Don’t be afraid: empower your support team

Published October 3, 2013
Last modified October 3, 2013

If you manage a support team, you are going to want to empower your employees. That means giving your team free reign to make decisions about how to respond to customers and even make concessions, within the confines of your support structure. The idea can be a little scary, which is understandable. But empowering your employees, if done correctly, will get them engaged and motivated, and will free you and other support managers to focus on more difficult tasks.  What I’m suggesting is to have the Agents treat the business as if its their own and to do the right thing for the customer.

Be patient
No matter what you do, mistakes are going to happen. So the most important thing is to empower your team, but also make sure that they are communicating with you while they are making decisions. This will allow you to monitor, and when necessary, correct any decisions that were made. In these cases, quickly coach but don’t take power away as a punitive action for not making the right call. Treating them like learning opportunities will further empower them and help ensure the same mistake won’t be made.

Two common scenarios
A customer is angry because his ticket was escalated to another department and he hasn’t received an update for a week. An unempowered support rep will have to get your permission to track down the current owner of the ticket, forcing you to get bogged down in the nitty gritty details of the ticket.

Reps that are empowered can go directly to the current owner of the ticket, be it a Product Manager, engineer, or sales rep. When this happens, the support rep is literally being the voice of the customer, helping make sure they are being provided with the best possible service.

Another common scenario happens when a customer does not receive the service or product they are expecting and they ask for a credit.  Empower your agents to approve credits.  You may want to set limits on the amount, but we find its better to let them be the decision makers.  Just like any other decision your Advocates make, if you don’t agree with it, you can quickly coach them on how to handle it differently.  You can also measure credit decisions to spot trends for Agents that don’t provide enough lattitude with customers as well as agents that provide too much.

Customers and Agents have much better experiences when they don’t have to wait for approval.

At the Helm is a series for anyone who manages customer service professionals. These tips, best practices, and philosophies are designed to help you manage a team that is primed to give your customers the best possible service.

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