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My heart goes out to all Customer Service Representatives, or any frontline employees who deal directly with customers – they probably have one of the hardest jobs in the world. Having to deal with the quirks of human beings day in and day out with a smile on your face is certainly no mean feat.

In fact, it comes as no surprise that, a month or two into the job, customer service representatives (CSRs) will start to feel the toll, which in turn severely affects their service quality. Chances are that your CSRs are beginning to feel the heat because they are unable to do their job properly. You see, most companies train newbie CSRs with a manual dated back to the Stone Age. This is perfectly fine if all customer requests adhered completely to the scenarios outlined in these manuals, but as we all know, many times a customer might request for something absolutely reasonable (can I have a bit more milk in my coffee please?), but the answer just isn’t there (how much should I charge for an extra tablespoon of milk?). The result: an irate customer who feels that his/her reasonable request has been rejected for no particular reason, and a depressed CSR who feels, well, maligned.

How can we help our CSRs prevent such situations from happening, and in the process make customers happier as well? The answer lies in empowering your CSRs to actually do their job well

Forget the Manager

“Hold on, let me check with my manager” – 8 words that can, and usually will, culminate in an hour-long wait with lounge music blaring through your phone and a few years of your life lost due to sheer frustration. Most of the time, it really isn’t the CSRs fault, as they have to go through the proper channels to get approval for almost anything they do.

Here’s how this can be easily solved – drop the managers. Provide your reps with a set of parameters within which they can do whatever it takes to solve the customer’s problem and make them happy. Customer service expert Chris DeRose describes this as the “judgment playing field”. You’ll be surprised at how innovative your reps can be when given the chance.

A common mistake, though, is to simply prescribe targets and guidelines for your CSRs, and then let them be. A bar set too high or too low would adversely affect your customer service team, as they might default to meeting minimum standards and let chances to WOW the customer just go by. Hence, it is equally important to ensure that the right goals are set for your customer service team as well.

Motivate Your Team

Any team needs goals and targets to stay motivated, and the customer service team should not be any exception. The right balance in goal setting can be found by being very specific with goals set and ensuring that the right bottom-line undergirds these goals. In other words:

For customer service teams in particular, the bottom-line should be relationship-oriented, rather than results-oriented. A goal like “Make as many customers as possible happy” is much less prone to negative interpretation than a goal like “Serve as many chats as possible.”

If your customer service team is focused on relationships as opposed to results, you can be sure that they will go out of their way to make the customer happy, even going beyond the line of duty to do so.

Train Your Team

The unspoken pre-requisite to these points, of course, is that your CSRs are trained well. To be sure, customer service is not easy task – CSRs need to be good listeners, clear communicators, be able to empathize, manage time well, among a slew of other essential skills. Bottom-line: your reps need to be well-equipped.

I’d like to end with a fantastic quote from Virgin America’s Public Relations and Events Manager, Patricia Condon, that aptly sums up how empowering the customer service team simply means good business:

The mission of Virgin America, says Condon, is to “transform the flying experience so that it is fun again.” When employees genuinely enjoy their job and are empowered to be themselves, the customers can feel it—and they enjoy their experience more as a result.