— September 14, 2017
Growing a company’s customer service operation is never an easy job. Usually, great customer service execs who’ve already managed a moderate amount of scale are called upon to maintain performance across even greater scale.
Unfortunately, creating great customer success departments requires a hands on approach that just isn’t possible as the team grows. This can sometimes be frustrating, even overwhelming.
But it doesn’t need to be. Customer success managers at growing departments have tools at their disposal to maintain quality, even during periods of strong growth.
The most important of these tools is a single word: motivation.
Breaking the Threat/Reward Paradigm
Too often, management conceptualizes motivation from the perspective of a threat/reward paradigm. This gives them the illusion of control and empirical standards.
The process goes something like this: unable to be everywhere at once, a customer success manager seeks to create control and maintain employee productivity by offering those who provide excellent customer service with a reward, while instituting a punishment for those who don’t.
The method of delivery varies. It might be a contest where the employee who meets one metric or another wins a prize; it might be a threat that failure to meet a certain customer satisfaction score will result in additional training requirements.
Whatever form it takes, the threat/reward paradigm will always end in disaster. While both provide short-term motivation, they’re unsustainable in the long-term. Rewards might make employees happy initially, but eventually, they become expected and the lack of them resented, destroying productivity. Punishments are far worse, entailing a myriad of disastrous reactions in employees that crush productivity, like hostility and anxiety.
So, what’s a well-meaning customer success manager to do? What’s the proper way to motivate employees in a growing company? How do you exert control and set standards, but not in a counterproductive way?
Creating a Culture of Empowerment
The answer is to cultivate a culture that empowers employees to take their work to heart and care about the customer experiences they are providing.
Does this seem whimsical or overly optimistic? There’s empirical data that shows it’s possible, and more importantly, that it works. But creating this culture starts with a top-down approach, with management taking concrete steps to nurture it using proven techniques.
Communication & Technology
For starters, this means creating an open communication flow between management and employees. Employees who feel like they can make their concerns known and feel comfortable asking for advice or feedback are much more willing to get, accept and integrate that feedback.
This technique goes hand-in-hand with providing the resources that employees need to make the best use of the communications channels open to them. If an employee has a problem, do they know where to go for help? Do they have the newest technology to do their jobs properly and as efficiently as your competitors?
Communication and Technology are at the core of employee empowerment, but there are more esoteric considerations to be taken into account as well. Establishing procedures to ensure employees feel their concerns are being taken seriously is critical.
In addition, it’s important to cultivate proper workflows, as well as workload management. Employees who know what’s expected of them and feel they’re being challenged – but not overwhelmed – are much more likely to be happy and confident, and they will provide excellent customer support as a result.
In Conclusion: Happy Employees Treat Customers With a Smile
More than any other aspect of a business, customer support is about people. Executives who know how to properly motivate their employees cultivate teams that want to do well by the business and its customers.
This can definitely be a challenge for newer execs who are unsure how to manage scale and growth, something that requires them to relinquish control at a point and time when getting it right is so critical. But while it might seem as though antagonistic practices like rewarding or punishing employees will provide control, the opposite is actually true.
It’s only by embracing the creation of a culture where employees have the tools to succeed that management can cultivate empowered employees who are willing to go the extra mile to create awesome customer experiences – even when no one is watching.