Sarah Sheffield, Training and Quality Manager at music licensing company PPL, gives us her top tips on employee engagement and how to help drive an efficient customer service. PPL is responsible for licensing the use of recorded music for broadcast, online and public performance (shops, bars, restaurants, etc) use on behalf of its 75,000 members, consisting of record companies and performers.

When I was approached about writing an article about employee engagement and how it can drive improvements in customer service, I began to look at some of the research and data that shows the link between the two. And then as I started to think about how to present this in a new and exciting way I realised – if you’re reading this you already know this stuff. You know that engaged employees don’t call in sick as often, which means it’s easier to forecast staffing and meet service levels. You know that engaged employees like their jobs and want to learn more about your organisation or your industry, meaning they are better informed when speaking to your customers. So instead I’m going to lay out my top three tips for happy, engaged customer service employees which I have gleaned from over 20 years of working in contact centres in three countries. Here goes – I hope this helps you to energise your engagement strategy:

1. Communication
Yes, I know! This is the big issue that comes up in every employee survey. And so we work on more bottom-up communication or clearer top-down communication with the exact same results coming through in the next employee survey showing that teams don’t know what other teams are doing, that the organisation is too siloed, etc. Two years ago, PPL began working on side-to-side communications. We put together a communication network made up of a representative from each of the teams in our Member Services department – responsible for looking after the needs of our many performer and record company members. The group gets together on a bi-weekly basis and shares news from their teams. They then go back to their own teams with the news they’ve learned from the others. As a result, the staff feel like they know more about what’s going on and we’ve been able to use the group for rolling out new information or for gathering ‘temperature checks’ of the staff without having to do a formal employee survey.

2. Knowledge
The saying that a little knowledge goes a long way is not wrong. A key dissatisfier for customer service staff is a feeling of not being involved in decisions that affect them. Yet imagine the improvement that could be made to CRM tools or customer service processes if we leveraged the knowledge of our front-line staff! In our most recent system enhancement initiatives here at PPL we haven’t just delivered improvements to our customer service teams, we have involved them in the initial planning phases, making sure that what we build will actually be useful for them. And we continue to use that first-hand knowledge throughout project implementation – front line staff are given the opportunity to test new functionality and we have even asked them to write test scripts so we know we’re testing it in the way they will use it. They know better than any report or manager what our customers want when they contact us, so we’re listening and it’s working – with smoother implementations and higher user adoption.

3. Know Your Audience
Every contact centre has its recognition and ‘fun’ activities designed to get the staff more involved and lighten a sometimes grim daily job and I truly believe that these make a difference. People like to have something to look forward to and let off a bit of steam – especially at the company’s expense! However, these can quickly backfire if people find them patronising or just not interesting. Get some of the team involved in planning recognition and they’ll make sure that events are not only fun but also that the rest of the team takes part too. The first time I tried this approach I was concerned that the team would be solely focussed on the fun or on prizes. However, while they were certainly interested in these, they surprised me by being even more intent on making sure that each activity or event tied in with one of our key customer service criteria. As a manager I got a very successful event at a low cost with practically no effort on my part and engaged staff – it was win-win-win.

You will probably have noticed a theme here – get the employees involved. Only they can engage themselves in your business and once they do, the results are amazing. To conclude, I will give one more piece of advice and that is: surveys and measurements on employee engagement are interesting and can provide the basis for budgets or appraisals, but as well as analysing the data – just get out there and get involved with your team. They will appreciate your support and care and in turn, as we all know, this will translate in the care and support they show to their customers.

Sarah SheffieldSarah Sheffield is PPL’s Training and Quality Manager and is responsible for managing and implementing the systems, processes and tools needed to deliver a first class customer experience to the company’s members and licensees.
Sarah has over 20 years’ experience in the contact centre industry, working in the US, Canada and United Kingdom and is Certified Six Sigma Black Belt.

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