It’s no secret that 2020 was a tough year for customer service agents. Increased workloads, heightened customer expectations, a global shift to remote work. Unfortunately, most of these challenges have spilt over to 2021, as more and more companies realise the immense importance of customer service as a primary business function.

With this added pressure on customer service teams, team leads and managers are expecting a high-level of productivity from their teams to provide top-notch service.

With top-down, micro-management slowly on it’s way out of the industry, an increasing amount of teams are looking to bottom-up management styles to ensure their teams are happy, engaged and productive.

One of the most critical aspects of engagement in today’s digital workplaces is autonomy. Managers and team leads that are shifting their role from one of management to one of guidance are reaping the rewards of more motivated, higher-performing customer service agents.

The power of autonomy

The provision of more autonomy for customer service agents holds immense benefits for both agents and team leads/managers:

  • Agents: Autonomy gives service agents a greater sense of impact and ownership in their work which is conducive with higher levels of productivity and a higher quality of customer service.
  • Team leads/Managers: Managing a customer service team is a big task. Recruiting, strategizing, setting agents’ goals, tracking progress, coaching, rewarding, the list goes on. Giving agents more autonomy can lessen the load for managers so they can focus on big picture tasks and become more efficient in their daily operations.

Strategies for autonomy

Here are 3 simple strategies customer service teams can implement to accelerate productivity and efficiency in their operations through the provision of greater autonomy for agents.

Personal goal-setting

The primary objective for customer service teams, or any team for that matter, is to achieve their company goals. However, for this to be possible agents need to achieve their personal performance goals first.

For many support teams, this process – the creation, monitoring and reviewing- still falls under the role of their team lead or manager. Whilst it should remain their responsibility to guide agents, it is unnecessary for management to govern the entire goal-setting process. 

In fact, it’s disadvantageous. Not only is time ineffective for managers, it negates agents’ feeling of ownership over their performance, which often leads to a lack of motivation and lower productivity.

A great way to remedy this is by encouraging agents to set their own performance goals. This simple shift in responsibility is a great way to give agents ownership over their own skill development.

Research shows that ownership over objectives instills a sense of pride in an employee’s work which sparks higher levels of productivity.

Transparency of performance metrics

One of the primary reasons that agents struggle to get involved with their own performance development is because they are simply blind to what their impact is within their company.

More often than not, agents are working towards a goal that they have no visibility of. Without being able to track their progress towards achievement it is hard for an agent to feel stimulated towards improving their service. Moreover, it leaves the burden of performance improvement up to the team lead as they bottleneck the feedback and coaching process.

To avoid this, team leads can encourage agents to get more involved with their personal development by giving them access to their performance metrics in real-time. Performance scorecards are a great way for agents to become proactive in their improvement whilst taking some of the feedback burden off managers and team leads. 

‘Challenging’ bad customer service reviews

Bad customer service reviews are an invaluable tool for all teams. When used properly, they can provide hands-on guidance to improve your team’s service quality.  

However, one of the biggest pitfalls of negative customer reviews is that they are completely subjective. Often, the reason for a bad review is something that is out of the control of the agent, such as late delivery or an incorrect order.

For many agents these negative reviews count against their monthly performance metrics and could be the difference between them reaching their goals or not. Yet, they have no autonomy over the process to ensure a fair service evaluation. This can lead to a feeling of demotivation for agents and a plethora of complaints for team leads from agents who feel they have been cheated.

To divert this issue, team leads can allow their agents to challenge these negative reviews. This gives them the autonomy to object to any reviews that they feel did not reflect their service quality. Whilst team leads still wield the power to approve or deny these challenges, this simple shift will allow agents to feel fairly evaluated. Moreover, it will motivate them to develop their service skills against properly validated feedback, meaning increased productivity and happier customers. 

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With many customer service teams this year continuing to face an increasing workload, a shift towards agent autonomy could be the answer to building a more efficient, productive workflow.

Empowering agents with a sense of autonomy to accelerate their performance comes down to providing the right tools. Find out how 100’s of teams are boosting their team’s output and service quality with Kaizo.

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