I have found that people who love what they do have a certain energy and enthusiasm about them. Their attitudes are contagious, and for obvious reasons, they are simply more enjoyable to be around.
One of the key characteristics of a good customer service representative is enthusiasm, and you would expect that companies who view quality customer service as a priority would hire only those individuals who project natural enthusiasm. But as the labour market tightens, many companies are finding it difficult to hire employees who have all the characteristics they need.
In many cases now, they simply take whatever they can get and hope that through training and on-the-job coaching they can fill in the gaps.
Can you really train someone to be more enthusiastic?
The good news is that customer service managers can affect the level of motivation and enthusiasm of their staff. The bad news is that few of them are actually doing it.
A recent survey of customer service employees produced the following results:
• 72 per cent of customer service employees indicated their direct supervisor either had no motivating influence (46 per cent) on them or was in fact a negative motivating influence (26 per cent);
• 65 per cent of customer service employees indicated that their direct supervisor had little or no enthusiasm for his or her own job.
These findings are particularly troubling, because when it comes to motivating your customer service staff the first place to look is within yourself. Successful customer service managers have qualities and skills that create enthusiasm in their employees.
Here are several ideas to help you develop more enthusiasm and motivation in your customer service staff:
• Share your vision. Look beyond today’s and tomorrow’s challenges and see the big picture in strategic terms. Then share your vision with your team that everyone can see.
It’s always exciting and invigorating to hear someone who really believes in something and how we fit into that picture.
• Manage with integrity. Live by your word, and manage by example. Always project the enthusiasm you expect in others, know your goals and live by them, and help your people do the same.
And, when you fall short, admit it and move on. People respect and appreciate honesty. Quality relationships with employees can take years to develop and minutes to ruin, all based on our integrity.
• Practise empowerment. Let your customer service team know that you want them to grow. Give recognition when it’s deserved, and if you have to give criticism, make it constructive. Using a positive style of management to encourage improvement is much more motivating and empowering, and you will increase the odds of the other person listening to what you are saying.
While employees expect their requests to management will be addressed in a timely and proper fashion, managers can go the extra mile by giving a fast response to employee concerns and offer additional help.
• Build on your competency. Know more about your field, products, and services in your business than those who work for you. Share this knowledge with your staff. Encourage your staff to have the same enthusiasm for knowledge that will help them on the job.
Constantly work to improve your own knowledge, then bring the best ideas back to your staff. Find non-threatening ways to quiz your staff on product or service knowledge.
• Listen with your ears and eyes. Part of your job is to be a counsellor, to listen without prejudice, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to understand why they did or said something.
Being a great listener is one of the highest compliments you can give another person, because it says, “I care about what you’re communicating, and it’s significant to me.”
• Set high standards. These are for you and your customer service staff. Quality control works for the good of everyone involved.
Be a stickler for perfection, while acknowledging human limitations.
Start by showing how you achieve high standards. Lead by example and go that extra mile all the time. And when you and your staff reach those standards, it’s time to set new goals.
• Be solution oriented. Let your customer service staff know that you’re there to be a coach, leader and teacher.
Encourage them to come to you with possible solutions for problems they are having.
This encourages them to think on their own and to become creative problem solvers.
People take pride and become self-motivated when they can tell a supervisor how their initiative solved a problem.
When you do the above, you can expect your staff to treat customers with greater respect because that’s the way they are being treated. You will find them listening to customer requests more carefully and, most importantly, you will see how employees will better handle interpersonal communications with customers.
In other words, you treat every customer service employee as your customer, and train them to follow your example.
ActionCoach is written by John MacKenzie of ActionCoach, which helps small- to medium-sized businesses and other organizations. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 403-340-0880.