Follow any conversation about improving customer service or support and you’re going to quickly hear someone mention employee empowerment. Empower your team to help the customer. Empower your team to satisfy the customer’s needs. It sounds great, but how do you empower your support team?
Here are seven easy and free ways we have empowered our client services team to deliver superior support.
When I came here in 2007, our Client Services department was known as Customer Support. Our people were called Customer Service Technicians and the department head was (wait for it) the Customer Service Manager. I don’t think we could have sounded any more like a call center with those titles.
As I covered in a previous post, these titles were not only boring but they didn’t encompass everything we do. Along with Dyn itself, the Client Services department is constantly evolving, so we now we have titles like Concierge and Ninjas alongside yours truly as Director of Community, Culture & Customers.
These titles make it clear to our clients that we’re not a typical call center; we’re something special. You can expect something different when you contact us for help. Internally, it’s a reminder that we can be counted on to do whatever needs to be done. It also prevents us from thinking “Hey, we’re just support”. Yes, titles matter.
As Dyn grows, we expect people to be flexible and adapt to change. In the 4 years I’ve been here, I’ve had at least seven desks, moving all over the place. Our entire team has moved a number of times as well. Unfortunately, one of these moves was a disaster. When our sales team started, we moved Client Services into one row, seated one in front of the other. I was placed in the engineering section at the desk closest to the Client Services row.
Why was this a disaster? It effectively cut off the ability for the team to easily talk to one another. If you wanted to have a conversation with someone, you had to stand up and walk over to their desk. This is fine if you plan on having a five minute chat, but it becomes irritating if you want to ask a question that just needs a yes or no response.
It also prevented us from being able to hear each other on support calls, so if the person on the call needed help, they would have had to put the customer on hold and get up to go find someone that may or may not be at their desk. You don’t feel very empowered if you need help and have to stand up to see if anyone is around. You feel alone, isolated.
Now we are seated along two rows where we can simply turn our chairs to look at each other. This makes communication much easier and also brings a real team feel to the area. This newest seating arrangement is one of the best decisions we’ve made.
For a customer service professional, one of the biggest complaints is that they don’t feel like their opinion matters. Why should it? Product is in charge of scoping out the requirements for upcoming projects that engineering will be creating and sales will be selling to the customers. Customer service then deals with all the issues.
Thankful, this is not how our process works here. The Ninja you email or call for support is also working with engineering to make sure that the services are easy to understand and use. Other teams actively come to us for our insight, trusting that we know our customers well. Many companies talk about listening to the customer, but if you’re not listening to your customer service team, then you’re not really listening to the customer.
When you’re allowing your customer service team to work with other departments, you’re also encouraging them to grow professionally. The more they are thinking outside of the customer service realm, the more they’re able to see the connections across the company. The result is smarter decisions when they are interacting with customers. It also prevents the “we’re just support” mentality. This is also a good way of spreading a customer-centric attitude throughout the company.
One of our lead developers started in Client Services and wanted to try some small side projects. He amazed the engineering side immediately and quickly worked his way into a new position. Did we lose an awesome Ninja? Yes, but it also means that when he works with his team on enhancing our services, he knows how the customer thinks. Imagine if we had told him “no”.
When I became Customer Service Manager in 2008, I quickly noticed that people would escalate issues to me that were very easy to handle. They could assess and resolve situations themselves if they had access, but they were always waiting on me to make the final call.
If I was in a meeting, this could mean our customers were waiting hours for me to effectively push a button. I’m obsessed with efficiency, so this had to change. Now all of our Ninjas and Concierge have essentially the same access I do, so they are able to help our customers immediately. That was the goal! However, it had a different impact as well.
By giving the team access, we were also giving them something far more important: trust. Once someone has made it past their 90-day probationary period, we essentially give them the keys to the customer kingdom. Think that could be disastrous? Think again.
You’re already trusting people with your most valuable asset when you let them interact with your customers. They have rewarded us for trusting them by coming up with some really great ideas that have improved the experience our customers have with our products and our supports. Trust your team.
No really…trust them.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. Policy doesn’t allow it.” Is there anything worse than hearing that when you’re dealing with customer service? While policies are important, they shouldn’t be more important than your customers. At Dyn, if a customer wants us to do something that our policies don’t allow, our Ninjas and Concierge have free reign to do it so long as they can say yes to the following questions:
1. Is it ethical?
2. Does it make sense for the customer?
3. Does it make sense for the company?
4. Does it fall in line with our current goals as a company?
5. Can you defend it?
If the Ninja or Concierge person can say yes to all five of those questions, they can do it for the customer without prior approval. I only ask that they tell me what they did. Not only does this prove that we trust them, but it also allows them to help the customer immediately. If I think they did too much or too little for the customer, we talk it out and come up with a plan for next time.
This philosophy has been in place for almost two years and we have yet to have someone make a huge mistake. Yes, you can trust your team.
Put the employee first
We all love our customers, but even our people have bad days. If someone is struggling, we will take that person to our lounge to shoot darts or play a quick video game and calm them down. We also do this if someone is having a awesome day. These simple gestures show that we care about each other and the company cares about us as well.
When you know the company and your teammates care that much, you’re going to do what you can to support them as well. That includes “shaking it off” and focusing on delivering awesome customer service.
We’re also flexible when it comes to scheduling. If an emergency comes up for someone, the entire team adjusts to allow that person to take care of their emergency. Scheduled to be on-call on your anniversary? I don’t think so. Even if you goofed and forgot about until the last minute, we’ll make sure you’re taken care of.
Were you up from 2 AM – 4 AM because you got paged by a customer and you’re going to be a zombie for your 8 AM shift? Come in late, but just make sure you email ahead of time. As long as you put in your hours, it’s ok. I’d rather have someone alert and able to provide awesome customer service over a zombie going through the motions.
What are some other free an easy ways you can think to empower your customer service team to deliver high quality customer service? We’d love to hear them!