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3 Proven Ways To Motivate Your Customer Service Team

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Keeping your support employees happy and motivated is critical to your business’ success. Here’s how to do it.

The battle for a customer’s lifetime loyalty is, very often, won at the margins.

The company whose team showed that customer that they’re willing to go just that little bit extra for them.

That feeling that a company cares? Customers will pay more for that.

86% more, in fact, according to a 2011 Oracle report.

Delivering that little bit of extra service requires a little bit of extra work.

Part of making sure that extra work gets done is hiring amazing customer service employees.

The other part is keeping them motivated.

Here are three easy ways to keep your support team happy (and happy to work hard).

1) Appreciation

Glassdoor, a career site, asked more than 2,000 people about what motivates them to work harder.

The leading answer?

Appreciation. In fact, appreciation was cited more than twice as often as the second most common response.

81 percent of employees said that they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.

And while we might think we’d work harder if we were more appreciated, is it actually true?

Another study suggests that the answer is absolutely.

In 2010, researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and North Carolina set out to study the impact of gratitude on people’s behavior.

Participants were asked to give feedback on a fictional student’s (“Eric”) cover letter.

After the feedback was received, the participants got a reply asking for feedback on a second cover letter.

Half of the participants got a straight, to-the-point email with the second request, while the other half got an email expressing gratitude for completing the first review.

The results?

32% of the “No Gratitude” group provided feedback on the second cover letter, while 66% of the “Gratitude” group sent more feedback.

Gratitude more than doubled the response rate.

Gratitude and appreciation don’t just feel good; they can motivate your employees to perform.

2) Foster (Friendly) Competition

When used properly, competition can deliver tremendous results for a team’s performance.

To see what I mean, check out this story about steel magnate Charles Schwab motivated his employees (excerpted from Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People).

Charles Schwab had a mill manager whose people weren’t producing their quota of work.

“How is it,” Schwab asked him, “that a manager as capable as you can’t make this mill turn out what it should?”

“I don’t know,” the manager replied. “I’ve coaxed the men, I’ve pushed them, I’ve sworn and cussed, I’ve threatened them with damnation and being fired. But nothing works. They just won’t produce.”

This conversation took place at the end of the day, just before the night shift came on.

Schwab asked the manager for a piece of chalk, then, turning to the nearest man, asked: “How many heats did your shift make today?”

“Six.”

Without another word, Schwab chalked a big figure six on the floor, and walked away.

When the night shift came in, they saw the “6” and asked what it meant.

“The big boss was in here today,” the day people said. “He asked us how many heats we made, and we told him six. He chalked it down on the floor.”

The next morning Schwab walked through the mill again. The night shift had rubbed out “6” and replaced it with a big “7.”

When the day shift reported for work the next morning, they saw a big “7” chalked on the floor. So the night shift thought they were better than the day shift did they? Well, they would show the night shift a thing or two. The crew pitched in with enthusiasm, and when they quit that night, they left behind them an enormous, swaggering “10.” Things were stepping up.

Shortly this mill, which had been lagging way behind in production, was turning out more work than any other mill in the plant.

One important takeaway for managers that’s not to be missed: note Schwab’s tact. He didn’t set a new production quota (which can actually demotivate employees), or tell the team that their jobs depended on how they performed compared to their peers.

He simply set the stage for some friendly competition, and let human nature take over and do the rest.

3) Get Your Hands Dirty

Customer service is not an easy job.

But it’s an absolutely essential part of your business, and one that can make or break the way your customers feel about you.

Want to motivate your support team and get deep insights about your customer experience?

Get your hands dirty and spend time on the front lines.

Many companies, including Zappos, Amazon, Craigslist and Rackspace practice “everyone does support,” a model that calls on all employees to spend time responding to support tickets and engaging with customers.

You’ll not only get a better appreciation for what your customer service team does — and build a better relationship with your support employees — but you’ll get potentially business-changing insights about your product that you’d never get from hearing customer concerns second-hand.

We all benefit from being in touch with customers. For example, as an engineer it can be very powerful to see first-hand a customer struggling with a bug.
Joel Gascoigne, Buffer

Keeping Your Team Motivated

Your support team is the first point of contact for your customers, and often the only contact they have with the business.

Keep your team motivated and happy, and you’ll be rewarded with happier, more loyal customers who love doing business with you.

Question: What’s the best way a manager or boss has ever motivated you? Let me know in the comments.

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About the Author

Len Markidan heads up marketing at Groove. He’s focused on helping startups and small businesses build better relationships with their customers.

Read his latest posts or follow him on Twitter

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