It’s Always Customer Service Week

Earlier this month (Oct. 2-6), companies celebrated Customer Service Week across the globe with the intent of building trust with their employees and honoring their contributions. These celebrations included activities such as obstacle relays, themed outfits of the day (think back to your high school spirit weeks), pizza parties, and swag. The challenge now, though, is to continue the momentum and turn recognition and appreciation for customer service representatives into an everyday occurrence.

There is a popular misconception among the broad population and, likely, within many organizations, that customer service is an easy job. But, as anyone who has spent time in the bull pen knows, today's customer service representatives have a challenging and critical role within their organizations.

A customer service representative's job can entail any or all of the following:

  • Long hours, scheduled breaks, and detailed trainings, usually lasting weeks.
  • Continuous adjustments to emerging technology. With AI and chatbots now automating many simple tasks, the job of the customer service representative has become much more complex.
  • Familiarization with all elements of the companies they are representing. They must be prepared to answer a variety of questions, many of which are unpredictable, before answering each call.

Furthermore, when a customer is angry with a company, the representative usually takes the brunt of it and must maintain her composure. By being on the front line and dealing directly with your customers, her tone and composure matters big time. Let's face it, she is the face of your company. And, according to a Walker study, by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. This means keeping your representatives happy is more important than ever before.

It's easy to forget, especially with all the marketing efforts going on within your organization, but sometimes the only interaction a customer has with a company is through customer service. It's no secret that the turnover rate in call centers is high, but companies that recognize customer service representatives for their work have seen less attrition. According to a recent survey by OfficeTeam, two in three employees (66 percent) would likely leave their current positions if they didn't feel appreciated by their managers. Not only that, a satisfied representative produces a higher-quality customer experience and an overall spike in productivity at work.

Think of it this way: if your organization fails to recognize the demanding work of your representatives, then why would representatives feel empowered to create a great customer experience?

Recognition in a Way That Works for Your Business

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for recognizing customer service representatives. Rather, it's important to find what works best for your organization. Recognition should happen in a way that is authentic to your company culture and will resonate with your employees. Not every organization can carve out consecutive days of parties or games because, at the end of the day, there is still an important job to do. However, there are simple measures that are easy to implement while still making a strong impact. Companies can do the following:

  • Offer incentives. Consider things like an extra paid day off, a better parking spot, casual Fridays, or allowing representatives to come in late or leave early during one shift for receiving excellent customer satisfaction feedback.
  • Give them a voice. Communication is critical. Show representatives that their voices are heard by holding regular check-ins and having an office-wide suggestion box. Or, start encouraging meetings at the end of a shift where representatives can share the highs and lows of their day, giving peers and managers the opportunity to praise them or offer advice for navigating tricky situations. These moments can go a long way to reassure representatives that their hard work matters.
  • Take them out on the town. A night out once a month, for dinner, drinks, or activities like bowling or a wine tasting on the company's dime can have a large impact. These are good opportunities for representatives to bond with co-workers and managers, resulting in a more pleasant work environment and stronger comfort levels in the office.

These strategies can have a strong impact but can sometimes be short-term fixes. There are other more meaningful and long-term strategies that can be rolled out as well. They include the following

  • Create a safe and enjoyable environment. All buildings and contact centers should have clean and inviting facilities and state-of-the-art tools. Management should have an open-door policy. All policies should be made with safety and fairness in mind.
  • Provide education opportunities. Show your representatives that you are committed to them and their learning beyond their current jobs by providing program and skills training, managerial career path training, and cooperation with accredited institutions to allow training as credits for specific learning paths.
  • Embrace a sense of belonging. Besides providing context of the work, encourage community outreach and team togetherness by volunteering once a month in the community. Not only does this provide a sense of purpose but it also encourages team-building.

Despite how your organization celebrated Customer Service Week this year, the end goal should always be the same: making every week feel like Customer Service Week. Avoid making Customer Service Week an isolated week of activities; instead, it should be part of everything your organization does year-round. Think of it as a critical component of your company culture and DNA.

By embracing this approach during Customer Service Week and all of the days leading up to and after, you can demonstrate an unwavering commitment to your representatives that makes them feel appreciated for their contributions. At the end of the day, always remember who your customers interact with the most—your customer service representatives. Make it a priority to keep the momentum from Customer Service Week going all year and you will see happier representatives and happier customers.

Fara Haron is CEO of CRM Solutions at Arvato North America and the Philippines and a member of the Arvato CRM board. She has been with Arvato since 2009, holding positions ranging from project management and business development to strategy. She began her career at Accenture as a consultant focusing on clients in the technology and telecom industries in Asia and North America. She was also part of Amdocs' Consulting Division in Canada.