Written by Ian Landsman in

How to Retain Your Delightful Customer Service Team

Your customer service team is your first line of defense when establishing relationships with new customers, and your last line of defense for maintaining unhappy customers. A good customer service employee is valuable – too valuable.

Without a retention strategy in place, what’s to stop your best employees from going elsewhere?

The answer is nothing! (And that’s why you need one!)

Employee Retention is More Cost Effective

Your strongest team member will have expert product knowledge and excellent customer communication skills. Recruiting and training a replacement is expensive, not to mention time-consuming. In most cases, it should be your last option if you can avoid it.

But don’t fret - you can keep your team happy and enthusiastic about your company. By taking some preemptive measures, you can improve team morale and create a culture that rewards hard work and makes everyone feel valued.

Fortunately for you, your team doesn’t want to look for a new job. Let’s face it: no one likes job hunting. It’s tedious and frustrating. A person would much rather grow in a position where they’ve already established roots. This is where you have the advantage, but you need to make it worthwhile for them. Sooner or later, even the most satisfied employees can become disgruntled if things don’t go the way they want.

So, how do you keep your team from leaving?

Start at the initial hiring process.

You can get a pretty good feel for what a person's career goals are if you ask the right questions. Start by determining their qualifications, and then dive into the part that gives you a better understanding of his or her future plans. Is the prospective employee looking for a quick job to pay the bills, or is this person in it for the long haul? Ask why he or she might be leaving their current job, and if they are unemployed, ask “why?” Most importantly, read between the lines. If a person tells you that the reason for leaving a previous employer was because of growth opportunities, it may be in your best interest to explore what you have to offer that the last employer didn't. The interview process should resolve any doubt that the interviewee is a good fit for your company and vice versa.

If you’re confident in your hiring process, you’ll be left with an internal team that is there for the right reasons and who aren’t just around to collect a paycheck. Customer service employees who like their jobs are more likely to deliver a higher quality of service.

But this is only half the battle. The hard part comes in retaining these individuals. That means you need to ensure your outer appearance matches your internal appearance. Nobody likes a bait-and-switch; your employees will come to trust and respect you more if you’re transparent from the start.

That means matching your insides with your outside…

Lay out your organizational structure.

There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer service employee than not knowing how and where to advance. Determining an organizational structure will help employees visualize what the future might hold. If you’re small company with only a few customer service representatives, this will be a simple task. Of course, even the smallest and newest companies should be thinking long-term. Envision where your company could be, and determine a hierarchy for your current and future employees.

The CEO, COO, or CTOs will be at the very top of your organizational food chain, followed by senior level management and everything under that. Develop a chart that can be distributed to new hires within the employee handbook. This can help newcomers see the potential for growth and advancement. This chart is essentially the blueprint for how your company is run and who reports to whom. However, your organizational structure should be constantly changing with the addition of new business, new employees, and new business ventures. Your organizational chart should reflect these changes.

Develop competitive pay and benefits packages.

This seems like a no brainer, right? But so many organizations get caught up in the day-to-day and miss the small details that could be costing them their best customer service employees. Here are key questions you should be asking yourself: Are you adjusting salaries for inflation? Are you paying employees based on quality or quantity? What are other companies paying individuals in similar roles? Do some research on pay and benefits for your industry.

As important as it may be, money isn’t always the solution. It’s not enough to simply pay your employees well. To some employees, your benefits package could be as important as, if not more important than, their salaries.

Some other considerations to take into account:

  • Health and life insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Time off
  • Sick days
  • Leaves of absence
  • Maternity leave

Train your customer service team on all aspects of the job.

A properly trained customer service team means a happier team; happier teams translate to higher customer satisfaction, which directly affects brand reputation and longevity. Every member of your team should be trained on both internal communications and processes and external communications with clients. It’s essential to have a customer service team that is trained on proper customer communication techniques.

How do you accomplish this? There are many ways to get your team up to speed in customer service processes and procedures. Some companies prefer online training tools while many companies prefer a more hands-on approach. How you choose to train your team is important. You want to ensure you provide your customer service team members with more information than necessary. This will alleviate problems down the line.

Training should be ongoing. That means that anytime a process changes – regardless of whether it’s internal or external, always fully train every relevant individual. There’s nothing worse than a customer service team member who “didn’t get the memo” and delivers inaccurate information to the customer. Save yourself the headache now, and communicate all changes to your team as they happen, if not before.

Offer support to your team.

This one sounds kind of generic and in a way, it is. That’s because support can come in many different forms. As a leader, your team relies on you for direction and for guidance.

Here are a few ways you can provide support to your team:

Hold one-on-one meetings - You should be meeting with individual team members at least a few times per month to help them put things into perspective and to determine areas where assistance is needed. Often, these can turn into mini counseling sessions – that’s okay! Be as supportive as possible but be careful not to allow this to become the norm, as constant complaining isn’t productive. Instead, try to drive the conversation towards resolution and not endless bickering.

Find a skilled human resource manager - Team members might not always feel comfortable going to their direct supervisor or upper-level management for advice and support. Having a qualified HR person who can tackle personal concerns can help you resolve small issues before they become major problems.

Hire additional team members as business grows - When an employee is overworked, it’s no good for anyone. It’s not good for the company, and it’s definitely not good for the customer. Recruit new talent to support your current team and develop a growth model for how many individuals to hire when business needs increase.

Be present - Just having you available, whether it’s in-person support or over other communication channels, helps to alleviate some of the day-to-day stress that can arise. When you’re away, make sure you have other individuals available.

A good team is hard to find and even harder to keep happy. Maintaining a consistent effort to improve office culture, work-life balance, and career advancement will ensure that your customer satisfaction team members are happy and dedicated to providing delightful customer service.

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About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

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