Key to Excellent Customer Service: Empowering Your Employees

Customer service is a lot like back pain. If you’re having chronic backaches, taking a couple of pain pills every day may seem like a good idea—but you’re just masking the problem without addressing the source. Maybe you need a new mattress or insoles for your shoes. Whatever the fix, you first need to get to the cause. In the world of customer care, reactively addressing your customers’ concerns is like taking pain pills. A more effective solution would be to consider the source of all outcomes in your contact center: the employees.

The Source of Pain: Employee Disengagement

Frontline customer service employees can make a habit of “mailing it in.” Answering similar questions repeatedly and assisting upset customers isn’t much fun when you feel as though you don’t have the power to really make a difference. Disengaged employees aren’t only bad for the breakroom, they also have an impact on the bottom line. According to a Gallup poll, businesses with highly engaged employees see a 20% increase in sales and a 10% increase in customer satisfaction metrics. Those increases can’t be achieved if your staff aren’t truly invested in the interactions they’re having with customers on a daily basis.

Engagement Means Empowerment

Every founder or CEO wants contact center staff to be as invested in customer satisfaction as they are. But how do you get someone to engage and feel truly motivated to exceed the company’s goals? Short answer: you give them power.

It’s proven that the more empowered employees feel, the more engaged they are in their day-to-day work. While this could mean putting the right technology in their hands or improving benefits and perks, the first step to empowering your staff is putting trust in them—giving staff the power to make decisions that directly affect the customer. Entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss has invested his trust in employees by giving them the autonomy to make customer decisions that result in an expense of $100 or less. Ferriss conveyed to his employees that they no longer worked for him, they worked for the customer. Any problems that could be solved for less than $100 were to be solved by the customer service rep using their best judgment. Putting the power in his employees’ hands not only removed a major bottleneck for Ferriss, but also gave employees the confidence to focus on making customers happy.

Practice What You Preach

Another example of empowered employees making a difference is the online retail company Zappos. The company got their start in online shoe sales and eventually sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion. What makes them so valuable? Their incredible customer service. In fact, the company is so invested in customer service, their CEO has described Zappos as a “customer service company that just happens to sell shoes.

Zappos believes that the call center isn’t just for solving problems—it’s actually one of their most important marketing tools. In fact, one of the KPIs is “flower stats,” which measure how many fruit baskets, bouquets and other gifts are sent to customers by call center employees. Zappos is proof that when staff feel empowered to make a difference, customer service interactions transform from forgettable to lasting.

Empowerment Leads to Differentiation

In this world of seemingly endless consumer choice, the primary goal for many companies is to somehow persuade the customer to choose your product or service over all the rest. Giving your frontline employees the power they need to make customers happy is one of the most important factors in achieving that goal. Don’t continue to react to poor customer service performance: get ahead of the problem by empowering your staff to engage with your customers and make a real difference in their experience.