A new report from Quantum Workplace shows a disturbing statistic for one of the most important departments in any organization. The 2015 Employee Engagement Trends Report shows customer service employees are among the least engaged, falling behind human resources, sales, marketing, engineering, R & D, operations, finance and IT (in that order) when it comes to on-the-job engagement. In addition, the survey also shows customer service as one of departments with the lowest job satisfaction ratings and highest percentage of hostile employees.
Now consider this: In a recent Aspect Consumer Experience Survey, 76% of consumers surveyed say they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them.
Cost Center or Value Center
Historically and for the most part still today, customer service agents are paid a relatively low amount to be the face of a brand or organization when customers have questions or issues surrounding an organization, its products or services. According to PayScale.com, the average hourly pay for a customer service representative in the United States is $12.91.
Customer service may be viewed as a cost center where both employees and customers regularly churn, but leading customer-focused companies such as Zappos, for instance, have proven that it can be both a value center and a brand differentiator if given the right investment.
Small Change Can Make a Difference
Investing in customer service and your customer-facing employees doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank. At the Customer Service Experience conference held in conjunction with CRM Evolution, Omer Minkara, Research Director for Contact Center and Customer Experience Management at Aberdeen Group, shared a recent service agent survey that showed a majority of agents noted having better technology tools was more important to them right now than getting paid more.
In a recent white paper, ThinkJar Founder and Principal Esteban Kolsky, agreed that this is a commonly heard frustration. “Among the leading reasons for employees churning in any job is lack of proper tools – and this is even more prevalent in customer service.
“Churn comes from having too many disjointed tools instead of a single screen, not having the latest information, or having to ‘hunt’ for it among different systems, tools, and channels."
A MyCustomer.com article shared a related agent-facing survey, showing that one in three (32%) agents say they lack sufficient knowledge to help customers with issues and 22% claim incorrect or inconsistent customer information held on different systems is also a major problem.
Looking at the Numbers
This may account for the employee hostility numbers highlighted at the start of this post, where hostility in customer service comes from the frustration of not having the proper tools or information needed to perform a job, or to help a person on the other end of a phone, email, chat or tweet who is counting on your assistance.
In fact, a little investment in knowledge alone can go a long way in helping customer service employees start and stay more engaged – making it easier for new employees to confidently deliver service, read up on on-the-job product and service training, provide the latest update on a trending issue, and ultimately make another person’s day with a quick or correct answer.
In her April 2015 research note, How to Get Your Customer Service Employees to Care About the Customer, Gartner Research Director Olive Huang lists five characteristics of motivated customer service employees, and at the top is “information aware,” defined as being in possession of not only the correct knowledge to address a customer’s issue, but also knowing the customer’s context at the time of contact.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line? It isn’t a replacement for a pay increase (customer service is a tough job and deserves greater recognition as such), but an investment in knowledge can go a long way as a start to increasing both internal, and as a result, external customer engagement.
Get More Information on Knowledge for Customer Service
For more information on knowledge management and how it can impact your internal customers, your external customers and your bottom line, download the white paper from analyst Esteban Kolsky, Justifying Knowledge Management in Customer Service.
To watch a pre-recorded webinar on the impact of knowledge management for customer service featuring Esteban Kolsky, Ask.com Global Customer Care Manager Eric McKirdy and Microsoft’s Bill Patterson, click here.