Providing great support is hard, so it’s really important that managers understand how to motivate their team to keep them happy and productive.

Being on the front line every day can be draining. There’s either too much drama, handling upset and angry customers, or there’s not enough of it when you’re having to deal with mundane and repetitive tasks.

There are many things you can do to keep your team energized and engaged in what they do, and allow them to progress personally and professionally.

Unite your team

A team is only as strong as the people in it, so it’s important to find ways of nurturing both the group and its individuals.

Open up communication channels and encourage your team to voice their concerns, but also make sure they’re truly heard and see their problems being addressed and ideally solved. A constructive way of making people feel heard is through monthly or quarterly retrospectives. The team can get together and, in a safe space, reflect upon what’s gone well and common pain points that need improving. After all, a happy team member is more likely to be friendly and patient with your customers, while a discontent person can drag the whole team down.

There’s nothing that brings people together like working towards a common goal. Involve your team in figuring out what those goals should be by deciding together what your most important metrics are. That way the whole team will truly get behind them and feel motivated.

I come from a background of sports. I was looking for a way to add some sort of scoring system where we could have a weekly review that said, ‘Yay, we won’ or ‘We lost this week’. I came up with a weekly points system for our quarterly metrics. If we hit the weekly target on those metrics, we score a certain amount of points. I then set an overall points target for the month and a reward if we hit it – something like a half day off for a group activity. It really brings the team together to work towards a common goal where the reward is a shared experience.

Larry Fleischer, Customer Support Director at Pinger

The views expressed are Larry’s own and not those of his employer.

Spontaneous rewards are also good because they’re unexpected but all the more appreciated. You’d be surprised how far a little goes if it comes with good intentions. Perhaps you’ve all had a particularly tough day or week? Why not treat the team to a surprise meal out where they can decompress and bond over the fact you got through it together?

Check in regularly

The emotional health of your team is key to your success in keeping customers well served and happy. By setting time aside for regular one-on-ones, you can catch small issues before they become problems. This is even more important with distributed team members since they get very little facetime with you and miss out on those casual conversations in the office.

I believe I’m a good judge of character and good at reading body language. By being smack bang in the center of everybody, I can see what’s going on. If I see morale dipping, I can do something immediately, even if it’s just pulling out our Nerf guns and having people shoot foam balls at each other. It’s not always a professional situation that’s hindering you. Sometimes it’s personal, and you can’t always hide that, so I’ll take someone out for a coffee just to see how things are and if I can help in any way, personally or professionally. I’m a family man and I call my team my ‘work kids’ because I want them to progress and flourish as much as I’d want it for my own children.

Ade Mitchell, Support Manager at Veeqo

Support professional development

It’s important to be aware of people’s long-term goals and support them in their professional development. It may mean the person eventually moves on internally or leaves altogether, but however inconvenient this may be, it’s for the greater good. Think about it. What would you rather: spend money on training and personal development and the person leaves, or don’t spend anything on training and personal development and the person stays and stagnates?

Repetitive work can lead to boredom, burnout and an allround negative energy, which does nothing for career satisfaction or retention. There are things you can do to reduce the monotony and inspire those who don’t feel challenged:

  • Draw up different career paths, both within CS and in the rest of the organization, and explain how someone in support can progress to that role by clearly defining what skills each stage requires.
  • Give the team enough time to be able to create macros, invest in tech like AI, and write self service articles, all of which will minimize repetitive workflow and reduce or even eliminate mundane tasks.
  • Implement an 80/20 workload rule where 80% of a person’s time is spent on working tickets, chat, calls and so on. The remaining 20% is for other projects.
  • As part of the above 20%, involve team members in projects that allow them to work with other departments, creating diversity and a fresh challenge, introducing them to potential career paths, as well as reducing time spent on the repetitive tasks.
  • CS should drive product feedback sessions to give your team a voice in creating improvements based on all the feedback they receive. As a bonus, these fixes may also reduce repetitive tasks.
Since January this year, I’ve lost somebody almost every two weeks because they’ve been with me for almost a year, done exceptional work and basically caught the eye of another department. In the last five months, I’ve almost completely changed out my team, but that’s the nature of it. It’s a spinning wheel. And ultimately, it’s amazing for the company because my people have the most product knowledge of anyone at Zip Co, and they’re taking that knowledge into those different departments.

When someone goes through customer service, they understand what’s working but, more importantly, what’s not working. To then take that deeply customer-centric person and introduce them to other parts of the business is invaluable. You suddenly have an entire company full of people who are completely in tune with the customer pain points, and they are making decisions that benefit the customer.

Johann Loibl, Head of Customer Services at Zip Co
I will take people out for lunch as regularly as I can to catch up, and the first question I ask in a one-to-one is, ‘Are you happy?’. We talk about what they like doing and what they want to do – what their three or five-year plan looks like. Our company is still big enough to have more responsibilities than we have people, so there are plenty of opportunities for me to align an agent’s skills with another department’s needs. It gets them out of answering tickets for a few hours and they really appreciate the work experience they’re getting.

Larry Fleischer, Customer Support Director at Pinger

The views expressed are Larry’s own and not those of his employer.

Fly the CS flag

Your team works hard every day at shifting your target metrics. Don’t forget to tell people when they’re being great, and celebrate your wins – big or small.

A simple way of keeping the team up-to-date with any changes to your metrics is through a TV dashboard. By displaying your real-time key metrics, your team will not only be able to rejoice in those wins, but react faster to any issues that might suddenly arise. In addition, the dashboard is an opportunity to communicate with the rest of the company. When people from other departments and key stakeholders are walking past, they get a snapshot of what you’re doing and how well you’re doing it.

Be it positive public comments from customers on social media, or team members giving each other compliments for exceptional service, or someone showing gratitude to a colleague for helping them out, make sure there are plenty of platforms to spread all that positive energy. Share news on your metrics in occasional email updates, big someone up on internal communication channels like Slack, do shoutouts in standups, and present your wins at all-hands meetings.

Don’t be shy – toot your horn! Remind everyone in the company, especially yourselves, how hard you work and what a difference that makes to your customers and to the business as a whole.

Introduction

The Center of Happiness

Stages of a customer support team

Firefighting

You’re swamped, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Carving out time to think beyond the barrage of tickets, and being smart about your priorities, can turn things around.

Levelling up

You can’t firefight forever. It’s time to get some fundamental tools and processes in place, so you can give consistently brilliant support to your customers.

Above and beyond

Your team is firing on all cylinders and your customers are delighted. How do you take things to the next level?

Advice articles

Tools of the future: are the robots really coming?

The landscape of tools and software for support teams is vast and ever-changing. Get up to speed with some of the emerging trends that can help give your support team the edge.

Channel overload: less is more

It may be tempting to offer support through many channels, but do your customers really care? Learn how trimming the number of channels you offer can help improve service levels.

Persuasion & buy in: how to sell customer support internally

Customer Support sometimes doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, but a few easy tactics can help you and your team become superheroes in the eyes of the company.

Metrics: how to choose them and define what success looks like

Numbers might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but they’re critical for guiding your team and keeping the rest of the company in the loop.

Hiring: getting it right

Finding, recruiting and interviewing quality candidates can be a daunting experience at the best of times, but stick to the fundamentals and you’ll have a great fit in no time.

Self-service done well: help your customers help themselves

Move beyond a simple knowledge base or FAQ and reap the benefits of a channel that’s efficient, functional, relevant and open 24/7.

Onboarding team members: make the first weeks count

As you bring new talent into your team, get your new hires off to the best possible start by helping them to integrate into your company structure, processes, culture and tone of voice.

Distributing workloads: balancing inbox zero and long term improvements

Your team knows more about your customers than anyone else. Organize regular time out of the queue for them to work on long-term support projects that will benefit the whole company.