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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why Empowering Your Customer Support Staff Is a Win-Win


If you think about the most frustrating customer service experiences, they often involve a representative who claim they can’t do anything to solve your problem and must contact their supervisor for help, they refuse to admit there is a problem, or accept responsibility for your issue. These situations happen all too often and can easily be remedied by empowering your customer service staff to offer incentives, admit mistakes, and simply admit they're human.

Customer service representatives need to be able to fix problems right away so the customer leaves happy. If every little issue requires escalation to a higher-up in order to resolve it, you are going to find your customers are frustrated and feeling unappreciated. I recently experienced something like this when I had a problem with a large video rental company. They sent me a disc that was scratched and completely unwatchable. I sent it back and emailed them my issue with the disc. I got a response within an hour and instead of just thanking me for a heads up, they went ahead and sent me another disc from my queue. When you look at the situation, what they did was a small thing, but they kept me from waiting for my next disc since the one I received was unwatchable. It made me happy and I didn’t give the bad disc a second thought. What this highlights is empowering your customer support staff to make these kinds of decisions, especially with loyal customers, keeps customers from being tempted to look into the competition.

When a customer calls a company with an issue, they want to be treated with respect and feel like their problem is being acknowledged and taken seriously. This can be impossible to do with a script or a policy of not admitting mistakes. Nothing is more frustrating than calling with a problem and having a person apologize without actually admitting a mistake. If a customer calls because their product is no longer functioning, the last thing they want to hear is: “I’m so sorry you feel that way.” Empower your employees to own up to mistakes or issues. There is nothing wrong with apologizing to a customer, and in fact, it makes them feel validated. Also, by allowing your employees to admit to mistakes, you are making them more human to the people on the other end of the phone. People are already frustrated that many companies outsource their support to other countries or even computer systems. Getting a hold of a real human being can be a big deal, and letting your employees be themselves and bring some humanity to customer service is a smart thing to do. Nothing can diffuse a situation like staff agreeing that there is an issue and talking to the customer like the person they are and letting them express their frustrations to a sympathetic ear.

It may seem simple, but remember you are putting your trust in your customer support team to do what’s best for your company and you'll want to make sure you support them as well. Get the team's input when making decisions on how to better empower them. This will encourage more communication and possibly turn up some issues you never knew existed. By doing so, you’ll make your employees happier which in turn will make your customers happier. Everybody wins when you empower your customer support team.


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