6 effective ways executives can show their appreciation for customer service agents
Customer Service Appreciation Week is the perfect time to reflect on how to show gratitude all year long.
Full disclosure: I am the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Liveops and have worked in marketing for my entire career. Most marketing executives don’t typically have a direct connection to customer service agents or teams but I’ve gotten the chance to spend a lot of time thinking about the customer experience, and that disconnect doesn’t sit well with me. Especially given the opportunities I have to form those ties and learn from agents’ feedback at Liveops.
You already know customer care agents are your direct link to your biggest fans, your evangelizers and the bread and butter of your business—your customers. You also know that these agents, as living breathing representations of your products and services, often are where the buck stops and lasting impressions form.
That is one reason why it’s so important to take a week like Customer Service Appreciation Week to show your customer service talent how much they mean to the success of your organization. But do you remember to show them the appreciation they deserve all year long?
At Liveops, we work hard to show how proud we are of the highly experienced, seasoned customer service professionals that make up our agent population, Liveops Nation. So to celebrate Customer Service Appreciation Week 2018, we’re highlighting some of the things our agents say make them feel appreciated.
Six ways to show customer service team members they matter
1. Encourage and give positive feedback.
This should be obvious, but sometimes it gets lost in everything else we are doing. Remember to teach your directors and managers the value and importance of giving authentic, positive recognition in real-time when they catch people doing exemplary work. The best kudos stand alone, so resist the urge to tag on criticism, no matter how minor it seems to you. Positive recognition makes people feel valued, which we all can appreciate.
Examples of kudos:
- Celebrate anniversaries—we acknowledge people by name in our agent community when they hit their 1, 5, 10, 15, etc. year mark
- Write handwritten notes to commemorate milestones
- Send small gifts and specialty swag to celebrate small wins and those who go above and beyond to deliver excellent service
2. Empower them to create best practices.
At the same time you’re giving out positive feedback, kick it up a notch by asking your team member how they delivered exceptional results. It brings out their inner leader and lets others learn and gain inspiration from them. This is a fundamental piece in creating an engaged workforce. This shows you and your organization value autonomy in decision-making, and it helps build trust.
3. Share messages from the top.
It’s no accident we kicked off Customer Service Week 2018 with a message from our CEO, Greg Hanover. The tone starts at the top, so the saying goes. When leaders articulate a message and live it as well, it should be a cue for management to echo the sentiment and the source of a ripple effect reaching all the way to the frontline.
4. Listen and take action.
Creating a feedback loop with your customer service teams is important. If you can do this regularly, it allows you to continually understand what’s working, get a pulse on workplace satisfaction, and capture invaluable, real-time insights about customers.
For the past few years, Liveops has held luncheons—we call them roadshows—where our leadership team meets with our agents who work remotely in locations all around the country. The purpose of these face-to-face gatherings is to show our appreciation and to be present for those who are interested in talking to us. Many of our agents drive hundreds of miles to engage and be a part of this community.
More importantly, the feedback, ideas and concerns they share are invaluable. We take everything to the appropriate teams, which identify areas needing attention and/or action. Seriously. This year we rolled out several changes and new policies responding to what we collected at our luncheons.
5. Be transparent with client expectations.
Part of showing appreciation for agents is being mindful of the support you are giving them. Often overlooked is the critical importance of informing agents about expectations of each product, service, or, in our case, program they support. Industry-wide, agents typically are scored on their conversations, yet it is not typical for each and every agent to consistently have the training and other support they need to score well. In some cases, agents are completely in the dark with regard to the criteria upon which they’re being scored.
Our agents tell us how much they appreciate knowing the expectations around their calls and the difference it makes in their success.
6. Align support with expectations.
Just like agents need transparency in their performance expectations, they also need robust support during certification to prepare them to meet and exceed their metrics. Not surprisingly, we offer our agents education tied directly to the expectations for the calls they take.
Even with our geographically distributed model, our people get this added support as part of the certification process they go through in becoming qualified Liveops agents. This is a critical area to constantly strive to improve. It’s always important to seek feedback and insights about how effective your teaching and learning programs are in preparing service agents for customer needs.
If you’ve got something nice to say, don’t hold back
As corny as it may sound, a passing moment of gratitude could mean the world to the responsible party when you share it. This advice transcends all executives and teams but is essential when considering what your support and service agents do for your company and the level of delight they’re poised to demonstrate to customers. Showing them appreciation all year long as an investment in long-term success.