The importance of great customer service to the bottom line of most businesses cannot be overstated. All businesses need to keep their customers happy in order to thrive. Customer service teams act as the first point of contact between customers and your company; it’s critical to recognize the significance of these workers and acknowledge their contributions.
Nevertheless, all too often customer service workers are among the lowest paid employees in any company. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a high turnover rate in these kinds of jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January 2016, service workers had the fewest median years of tenure—2.9 years—out of all of the occupational categories studied. The median for management workers was 5.1 years.
However, for some people, working in customer support is rewarding despite these barriers, because it allows them to make a difference. Chris McCraw, the head of customer support at Netlify, a San Francisco–based web solutions company, is one such individual. He has built a career in customer support in the tech industry. “Motivating a customer service team isn’t rocket science—we want the same things as your other knowledge workers: respect and autonomy,” McCraw says. “The support team is a valuable source of insights about your customers, and is excited to be able to share that knowledge and effect positive changes not just for customers but within the organization at large.”
McCraw and other experts agree on these three basic rules for building your best customer service team:
1. Hire people who care about helping people.
Influential and committed customer service workers should have an empathic nature and a positive attitude. In other words, caring about other people is the foundation to providing great customer service.
But you don’t have to start from scratch and hire all new people to have a fantastic customer service team: you can foster these qualities in your current employees. Do this by helping them connect the work they do with the concepts of problem-solving and helping others. Customer service workers who can align their values of caring and helping with the work of providing solutions for customers will earn a greater sense of satisfaction—and both their customers and their company will reap the benefits.
2. Provide resources and opportunities for growth and learning.
Providing competitive benefits and opportunities for growth are great ways to support your customer service team and keep them invested. It’s crucial that workers have access to the tools and resources they need to learn and grow. For example, consider building a library of on-topic business books or technical manuals for your employees—and encourage them to take an hour per week to read them. Another win-win strategy is offering employees reimbursement for professional development that can be used to attend classes, events, or conferences. Are these kinds of resources working for your staff? Send out occasional surveys to make sure—and find out what other kinds of resources would be meaningful for them.
3. Maintain a culture of respect.
Maintaining morale and cultivating a positive work environment are key components to keeping your organization’s support team running smoothly. Respect is critical to both.
Everyone wants to be heard, so one of the most powerful ways to show respect is just to listen. Workers will be grateful to have a chance to make suggestions for improvement and to be heard.
Find authentic opportunities to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments, perhaps by incentivizing performance (e.g., giving out monthly awards or gift cards for performance or attendance goals). Try hosting quarterly social events to increase morale and team bonding.
The success of a business rests in large part on the shoulders of its customer service department: ensure that your organization values these key team players for doing such important work by creating a great workplace. You’ll find that a respected and inspired support team will experience higher job satisfaction, and will provide the best solutions to your customer base in return.
Rhienna Renée Guedry is a Louisiana-born Portland, OR, transplant best known for her writing, illustration, and curation of the best Halloween parties this side of the Mississippi.