How To Keep Support Agents Engaged And Motivated

“Customer service is a hard job and anyone who says differently has never done it.”

If truer words have ever been spoken (and not just by Alex Flint), smite me now. As anyone who’s ever worked in customer service or knows someone who’s worked in customer service or just lived across the hall from someone who has, will tell you, it’s like an uphill battle most of the time.

Not only do you have to handle complaining customers all day long (and occasionally, contend with some abuse) but you also, sometimes, end up in the unenviable position of having to put out fires without so much as a thimble of water to have your back. Factor in that this is the excitement that breaks up intervals of you answering similar-ish queries again and again (and again) and it comes as no surprise that customer service has a tremendous burnout rate – some attribute it to the tune of 70%.

So, how do businesses combat this burnout? How do they keep their support agents happy and motivated? What sort of strategies do they use and how effective are they?

We have a few ideas you can borrow:

Hire naturally buoyant people

According to a lot of companies, this is their real ace in the hole as far as keeping agents engaged and motivated goes. The idea is that if you hire self-motivated employees, you’ll never have to worry about employee engagement or motivation. A point that we can’t really argue because yes, hiring self-motivated employees does go a long way in keeping morale high (they’ll take some of the pressure off you by just motivating themselves) but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything to motivate or engage them. You will still need to employ some motivation strategy even if your employees are the second coming of Kenneth Parcell because they’re still going to need the occasional pat-on-the-back and pick-me-up to function at optimal pace.

Have frequent one-on-ones with your reps to clear the air

Carve some time out of your schedule every few weeks to have a one-on-one with your reps. Ask them what they’re working on, ask them what’s frustrating them… take this opportunity to set the record straight. These chats will not only help you make sure they have everything they need to excel but they’ll also help you clear the air and let them know what you expect of them. You can also use this opportunity to gauge their frustration levels and work with them on removing their blockers.

Share wins with the entire team

A little positive encouragement goes a long way in boosting morale, especially if it happens in front of their peers. It doesn’t matter if you do it every day, every week or every month – set aside some time to go over triumphs and celebrate achievements. You might even consider handing out presents or taking them out to lunch to make these moments even sweeter.

Gamify your helpdesk and liven up support by providing incentives

By introducing an element of gamification into support, you can turn every ticket into a chance for your agents to compete with their colleagues, score more points and race up the leaderboard to win coveted trophies or badges. You can even incentivize your agents for specific actions. For instance, Daniel Nathan, Customer Success Manager at PowToon, rewards his agents every time they got a new customer on board. This does, however, have a downside – your agents might attempt to game the leaderboard by cherry picking the easy tickets. The only thing you can do is trust in your employees and hope that your hiring strategy pays off.

Empower and encourage your team to work on projects that aren’t related to customer support

This one might seem sort of left field but trust us, it works out in the long run. Encourage your team to alternate support with side projects; this could be anything from them learning how to code to working on making new features more intuitive with product management and UX. This way, they always have something else useful to turn to when they’re in sore need of a distraction and it’ll help them become more well-rounded. Christa Collins put it best, “If you want to keep excellent talent, you have to provide them with a development path, challenge them, and compensate them appropriately. The development path makes sure that they can grow with you and stay with the company for the long haul.”

Motivate your team into maintaining a proper work-life balance

We cannot emphasize this enough. While it’d be great if your support team could be on the go round the clock, it is not a healthy situation and will only cause a lot of trouble further down the road. It could not just affect their performance but also adversely damage their health. Encourage your team to maintain a proper work-life balance, to take time off and recharge so that they’re at their best when they’re on the clock. Set a minimum number of vacation days so that people won’t feel embarrassed to take time off. Setting this down in stone will make even the most workaholic of your reps take some time off and relax on the down low.

Raindrops and roses

Everyone has those days when even getting out of bed seems like a chore. Days when the last thing you want to do is pick up the phone, turn on your laptop and deal with a bunch of unfriendly people who are determined to make your day as miserable as theirs. Days when you just want to call in sick, curl up with a good book and then nap on top of it. Unfortunately, customer support is not one of those jobs where you can just take the day off, if you don’t feel like going in.

Sunshine or rain, your customers will have queries, suggestions and problems and if you don’t want to find a mountain of tickets on your desk, you’ll have no choice but to drag yourself to work and tackle those issues. However, no one ever said that you should do it without some epic background music.

This is what Lo Marino, a Customer Happiness Liason at Boomerang, uses to motivate herself.

“I find a good combat tool is a great cup of coffee and a playlist full of epic film scores – try it, you’ll feel like the king of the world. Or at least king of customer support.”

Here’s a couple of playlists that the amazing Lo Marino listens uses to get her jam on:

Epic film scores

Southern gothic

However, we’ll be the first to admit that no one can achieve complete mastery over an art and we’ve probably missed out on a couple of in-your-face pointers that can really help. If you spot one, drop us a note in the comments down below.