficiently than ever before, the paradox is that automated communications and robot-like responses just don't sit well with consumers. That's why adding the human touch is an essential element of customer care in the digital age. Trust me: People want to connect with a real person. Encourage CCPs to let their unique personalities and strengths shine through during their consumer interactions. Knowing there's an actual person on the other end helps put customers at ease, create trust, and make the entire back-and-forth more enjoyable for both parties.
- Keep them cutting-edge.
Your employees need access to the proper resources, tools, and training to effectively and sufficiently assist customers. Nobody--neither your employees nor your customers--has time to waste on old-fashioned technology or outdated systems. Give your CCPs the right tools so they can quickly get the information they need to help their customers effectively, while managing multiple conversations concurrently. Along those lines, CCPs require sufficient training before they're thrown into the fire as well as reliable materials to turn to when challenges arise. Here's one: Encourage them to join the ACCPI, an association created to support CCPs during their day-to-day activities and longer-term career.
- Connect them to a deeper goal.
Take a structured approach to training and coaching to make sure all your CCPs are on the same page. This ensures your brand messaging is aligned from CCP to CCP and communicated effectively. It's also important to make sure the strategy trickles down from the top: HBR reports that, regardless of job title, department, or seniority, every employee should be intimately familiar with the customer strategy. Understanding the ultimate company goals and approach to business will level set every employee and keep them front and center when engaging with customers.
- Find out what motivates your CCPs.
Ask your highest performing CCPs what helps them succeed and try to replicate that for the team. Unfortunately, these high-value employees all too often find themselves underappreciated drones. For most, working is necessary. But your most successful employees are the ones who truly want to be there--and you should know why that is. Sometimes the answer to driving motivation is simple, whether it be in enhancing their workspace or running fun, inter-office competitions. Feeling valued is a critical component of employee satisfaction. Show CCPs what they're worth and reward them accordingly.
If you do your job of attracting, training, and empowering your CCPs, you'll develop an unrivaled fleet of professionals who take pride in what they do and feel a true sense of ownership on the job, resulting in happier employees and, ultimately, happier customers.