Support teams bear the brunt of customer frustrations, and during times of upheaval, this only increases. As crucial advocates for your business, how do you create an environment where agents feel empowered to do their best work?

It’s not always easy being on the front line of customer service.

Even with the most satisfied customer base, mistakes can happen and issues arise. As a result, customer service agents need to be prepared for rough waters as well as smooth sailing and know how to navigate customer complaints with a ‘can do’ attitude.

The thing is, productivity can plummet if the problems start to pile up. Try putting yourself in an agent’s shoes, and imagine that complex issues and dissatisfied customers were awaiting you at every turn, each time you answered the phone or received an email. How would you feel?

You probably wouldn’t be all that keen to come into work every day. Luckily, the reverse can also be true. If the majority of an agent’s day is spent having efficient conversations where they can problem solve for happy customers, then they will naturally experience higher levels of satisfaction and fulfillment.  

And, because we know that positivity begets positivity, they'll pass on the good vibes to the next customer they speak to.

If you’re wondering whether happy agents make for happy customers, then the answer is a big, resounding ‘Yes!’.

In fact, a recent Glassdoor Economic Research study found that, “Across all companies and years, customer and employee satisfaction are positively linked,” with the relationship between the two not only increasing motivation internally but impacting commercial results positively as well.

That’s because happy customers are far more likely to recommend your product or service to their networks. And with referrals being “the most credible form of advertising,”—83% of consumers say they act on the advice of their friends and family—a happy customer can be an invaluable acquisition tool. It may seem obvious but many brands still haven’t fully grasped this yet. So here’s your big chance!

When it comes to the role satisfied customers play in profit-building, one could argue that it all starts with the individual agent. Especially given the growing role online transactions play in our shopping habits. It’s very possible that the only human-to-human interaction a customer might have with a brand is when they reach out to customer service. In these instances, the agent becomes the face of the brand and has the power to shape a customer’s entire perception of the company.

Now, let’s get down to brass tacks and take a look at the figures...

According to Harvard Business Review:

“There is a strong statistical link between employee well-being reported on Glassdoor and customer satisfaction among a large sample of some of the largest companies today. A happier workforce is clearly associated with companies’ ability to deliver better customer satisfaction—particularly in industries with the closest contact between workers and customers, including retail, tourism, restaurants, health care, and financial services.”

In fact, keeping your sales team happy can boost sales by up to 37%. What’s more, employee satisfaction adds value to your organization—landing a place on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For list can grow stock prices by 14%.

Indeed, there’s little doubt that happy agents do make happy customers, and together this contributes to a healthier bottom line.

Okay, but happiness isn’t something that you can simply summon out of thin air (we wish!). How do you foster happiness at work?

Give agents the tools they need to do the job without unnecessary stress

Your customers are multichannel—they research, browse and buy on a variety of platforms—which means your agents need to be multichannel too.

Investing in multichannel customer service software gives agents the tools they need to be where the customer is, when the customer needs them. Whether that’s replying to a Facebook message, following up on an email, speaking on the phone or sending a quick text via WhatsApp.

Not only does this quite clearly improve the speed and seamlessness of the customer experience, but it also helps mix up the agents’ working day. Sitting on the other end of a continuously ringing telephone—or worse, waiting quietly for a call to come through—can be monotonous and demotivating for the best of us.

Combat this by keeping your agents active and engaged with a full offering of communication channels at their disposal.

However, this only works if all of your channels are synched up and working together. You need to have the software in place to better integrate sales and CRM data with customer service history, enhancing both the customer and agent experience.

78% of customers get frustrated if they have to repeat themselves to service agents — and who can blame them?

It’s almost unavoidable that customer service agents will have to bear the brunt of customer frustrations. However, witnessing consumer pain-points first hand puts agents in a unique (and powerful) position to improve the customer service experience.

Your service agents know a lot about the customer experience, so empower them to suggest and make changes

Who do you most trust to give honest feedback on customer satisfaction and service experience?

Chances are, it’s your customer service agents.

After all, they’re the ones out there, day after day, responding to positive and negative consumer input alike. It’s their job to resolve issues as quickly as possible, and, crucially, represent your business in the most positive light.

For agents to be the best advocates for your product or service, they need to feel capable and ready to act on what they see quickly and autonomously.

This may be as simple as being able to deal with a customer complaint without having to bring their team manager in. Or it may be as radical as becoming a ‘citizen developer’ — making use of low code software development to proactively prototype and build better customer service solutions.

Within the organization, leaders should create a culture of autonomy and trust by reaching out to customer agents for valuable insights. By doing so, you can learn a great deal about the real customer service experience, and increase employee motivation at the same time. It’s a win-win.

Lastly, use intrinsic rewards and recognition to organically motivate agents

Hard work deserves to be rewarded. But reward and recognition is about much more than a cash bonus for meeting a service target.

Whilst there will always be a place for extrinsic rewards like this, customer service managers should look to more intrinsic ways of rewarding and motivating their agents too.

Increased responsibility, such as citizen development, as well as personal development within the role, will help keep agents happy and motivated at work. Intrinsic reward comes from within—from the feeling of a job well done combined with a greater sense of purpose—so leaders should always ensure that agents know how important their job really is.

To put it bluntly: your business doesn’t just need a great customer service team, it relies upon it.

So, make sure agents feel seen, heard and valued — broadcast their achievements, recognize hard work, respond to the changes they’d like to see, and give them the tools they need to delight customers every single day.