You’ve probably heard of the phrase “take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business”. It’s a catchy phrase that gets thrown around in the business world a lot, but how many businesses actually live by this? A lot of businesses think they’re doing this, even when they’re not. It’s important to take a technical approach to tackle this goal. What makes your employees happier? How can you support them in their role? Do they feel listened to? It’s only by dissecting the current situation of your employees and customers and assessing where you want them to be in the future that you can take steps to excel in this area. That’s what we’re looking at today. Let’s take a look.
Why Looking After Your Employees Is So Important?
It’s impossible to uncouple your customer-facing employees from your customers. Your agents are on the frontline. They are talking to your customers all day, every day. This means that your agents are affected by your customers, and your customers are also affected by your employees. Of course, you can train your employees to be resilient to the negative interactions they have with customers, and sometimes to great success. However, it’s much harder to train employees in how they inadvertently influence customers. Your agents might be saying all the right things. They might be following their script and heeding your workshop advice, but if they don’t feel supported in their role, it will show. Let’s take a look at the reasons why taking care of your employees is so important.
- Your employees won’t thrive if they aren’t engaged. You’ll sometimes see the word “passion” thrown around when discussing this topic. Everyone wants passionate employees, and everyone being interviewed for a role understands this is a buzzword they should play in to. In truth, not everyone will be passionate about customer service, and that’s fine. You don’t need passionate employees; you need engaged and thriving employees.
According to Gallup, it’s estimated that over 70% of US employees don’t feel engaged in their workplace and this is costing businesses up to $550 billion in lost productivity every year. Disengaged employees are much more likely to do the bare minimum than engaged employees.
- High employee turnover rates. An inbound customer service agent consistently ranks as one of the highest turnover jobs in the world. The average employee turnover rate across all industries in the US is around 15%, for call centers it’s between 30 and 45%. Over the years these jobs have got a bad reputation for having a high turnover, but it’s rarely acknowledged that this high turnover rate is often deserved.
Employees who feel underappreciated, overstressed, and poorly compensated don’t want to stay in their jobs. They will leave to look for a more supportive company. When they leave, you lose an agent, but you also lose the time you spent training that agent and the money you sank into their training. In contrast, employees who stay with the business have a wealth of knowledge about your company and your industry and they can use this to great effect in their customer communications.
- Reducing absenteeism. Absenteeism is also higher in customer service roles than in other industries. Customer service jobs are uniquely stressful and if agents aren’t adequately supported, they risk falling victim to burnout. Some customer service operations put their agents under huge amounts of pressure that forces them to put the business ahead of their personal priorities. Customer service operations are often heavily metric based. They strive to spend less money and get more out of their employees.
Agents often have no time whatsoever to decompress between calls and when they do have a short break between calls, they’re told to spend every minute of it answering emails. This can lead to agents adopting unhealthy habits just to keep up. It’s not uncommon to see an agent’s desk full of energy drinks or for them to constantly have a hot cup of coffee. Similarly, if they are hungry, they’re going to eat something quick and high calorie because it’s the most efficient way to sustain themselves in such a high-pressure environment.
This isn’t a health blog and we’re not going to pretend to understand the physiological effects of a junk food diet, or even pretend that this applies to all agents. The truth is, diet is just one part of the equation but it represents a much bigger issue. When you overwork employees and put them under immense pressure, they will sacrifice healthy habits to meet these demands. This can affect their physical, emotional, and mental health.
- Mental wellbeing. Customer service jobs can be very mentally taxing. Agents are often dealing with angry customers and acting as an official spokesperson for the business. The job carries a lot of responsibility because how the agent responds to the customer can make or break the relationship.
According to one study, 60% of customers don’t return to a business after a bad customer service experience. This puts a lot of pressure on agents to get everything right. This is then made harder when the employee experiences additional pressures from the business. Depression and anxiety are estimated to cost the global economy $1 trillion a year in lost productivity.
How to Take Care of Your Employees So They Will Take Care of Your Customers
Take Their Wellbeing and Their Concerns Seriously
We all experience stress, anxiety, and exhaustion, no matter what job we’re in. You can try to eliminate as many stress-causing factors as possible, but it’s also critically important to listen to your employees. No one likes to feel ignored or like their wellbeing doesn’t matter. When it comes to showing your employees, you take their concerns seriously, you need to show it with your actions.
So many businesses write up well-meaning documents and use these documents as evidence of caring about their employees. The document might say that employees are entitled to a sick day if they are sick, but do your employees feel they can do this? Do you offer adequate sick leave? Does your company make employees feel bad about missing work? Do your managers tell employees that they’re letting the team down? All of these are factors in whether the employee will actually feel comfortable taking sick leave when they are sick. No business wants to have sick employees, but if you encourage one sick employee to come into work, then you might have to deal with 5 more sick employees in the following days.
How to show your employees you care about their health and wellbeing:
- Improve their social wellbeing by organizing team social events or activities. We all need time to let off some steam and bond with our teammates. This doesn’t have to be expensive or even cost the business anything. You can just send around a quick email asking teammates if they want to go grab some food after work, sit with you at lunch, or go for a drink.
- Allow them to leave on time. Work-life balance is such a crucial part of mental and physical wellbeing. It also allows employees to keep a consistent schedule and plan activities like going to the gym or seeing their friends if they know when they will finish each day.
- Offer advice on physical health. We don’t mean you should email out a low carbs diet plan. Sitting for long periods has a negative effect on health. To combat this, offer tips on how to maintain a good posture, or encourage your employees to go for a walk on their break. You can also offer benefits for eye-testing since staring at a screen all day can cause eyestrain.
- Provide a quiet room. This is sometimes called a prayer room or meditation room. Offering this room may not be possible for all businesses, but where it is possible you should try to provide it. Taking a few moments out of your day to sit in quiet and reflect can help ‘reset’ your brain.
- Listen to your employees when they voice their concerns. Where possible you should try to address their concerns and make an action plan to resolve them.
Provide Adequate Technological Support
Agent’s jobs are made harder by antiquated technology. If you’re still forcing your agents to use outdated systems that are clunky and slow to respond, then it’s time to change. Your business can see huge jumps in efficiency, productivity, and employee satisfaction by giving agents the tools they need to perform their job well.
How to provide adequate technological support:
- Use an omnichannel platform rather than multiple siloed platforms. Omnichannel platforms cut down on training and operating costs, as well as reducing errors and eliminating duplication of data.
- Use AI and ML solutions where possible. AI solutions, like chatbots, can take the pressure off agents by reducing their workload. Chatbots are great at answering simple customer questions that do not need agent input.
- Provide adequate screens. Your agents are looking at their computer screen all day, so make sure it’s a good one.
Make Your Workplace Somewhere Employees Want to Stay
By creating an excellent working environment, you can reduce employee turnover and position your company as an attractive place to work for job seekers. The better your company is perceived; the more high-quality talent will want to work at your company.
How to create a good place to work:
- Offer competitive benefits. We mean truly competitive, not just in line with industry standards.
- Offer flexible working where possible. Work-life balance is high on the priority list for most people.
- Give your agents control. Allow them agency (they’re agents after all, in their job rather than forcing them to stick to a script.
How Unhappy Employees Affect Customers
So, we know why happy employees are important, and how to make employees happy, but what are the consequences of not doing this? How do unhappy employees shape customer interactions?
- Poor attention to detail. Overworked, stressed, and disengaged employees are less likely to be alert in their jobs. They are more prone to making errors that can anger customers.
- Apathy. If employees feel that their work isn’t valued, then they will start to treat their job like it isn’t important. Customers can tell when an agent doesn’t care about their job, and it makes the customer feel like the agent doesn’t care about their problem either.
- Going the extra mile. Employees who don’t feel appreciated and valued by your company won’t go the extra mile for your company. If you won’t go the extra mile for them, then why would they do it for you? If your employees don’t feel motivated to go the extra mile for customers, then the customer experience will suffer. Customers don’t come back to companies that offer the minimum amount of customer service.