B uilding a team of any sort is much like building a bridge: from the outside, it can look beautiful, but if there is one structural piece missing, even the prettiest bridge will fall to pieces under pressure. With support teams, it’s no different. Support people are hyper-empathetic and take on the feelings of each of the people that they talk to every day. Given that, they can be quite emotionally demanding, and difficult to manage in a large group.
Building a customer support team is like an elaborate game of Jenga, with all the skills and people building on top of each other. You need to have a number of different roles on your team and their personality types all need to fit together. There are also outside pieces beyond the team to consider. For example, if you’re planning to offer support outside of local business hours, you also need to ensure that you have coverage for the different time zones. Finally, there isn’t just a line up of qualified candidates waiting outside your door. You need to recruit, interview and hire this specialized team of support agent heros with the right skills, personality types and availability.
Luckily, we’re going to cover all that and more within the span of this book: how do you hire? What do the people who are the “right fit” look like? Once you’ve got people hired, how do you onboard and continue to measure performance as they grow within their position? Read on! We’ve got your back.
In order to build a team, you first need to hire them. Hiring the best person for each role takes a few different steps: first, you have to define the perfect role and write a job description, then you have to post it in all of the best places for candidates to find. After you’ve screened a few candidates, and are ready to interview, what does your hiring strategy look like?
Do you want to staff for 24/7 support? How much should you pay the right candidates? This is all just the beginning of your team building journey but is integral to its success. Here are some of the best ways to ensure that you go about hiring the right way the first time, rather than having to go back and revise your strategy.
To get excellent members on your support team, you need to create excellent job descriptions to attract them to your company. Crafting an amazing job description eludes even the best managers — it’s easy to get bogged down on the requirements or job duties, and forget that the job description is actually an advertisement to attract an excellent candidate. There are a few key things to include and remember every time you’re writing a new description.
No matter what you include in your job description, or how you write it, there are a few pieces of information that need to be in every job post that you make. New potential employees need to know some key points about the role in order to make sure that it fits their needs and to measure themselves up to what you’re looking for. If you don’t include information such as the job title, a job summary, examples of job responsibilities, and necessary qualifications, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to compel anyone to apply for your role. That being said, there are definitely some ways that you can spice it up through personalization to make the post unique and interesting — that’s going to be the best way to get people to apply that fit your culture and the team you’re trying to build.
Make sure to include the following pieces of information on every job description you write:
How do you refer to what you are looking for and what you want a person coming into this role to accomplish? For example, do you refer to people working on your customer support team as “agents” or “representatives”? Do you want customer support team members to “do” certain tasks, or are you keen on them “accomplishing” things and getting them done?
As you write your job description, focus on action-oriented language that makes the role and the person within it feel empowered to do the work that energizes them. For example, instead of saying something like:
“you’ll help customers with questions in the
...you could say something like:
“empowers customers by providing assistance and guidance to questions via email, chat, and
If you read one of those, wouldn’t you be more inclined to respond to the latter rather than the former?
Job descriptions are important, too, and should flow with the culture of your company. While some companies like Full Story call their support team members “Huggers” others, like Chatra or Wistia, call them Customer Champions. If neither of those fit for your needs, something like Customer Support Representatives, which Trello calls their employees, might have a good ring to it, and is slightly less hyperbolic.
In their job description, Figma showcases areas of responsibility that customer support agents can take on, depending on their own interests:
While you do want your language to be creative, compelling and joyful, make sure that it fits the way you would actually talk about your company. If a person is excited and amped up by your job description and then talks to someone and finds it to be a totally separate, disjointed experience, it will leave a bad taste in their mouth. So keep the tone of your post in line with how you brand your culture elsewhere.
Chances are, you’re already doing this really well. Your marketing team does an excellent job pulsing your culture throughout everything you put on your marketing site and in the product. Your support team does a great job carrying it through every email, tweet, chat, or Facebook message they write. So now, it’s up to you to carry on the legacy and make sure that your job descriptions align with your company’s culture.
When you’re writing about qualities that you’re looking for in an ideal candidate, be sure to include lots of links to blog posts or recommended reading. This allows people to click out of the description and go and do some additional due-diligence to see if your company fits their dream role. It also lets them get a bit more of a hands-on feel for what your culture actually looks like, and how it comes through in things such as your blog or your customer-facing product pages.
GitLab has a culture page that they link to in their job description so that applicants can find out a little bit more about the company before applying:
GitLab Inc. is a company based on the GitLab open-source project. GitLab is a community project to which over 1,000 people worldwide have contributed. We are an active participant in this community, trying to serve its needs and lead by example. We have one vision: everyone can contribute to all digital content, and our mission is to change all creative work from read-only to read-write so that everyone can contribute.
We value results, transparency, sharing, freedom, efficiency, frugality, collaboration, directness, kindness, diversity, boring solutions, and quirkiness. If these values match your personality, work ethic, and personal goals, we encourage you to visit our primer to learn more. Open source is our culture, our way of life, our story, and what makes us truly unique.
Top 10 reasons to work for GitLab:
- Work with helpful, kind, motivated, and talented people.
- Work remote so you have no commute and are free to travel and move.
- Have flexible work hours so you are there for other people and free to plan the day how you like.
Another awesome opportunity to include an example of your culture without blatantly writing it out is to reference a particularly excellently written email or interaction (with the customer’s permission, of course). This fulfills the need for showing off your culture, but also shows how support team members take their own spin on things when talking to customers. People applying for the role will be able to see if your company’s style of support works for them or not.
It’s a fine line to walk when asking someone to apply for your role and asking them to complete a project. While you want to see how they work, you can’t actually ask them to do unpaid work (legally or morally). A sample project can be anything from a straightforward six question sheet required along with their resume, or an hour-long more in-depth project that they can do on their own time separate from the application. Keep the assignment short and to the point to respect the candidate’s time — especially if you’re asking multiple candidates to complete the task.
Zapier includes a few short assignments in their customer champion application form, including setting up a “zap” in their product and questions about APIs, which are a really relevant part of their product and support process:
How to Apply
We have a non-standard application process. To jump-start the process we ask a few questions we normally would ask at the start of an interview. This helps speed up the process and lets us get to know you a bit better right out of the gate. Please make sure to answer each question.
Complete this form with answers to the below questions. Make sure each answer stands alone as we review question-by-question instead of applicant-by-applicant.
- Tell us why you'd be a good fit for this role.
- Tell us why you want to work at Zapier instead of somewhere else.
- What should our goal be when replying to users?
- A user requests an integration with a service that we don't support yet. Compose a reply to this user.
- Set up a zap that takes new Gmail emails from a specific sender and adds them to a Google Sheets spreadsheet. Send us the link to the zap and a share link for the spreadsheet.
- Send us a link to an app's API docs that you think are well done, and explain why you think they are good.
One of the major benefits to this, beyond learning a lot about the candidate, is that it weeds out bulk-application candidates. There are many people that submit their applications all over the place, whether they really resonate with a job or company or not. If you require them to do either of the two different types of projects (submitted before or submitted after their resume and the application), they’ll be weeded out. They either just won’t submit the project, or won’t submit their application at all. While this may mean that some great candidates don’t end up applying, you do end up having applicants that are more passionate and hungry for the opportunity.
The second benefit that this adds to your process is that it allows you to get a better feel for how they handle customer service and support in practice. It’s all well and good to write an impressive resume, but viewing a project lets you see how they actually do the job and how they’d be communicating with your customers (or how much training you would have to do).
While the perks of a job are definitely compelling and interesting to prospective employees, they aren’t the only thing that they care about. It should never be the case that someone gets halfway through your job posting and knows that you have seven ping pong tables and a competitive speech-giving team, but doesn’t know anything that will be required of them if they come onboard.
So, when you are writing your job description, focus on the job itself, with the perks woven into the description. For example, you could say:
“Expect to handle around 60 email conversations with our customers a day. If that sounds like a lot: don’t worry, we have ample ways to help you blow off steam, such as our seven ping pong tables, or the nap room that we built especially for those necessary midday siestas.
Our support team is extremely intertwined with our product and engineering teams and is responsible for communicating any new incoming bugs, or misunderstandings with the product. Interpersonal communication must be one of your strong suits in this role.
If you’re a little bit shyer and this doesn’t come as naturally to you, you can practice at our monthly non-mandated game night where we break up into groups with people we haven’t played with before to try to get to know them
If you aren’t going for a long-form description, you can also do this by placing your job description and requirements section above the perks and culture sections in a bullet-pointed list. Lists are much easier to read for many people and allow people to skim and assess quickly if your company is a fit. Maybe consider some long-form content and some bulleted lists to break it up.
Now that you’ve gotten your job description completed and polished, it’s just a matter of finding people to apply for it.
F inding the best place to post your job can be tricky: many places have certain connotations and reputations, and you want to make sure that where you post fits both the message that you are trying to send, and the type of applicant you’re looking to attract to your team. There are also specific sites to use if you are trying to find someone to work remotely, or if you want someone in office with you. Choosing a place to post your job that aligns with the role you’re hiring for is key as it ensures that you’re targeting the best possible audience. Here is a list of some of the best places where you can post your job listing for customer support team members.
Lots of support jobs are based within co-located offices across the world. It can be much more difficult to hire for an in-person role because you are restricted to a set location and the people that already live there. Given that, it’s especially important to be cognizant of where and when you are posting it, and how you are targeting your intended audience with the description. Here are some great places to post when looking for in-person roles:
Working remotely is incredibly attractive to a number of different types of people, but it also means that anyone from anywhere can apply to the role. Given that, you’re much more likely to get a larger number of applicants which a varying degree of experience and skill. There are several remote-specific job sites which will allow you to find anyone from the most entry-level support person to the most senior director of support. Some are specifically support focused, while others also allow for marketing, product, or even engineering job posts to be made. Here are a few of the top ones that we’ve found.
O nce you’ve found your best candidates and you’ve got a pool going, you’re ready to start phone screening and interviewing. Interviewing can seem daunting, and there are so many different ways to do it, depending on what you and your company are looking for. When you get into interviewing, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
If you are phone screening someone and anything in your mind tells you that they might not be a perfect fit, don’t move them on to the next step. Even if your talent pool is slim and you aren’t sure when you are going to get more applicants, starting over and recruiting more applicants is better than hiring someone that isn’t going to be a service to your team. You don’t want to hire someone that will be a good fit, you want to hire someone that’s going to knock it out of the park. Especially on small teams, having one person that isn’t an excellent fit can make a huge impact, both financially and interpersonally. If you have a bad hire that ends up not working out, for example, the loss is quantified to be about 30% of what their first year’s take home compensation would have been.
Most of this work should be done when you are writing up your job description. You should know what types of traits and skills you are keen for someone moving into this role to have. Then, once you have those skills written out and defined, you should share them with your interviewing team, if it’s going to be anyone other than you (and it should be). Your interview questions and the types of interviewing that you do should center around these predefined skills — this will ensure that you ask about all of the things that are imperative for the role before you hire them. Socializing this out to the other people interviewing will give you the chance to communicate about things that you weren’t able to ask in the screening so that they can cover it in the second interview instead.
While the questions will differ depending on your company, the culture, and what kind of role you are hiring for, there are a few different types of questions that you should be sure to ask during an interview:
One of the questions that we ask our candidates during the interview is “A potential customer is thinking about switching Chatra from a different live chat tool and asks about a certain feature that we don’t have yet, but the competitor does. How do you reply?”
Their reaction helped us understand their train of thought. Do they just apologize and say that we don’t have this feature or do they offer to save the feature request and notify the customer if it gets implemented? Do they try to offer a workaround using the existing functionality? Or do they try and sell Chatra based on our other advantages?
Depending on their reply, you can see what candidate cares about the most: do they just answer the question, do they go the extra mile for the customer or do they care about making a sale?
Chat with us today to see how our successful hires handle the question!
Hiring and interviewing remotely is a totally different beast from interviewing for co-located roles. Primarily because when someone works remotely you are unable to visually supervise them and ensure that they are going to do the work that they need to be doing to succeed. You don’t get the same cues you do when working in an office. For example, if they are looking confused or checking Facebook constantly, you’ll have no idea. Remote employees need to be self-starters, and so it’s important to hire for such. We wrote a book on building a remote company culture, in which were a lot of great tips for hiring remotely. But, for an overarching view, here are a few specific things you can ask:
If you’re looking to build your team towards 24/5 or even 24/7 support, there are two ways to do it: first, you can have people work in your office on different shifts, or you could hire people to work remotely in different time zones and allow that to be your coverage instead. That being said, both of those have their own benefits and detriments, and the choice should really depend on the makeup of the team. After all, according to Gallup, while many customers do value fast support, it’s ultimately good support over anything else that makes them loyal to a company. So, what will enable you to offer the best, most compassionate support to customers in all different time zones?
Hiring in different time zones is a great way to get coverage, both temporal and lingual, in the time zones where you seem to have a lot of need. That being said, if you’ve don’t have a manager capable of working in that timezone, or you don’t have an infrastructure in place to handle remote workers, someone (or many people) working in a different timezone might be difficult for your company to maintain. It can also be tricky, from a tax-perspective, to have multiple employees in different entities. For that reason, especially if you are small, it might be good to consider keep this in-house and taking a look at our following tips to make it an excellent experience both for your customers and for the employees.
If hiring in a different timezone is out of the question for your company, a first step to consider could be working in shifts. If you’ve never done it, it might feel hard to ask someone to work midnight to 8 AM. But, maybe people are looking for more flexibility in their schedule for a number of reasons. For example, when Len Markidan worked at Groove, he was keen to work the overnight or late night shifts so that he could get in some quality time with his wife, a nurse.
So, while it might seem to you to be a huge burden, it’s probable that there are people who are willing, able, and excited to work some of those rotating shifts. Building a team around that keeps the culture close, and also saves you some of the stress of having to find and manage people that are outside of your office.
Some companies choose to have rotations where there is a single agent on call responsible for responding to any urgent inquiries that come in during off hours. This could be a monthly, weekly, or even daily rotation to keep it fair between your employees, but it effectively means that any inquiries that come through during hours outside of your timezone (yes, including weekends!) would be the sole responsibility of that person. It’s also possible to make this something that has multiple team members working on it if you are a large enough team with a large enough need.
The main downfall of this approach is that, while it does cover important or urgent tickets that come through, it still leaves the “normal” or “regular” tickets without any cover. So, if you choose to advertise 24/5 support or 24/7 support, it should be with the caveat that it only covers some types of tickets, or some specific plans. Ultimately, the best tactic is being honest and making sure that what you decide on is marketable or appealing to at least some segments of your customers.
S alary is one of the most important things that you will talk to your prospective employees about. After all, everyone wants to get paid. The good news (or maybe bad news?) is, though, that once someone has been at your company a while, they actually don’t care as much about the salary. According to a study done at Northeastern University: if you start someone off at a fair salary, you likely won’t see any added frustration from them based on salary moving forward. As Laurence Stybel, a researcher says:
If I think I’m underpaid in the marketplace, I am absolutely dissatisfied. If, on the other hand, I just get a 15% bonus, I’m going to be happy for a while — but only for a while. It’s not necessarily going to make me happy.
So, getting it right from the start is pretty important. How do you do it?
Many companies have started to work towards the idea of transparent salary after Buffer introduced their truly transparent scale and calculator to the world. While Buffer has iterated on this multiple times, their formula has always remained somewhat constant in its consideration of its employees.
The newest version uses the following formula:
50% of the benchmark salary of the role (based on San Francisco market salary)
multiplied by a cost of living multiplier (based on where you live)
So, for example, if you live in a high-cost city, like New York, your multiplier would be 100%. If it was a medium cost city, like Nashville, your multiplier would be 85%, and a low-cost place to live, like the suburbs of Atlanta, would be 75% of the original base salary mentioned above.
Buffer also takes into consideration the role that you are working in, and how long you have been doing that kind of work. So, if you are coming in at a Director position, and have been working in that type of role for several years, you’ll get paid more than someone who has never done it before but is stepping up into the position.
When you build your salary system, whether it be transparent or otherwise, considering these factors is important. If you are working in a co-located office, you can still use the formula based on whether the city that you live in is high, medium or low cost of living, and you can continue to use the modifier based on experience and role. Setting your employees up with fair base salaries sets you up to be in a better place with them in the future.
Keep in mind, too, that if you use things like studies or guides for baselines on your surveys that they can be skewed by the types of people and industries that are attracted to the survey. For example, the Support Driven Customer Support Salary Survey shifted significantly as they attracted a larger, more diverse group of survey-takers.
O nboarding is one of the most important and tenuous times in a new employee’s lifetime with the company. It’s your company’s opportunity to show your new employees what you’re all about, and the new employee’s time to see if it really is a good fit. In fact, studies show that roughly 33 percent of employees make the decision to stay on board with a company or jump ship within their first 30 days of employment.
So, those 30 days are integral to a successful relationship. What are some ways that you, as the company, can ensure that it all goes according to plan?
Campaign Monitor, Help Scout and other companies have an email campaign that reaches out to new employees before they even get started. It includes information about things like when the new employee can expect their computer to arrive (both companies are remote), suggestions for reading that might help them during their first week, and even tidbits about company culture, such as what to wear and when lunch is served.
Not only does it give the employee key information to help them feel more comfortable on their first day, it also shows them that you are interested and excited about them coming onboard still.
There is no worse experience than getting to an office and discovering that none of the things that you need to do your job are available. It almost feels like you were an afterthought, or forgotten about completely. Don’t make your employees feel that way on their first day! Have all of their accounts as well as their desks and technology set up and ready for them before their first day. That way, when they do come in, they can get right into their training and meeting the team, and not have to figure out where the stuff they need actually is.
The first day should be all about meeting people, learning the culture, and high-level, inspirational aspects of your company. While getting down to the nitty-gritty of the product is nice, you want to give them an exciting and enthusiasm-inducing diving board to jump off of, first. So, do all kinds of team lunches, meetings with different heads of departments, and maybe even team-building exercises for the group of new onboardees so that new employees have built-in buddies in other departments. After the first day you can get into true onboarding curriculum, but keep the first-day fun and light to get them excited.
Everything that is on your onboarding schedule should be there for a reason. Similarly: it should be pretty closely spaced together. Brandon Hall Group did a study that suggested that by keeping all the scheduling tight, and the meetings close together, companies can improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent. If you give a lot of time between meetings, or you spread out onboarding more than it needs to be, you give new onboardees the opportunity to lose focus.
After all, if they’ve only had four trainings, and then they have a whole half day to themselves, they aren’t going to know what to do with it — and you shouldn’t expect them to! Make sure you have everything scheduled out ahead of time so that they can look and know what to expect, and keep everything close together to avoid their minds wandering or getting bored.
The whole company should be involved in onboarding. What that means is that every head of every department should be responsible for a training talking about that department. This helps to get new employees familiarized with faces that they’ll be seeing around the office or on video (and vice versa) but also gives the new team members a sense of cross-functionality. For example, while salespeople might not immediately need to know the head of engineering, it would probably be good for them to at least know who to go to if they have an issue that they need to talk about in the future.
For support, this is even more important: new support team members should get to know and cultivate relationships with all of the different departments, as it’s very likely that they’ll have to work with them moving forward. So, getting the whole company involved in onboarding them is especially important and valuable.
Culture is often something that takes a backseat in onboarding, as tangible things like product functionality, or in-office protocols are taught. However, according to Glassdoor even just a one-star increase in culture and values ratings on Glassdoor raises the odds that employees will stay at their existing company when moving into their next role by five percent. That’s a pretty impressive statistic, so get started on it early. Discuss culture and values frequently, and ensure that you link them to something actually within the culture, or solid examples so they don’t just go in one ear and out the other. If new employees have something to anchor the intangible on, it can go a long way towards helping them align with it.
If you are bringing new employees in in groups, it’s a good practice to get into the habit of encouraging them to offer constructive insights amongst themselves, to themselves, and to the people instructing their training or meetings. This gets them into the habit of providing feedback, and also shows them that it is safe and encouraged. Lead by example and offer constructive insights when they are watching (if it makes sense to), and reiterate how important it is when in new training or sessions.
While it’s always nice when you get an employee who gets started immediately and is automatically speeding along doing exactly what they are supposed to do, it’s pretty uncommon. It’s unfair for you to expect that a majority of employees would be able to take off at the same speed as someone who has been with the company for even just three months.
Most people need time to ramp up and familiarize themselves with the tools and functionality of your product. They also have to learn the tools that you use internally to do things like answer customer inquiries, respond on social media, review code and a number of other things. Give the time to learn that before you expect too much from them within their actual role.
As I wrote in this post for Help Scout, 30/60/90 plans are meetings that you set up with the employee and their manager at the 30-day mark, 60-day mark, and 90-day mark. Each step communicates things like what they should be accomplishing, benchmarks, and new job aspects that they are expected to take on each step of the way. 30/60/90 meetings are valuable for employees because it gives them a map of where they are supposed to go, and also lets them self-assess as they go through onboarding.
It also gives the manager a platform from which to speak about performance, as it’s already been communicated early on in the employee’s time with the company.
When an employee starts at a new company and doesn’t know anybody, it can be really intimidating and scary. They might not even know who to turn to if something is going wrong, or something inappropriate has happened to or around them. So, if you assign a training buddy or mentor to them, they’ll always have someone within the company that they can talk to and ask questions. Depending on how big your company is, it could be good to have their buddy be on another team for more cross-functional team-building. There is an additional benefit, though, to have their buddy be someone that works on their team with them as it gives them a person to bounce ideas and questions off of, specifically when they get to work in their own role.
Much like the benefit of 30/60/90 reviews, having pre-scheduled, regular check-ins between manager and employee is a great way to make sure that there’s a thumb on the pulse of the employee’s performance. It also gives the employee a regular time to ask questions, share concerns, or get a bit more context as they go through the onboarding process.
Even if you feel like a daily check-in is too much, it might be good to start with that cadence as it sets the tone for the relationship between the manager and the employee. You can always shift it to be less frequent as needed, but at least starting there is a good jumping off point.
As any good manager would, most people in a leadership position deeply care about making sure their team members are comfortable and satisfied with their jobs. After all, when people are happy and feel like they are in a good environment, they usually thrive and do their best work.
So, the benefits are two-fold: you can get productive, excellent work out of your team members, and you can feel good for helping them feel good in turn. But, what are some of the best ways to create the perfect working environment for your team? Great question:
The term “team building” sounds like something out of an 80s guide book for how to create the best company, but there’s a reason for that: team building has been around since the 80s (and even before then), and will continue to exist long after this book is written because it works. But, the negative association that many people associate with team building is real. A study from Citrix has shown that 31 percent of office workers say that they can’t stand team-building activities. That doesn’t however, negate that they are helpful.
The Small Group Research journal paper “Does Team Building Work?” analyzed data from 103 studies conducted between 1950 and 2007. The cumulative research concluded that team building that avoided forced or shame-building projects and behaviors produced measurable, positive effects on team performance. Harvard Business School agrees. So, what are some of the best ways to team build that leave out the awkward, forced, sometimes-overly-personal nature of traditional exercises?
Building your team is only half the battle. Once you’ve got them, you’ve got to actively work to keep them there — amazing people are hard to find, and if you don’t try to keep them on your team, they’re likely to get poached by other teams, or even your competitors. So, what are some great ways to keep your employees happy and motivated? Let us help.
While theory can definitely be boring and dry, it can also be a useful framework to help guide your decision-making. After all, if someone else has already walked down the same path that you are walking, why not try to follow a bit of their guidance? There is one theory in particular that can be directly applied to keeping employees happy and motivated, and it’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In the office, just as in an individual’s personal life, all of these needs can be met. For basic needs to be met, the office can provide snacks and water and a safe, comfortable place to work. Moving on to psychological needs, slightly further up the pyramid: good relationships with your work colleagues and being recognized for work that you’ve done help to meet this need and move you further along to the tip of the pyramid towards self-actualization.
While self-actualization cannot be met by work alone, work is often part of it. Having a purpose and vision for your career is part of a balanced life. Within this theory, as a manager or the company where an employee works, you can get them all the way up to the top of their needs pyramid. Should you do that, they’ll be happy and motivated to stay, as they’ll feel actualized in their self and environment.
Imagine a carpenter, but instead of a saw, he had been given a hose. He wouldn’t be effective at his job, he wouldn’t be able to make anything, and eventually, he would get very discouraged and probably quit. The same goes for any of your employees who are not given the right tools. If they ask for something that they think would make their jobs easier or allow it to be easier for them to do what they need to do for the customers, you should seriously consider providing it for them.
If you’re perpetually arguing that you don’t have the budget for the tools, or making your team use lengthy workarounds to get done what they need to, they’ll eventually grow frustrated and unhappy with your company. Maybe even to the point where they would part ways!
Forbes says that 81% of employees are motivated by recognition and rewards, and feel more appreciated when they receive them. Outside of incentivizing work and giving physical rewards, though, you can foster employee happiness and motivation just by recognizing the work that they do. Verbal or written recognition of a single employee or the whole team can go a long way when it comes to making them feel noticed and cared for. So, take the time to acknowledge the good work that your team or a specific employee is doing, whether just by telling them individually or by letting the whole company know. They’ll appreciate it, and it will help maintain team cohesion in the long run.
With support, specifically, it’s incredibly important to plan out staffing far ahead of time. You can gather pretty significant amounts of data just by pulling the information from your inbox. You can find out, for example, when your busy season is, how many tickets each of your employees can handle, and how much your volume is growing. From there, you’re able to calculate how many people you will need to scale to for the amount of growth for each busy period.
It sounds tedious, but making sure that your team is well-staffed and that they all feel comfortable doing things like taking time out of the queue or taking a vacation is important. Without the ability to have some of that freedom, they’ll stop being motivated to do good work for your company. Why care, after all, about something that you don’t feel cares about you?
Goals are great! They align everyone towards a common goal and make it so that people understand where they are in the timeline towards accomplishing it. Or at least they do that if the goal is clear and straight-forward. Whenever setting goals for your team, try to keep them as clear-cut and metrics-based as you can. Instead of setting a goal like “Slay the queue!” for example, you could set the goal of “Increase output of support agents by 20% over the next quarter.” Both of those goals are saying the same thing, but one is measurable and the other is not. Shoot for measurable, attainable goals every time, and you’ll have a hyper-motivated team.
One of the biggest problems in support is that there are no perceived opportunities for growth. Many support agents don’t recognize what their path for growth looks like or if they do, they don’t have the time to do the work they need to get there. So, the problem is two-fold:
First, give your employees a clear path for growth. Make it clear to them what they have to do and how they have to do it if they want to move forward in their career — and not just as a people manager. Second, give your employee the time, during the work day, to do some of the work that they need to move forward in a timely way. Many companies set a goal like 10-20% of the employee’s normal time is allowed to be spent doing work on projects or other things that help to elevate them in their career.
T he flipside of motivation and happiness is burnout, and it’s all too common in support. In fact, a recent study shows that 20-50% of all employee turnover is due to burnout. Once you get to burnout, it’s pretty difficult to turn the ship around, so here are a few ways that you can prevent it and avoid the issue altogether.
Similar to the above, giving a person clarity into their role, their placement within the team, and the expectations of the team as a whole can give them a really good view into what they can expect and how they should frame their time. Without any clarity, it’s hard to know what the goal is, and without a goal, it’s easier to work until you are unable to do so anymore. Help your employees create a balanced load for themselves by guiding them towards what the expected and encouraged output is for the role so that they have a measuring stick to put their performance against. Racing against nothing, after all, is sure to get exhausting.
Make yourself available to people if they want to talk. Nobody likes meetings, but if one of your employees comes to you and asks to talk about something, you should let them in and see what they want to talk about, even if you are supremely busy, Using some of your emotional energy to help out a person on your team who might be having trouble is incredibly worth it if they end up staying with your company because you used that extra 5 minutes of your time that you were a little reticent to.
If an employee doesn’t have any insight or coaching into how they are doing, or how the company is doing, they’re likely not going to feel as invested as they could. Make sure you have a feedback structure in place with your employee to let them know how they are doing regularly, not just quarterly or annually with the rest of your company like you might be tempted to.
Similarly, give them the opportunity to share their thoughts on what the company could be doing better. People want to feel like they are a part of something and have a say in what is happening, so let them have it. It takes little effort to sit and listen to your employees, and they likely have a lot of really great insights into how things could shift to be better. Quarterly town halls or all-hands meetings can boost motivation through showing progress and answering any concerns employees have.
Feedback from Customer Champions is extremely important for Chatra, since they are the ones who use our own live chat software the most. During company calls, each member of the support team can share their feedback, the whole team discusses it and decides whether the required changes or implementations can be made. This helps us keep the Chatra product customer-focused as we grow. Give it a try and see for yourself!
For customer service agents, one-on-ones are super important to professional development and releasing some emotional burdens. Come to your team’s one-on-ones ready to be honest and straightforward, and answer whatever questions or thoughts your employee has with candor. This goes hand-in-hand with the point above: have a structure that you stick to so that people are ready and know what you’re going to ask, but then give your employee the opportunity to talk while you truly listen.
Also feel free to be candid and share your own thoughts, both about the employee’s performance and the company as a whole. Sometimes seeing someone in a managerial position behaving a certain way can give others the encouragement they need to also behave in that way.
Vacation is important and, especially with the rise of unlimited vacation, people are becoming more and more scared of “taking too much.” Ernst and Young did a study that found that for every 10 additional hours of vacation time their employees took, their performance ratings from supervisors improved by 8 percent. So, encourage your employees to take the time they need to refresh, and then watch as they turn into powerhouses upon return.
T he most important aspect of maintaining an amazing customer support or service team is that your team feels most empowered to do the one thing that really matters for their career: helping the customer. But, it can be difficult for them to help the customer if there is a ton of process and policy in place blocking them from doing what they think is right. Working in a job with little say about what you do and how you do it doesn’t bring joy or happiness, and certainly won’t keep someone coming back to their job day-in-and-day-out. Try to focus on ways that you can give your employees autonomy, even if just in small ways, over what they do.
A great place to start is to examine where you are setting harsh rules that could be guidelines instead. These are usually the easiest areas for surprise and delight in a customer’s experience with your company along with being one of the best places to offer your employee some flex. It’s a win-win. An example that everyone can probably relate to is: how do you handle refunds? If a product is defective, or the person had an issue with shipping or purchase, the policy should be obvious: issue a refund. But what if the product wasn’t as someone expected, or they got it and no longer want it anymore? That makes it a little bit trickier.
In those cases, offer guidelines for how a person might handle the situation, but leave it up to the best judgment of the support agent handling the ticket. This empowers them in letting them know they’re allowed to make choices, and it gives them the opportunity to reap the benefits of delighting the customer with something they might not have expected.
T here are so many amazing tools and resources out there for customer support and service that we wanted to take a moment to list a few to get you started.
T here are so many pieces that go into place when managing and building a customer service or support team. While it can feel overwhelming at first, the feeling that you get when you are able to look at the team you’ve built and see all the customers that they have helped is unparalleled. Remember to pay attention and listen to your team, go with your gut, align with the company around you, and ask for help when you need it. You’re going to be great.