The activities of employees in customer service are often characterized by a high degree of transparency and many specifications that must be adhered to. Standardized processes are designed to ensure smooth operations, a uniform external image and a high level of customer satisfaction. Many employees, an abundance of processes and a high degree of complexity are thus to remain under control.
Rigid rules prevent individual solutions
However, experience shows that customers who turn to the service department for help are repeatedly disappointed by the service staff’s overly rigid adherence to standards. Surprising and delighting customers instead, however, pays off because they prove loyal in return and are more likely to recommend the product or service to others.
But how can the customer service employee be encouraged to deviate from specifications at the decisive moment in order to surprise the customer in a positive way?
It is often the case that agents are afraid of making a mistake and prefer to stick strictly to the guidelines, even if this disappoints the customer – rather than take the risk of making their own decision and accepting responsibility for it.
Self-organization and self-responsible decisions for individual solutions
The key to resolving these conflicts is a radical cultural change, as is often also carried out in the context of digital transformation.In a self-organized team, decision-making authority is shifted with all consistency to where the technical expertise is and direct contact with the customer takes place.There are progressive companies that have realized how valuable the customer service employee is because he or she has permanent contact with the customer and has been able to build up a comprehensive knowledge of what the customer thinks about the products and services used.They take advantage of this by creating a culture that enables service employees to make their own decisions and take responsibility for them. This goes as far as giving them a share of the profits – and losses, if necessary.In addition, the experience and knowledge of service employees is used for the further development of products and services by systematically involving them in these strategic developments and decisions.
As a consequence, the entire structure is changing. A move away from a central decision-making authority to a decentralized structure in which decisions are made where they are required and where the technical expertise is located. This requires a high degree of transparency and trust, but also a willingness to take responsibility.
Companies that have successfully undergone this transformation of their culture and structure find that both employee and customer satisfaction increases significantly. They experience extreme growth and no longer need to search for employees because people apply on their own.Every company depends on satisfied customers, and in times when competition for good employees is also becoming fiercer and more evident, employee satisfaction is a high asset.
Often, such a transformation is most difficult for middle managers. But they, too, are finding that cultural change is shifting their roles toward more room for creativity and productivity.
Changes in culture and organization need room to maneuver
However, transformation with all its consequences is a long journey and should be approached gradually.
It is a good idea to start with individual teams and try out new approaches. However, the team needs real room for maneuver to do this.
As part of an initiative to increase customer satisfaction, agents in a telecommunications company were asked to resolve the concerns of dissatisfied customers in an unbureaucratic manner, without following the usual rules.
There was also the option of sending the customer an additional small gift, such as chocolates. Interestingly, this offer was hardly taken up at all. Essentially, everything remained the same.
The first step was to give the employees a surprise package and to make them aware that their main task was to find a good solution for the customer and not to stubbornly follow processes or specifications. After this kick-off, the employees‘ attitude changed: the culture in the team changed and then transferred to the customers. Customer satisfaction increased significantly.
Triggering a cultural transformation in customer service with the goal of self-organization is certainly a very good way to inspire employees and customers in a progressive and agile manner. It is a long journey to a very rewarding goal in many ways.
If you want to read more on this topic, you will find it here: Make work more fun | Corporate Rebels (corporate-rebels.com)
Tabea Henrich – Senior Consultant