4 Tips to Motivate your Customer Service Team

Motivation is a crucial element for the performance of any workforce, but especially for employees working in customer service. Since customer service is the product of human interaction, a positive service experience can never result when one side is unmotivated. Yet how often do we see people in service jobs that look like they want to be somewhere else and couldn't care less about whether you receive a good experience or not?

Of course these service jobs can be difficult and exhausting. Therefore it is the manager's responsibility to make sure the customer service team stays motivated. So what are the best tips to keep up the morale?

#1: Trust Your Staff

The way that we do business has changed in recent years, placing more emphasis on both employees and customers. To a large extent technology has enabled this – we now see more ‘social’ company intranets on which an employee is capable of much more in-depth communication and collaboration. The latter is proven to increase productivity and social tools on the company intranet mean that internal staff can easily find information and people.

In the past a company intranet was really just a simple repository for sharing files and documents. Generally, in this kind of set up, the company executives would be the only ones with access to certain business processes and, more importantly, knowledge generated by employees. This meant that knowledge, rather than being an spread throughout the business was filtered slowly down from the top and wasn’t really being used effectively by employees.

The modern intranet is a completely different animal and one that as well as social aspects and shared workspaces, is possible to connect to from any location with an internet connection. The rise of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) schemes has meant that many more staff members now work remotely, using their own equipment. This is of course ideal for field staff and for enabling more flexible working plans.

At the crux of this is trust. A company that doesn’t trust its employees to carry out their jobs without constant supervision is one that will have an overall lack of morale in the workplace. The lines between work and home are now more blurred than they’ve ever been, which makes it necessary to allow employees a certain amount of initiative as to how and when they carry out their work.

An employee who doesn’t feel trusted will not have any expectations that they will receive any praise for the work they put in. This means that they will not in turn work to the best of their ability. A social intranet can help with this as it means that staff can generate content themselves, which can help them and others to do their job properly. Activities as simple as blogging can really make staff feel that they are more valued.

Managers can also help to make staff feel trusted by:

  • Always talking to them with respect, no matter what position they occupy
  • Allowing flexible working
  • Praising for work carried out well
  • Using a bonus system to allow staff to feel that they have something extra to work towards and introduce an element of competitiveness
  • Hold regular team meetings so that staff have a chance to voice their ideas, doubts, etc.

Trusting employees and more importantly, ensuring that they understand they are trusted is all about fostering a healthy company culture that’s more people centric. As discussed, a good modern intranet setup can help with this, as can ongoing training and development. Employees who are happy in their work will always outperform those that aren’t, so ideally, you want all of them to feel that they enjoy coming to work and that they are valued and trusted. This will ensure that employees are happier, feel that they have a voice within the company and essentially, will improve productivity, morale and ultimately, profits.

#2: Training and Development

Initial training is of course vital when an employee joins a company, but often they have induction training which may last a couple of weeks and then nothing more. Offering ongoing training to your frontline employees shows them that you are willing to invest in them and allow them to develop further professionally.

This brings expectancy theory into the equation, which states that the amount of work that an employee puts in is determined by what they expect in return. Ongoing training can offer the chance to move up the company ladder, as well as reinforce and increase knowledge within the company.

Depending on the size of your business, training is something that can be enabled on the intranet using an e-learning system and LMS (Learning Management System). These are very powerful these days and workers can learn whilst at work, home, or even on the commute to and from work. E-learning courses can be purchased off-the-shelf, or they can be tailor-made to suit the company’s needs. They can generally be accessed on any device and many don’t even require an internet connection in order to work.

Gamification elements are also often used in modern courses and these introduce gaming elements into the learning environment which in turn help to hold the learner’s attention and retain information. These can be simple badges, or a scoreboard which can be used with other employees taking the same course and introduce competitiveness into the learning. This gives employees something to aim for and enables better, more collaborative learning.

Again, training ensures that the employee feels happy, trusted and that their job offers them further prospects, which again increases morale and productivity.

#3: Properly Manage Your Team

A good manager is key to a happy and productive workplace. Of course, depending on the size of your business it’s likely that you have more than one manager in place and a supervisor for each team. For all of those in some kind of supervisory role, it’s important that they convey the sense of trust mentioned earlier, as well as motivate their team. In order to do this, a vital ingredient is the proper management and balance of the staff’s workload. If too much is demanded of employees then they will eventually burn out and in the time before they do, they won’t be performing to the best of their ability.

Staff should be encouraged to take proper breaks, especially when it comes to lunch. Aside from the health risks associated with the sedentary lifestyle (sitting in one place for hours at a time every day) that customer service reps tend to have at work, not taking proper lunch can adversely affect concentration and productivity.

It’s though that one in five office workers eat lunch at their desk and yet just a 15-20 minute break sustains concentration and energy levels throughout the afternoon when staff might otherwise be flagging.

Employees should have the freedom to take regular breaks from their desks for both health and work reasons. With this in mind, managers should plan shifts in advance, accounting for sickness or any other reason that an employee might not come into work as well as breaks. This means that employees will always be refreshed enough to do their jobs properly.

#4: Give the Right Tools

Employees can only do a job to the best of their ability and the depending on the quality of tools that are available to them. These days, as mentioned earlier, a good social intranet, CRM and CMS can all help to make workers more motivated and productive. For call center staff, management should consider implementing a modern unified communications system which can collate all customer contact across various platforms such as IM, email, social media and telephone and manage them all from one console.

This kind of technology enables the staff to do the job well, reduces customer frustrations and therefore complaint and in turn, further motivates staff to reach targets and importantly, help the customer to the very best of their ability. As customer service staff are really on the frontline and likely to be the ones who receive complaints and abuse, giving them the tools and the trust to deal fully with a customer issue helps to keep morale up.

A familiar scenario which many consumers will recognize is one in which the customer is pushed from one department to another as the representative doesn’t have the authority to deal with the customer question or complaint. This is clearly flawed as it does nothing more than create conflict and ensure that the customer service rep takes the brunt of the customer’s frustration. By implementing the right tools, this can be avoided and the rep can feel the satisfaction of having resolved a customer issue fully.

When it comes to motivating employees who are traditionally at the lower end of the pay and benefits scale it all comes down to how much you value people. Staff who believe themselves to be valued, that have a voice within the company, the tools and time to carry out their job properly and who feel happy and trusted will give a company the best work that they can.

It’s up to managers to ensure that morale remains high and that means treating employees well and with respect, no matter who they are, where they come from, etc. Get it right and your staff will reward you by giving you their all which in turn leads to a better company culture, a more productive workforce, a competitive edge and increased profitability.