Cumbersome approval processes make delivering great customer experiences an uphill task. When front line service reps are not empowered to resolve customer complaints, it results in longer processing time, impatient customers and frustrated employees who have to manage the customer. The longer it takes for the request to resolved, the poorer the experience becomes.
Empowering your customer service team happens to be a win-win for everyone;
- The employee is more engaged as he/she is empowered to take decisions that help in solving their customers’ problems. This makes the employees feel like they are contributing significantly to the organizations success
- The customer is more satisfied as their problems are now resolved in less time by employees who are competent, empowered and eager to help
- The organization reaps the rewards of having both satisfied customers and engaged employees
- Supervisors have more time to focus on other tasks, hence an improved overall productivity.
Sadly, despite these benefits, few companies have taken the bold step to empower their customer service teams. Most companies require that the service rep, gets an approval from his supervisor, before he/she is authorized to execute the task at hand.
Sometimes the supervisors might not be readily available to give an immediate/real-time response, and precious minutes are wasted as a result. I discovered that most times, front-line service reps are not empowered because of one (or more) of the following;
- Leadership doubts their ability to make decisions that would be in the best interest of the organization
- They have not earned enough trust to be empowered with taking certain decisions
- Leadership fears front-line employees might make costly mistakes in taking decisions
#1. Give A Clear Direction
Your customer service team should be in tune with the customer service vision of the organization. The customer service vision is what every employee in an organization, regardless of their department, or level is expected to deliver to all customers every time.
It is important to note that a customer service vision is different from a company’s mission or purpose statements.
Your employees should be able to read the vision, know what it means. Figure out what they can do for the customers, this can only happen with…
Train and re-train your Front-line service teams on what your customer service vision is all about, what policies are in-place and why. This is important because employees who understand why customer policies are in place, and agree with the goal of these policies, are poised to be the brand ambassadors who can deliver exceptional customer service.
You can bet that when they are empowered with more knowledge, they would better understand what the organization wants to achieve, and the implications of any decisions they might be making.
#3. Build Their Confidence
Do not micro-manage the front-line service reps, the role of a supervisor should switch from being that of a controller to that of a mentor. The service reps should be encouraged to make decisions without having to check with their supervisors all the time.
When the service reps have been trained, then they must be trusted to do the right thing at the right time, without compromising the interests of the organization.
In Ron Kaufan’s words;
Empowerment is simple, really. Give good staff the authority to make a decision and tell them to use their common sense to improve customer satisfaction. If they bring a situation to you that they should handle themselves, turn it back to them. If they make a good decision, pat them on the back. If they make a bad decision, pat them on the back for doing something and then help everyone learn from the mistake
#4. Allow Room for Correction
Most people are risk adverse by nature, this is why employees who are micro-managed will always seek validation before they take any decision, or they would simply stall the process until they can get their intentions validated. This is because they are trying to avoid being blamed for their actions if it yields a negative outcome.
You should create room for error, and make corrections when the reps make decisions that weren’t so great, this can be done through learning sessions, which other team members must attend. The session should be constructive and at the end, the team should be able to better handle such scenarios in future.
#5. Invest! Invest!! Invest!!!
If you are going to empower your front-line service reps, then you should also invest in them. A lot of companies invest more money in senior leadership trainings and retreats, and spend as little as permissible on the front-line employees.
In 2014 car maintenance & servicing firm Jiffy Lube took the top spot on Training Magazine’s list of 125 best companies for training after it secured 148,000 certifications for its employees in 2012. With that much training, you can be sure their employees will feel engaged, valued and confident in assisting their customers. Combine this with the four steps outlined above, and you begin to see the potential of such employees when empowered.
One of my favorite examples of empowering employees is by The Ritz-Carlton, they have a truly remarkable policy remarkable of permitting every employee to spend up to $2,000 making any single guest satisfied! In an interview with Forbes, Simon F. Cooper former President for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company revealed;
“We entrust every single Ritz-Carlton staff member, without approval from their general manager, to spend up to $2,000 on a guest. And that’s not per year. It’s per incident”
Although a lot of organizations will not be able to afford such policies, it shows how much The Ritz is willing to empower front-line employees to ensure their customers are satisfied.
Empowering your front-line employees is a win-win decision, that yields improved customer satisfaction, employee engagement and profitability. If you are serious about empowering your front-line service team, then you should be ready to invest in them.