Customer service is a competitive field. 90 percent of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company. That means, one mistake, and you can go from a customer service genius to a brand that everyone is wary of using.
It’s not enough to offer low prices and high quality. When making a purchase, 64% of people find customer experience more important than price. Today’s consumers want you to go above and beyond to meet their needs. And that means empowering your customer service agents.
Why You Need to Empower Your Customer Service Agents
Empowered employees are associated with stronger job performance, job satisfaction, and commitment to the organization, according to research. And empowered leaders are much more effective at influencing employee creativity, citizenship behavior, being trusted by their employees, and influencing employee performance.
How does this relate to customer service? When employees and leaders feel they have a greater sense of autonomy and control over their work, they are more committed to reaching goals and demonstrating initiative. They are also more likely to be powerful and confident individuals, essential for exceptional customer service.
Empowered call center agents and managers are more likely to:
- Provide quick responses to customer questions, which drastically improves the customer experience for 71% of consumers.
- Be pleasant during a customer service interaction, which is essential for 68% of customers.
- Demonstrate knowledge and resourcefulness during interactions, which is essential to 62% of customers.
9 Tips to Empower Your Call Center Agents and Managers
Your call center is the front line of your customer experience. It’s your agents’ direct personal engagement that creates the best customer service. So, how do you empower your call center agents and managers to provide incredible customer service? Here are nine tips.
1. Don’t Micro-Manage; Give Decision-Making Authority and Trust
The first step to empowered customer service is to give your agents and management team the authority and trust to make their own decisions. Your call center team has to feel like they can make the best choice for each situation and deal with the consequences. This type of trust is a tremendous asset and allows your team to meet customer needs quickly and as required.
Giving your call center team decision-making authority means that they have the latitude to engage customers and help them up to a defined limit. For example, Ritz Carlton allows its employees to spend up to $2,000 per incident to improve the customer experience and increase customer satisfaction.
2. Provide the Right Tools
Your call center agents and managers need formidable tools to deliver great customer service and do their jobs. Not only do they need a powerful CRM so that they always have access to customer data, but they also need access to quality assurance data.
- Contact Monitoring Scorecards: Scorecards, such as what’s offered by Scorebuddy, help you track KPIs that produce successful call center agents. Agents and managers can self-evaluate performance for consistent improvement.
- Root Cause Analysis: As a systematic process for identifying the “root causes” of problems within the call center, root cause analysis is a powerful tool and approach to problem solving. It helps teams identify and describe problems, establish timelines for return to normal, identify other causal factors, and complete the remediation process through corrective actions.
- Predictive Analytics: A tool that helps you identify the most effective way to communicate with customers by predicting customer behavior and trends can help your agents and managers be more effective and enhance the customer experience.
- Performance Analytics: Agents and managers need tools that offer real-time and historical data about agent performance, so they have information about their inefficiencies, training opportunities, handle time, and more.
3. Implement Call Center Management Best Practices
Empowering call center agents starts with management. They are responsible for motivating, encouraging, and helping your agents do their jobs effectively and autonomously. Your agents cannot create positive customer experiences unless they have effective and successful managers.
To empower customer service from the top down, there are a few best practices your management team needs to follow.
- Demonstrate emotional intelligence by listening to agents, demonstrating empathy, resolving conflict, anticipating questions, and communicating feedback.
- Focus on employee engagement by providing clear expectations, supporting your agents, and offering regular feedback.
- Develop a highly communicative call center management style and offer plenty of opportunities to meet with agents to share ideas and discuss performance.
- Measure call center performance through a thorough quality assurance process and using software, such as Scorebuddy.
- Track KPIs and focus on data in order to create a strategic framework for success and to gain insight into your operations.
4. Hire the Right Call Center Agents
Not every call center agent can be empowered. It takes a specific type of self-motivated individual to thrive in an empowered call center. So, before you hire anyone in your call center—agent or manager—make sure that they are the right type of person.
Focus on hiring employees who demonstrate customer service soft skills. Look for adaptability, initiative, teamwork, empathy, integrity, problem-solving, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. These are the most desired attributes for customer service employees and should be assessed through resumes, interviews, and references.
5. Implement a Training and Mentoring Program
When you empower call center agents and managers, know that it will not be successful overnight. It takes time to make sure it all works together. That’s why a training program focused on handling complex and difficult tasks and decisions is critical. You need to make sure that your call center team knows what is expected of them before you allow them control.
The most successful training and mentoring programs are built around a call center quality assurance process. This framework helps you create specific objectives and outcomes for each training session based on clear and measurable performance insight. The idea is to develop individualized training that works.
There should be a purpose behind every training session that can be measured, so that agents know exactly what they can do to improve their performance. The key is to focus on giving positive feedback in a timely manner that results in opportunities to work toward better behavior. The QA program should offer insight on a wide range of skills, including agent soft skills, the anatomy of a good customer service call, and compliance and account information.
By combining your QA feedback with effective training, you should be able to walk away with a clear outline for a successful customer interaction that is measurable, memorable, and motivational. And do not be afraid to implement technology that can facilitate addressing issues and holding active two-way discussions.
6. Don’t Penalize Mistakes
Manager and agent empowerment will not come without problems. Some of the decisions they will make will have negative consequences. Here are some of the most common call center agent mistakes you can expect. However, if you penalize your call center team every time something goes wrong, you will end up losing any progress made in empowering your team.
Instead, focus on rewarding your call center team for making the right decisions and accomplishing their goals. Rewards will have a far greater impact on the excellence of your customer service than penalties.
7. Ensure that Departments and Channels Work Together
To empower your call center, your agents must be able to get their jobs done. And to perform their best, they need access to resources throughout the organization. Not only should your agents and managers be able to easily contact another department for questions or help, but they should also have access to omnichannel support options for customers.
Empowered customer service means a seamless customer experience. So no matter how a customer contacts you (email, phone, text, chat, etc.) or what type of question or help they need, your agents need to have the ability to help. This requires efficient organization and systems that can help agents find and deliver answers quickly.
8. Put a Quality Assurance Process in Place
How you measure the success or failure of agent empowerment is critical. It’s not enough to look at simple metrics such as “average handle time.” That won’t tell you what really matters when it comes to customer service. Instead, you need a quality assurance process that looks at critical customer experience metrics so you can really test your empowerment initiatives.
The key is to measure the correct call center quality metrics and data, so you know how you’re performing. There are many KPIs available on everything from productivity to sales, customer satisfaction, and quality. We recommend breaking down your QA data into three sections in order to get the best results.
- Business Critical Metrics deal with the development of a documented approach to QA and the customer experience, ensuring higher performance and continuous improvement.
- Customer Critical Metrics focus on the customer experience and how well the agent understood the customer’s problem and provided a solution.
- Process Critical Metrics review what happened after every customer interaction and offer detailed notes in the CRM.
As part of this quality assurance process, make sure you capture and share best practices within the call center. You don’t want to focus just on what NOT to do, but highlight what works well. These best practices can be valuable insights for training and dealing with difficult problems.
9. Create a Culture of Empowerment
Empowerment is not just a one-and-done idea. You can’t just wake up and say, “You’re empowered. Go!” It takes a culture of empowerment, which is a slow process that must be taken one step at a time.
- First, you need to respect your agents. Make sure they have all the support they need to make and implement decisions.
- Second, start small. Empower your agents and managers on little things first. For example, get their feedback on the office dress code, technology, vending machines, etc.
- Then, with those small decisions, demonstrate that you value their opinions by listening and implementing their suggestions.
- Finally, start getting employee and manager buy-in on larger matters. Ask your call center team to provide feedback on anything that could impact them and show that you respect their wants and needs.
Empowered Customer Service is Critical to Success
Customers are looking for brands that invest in them; they want to feel appreciated and valued. So, if you want to stand out from the rest of the crowd and give yourself an edge in the competitive world of customer service, you need to make your customer experience exceptional. And that means empowering your call center.
Enable your call center management and agents to take active measures to provide exceptional customer experience. Do not leave it to chance. When you empower your team and give them the support they need, you can expect the highest levels of customer satisfaction.