It is not easy to handle customers day to day. Customers expect those handling their issues to be cheerful, empathetic and helpful at each interaction. When they are not or an issue arises, I see comments online along the lines of “That’s your job!” or “No one told you to do that job!” While sometimes warranted, we tend to not put ourselves in the shoes of those serving us. Customer Support staff face a myriad of problems and despite those, most still strive to serve their customers as best as possible. Most CSRs will be quick to tell you some of the problems they face. Some of the biggest I’ve found are:
They feel they aren’t part of the Organization
Customer Support is often looked over in large companies. They face budget cuts and staff cuts before other departments. Information is not passed down quickly enough. Due to their need to interact with customers 24–7, customer support miss out on company events and incentives that others benefit from. As a result, the customer service team can end up becoming a demotivated, disenfranchised bunch. This can rub off on your customers. It’s important companies take care of their Customer Support staff and make them feel included as often as possible.
The company, Zappos, do Customer Support really well. Customer Support is part of their culture. All staff hires are required to train in Customer Service and handle customer calls for the first couple weeks of work. They work relentlessly to ensure that their Customer Support team is included and well taken care of.
They lack Autonomy
Speaking from experience, nothing made me satisfied at my job than resolving a customer issue on my own. It’s not that we don’t want to resolve your issue, it’s often we don’t have the autonomy to. A big problem is that staff is not empowered to resolve customer issues, often left to hide behind policies that do not apply to all customers. Lack of autonomy brings increased frustration and decreased responsibility. These problems rub off on customers. How can we fix this? Companies have to be willing and flexible to provide their team members with autonomy. A great example of this is The Ritz Carlton Hotel. Employees can spend up to $2000 a day to resolve a customer issue, without management authorization. Derek Sivers from CD Baby also gave his staff great autonomy to resolve customer issues without his input.
They lack Support
Supporting another’s success won’t ever dampen yours.
One of the biggest problems customer-facing staff is a lack of support. Specifically from their supervisory and management teams. Employees crave support and coaching through their jobs. When they feel supported, they have the confidence to make decisions on their own and resolve issues faster and more detailed. They have the support of supervisors to step in and help when times get tough. They have the support of managers to implement changes that they need to be better at their jobs. The job becomes easier and they also know the culture that is accepted and encouraged.
Do you feel supported by your manager? Does feel your company foster an environment of learning and growth? You should have deep, transparent conversations with your manager on how you can be supported more.
They lack Training
A big problem continues to be training. Most companies make customer support training a one and done scenario. As a result, customers may feel like the company is incompetent or unable to resolve new or complex issues that they may face with their product or service.
According to a survey by Harris Interactive, customer service agents failed to answer their questions 50% of the time. Could this be due to a lack of training?
CSRs want to be trained. Training means that they can effectively do their job as technology and policies change. Training means their employer invests in them. Training employees should not be a zero-sum game. The more you invest in training employees should not mean less for the company. There’s much to gain in continuous training. Investing in continuous training means higher employee engagement, satisfaction, increased customer satisfaction and increased revenues.
There’s only one thing worse than training employees and losing them, and that’s not training them and keeping them — Zig Ziglar
It’s just too much
Sometimes it’s just overwhelming to deal with the sheer volume of customer requests. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence, IVR Self Service and Chatbots, support staff isstill swamped. With the exponential increase of information and numerous ways products and services can be used together, your customer support team not only get more queries but more complex queries as well. As a result, areas, where there are skill gaps, are not resolved as quickly as customers expect. Areas that require extensive care and troubleshooting are not handled in the manner needed as other customers come through the pipeline. This growing problem can be resolved with continuous training, opportunities for work-life balance and investment by companies to reduce the effort customers take to resolve issues.
The companies that serve best are those that try to eliminate these problems for the Customer Support Teams. Though many may say problems the company face are not excuses for poor customer service, they are certainly one of the causes. Spending more time communicating with staff, finding their root causes and consistently resolving them makes for excellent customer service.