Customer support is definitely a team sport. Every agent has to do their part for the team to be successful. If a few people are struggling, it impacts everyone else, including your customers.
This is where you come in, dear manager. As the customer support manager, you have the opportunity to create a supportive environment that helps your agents maintain a positive outlook and feel satisfied at work. But how exactly do you go about doing that? Do you need to give your entire management style an overhaul?
Figuring out how to boost employee morale isn’t as daunting as you might think — you’re probably already fostering an inclusive culture, proactively communicating, and much more to keep your team motivated. But before we delve into some tips that can help you do your job even better, let’s take a deeper dive into how important it is to keep your agents engaged and fulfilled at work .
Why is it important to think about boosting employee morale?
There’s an obvious reason to make sure agent morale remains high: it means your team is happy!
Your support team works hard to make sure that customers receive the help they need quickly. It’s not always an easy job, and you want to make sure that the occasional bad experience doesn’t get them down.
But did you know that keeping morale high can also benefit your entire company? For starters, employees who feel satisfied are less likely to seek other job opportunities. Finding new candidates takes time, not to mention money. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reveals the average cost-per-hire is more than $4,000.
Agents also perform better at their jobs when their morale is high. One survey reveals that companies with the best customer experience have 1.5 times as many engaged employees as companies that have poor customer experience. There’s also research showing that high morale can improve productivity and even encourage employees to work harder.
So if you’re already thinking about how to maintain and encourage motivation on your team, then it’s time to start turning those ideas into action.
7 ways to boost employee morale and keep your team happy
Need some tips on how to motivate employees as a support manager? Here are seven strategies you can use to help your team work at their full potential.
1. Show appreciation for the work they do
Customer support can feel thankless at times. Maybe you’ve even felt that personally in your previous employment situations. It doesn’t have to be that way. When one of your agents does something truly exceptional, make sure they know how much you appreciate it.
You don’t need to celebrate every achievement in an over-the-top way. It could be a simple “Nice work on that project!” or treating a team member to coffee (who doesn’t love an afternoon “pick-me-up?”). What matters is that you show agents that you notice and appreciate the work they do, especially if your team is remote. When everyone is working from a different location, you need to work just a bit harder to express your gratitude. But the effort is worth it because recognition from you, in particular, can go an especially long way toward helping to boost employee morale.
A Gallup workplace survey shows that 28% of employees think the most memorable recognition is praise they receive from their manager. That’s right — praise means more when it comes from you than when it comes from the CEO, a customer, or other team members.
Just keep in mind that not everyone on your team may like to receive recognition in the same way. While some agents love public recognition for on-the-job success, others probably squirm at the thought of having their achievements announced to everyone. Carefully consider your employees’ communication styles, then let the recognition flow accordingly.
Lastly, know that advocating for your team can also go a long way toward helping your agents feel appreciated. Make sure to communicate the value of the support team to leaders across the organization by illustrating how your agents support company-wide goals, explaining the costs and benefits of tradeoffs, and establishing a common vocabulary for every team. When you let your boss and other high-level leaders know about your team’s successes, they’re bound to express their appreciation to agents as well.
2. Ask your team members for their input
It isn’t always easy to tell when agents are feeling content versus overwhelmed – especially in a remote work environment. Not everyone feels comfortable opening up when they’re unhappy or stressed, so don’t assume that no news is good news.
As for how to get a pulse on how your agents are feeling, try leveraging surveys. Polling agents (anonymously!) is a great way to get a feel for their morale and obtain feedback on ways to improve customer support operations through comments. Best of all, this works just as well for remote agents as it does for those who are on-site.
As for the types of questions you should ask, it really depends on what you’re hoping to learn. But consider getting started with these go-to choices that allow agents to choose where they fall on some sort of ranked scale:
- How satisfied do you feel at work?
- How well do your job responsibilities align with your expectations?
- How supported do you feel in your current role?
- Do you feel you’re appropriately recognized for doing a great job?
- Do you feel your opinions are heard and valued?
- How are you able to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
- Are you satisfied with the promotion and advancement opportunities you’ve been given?
Consider regularly surveying your agents as well. U.C. Berkeley recently launched a series of anonymous surveys to get a better understanding of how employees were feeling over the course of several months. This makes it possible to see how metrics fluctuate over time and whether some adjustments are in order.
Were your agents just stressed during the holiday season or is there a long-term issue that needs to be addressed? Has morale improved since you instituted a new policy or system? Reflecting on this long-term data will provide you with more actionable insight than a one-off survey and will demonstrate that you’re committed to your agents’ well-being for the long haul.
There are tons of platforms you can use to create polls, and many of them are free. Google Forms and SurveyMonkey are both easy to use, so it’s a good idea to start with one of those. You can always upgrade to a more robust tool later if you need to.
3. Offer professional development opportunities
Even if your agents all love what they do, they probably don’t see themselves in their current roles forever. Employees inevitably crave advancement at some point. Some might eventually become interested in a lateral shift to a career that feels like a better fit for them.
As a manager, it’s in your best interest to give your agents opportunities to develop their skills and explore their interests. One SHRM survey shows that 21% of employees cite lack of advancement opportunities as a reason they would leave a job.
How can you support your team’s professional development?
There are tons of ways you can get started:
- Give each agent a dedicated number of hours each month they can put toward attending free classes and webinars, or to work on projects outside your team.
- Make discussing career development a regular part of your one-on-one meetings with agents.
- Encourage team members to create and regularly update a professional development plan.
Depending on your company, you might even have more options for career advancement. HR departments are always eager to round out benefits plans with offerings that employees truly value. If there’s a demand for learning stipends or the ability to attend professional conferences, whether in-person or virtually, make your case. Some companies even go the extra mile by offering low-cost options to obtain certifications.
4. Take on a coaching mentality
A customer support manager’s job is to manage, right? Yes and no. It’s absolutely important to give direction and oversee agents, but those responsibilities alone don’t do much to help your team feel valued.
Remember: customer support is a team sport!
Try to think about your role as being equal parts coach and manager. The distinction between coaching and managing is that the former is more about providing guidance, assessing performance, and motivating employees to do their best work. The latter is strictly about giving directions and supervising work.
There’s evidence illustrating just how effective coaching is in the workplace. Researchers have identified a very clear correlation between a leader’s ability to coach and develop employees’ abilities and how engaged their employees are. Leaders who fall within the top 10% for coaching effectiveness have direct reports who rank highest for both engagement and commitment. It’s hard to argue with that data.
5. Avoid micromanaging
Have you ever had a manager who seemed as though they were always looking over your shoulder? It’s a difficult situation to be in as an employee. You feel as though you’re just waiting to make a mistake. And if you do, you can bet you’ll get stern talking to shortly after.
This issue is all-too-common for support agents, who are often viewed through the lens of metrics. Consider adherence, for example. Agents often feel like they’re desperately trying to meet an unrealistic goal of 100% schedule adherence. Will they be reprimanded for falling short of benchmarks? Will they face severe consequences?
In this type of work environment, it’s hard for agents to do their jobs at all, let alone do them well. Micromanaging has long been associated with low morale as well as higher turnover and reduced productivity, so it’s best to steer clear.
While no one wants to be a micromanager, it can be tempting to go that route if performance metrics are on your mind. The good news is that there are ways you can actively work on taking a step back. Here are a few tips that Harvard Business School Online recommends:
1. Practice delegating — Instead of trying to do all the work yourself, assign tasks to employees in a way that takes their strengths into account. Once you assign, let them figure out the best way to complete the task.
2. Set expectations — Communicate goals and deadlines clearly. Taking the time to fully explain a task will help your team understand what a job well-done looks like.
3. Embrace imperfections — Let employees experiment with different methods. While agents might make some mistakes along the way, those missteps are opportunities to learn and improve.
4. Hire the right team members — Taking the time to make sure you staff your support team with agents who have the right skills and common values will save you lots of headaches in the long run.
5 Ask each employee how they want to be managed — Just as you have your own preferences on how to manage agents, they have their own preferences on how they like to be managed. Each agent may have slightly different needs.
6. Prioritize work-life balance
For those who love getting to help others, being a support agent is a great fit. But even if every agent on your team falls under this category, they don’t want to think about work every second of the day.
Make sure you’re giving your agents the freedom and space to enjoy their lives outside of work. After all, one survey from MavenLink shows that 62% of employees say work-life balance is the most important part of a successful work culture.
If you know that one agent prefers a particular shift because it works better for their family life, accommodate that as much as you can. When an agent is on vacation, let them enjoy their hard-earned time off. And if someone has an emergency, let them take care of it without worrying about work obligations.
7. Give them the tools they need to be successful
Many support teams find that using a few simple systems, such as emails for ticketing, is sufficient for a while. But as teams grow, they start to run into issues. New hires have questions about information that isn’t documented anywhere. And agents find themselves having to solve the same mundane issues over and over again.
As your support team scales, it’s a good idea to think about which tools can make life easier for your agents. We suggest prioritizing the following:
Knowledge base — Instead of relying on a few in-the-know agents to answer questions, document as much as you can and then store it in an internal knowledge base. When an agent is unsure about a process or doesn’t know the answer to a particular product question, they can start with the knowledge base before going to one of their colleagues.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software — Tracking information about customers in spreadsheets is pretty tedious, and it just doesn’t scale. A CRM makes it easier for agents to find all the information they need about a customer and quickly make updates as needed.
Ticketing system — Rather than having to manually create a document outlining a customer issue, automated ticketing systems do the legwork. This frees agents to focus on the issue at hand and get to work on finding a resolution.
Self-service channels — It’s pretty common for agents to find themselves solving the same few (usually very simple) issues day in and day out, such as checking the status of an order. By implementing self-service channels, such as chatbots and FAQ pages, agents can spend more time working on issues that really deserve their attention.
Communication tool — When it comes to communicating internally, collaboration tools that allow real-time messaging are hard to beat. Agents can quickly send messages to each other and you without having to step away from their desks.
Workforce management software — Instead of requiring agents to navigate complex spreadsheets to check schedules or input upcoming time off, modern scheduling tools make it easy to handle all scheduling needs in one platform. That makes life easier for you and your agents.
Keep in mind the tools you use may need to change as well. When your existing systems start falling short, it might be time to rethink what it takes to manage your team.
Support your support team by empowering them every day
When you’re able to effectively boost employee morale, agents don’t just do their jobs — they do them well. And this benefits the entire support team. No one ends up feeling as though they need to pick up the slack to get the team across the finish line because everyone’s contributing.
Have a fully remote support team? Tapping into how agents are feeling is definitely more challenging when everyone is logging in from different locations. The above tips can still be useful, but you might need a few additional tactics.
Find out what it takes to keep your team at its best when working remotely.