How to Get Customer Service Employees to Care About Customers

March 21, 2016

Contributor: Susan Moore

High levels of employee engagement contribute to higher levels of customer service.

Companies like The Ritz-Carlton Hotels, Zappos and Singapore Airlines all have one thing in common – they’re famous for their customer service and, in particular, friendly employees. These employees are empowered to go the extra mile to deliver a "wow" customer experience. They’re proud of their work and company, and they care about customers.

Unfortunately, few companies are like this. Many executives think their customer service employees care about customers. But in all organizations, some don't, and in most organizations, many don't.

Olive Huang, research director at Gartner, says that while many customer service organizations agree in principle with the importance of employee engagement, they fail to build the link between employee engagement and the customer experience delivered.

“They need the right people, organizational and technology strategies to motivate their customer service employees to perform at their highest level,” said Ms. Huang.

This is critically important as digital business drives a much more complex customer service environment than before – higher volumes of interactions from an increased number of channels and touchpoints, a greater need for speed and a higher customer expectation of friendly service.

Many achieve significant improvements through technology, enabling them to gain better customer insights, personalize products and service offers, and improve customer service efficiency. They find it difficult, however, to implement effective measures to improve employee engagement levels, which leads to better customer service.

Empowering employees

Many aspects impact employee engagement levels, but sense of belonging (wanting to be part of something bigger than they are) and sense of ownership (feeling they can co-create/co-own jobs and make decisions) are two areas many organisations miss.

“Very few achieve this highest level of maturity in employee engagement, but if they do, it enables employees to do the right thing without being asked,” said Ms. Huang. “Employees are empowered to take action and innovate, and there’s a high degree of trust between employees and the organization.”

Achieving a high-trust culture isn’t easy. A culture of delivering excellent customer experience must be fundamental to the company — backed with the freedom to step outside a standard process on behalf of customers; financial and time resources to make things happen when necessary; and confidence that management will back employees when they do.

Happy employees = happy customers

Employees with higher levels of engagement care more about customers. It’s not surprising, then, that many organizations have discovered that employee engagement scores correlate strongly with customer satisfaction scores.

When employees are engaged, organizations enjoy higher productivity, improve retention and reduce absenteeism.

“ Engaged employees provide better customer service and brand advocacy.”

They’re passionate about their work and willing to go the extra mile to help customers. The same attitude makes them better team players. They’re more willing to collaborate and coach and, as a consequence, they help the organization to be more customer-centric.

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