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4 best practices to empower customer care agents

 

Trusting employees usually leads to contentment and investment.

Trusting employees usually leads to contentment and investment.

Companies can’t constantly look over care agents’ shoulders, give them strict rules for decorum and hold their hands through procedures and expect the workforce to take initiative and do anything other than provide lip service.

If you want care agents to act like representatives for a unique brand, rather than a faceless organization, they need to provide personalized service and make decisions based on each engagement. It’s better if agents internalize a company’s values and standards. Here are four ways you can give employees freedom while still providing consistent care for consumers:

1. Start from scratch
Instead of listing an endless set of rules employees must follow, your organization should demonstrate what it expects through actions, not words. If you want care agents to be open and honest: Keep lines of communication open. Does your care center need positivity? Greet job applicants with a smile. What you expect from workers should be obvious from the second they enter an office for an interview.

“What you expect from workers should be obvious.”

Shep Hyken’s Customer Service Blog suggested hiring people based on how well they fit into your culture. This way, you don’t have to force people to change, and employees don’t start their careers adjusting their behavior. You should also communicate your plans for worker empowerment and your expectations for them to take charge of their careers.

2. Provide them with solutions
Forbes said every company should have standards for care that are obvious and reinforced throughout the organization. Employees should know what you expect from them and you have to give them the information they need in a convenient source. Many businesses use customer relationship management software solutions so care agents have access to data and direct communication with supervisors. It puts the power of information in their hands and at their discretion.

CRM solutions can make necessary procedures easier to accomplish through a streamlined data system. Companies also have to prevent agents from wasting their time on activities that are less fundamental to business success. In some situations, you may want to outsource back office solutions so care agents spend their hours using particular skills and making important decisions.

3. Take their side
No matter how good somebody is at his or her job, there will always be problems. Nothing operates at at 100 percent all of the time, and when you’re working with consumers there are any number of variables that could take people by surprise. When issues do occur, it’s important managers don’t side with customers against care agents.

Yes, you should do what is necessary to provide consumers with satisfactory resolutions, but if you give workers autonomy and responsibility for their choices, you have to show them support. You have to choose your words carefully. Try to avoid saying either side of the interaction was wrong. Consumers and employees may be mistaken, but it’s more important to discover root causes, so future initiatives start from a stronger position.

4. Coaching not correcting
When an agent’s decision leads to an unhappy customer, deal with the issue and then instantly work with the employee to discover what happened. It should be a team effort as opposed to an accusation. Managers, coaches or outside consultants should work side-by-side with frontline employees to see exactly what they go through and the conditions that lead to certain decisions.

During the initial hiring process, a potential employee should communicate his or her goals. When incidents occur or further training is necessary, coaching can begin by referencing these goals. Any advice or insight should help workers obtain the objectives they themselves described so they recognize the value of coaching.

When presented in the right light, the time and resources invested in a care agent’s career should appear to provide an employee with power instead of limitations.

 

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