Beyond Customer Support: How to Drive Agent Wellness
Customer support isn’t easy, and the better you are at delivering it, the standards expected from you only become loftier. Your agents take on all of the feelings and emotions of the people that they talk to, are constantly needing to learn new skills and knowledge to keep up with your product, and have a perennially incoming inbox. Considering the pressure of these responsibilities, it can be hard for a customer service representative to maintain a sunny disposition all the time, and remember to take care of themselves. There are a few things that you can do, though, to take care of the people on your team and ensure that they are taking care of themselves.
Why is Agent Wellness Important?
All of the things that you can do to improve your agent wellness might seem like extraneous expenses that might not have immediate value to your team. For example, while it might seem nice that employees get time out of the queue to go and work on something they care about, is that really driving down your bottom line? In some cases, though, your bottom line isn’t the most important thing and the retention of outstanding and caring agents is. Agent wellness is incredibly important are there’s why.
Support People’s Job is to Care About Your Customers
Flight attendants always tell us to secure our own oxygen masks first before attempting to help others with theirs. Why? In this case, your cognitive ability literally decreases as you struggle to breathe while trying to help others. You’ve got to be able to help yourself first, in order to help others properly.
The same goes for your support people. As they go through their day, every exchange they have with a customer where they need to be extra calm or patient, is a strain on them, and they don’t even have an oxygen mask to go to. It is certainly their job to care about customers, but without the tools that they need to take care of themselves, it gets tricky. By providing a wellness program or working on wellness initiatives, you give them a mask that they can choose to put on or take off as they need.
Support People Pick Up on Emotions Easily
Support people are much more empathetic than others1, and they have to be. But when most people reach out to support, it’s because something is broken, wrong, or they are frustrated about something. This leaves your support team members swimming in a sea of negative emotion with only a faint shot at reaching the Most support roles in companies do not have a specific path laid out for success. Unlike paths in engineering or product where employees know what steps they have to take to get where they want to go, pathing in support is usually just “work hard until something else opens up.” It can feel like a sisyphean struggle to try to go anywhere in a career with little transparency. That kind of struggle can lead to frustration, sadness, and eventually burn out your support employees. Help improve agent wellness by working on a program for career growth and development that is based on your employees and what they need and want.shore. Giving them an environment that is understanding of their emotional demands, and giving them a safe space to decompress at required intervals, makes all the difference and helps them prevent burnout.
Happy Employees Make for a Better Company
Forbes reports that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees. When it comes to salespeople, happiness has an even greater impact, raising sales by 37%. So, while having a wellness program does benefit your individual employees, it also helps boost the productivity of your entire organization. That’s definitely a win-win!
It Makes Customers Happier, Too!
On a podcast with Shep Hyken, Murph Krajewski noted that 92% of customers say that an agent’s mood affects their experience. So, if your agents are excited and happy to be doing the work that they are doing, it’s likely that your customers will feel the same. If, however, they are beleaguered, frustrated, or maybe even slightly snippy with your customers, it’s going to flip the experience negatively. By working on agent wellness, you’re proactively providing an even better experience for your customers. Besides, you surely don’t want to be known for harboring a work environment that leads to cranky employees trying to deliver happiness to customers!
Where Do You Begin?
While an individual wellness program should definitely be built with your specific company and team in mind, there are a few things that you can do and focus on to make sure you’re taking a holistic approach.
Regular Check-ins With Your Employees
One-on-ones are so important. Not just for you being able to check-in and see where your employee is regarding certain aspects of their job, but also just to maintain a human and personal connection with them. One-on-ones don’t have to be all about business—personal aspects of someone’s life are important to their role in the workplace as well.
Have one-on-ones at a cadence that makes sense for both people, whether that be weekly, biweekly or monthly, and when you schedule them… stick to them. There is nothing worse for an employee being eager and charged up for a meeting with their boss only for the rug to be pulled out from under them at the last minute. So, when you set meetings, stick to them.
Add Benefits That Support People
According to Payroll Software, surveys show that 72% of employees said that the ability to customize benefits increases their loyalty. Offering a limited set of benefits that don’t let employees pick what works for them, maybe a deterrent to their experience at the company. Some benefits that can be helpful for employee wellness are- healthy and flexible vacation policies, allowing for remote work when people need to be at home or away from the office, or offering programs like out of the queue time for support employees that allows them to spend some of their time working on initiatives that move team metrics and goals forward.
Career Pathing That Makes Sense
Most support roles in companies do not have a specific path laid out for success. Unlike paths in engineering or product where employees know what steps they have to take to get where they want to go, pathing in support is usually just “work hard until something else opens up.” It can feel like a sisyphean struggle to try to go anywhere in a career with little transparency. That kind of struggle can lead to frustration, sadness, and eventually burn out your support employees. Help improve agent wellness by working on a program for career growth and development that is based on your employees and what they need and want.
Create an Open Culture of Conversation
The most important thing in building a culture of agent wellness is actually talking about what people feel, and giving them the space to communicate without fear. As humans, we don’t usually want to open up, especially in a public space where we don’t feel like it’s safe or we can trust the people around us to receive our emotions the way we want them to. There’s no discounting the fact that it can be difficult for your employees to be willing or able to open up to you. In that case, it’s your opportunity to lead by example.
Talk About Emotions in Your 1:1s.
One-on-ones are the perfect setting to talk about emotions that might be too scary or feel too big for an employee to talk about in a group setting. You can start by just asking “how do you feel?” every time you meet. Probably, for the first few meetings, your employee will just shake their head and shrug. But if you keep asking, they will realize that it is something that you’re invested in and care about, not just something you’re paying lip service to. Giving your employees a safe space to express their emotions and thoughts, both personal and professional, is one of the best things that you can do as a manager. It is in effect, to return to the metaphor in this blog post, giving them the oxygen mask they need.
Give Group Venting Opportunities
While it can be scary for you, as the manager, to address problematic situations in a group setting, it’s important for your team to express their feelings together in a group and be able to bounce ideas with each other. Also, by allowing the conversation to happen openly in public, you avoid any gossip and show that you are willing and ready to discuss anything that happened without fear or shame. Providing this opportunity and this kind of leadership sets a good example for your employees that it’s okay to talk about hard things, even as a team, and that no one on the team is going to attack or aggress them if they make a mistake.
Be a Good Example for Your Employees
Everyone is human, and just as it’s good for your support team to practice wellness, it’s just as good for you to practice wellness and take care of yourself. You also serve as a good example for your employees, showing them it’s okay to have feelings and to practice self-care. A few good ways of doing this are:
- Let them know it’s okay to take personal days: if they need to call out for a personal reason and be away from their computer for the day, let them know that you support hat. By doing so, it will give them the peace of mind to do it themselves one day without feeling guilt or worry.
- Acknowledge when you’re feeling emotions: if you are feeling frustrated with a customer or a situation, or are feeling depressed or down, it’s okay to humanize yourself to your employees. While you are the person that’s meant to maintain morale, showing that you are not always “on” can be helpful for employees to see.
- Validate their feelings: if an employee comes to you and starts to talk about something that they are feeling, validate it and relate it to something that you’ve experienced. This way, they’ll feel safe if they come to you again, and they’ll also feel a kinship with you in shared experiences.
Navigating human feelings and emotions in a professional space can be very difficult. It’s so important, though, to give that space to your employees, and allow them to feel supported and cared for, especially if they work in support. Give them opportunities to make space for themselves, and encourage an open environment within your team, and they’ll be helping others (and your customers) do the same in no time.
1 – https://drjudithorloff.com/the-best-worst-jobs-for-an-empath/