Good Customer Support Skills Stay with Workers for a Lifetime
In a perfect world, companies would treat their most valued resource – their customers – with nothing short of worship. They would permit only their most skilled and seasoned employees to interface with customers, and they would tailor their support processes around customers’ wants and needs, no matter how expensive the endeavor.
Alas, we don’t live in a perfect world. Working on the front lines of customer support is a stressful job, and most people who do it hope to get out of it someday. In addition, giving customers whatever they want whenever they want will quickly erode profit margins, and leave the business exposed to high costs they can’t possibly sustain. For these reasons, the customer support function is often staffed by workers relatively low on the totem pole, according to a recent article by Bruce Tulgan of RainmakerThinking Inc. writing for QSR magazine.
“Less experienced workers are disproportionately represented in frontline service roles because these roles are often the lower-tier positions,” he wrote. “In fact, most organizations seeking to scale their operations in any significant way tend to put a young (and therefore relatively inexpensive) workforce out front.”
The alternative to staffing customer support centers with expensive high-level workers is to ensure that the relatively inexperienced customer support workers that do take customer calls are properly managed, trained and scheduled. Harried workers with too much on their plate will never learn the kind of hard skills and soft skills that they need to succeed.
One of the best ways to help younger, less experienced workers do the job to the company’s standards is by helping them connect with their coworkers and their customers. The customer on the other end of the phone isn’t a transaction; it’s a real person having a problem…just like everyone does sometimes. By learning to help the customer as conveniently and thoroughly as possible, younger contact center agents can gain skills that will last them throughout their careers, even if those careers take them outside the contact center.
“Teach younger Millennials and inexperienced workers that every single customer-service interaction is an opportunity to practice and fine-tune this valuable skill,” wrote Tulgan. “Remind them that every customer has his or her own sphere of influence and authority. Every customer is worth impressing. Impressive people are impressed by those are themselves positive, motivated, polite, focused on the task at hand, and willing to go the extra mile.”
The skills learned in the contact center will translate to other job functions, including time management and managing customer (or coworker) expectations. Tulgan suggests that these two factors are among the most critical for success, both in lower-tier customer service jobs and in all other jobs across the company.
“When it comes to saying words out loud to customers, don’t guess, don’t hope, and don’t exaggerate,” he wrote. “That means if it’s going to be 10 minutes, employees should not say it will only be a ‘couple of minutes.’ Rather, they should say it will be at least 10 minutes. Sometimes the best thing to say is, ‘I don’t know. Let me find out for you.’”
Managers who are supported by good workforce management solutions, including call center scheduling tools, will be better able to help younger workers manage their time, manage their calls and manage customer expectations, so contact centers can offer the best possible experience without endangering the bottom line.
Edited by Alicia Young