Your customer service reps are the face of your company.
"Quick! Look Busy."
In a shuffle of papers, feet come off desks. Windows of cat videos blink off and spreadsheets reappear. The CEO strides in and no one looks up because everyone is "busy."
But looking busy and being productive are two different things.
We've all seen it: A corporate office that requires its employees to sit at a desk from eight to five busy as if the fate of the world depended on completing their checklist.
Alongside millions of Americans, I used to live in the corporate world, full of high heels and neckties, emails and important documents. Sitting at my desk, typing a mile a minute and never missing a phone call. On the days I had stacks of cases to file, everything ran like a well-oiled machine.
I was a well-trained employee. Eager and excited, I'd arrived at eight. I'd exert my energy into doing an excellent job of my work, finishing way before other, more seasoned co-workers. By nine o'clock, my stack of filing would be completed. My calendar updated. My emails checked. And I'd sit there, waiting for the phone to ring, disappointed when it didn't.
I had nothing to do. But I had to look busy. So, instead of using my creative ability to improve business production, I found myself forced to come up with ways to make my meager stack of work stretch throughout the day.
For a short while, I let my life drip away minute by unproductive minute in an exchange for a salary. Disengaged. Bored. And restless.
This resentful trend in work environment is expressed throughout our culture. "TGIF." "Hump day." "It's Monday." That is an awful lot of brainpower to be wasting. And nowhere is the lack of interest reflected more clearly than in your customer service department.
Related Article: How a Good Work Atmosphere Leads to More Success
Now as a business owner fully invested in the success of my company, I don't want my employees sitting at their desks counting the seconds until five. I want them there – in the office, in the store on the other end of the phone – not only physically but mentally and creatively. I want each hour on the clock worth my money and worth their time.
This is especially true when it comes to my customer service representatives. They are the face of my company. The link between me and my customers. The face, the voice, the tone my clients will remember.
The Four R's of how to engage your employees
I want to activate my employees, especially my reps, to reach their full potential rather than filling cubicles and cash registers.
By activating my reps, I not only engage them, I engage my customers through them. Just as negative environments cultivate negative experiences, positive environments cultivate positive experiences. And positive experiences are the number one influencer to success when it comes to marketing.
You set the tone. You are the leader, foraging ahead to your vision. If you look around your workplace and see vacant eyes and half-hearted smiles, there is good news: You can change it.
1. Redefine your customers' experience
Somewhere between your grand vision and your bad review yesterday, things might have come unfocused. Or maybe you just inherited a business and dove in headfirst without defining your brand at all.
Get out notebook and pencil. Review your brand. Especially as it appears to your customer. Does it still align with your mission? Is it welcoming? Abrasive? What differentiates you from your competitor? Would your clients refer you to a friend?
It may seem a little late in the game, especially if you have a number of people on your payroll, but a clear vision is essential to creating trust. Both your employees and your customers.
Your reps need to know what they are representing. How are they serving? Your customers need to know what they are buying.
What do you want people to take away from your shop or website? Not just in product but in experience? What do you want your work environment to convey? What kind of office do you want to come to every day?
Redefine your vision. Define everything. Not just the logo. Brand the feel, the texture, the experience of your business.
Eliminate confusion. Make your product, your service, your brand so undeniable that there are few to no questions to be asked. This will save time. For you. For your employees. For your customers.
Related Article: What's Your Story: Staying True to Your Company's Vision
2. Reduce the clutter
A gardener will tell you that a bountiful harvest is determined by the precision of pruning. It is essential to pick and choose what grows. There are only so many nutrients in the ground. Some carrots must be plucked so others can grow bigger. Some branches must be snipped so that all the resources can go to exactly where the gardener wants a crop.
The same is true with business. There are only so many hours in the workday. With all the things on your plate, it is easy to prioritize the wrong things. Ensure that top priorities stay on the top by simplifying everything. List your goals. Start with the most important and go down to the least. Define your brand in its bare minimum.
If there was only one product your business offered, one service, what would it be? It might seem a little confining, but it is necessary for the next step.
Related Article: 5 Ways to Promote Simplicity and Boost Efficiency
3. Replicate your own qualities in your customer service reps
What do you need when your business grows? More You: More of your brand. More reps portraying the true face of your service. You need to create a training system through which you can replicate the customer service you provide in exactly the way you provide it.
Simplifying your mission and your vision through your brand is essential to your business's growth, because it is necessary to impart your vision to someone else. Quickly.
In many cases, you will not have years to train your interns to do everything the way you want them to. And even if you did, wouldn't it benefit you to have fully trained employees sooner rather than later?
Simplifying your brand in its smallest unit will make transferring the brand to a rep faster. It cuts down communication time. And the more time you save, the more time you'll have, both for you and for your rep. You can create video tutorials, checklists, or spreadsheets with your simplified vision. These are transferable, eliminating the time of personal training and creating continuity throughout your company.
Related Article: 5 Customer Service Skills Every Employee Should Have
4. Reward excellent customer service
As a company, the shining reviews good customer service generates is reward enough.
But for your employees, you can give even more incentives. After defining your brand's standard of service and simplifying your vision down to its foundational elements. After replicating your own quality of excellence through a clearly communicated training system. You are now on the same page with the members of your team, operating in an efficient work environment free of confusion and misguided use of company time.
And now to amp up your game. Success is motivated by clearly defined, specific goals. Excellence, greatness, standing out in the crowd is spurred on by … you got it. Rewards.
Motivating reps with incentives awakens creativity and incites them to go above and beyond. Even if it is the freedom to read a book when they are finished with their work. Or maybe leave work an hour early. A plaque on the wall. A medal for a fitness challenge within the office. Incentives, even as small as a free shirt, have proved highly successful in boosting energy levels and increasing focus.
Because they don't have to work … they get to stand out.
Make room for growth.
Like the gardener, be ready with the pruners. Inspire fruitfulness at the office. Watch for the talent in your team. Watch for potential proteges.
Cast a clear vision and invite creative contributions. Break down the barriers of the pressure to look the part. Build an engaged and genuine customer service team by redefining, reducing, replicating and rewarding.