A long time ago, there were software vendors who created what was called a “boss button” to help employees fool their managers into thinking they were constantly putting their nose to the grindstone.
If you were sending messages to family, shopping online or even playing a game, a click of the button would bring up a false screen showing a spreadsheet or some other work-related task the moment your manager walked by. This wouldn’t have been very helpful for customer service agents, of course, given their calls are often recorded and digital interactions tracked.
There might be occasions, though, where agents wish they had a boss button, or something like it, to bring a bit more balance to their workday pressures. Customer service can occasionally seem like a relentless (and possibly futile) quest to get more done. More calls to be answered. More email messages that demand a reply. Questions from social media. Complaints via SMS.
Customer service managers understandably want their team to work hard, but productivity shouldn’t be confused with “busyness” -- where employees are simply trying to appear as though they’re focused, or are focused on things which aren’t critical to the business.
Simply keeping busy can have several disastrous consequences for a company. If “busyness” is merely a guise an employee uses, they might succumb to stress and are at risk of burning out, and if they quit it will be up to managers to find and train a replacement. Busyness also means that the quality of the customer service experience isn’t being prioritized, which could cost the company in terms of revenue, repeat business and reputation.
Pay attention to some of the following Dos and Don’ts to help foster an environment of productivity on your team.
Effective customer service teams have their expectations clearly laid out for them from the moment they start their jobs. Managers should discuss in detail what a typical day looks like -- including the fact that there might be peaks and valleys in terms of the volume of questions and complaints that come through.
Explain that they don’t need to look busier than they are but that they should prepare themselves for the moments where they’ll need to quickly deal with some issues while re-routing others.
A customer service agent who’s seen browsing their Facebook feed may be perceived as not contributing directly to the company’s bottom line. This all needs to be taken within context, however. Not only can those minutes of leisure be a pause between a series of back-to-back problems that agent has resolved, but can also serve as a great opportunity to support customers on their favourite social network.
If you use the right tools to manage customer service experiences, you’ll have all the data you need to assess employee productivity. Trust in that data before assuming the worst.
Do: Recognize the results that might be invisible to the naked eye
If an agent is heard constantly talking on the phone with customers -- and wrapping up each call in a timely manner -- there is little doubt they’re getting a lot accomplished. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg in what a modern customer service department might be having an agent do.
Think about all the channels agents work across today, for example. They might be hopping from a phone call to a social media thread to offer their help. They could be tapping out advice that reaches customers in need via text message. This might not look as onerous as walking troubled customers through a solution over the phone, but it requires just as much skill and perhaps an extra degree of multi-tasking capability.
Again, use the data to identify and then quantify these kinds of achievements. It shows you’re paying attention without making them feel like you’re looking over their shoulders.
Agents could keep themselves busy 24 hours a day if they continue to repeat themselves hour after hour, responding to the same kinds of questions over and over again. This kind of “busyness” is particularly deceptive because it looks as though the agent’s productivity is at its peak.
Instead, make sure you can focus the agents on the more challenging, higher-order kinds of customer issues that will make them feel more fulfilled, and which will add a human touch to a customer service experience where it counts. Otherwise, look at self-service tools like customer portals or chatbots to alleviate the issues that can be resolved through automation.
Sometimes agents might have a slower period but still want to do something that keeps them game-ready for when the work picks up again. That’s why it’s not only customer service managers who should be data-driven, but the entire team. Make sure employees understand how to not only use the technology they have to solve problems in real time but to conduct a deeper analysis of the work the entire team is doing.
This doesn’t have to happen in isolation, either. Consider using whatever windows of opportunity that become available to meet with staff, whether it’s as a group or even one on one. Discuss the kinds of issues that are coming through, what kinds of fixes tend to be working best, and any improvements to the customer service experience that should be considered or introduced. Maybe there’s even a way of getting ahead of future questions or problems before they happen.
Great managers ensure customer service agents are able to take the time to be strategic while also keeping an eye on the tasks that need to be done in real time. This kind of dialogue may not seem as vital as getting through a queue or tickets, but it’s the opposite of “busyness.” It’s doing what’s best for the business instead.