Voiance recently hosted a webinar with author and customer service advocate Jeff Toister. He shared information found in his recent book, The Service Culture Handbook, on how contact center leaders can get their agents obsessed with service.
If you missed this live event, you can view the full webinar here:
Participants in the webinar submitted more questions than Jeff could address in the time allotted, so he was kind enough to answer them for us here:
Q: What options do you suggest to use to get agents excited about delivering the vision?
We talked extensively in the webinar about the importance of creating a customer service vision, which is a shared definition of outstanding customer service.
Agents get excited about the vision when three things happen. First, they get to help create it, which instills a sense of ownership. A customer service vision should not just be something that's handed down by management. (Here's my step-by-step guide to writing a powerful vision statement.)
Second, the vision must be authentic. It should be simple and easily understood, be customer-focused, and reflect the type of service we're already providing when things are going really well.
Finally, leaders need to be vision champions. It's pretty difficult to get agents excited if you aren't! Leaders must live the vision themselves and clearly use the vision as a guide when making decisions. Above all, leaders must continuously talk about the vision so agents understand its importance.
Q: When you have processes and procedures changing continuously, are there any recommendations to keeping the agents focused on the vision?
The simplest solution is to use the vision as a guide whenever a process or procedure needs to change!
Agents are more likely to accept a new process or procedure if they understand how it fits within the vision. Customer-focused teams will often re-write or remove policies or procedures that create a conflict with the vision.
It's also important to make it easy for agents to keep up. You can't just send one email and then expect agents to incorporate the new thing in their daily work. Involve them in establishing a new process or writing a new policy, get their feedback on how it's being implemented, and listen carefully to their concerns when something isn't working.
Q: Do you have any tips for staff who answer calls from individuals who are under stress and many of whom have a mental disability?
I'm not an expert in handling the types of situations you're describing, but generally speaking, difficult conversations work best when an agent is able to position themselves as an empathetic partner rather than an obstacle. Try using the Partner Technique where agents take extra time to listen and then use words such as "We" and "Let's" to invite a collaborative approach.
This is a tough challenge because frankly, not everyone is cut out for working with individuals who are experiencing extreme stress or have a mental disability.
I'd start by defining a clear customer service vision that focuses on the unique needs of the people you serve. Next, make sure you hire staff who can embrace and embody that vision. You want people who are passionate about helping the people they talk to. Finally, consider setting up a quiet room where your agents can take a break and mentally recharge, particularly after finishing a very difficult call.
Q: How do you help tenured agents that have lost or are losing their obsession with customer service or our vision?
The contact center isn't a career for everyone, so my first question is whether this is a long-term fit for the agent. If not, it's best to help that person reignite their passion in another role, preferably somewhere else in your company if they are a good employee.
It's also easy for people to get burned out in any job, even if it's a job they generally feel good about. If that's the case, I'd find ways to make the old new again. See if your experienced agents want to take on extra projects, such as helping to train a new hire or updating your knowledge base.
Keeping the customer service vision fresh is a challenge for all agents, not just tenured ones. A great way to do this is involve all agents in solving problems that plague customers. The vision remains the same, but each problem is unique. It's amazingly energizing to know that you're able to make a difference!
Now that you’ve read what Jeff has to say about engaging and empowering agents, learn how a comprehensive multilingual support program can help: