It’s hard to overstate the significance of customer support agents. As successful businessman and Shark Tank investor Daymond John explains, “Over the years, I have learned that customer service is absolutely the most important part of any business.”
The facts back up John’s personal experience. Research from NewVoiceMedia indicates that American businesses lose more than $40 billion annually as a result of poor customer service.
Furthermore, PricewaterhouseCoopers found that nearly three-quarters of respondents said CX was a key factor in determining their brand loyalties and that customers would pay a premium of up to 16 percent for a positive experience.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Given the critical role that CS agents play, companies have a strong incentive to keep them happy.
After all, data shows that “[h]appiness is associated with hard work.” For example, 90 percent of employees who identify as happy said they “feel an obligation to work as hard as I can for my organization,” whereas only 60 percent of unhappy employees agreed.
As Hubspot puts it: If you want your employees to “do their best work, they should feel respected and appreciated. Only then will they find intrinsic motivation for doing a good job and serving their customers the right way, which will lead to your customers also feeling more respected and appreciated.”
Retention and the Bottom Line
The data above demonstrates that employee satisfaction is linked to hard work, which for CS professionals means going above and beyond to resolve customer issues. Providing quality support and a positive experience is in turn associated with customer loyalty and a willingness to pay more for a company’s product or service – improving the bottom line.
Another way that satisfaction among CS agents can impact a business’s bottom line is by reducing the high costs of employee turnover.
Studies have found that replacing a single employee can cost six to nine months of that employee’s salary. For example, a business can expect to pay $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses to replace an employee earning $40,000 a year.
Corporate talent and HR expert Josh Bersin puts the figure even higher at “1.5-2X annual salary” once you factor in all of the costs of losing an employee, including:
- Cost of hiring a new person (advertising, interviewing, screening, hiring)
- Cost of onboarding a new person (training, management time)
- Lost productivity (a new person may take 1-2 years to reach the productivity of an existing person)
- Lost engagement (other employees who see high turnover disengage and lose productivity)
- Customer service and errors (new employees take longer and are often less adept at solving problems)
- Training cost (over 2-3 years you likely invest 10-20% of an employee’s salary or more in training)
- Cultural impact (whenever someone leaves, others ask “why?”)
How to Improve CS Agent Satisfaction
Now that you understand the potential ways the happiness of your customer support team can impact the business’s bottom line, what can you as a manager or executive do to boost agent satisfaction?
There are three key steps to measuring and improving CS agent satisfaction:
- Assess current satisfaction levels
- Implement feedback-driven improvements
Assess Current Satisfaction Levels
As any traveler can attest, before you can figure out how to get to a new destination, you first need to know your point of origin. In the same way, before you as a manager or company executive can map out a strategy for increasing support employees’ happiness, you first need to understand current satisfaction levels.
As you devise a process for gathering data on the current state of satisfaction, keep in mind that employees may feel nervous talking about the negative aspects of their role for fear of upsetting their boss or, worse, putting their job at risk.
So it’s essential to assure agents at the outset that they will not face any repercussions for their feedback. Better yet, implement a survey that can capture replies anonymously.
Employee Satisfaction Surveys
There are nearly as many acronyms for employee satisfaction metrics (e.g. ESI, ESAT) as there are methods for measuring it. So to keep things simple, I’m just going to share two options.
Method #1, as outlined by Hubstaff, consists of just three questions that employees can answer on a scale of 1 to 10:
- How satisfied are you with your current workplace and job?
- How well does your workplace meet your expectations?
- How close is your current workplace to your ideal workplace?
The benefit of this approach is that it’s fast and easy to complete the survey and to analyze the responses. The results can provide a quick snapshot of how satisfied your customer support agents are overall but won’t provide much insight into the “why” behind their scores.
For greater depth, consider using Method #2, which explores seven different aspects of employee satisfaction:
- Extrinsic rewards – Tangible rewards given to employees (salary, bonuses, etc.)
- Supervisory support – How happy an employee is with their boss’ performance
- Reward fairness – How appropriately rewards are distributed among employees
- Autonomy – How much freedom an employee feels they have in how they do their job
- Corporate image – How much the employee likes the company
- Affinity – How supported an employee feels by other employees
- Development – How satisfied an employee is with the career prospects and opportunities the company provides them
A survey following this approach should include two to four questions pertaining to each of the categories mentioned above, with employees responding on a 10-point Likert scale that ranges from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”
Although it’s more time intensive to complete this survey and analyze the results, Method #2 is “more all-encompassing and generates actionable data compared to the first method above,” according to Hubstaff.
Implement Feedback-Driven Improvements
Once you’ve utilized an employee satisfaction survey to capture anonymous feedback, it’s time to analyze the results and use them to brainstorm strategies for improving agent happiness. The critical component of this step is to ensure that potential strategies are rooted in what your agents want and need rather than your own assumptions or desires as a manager or executive.
In the early stages of this process, particularly if you selected Method #1, you might not actually have enough data to inform specific improvement strategies. In that case, I recommend using the information you do have at your disposal to formulate some potential options that you can then float to agents.
Often it’s easier for people to give feedback on a concrete proposal than to come up with their own from scratch. Plus, even if the proposal falls flat, the feedback you receive about it will become additional data you can use as you continue working to improve agent satisfaction.
This brings me to the next and final step…
Improving agent satisfaction is not a one-and-done task but a continuous process. “After enough time has elapsed,” recommends CustomInsight, “repeat the engagement survey to measure progress and understand how engagement and engagement-related issues have shifted since the initial survey.”
Depending on the size of your support team and existing levels of agent satisfaction, consider sending out a survey every quarter, six months, or year to evaluate your progress and surface additional areas with room for improvement.