Improve the Skills of Customer Service Staff

“When a customer likes you, trusts you, and feels as though they are important to you – that customer is all yours” – Shaun Belding

A company’s success rests on many pillars but by far the most important and strongest pillar is customer service. Improving the skills of customer service staff is a sure way to raising the bar for customer service. Leave your competition frustrated and your customers wowed as you do so!

– When a customer is irate it does not help if they have had to hold the line before they get to speak with someone. They will just have reached the stage of anger by the time and the skills of customer service staff will be tested. The staff members need to remain calm, genuinely apologize for the inconvenience and do their best to deal with the customer’s issue. Keeping calm and being empathetic will calm the customer and it will be easier to help.

– Make it the onus of each customer service member to improve their skills. Make it part of their performance plans with clear goals and targets. Show them the path to success by rewarding top performers and continue to monitor the average ones thereby making them responsible for improving their skills.

– The front end staff members are the ones dealing with the issues daily and understand their requirements and training needs. To improve the skills of customer service staff, allow them to put together training needs, training content and the processes that work best. These can be improved upon by the expert trainers.

– To help improve the overall customer service teams, provide training and coaching to show them how their contribution leads to the success of the company and their own. Compensation and benefits must be tied to their meeting and exceeding the performance indicators. Inculcate feelings of unity within the team and encourage them to treat customers as part of their team and as family.

– Improving the skills of customer service agents is not the responsibility of the manager or the supervisor alone – use the ‘buddy’ system to enable a new staff member to settle in quickly. The staff members should be allowed to listen to the recording of their own customer interaction, and score it. Hearing themselves will make it easier for them to understand where they lack and need improvement.

– To promote a sense of fairness and no favoritism, ensure strict adherence to work schedules, time-off, breaks and targets. Ensure buy-in and agreement. This helps in striking a balance and also allows time for activities and training that will serve to improve the skills of customer service staff.
– Training the customer service staff is not sufficient. They need to feel empowered to use the training in the best possible way when serving customers. Cut back on red tape and stringent scripts and allow them the leeway. This in turn serves to improve their skills as customer service staff and frontline employees.

– Encourage healthy competition by having team events that are competitive. The winning team could get a day off or special lunch-treat with the top line person. No one likes to lose and so would work to improve their skills. Show them that in addition, improved skills mean happier customers which equal better profits which would result in better salary increases and benefits for them.

– Another sure shot way to improve the skills of customer service staff is to reward a consistent high performer by making him or her team manager for a day. This means that the manager lets this member do their job for a day. It allows this person to understand the nuances of running the team and the contact center. Depending on the day’s experience this staff member would strive to improve and prove worthy to take on a similar role.

– Have fortnightly meetings where the team leaders can discuss problems, improvement areas and any other troubleshooting problems. This keeps everyone in the loop and managers can work together with the teams more effectively when they understand the problems and actively work towards removing these bottlenecks. When managers work thus, the customer service staff knows and believes that their manager is with them, looking out for them and will back them up. This not only builds team spirit but makes each staff member think about improving their skills to match up.

– Managers must remain approachable and follow an open-door policy. The customer service agents are the ones dealing with the customers directly and would be able to provide some keen insights for improvement and dealing with issues. Managers must be open to listen. Listening to the ideas and implementing the best ones, encourages the staff to improve on their skills and contribute more willingly.

– Providing regular feedback both on the good and not so great aspects of each staff member makes them aware of their performance levels. Give them an opportunity to improve so that little or no salary increases do not come as shocks. This is a great way to improve the skills of customer service staff and staff in general.

– The managers and the managements need to ensure that every staff member is shown respect and the value of their contribution. Remembering special occasions and celebrating them with the team not only makes the staff member happy but makes the whole work environment pleasant and provides an impetus to improvement. Top line management sending a handwritten note on a job well done, works like a charm to improve the skills of staff members.

– Allow high performers to be part of some key decisions involving the team. Staff involvement always ensures that they will work towards its success since they would much rather be praised than get flak for it. As the other average performers see the importance of high performance, they too would strive to get better. Steadily the entire team will be a team of high performers leading to enhanced levels of customer service.

– Companies need to instill customer service in each member of the organization. When everyone is actively involved it makes things easier for the customer service staff to service the customers better. They would get time to improve their skills and would also have reduced stress levels.

– Contact centers can be noisy places. Too much noise appears like chaos and creates confusion in the teams and in the minds of the staff. Investing in noise cancelling equipment and tools must be a priority. Improvement in the skills of customer service staff is also a function of the environment provided to work. A relatively noise free and peaceful work space makes for more relaxed and happier staff who will pass this happiness and calm to their customers. This works great as a morale booster and to increase staff motivation. The converse is also true!

– Investing in wireless technology also works wonders to improve staff performance. Sitting scrunched up at a desk can cause fatigue and this will reflect in the interactions they have with customers especially as the day progresses. Being able to walk around with their hands free, allows them a sense of freedom and they will communicate more fluently and naturally with the customers. The clarity of their thoughts and speech will clearly be reflected to the customers who will find it easier to listen and trust such a person.

– As staff motivation and performance increases, the way they service customers will get better with each passing day. Customers will be able to see a dramatic improvement in service levels thereby increasing customer satisfaction. As customer satisfaction increases it will translate to customer loyalty that benefits everyone in the long run. Better business=increased revenue=better compensation=happier employees=happier customers – and the circle is complete and goes on undisturbed.

Providing superlative levels of customer service is a factor of having the right people for the job. Even if a company starts off without the ‘exact match’ for the job, it is possible to improve the skills of customer service staff through consistent monitoring, coaching and training.

“People remember your actions, not your words” – Shaun Belding

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