How To Boost The Morale Of Your Customer Support Team

So you are a Customer Support Manager, with a  whole bunch of young and adrenaline-filled customer support agents in your team, chomping at the bit. They are the “face” (voice?) of your company, the ones in the front line of customer service,  fielding calls from irate customers calling to complain, responding to angry and sometimes expletive-filled emails with aplomb, soothing ruffled feathers every single day.

They serve as the link between your company and your customers and it is imperative that they are in the right frame of mind to project the best version of themselves. So how are you to keep their morale up when they are tackling heavy calls all day? How do you keep them engaged and connected to their jobs and the rest of the teams?

A Team Ritual To Kick Start The Day

Walk in, plonk your bags to a side and get started with call #1?  Boring! How about a team ritual – maybe some group stretching time? A joke or two, couple of funny stories to set the mood? A rugby huddle with you calling out the “play” and shouting out encouragements before sending everyone off to their desks? Or even a quick Tabata workout before everyone gets going. [pullquote]A huddle and a quick team head’s up in one – now that’s what I call a twofer![/pullquote]

Voices.com does a company-wide huddle every day at a pre-set time, a stand-up meeting is held and numbers, system updates, project status  as well as other good news are shared. For ten minutes a day, the whole company gets together, shares relevant info and gets back to their desks, to get on with their day.  A huddle and a quick team head’s up in one – now that’s what I call a twofer!

Just by starting the day as a team, with a special ritual strengthens the team bonds and improves their engagement factor. HUT!

Relaxed Work Environs

Sounds like a no brainer, right? Counterbalancing a highly charged and stressful atmosphere with cool and calm physical surroundings. Bright cheerful colours on the wall and quirky posters help set a casual mood. Some music to sooth the soul; playing unobtrusively in the background, of course!

LinkedIn’s Mountain View office, we hear, is the epitome of chilled, with neat work areas interspersed with informal meeting areas equipped with couches and white boards for sudden brainstorming sessions and even, food truck Fridays. (Food truck Fridays!) No agent can be wound up like a coil in such a place! Repeat after me – ohmmmm!

Have Their Backs

This must be a Managerial prerequisite and is even more important in one in charge of Customer Support agents. Nothing boosts an agent’s confidence better than having a boss that is there should (s)he find themselves in a fix. And the boss that listens to his team’s woes, asks them what they want and engages with them is, hands down, the best boss ever! The “we are all in this together” approach, much loved by cheerleaders and musicals, is a winner for a reason!

And, as Intel’s Pat McDonald showed so well, a manager can have her team’s backs even when she has to let them go!

Camel? Meet Straw!

[pullquote] Work-life balance trumps even phenomenal pay![/pullquote]As a customer support team leader and scheduler, you play a crucial role in deciding the workload of your team. Do not overload their schedules. Set realistic goals and targets and constantly ask yourself, am I asking for too much? Remember it was a straw that broke the camel’s back. Everyone values work-life balance above all else and it is no different with your team.

Work-life balance trumps even a phenomenal pay, as American financier Mohamed El-Erian, former manager of the PIMCO investment fund showed.

Teamwork

It is OK To Fail

Things might not go your way all the time. Your team might not reach its target for the month. Maybe something didn’t go the way you planned.You know what? It is okay! It is okay to fail, especially when you can learn the lessons from it to rectify what went wrong. Practice Patience; it is a virtue after all!

As Groove’s Alex Turnbull says in his blog post, “patience is one of the most valuable skills to develop as an entrepreneur”  and this is applicable to every manager and team leader as well.

Training? What Training?

Mellow work area is all great but we need to shine a light on the level of training the teams are given. We update the apps on our smartphones with the latest version, priming them for the latest action but what about the support agents? When was the last time they sat through some training  to update their skills? Little and often isn’t just the mantra for staying slim, it is also for producing great support team.

But no one likes to rehash old things (yawn!) so how about mixing things up a little? Maybe an assertive training for the agents? Or a little bit of improv – Shakespeare in the park sounds like a great idea!

Chill, dude!

How’s this for an awesome idea! Set up an unwind area in the office; earmark an area as the “Unwind Zone” in your workplace. Walk down to the local sporting store and get a punching bag fit for Mohammed Ali. Hang it in a nice spot and let the fists fly! Fantastic, right? Nothing like punching a poor, defenceless bag’s light out to get rid of some pent up steam!

The guys at SuccessFactors, in fact, have upped the cool factor by whipping out their NERF guns and just shooting at each other randomly! Talk about nailing it!

Off With The Script!

[pullquote]None of us like to be blindsided by nasty surprises but if we are trusted to be able to think on our feet and come up with creative solutions…[/pullquote] As actor Robin Williams once said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” Say ‘no’ to following a set script – in fact, said script may well find refuge at the bottom of a bin. The improv training may well come in handy here and your agents may well have some fun coming up with scenarios like this hilarious one, between one Amazon support agent and a customer that called to say his books have disappeared. The funny role play not only brought some laughs to the two but laughingly brought them to a great solution.

None of us like to be blindsided by nasty surprises but if we are trusted to be able to think on our feet and come up with creative solutions, our work lives would be much better.

Old School is New School!

Maybe a little elementary school but if it can bring joy to the heart of a child, it may well do wonders for the team morale. How about having a Star Chart – listing achievements, big or small, culminating with a “Pat On The Back” meeting at the end of the work week. and acknowledge the positive outcomes. Have “Best Responder”, “Quickest Problem Solver”, “Razzle Dazzle Agent” type awards and  reward the agents’ achievements.

Rewards needn’t be something massive – even a cupcake would do! Eloqua does this superbly with their top agents a.k.a “Elo-kings” and “Elo-queens” getting to wear medals! How cool is that!

By The Power Vested In Me, I Name Thee…

Wufoo’s main support guy is called – wait for it – “First Line of Defence”! Topliners’ customer advocates are known as Topliners Queens and Topliners Kings. Buffer has – and I cannot get over this! – a Chief Happiness Officer!  And she has a whole bunch of Happiness Heroes under her! How’s that for adding a spring to your step?

Shakespeare couldn’t really figure out what the big deal about a name is but cool names add an extra oomph to team morale, way better than the uninspired “Customer Support Agent” or the supposedly-snazzy “Cust Serv Exec”. I bet the Happiness Heroes of Buffer go about their jobs in a much better frame of mind than the regular Joe, the Customer Support Agent.

Rah Rah Time!

Everyone craves recognition and your team is no different. Be that guy that sings his agent’s praises. Have a Success Jar. As you agents reach a milestone, big or small, write it out in a piece of paper and put it in your Success Jar. Once a month, open it up, read them out loud to everyone and let your team bask in the glow of their successes.

Kick Back And Chill – Together!

You know what they say about all work and no play. Being a good customer support operative is a hard and emotionally draining job. Day after day of  listening to complaints and still keeping their smile on will weary even the toughest soul. So schedule some periodic outings with your team – hit the back or go on a hike.

Do a group voluntary activity like a Sponsored Bike Race or a Charity Bake Sale. Not only do you all get to chill and relax, but any of this will make for a great team building activity too, impacting your productivity positively.

So what do you do to keep the energy levels up in your organisation? Have you tried any listed here? Share your methods in the comment section below!

Lavanya Donthamshetty

Writer. Apple-lover. Follower of big brands. Interested in talking about all things customer support. Follow me on Twitter @lavanyad