• Ty Givens

Two ways to make your Customer Service people happy (neither has to do with money)

I talk to about a dozen Customer Service people every week. Most of our time is spent focused on challenges, hurdles and how to overcome them. I really love it. It’s probably my favorite part of what I do. I see so much of myself in these folks and it reminds me why I started The Workforce Pro and why I’ve chosen to do the work I do.

Ultimately, my business is built on the wish list I had while running large scale contact centers that were growing like crazy. I can remember the early stages of Thrive Market. One of my first objectives was to grow the team from 6 to 30 in about a month. In hindsight, I could’ve done this so much better. But, my confidence was lacking at the time. I didn’t feel comfortable asking for what I needed to be successful. I’m finding other leaders feel the same, or are finding that when they do ask (even if done properly), they can’t get buy in.

I was able to grow the team, no matter how faulty the foundation, but I couldn’t keep people in the roles. Average turnover in Contact Centers is about 17% for the size of the team. However, we were around the 20–30% range.

The reasons for the turnover varied, but I will give you the two most common reasons I hear. One from front line and one from leadership.

Why do front line employees leave Contact Center roles so quickly?

Front line employees, CSRs (customer service reps), Specialists, Ambassadors, etc. (doesn’t matter what you call them), leave because you sold them a dream that wasn’t real. You promised fast upward mobility, that their ideas would be heard, valued and implemented and that you put Customer Service first in all that you do. They believed you and you didn’t honor a fraction of that. They see how all other teams (usually exempt) have freedom to move about, while they feel tied to a desk. Now they want out.

The truth will set you free…

You don’t have to sale a dream to get someone to work for your company. You can tell it like it is. Be honest. It goes a long way.

Tell them the truth: the role is challenging. Their personal feelings will have to be put on hold and sometimes, they’ll have to agree to do things they don’t want to do. They will have to do things that are unnatural to them, but authentic to the brand (think Chick-fil-a’s “my pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome”). They won’t love every moment, but the skills they acquire will take them far.

To help them along, build a listening system so that ideas are funneled, accounted for and actioned when need be. Pull them for special projects that will hone in on key strengths and stretch them where needed.

Will they be fanatical about your brand? Maybe, maybe not. But fanatics don’t always make Customer Service people. Great Customer Service people are resilient, eternally optimistic and natural problem solvers.

Why is it so hard to keep a Customer Service leader in place?

This is one of my favorite subjects. First, let me tell you how challenging it is to be a head of Customer Service. The company posts for a role and it includes the following: develops training for the team, hires and fires, sets schedules, coaches and mentors, manages and reports KPIs (key performance indicators) and sets strategy for the team while handling escalations.

I’ll let you in on something: that description encompasses about 3 different jobs. While your Customer Service leader smiles and agrees, it is virtually impossible to do all of those things well. So they do them all, a little. Have you ever tried being in the past, present and future at the same time? How did that go for you?

I know why I may have left opportunities over the years. Now, I spend about 30% of my week engaged in conversations with people who are doing the work I used to do, and their problems are the same as mine, which lets me know I’m on the right path with what I’m setting out to do: help build a foundation for scale, while continuing to move ahead.

Give them carte blanche… no, really!

A big issue is the boss with a vision, but no understanding of execution. This person lives in the details, when they should stay on the sidelines. Leaders tell me they get more than the “what (needs to be done)”, they get the “how (to do it)”, and sometimes the “how” is impossible. I know, I used a bad word (impossible), but it’s true. If you’re this type of boss, stop. Stop it now.

I’ve faced this person numerous times in my career. I worked for a startup and I was told I had carte blanche over the Customer Experience (hogwash).

Excited by this, I listened closely to Customer feedback and Customers were frustrated with having their issues be bounced around and the time it took to actually resolve their issue. To create Customer loyalty, I created a plan to get the contact to the right person for faster answer and resolution times. As th head of the department with carte blanche, I should have been able to execute as this had “win” all over it. But no, I had to get authorization to make changes to the Customer Experience (this is not caret blanche, but I digress)….

I proposed a call tree, and drop downs on chat that would direct contacts to the right person the first time. There was no additional cost to the business, but we would have received a 23% productivity boost, which was equivalent to about $151k in savings or ~3 FTE (full time equivalents). Those 3 FTE could have been re-purposed or even viewed as additional resources for Marketing to pump up the volume. To me, this was a no-brainer.

Imagine how deflated I was when my boss disagreed 100%, and said Customers should not have to self-direct (on what planet?). IVRs (interactive voice recognition) are not the devil. Neither is self service. If both are done properly they render great results for the business and can increase your Customers’ loyalty with you brand.

Very quickly, I realized it was about my boss’s wants, not the Customers wants. This is just one example, but I hear plenty. Many of my calls start out as introductions, but quickly turn into requests for connections or to be made aware of any opportunities in our industry.

In the words of Ludacris… Move… get out the way!

In the words of Steve Jobs, don’t hire smart people and tell them what to do. I say hire them and move out of the way.

The most common reason leaders want to leave is they can’t do their job. I spoke with someone who is running a Contact Center, but is not allowed to introduce a ticketing system, because to their boss, it feels too mechanical. However, there are ticketing systems that are completely transparent to the Customer, but still enable you to quantify the work.

Employment is a two-way street. You want to hire the best you can afford, and the person wants to work with the best company to help them grow their career. If you’re standing in the way of their growth, they’ll go someplace else that welcomes their ideas.

Remember, your Customer Service leader is also on a journey. They’re seeking to accomplish professional goals too. You will get a much stronger performance out of a CS Leader who has their own goals to accomplish, in addition to yours.

Don’t lose a great head of Customer Service because of poor experiences you’ve had as a Customer. Instead, tell them what your ideal experience looks like and let them create it. Don’t concern yourself with how.

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