The Key to Great Customer Service: Collaboration

The Key to Great Customer Service
Illustration by Chris Fernandez

When it comes to creating an exceptional service culture, nothing is more important than a team’s ability to collaborate well. Both the agent and the customer experience will be exponentially better with 360 degrees of partnership—agents partnering with each other to share knowledge and solve problems, leadership partnering alongside agents to understand the front line, and everyone partnering with customers to foster a meaningful relationship.

It may sound simple, but building this type of environment is quite difficult. Following are three proven ways to promote collaboration, as well as three behaviors to avoid.

Collaboration Enhancer No. 1: Limit Top-Down Decision Making

Typically when a change is made in a contact center environment, it is leadership reviewing a set of metrics, deciding on a course of action, and announced to the agents as “the new thing.” Most change should flow in the opposite direction.

Empower your agents by giving them raw data and challenge them with your service vision. Ask your whole staff, not just leadership, how the customer experience or the agent experience could be improved. When a team member comes up with an idea that makes a difference, it should be widely celebrated.

This will give everyone buy-in to the decision making process and they will no longer be victim to the “change of the week” from senior management.

Collaboration Enhancer No. 2: Get Out of the Office!

In order to build a relationship culture where people are excited to collaborate, they need to build friendships outside of the office. The workplace is almost impossible to connect on a human level with the constant barrage of problems. People will often start to resent their co-workers in a high-stress environment… unless you give them a chance to decompress and form a real bond.

Collaboration Enhancer No 3: Walk the Walk

As a leader, you can talk about a collaborative environment until you’re blue in the face, but until you walk the walk and actually set the example it’s not going to happen. Show your team what it looks like to break down silos and form partnerships. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about other leaders.

You may think your earning credibility with your team, but inside they will just wonder what you are saying about them behind closed doors. If you build others up, you are pouring a strong foundation for collaboration. See “A Promise of Positivity” for more on this topic.

Collaboration Detractor No 1: Overuse of Competition

Competition can be a great motivator, and should be sprinkled into your reward and gamification programs for variety. However, the vast majority of the time should be working for ways to bring people together and align toward a common goal. It’s nice to establish a winner, but in doing so you simultaneously create a larger population of losers. Your objectives in a contact center are such that everyone should be working together to achieve and win—ultimately helping the customer to win.

Collaboration Detractor No 2: Allowing Negativity to Fester

As Petra Coaching says, “A players will not play with C players for long.” If there are no consequences for poor performance or negativity among the team, collaboration will fail. People should be inspired to work at their highest level and respect their peers. This is nearly impossible if they look around and see agents that are not meeting expectations and nothing is done about it.

Accountability must exist on all levels and be part of the culture.

Collaboration Detractor No. 3: Polarizing Quality Management

Quality Management should be a process in which management and employees identify improvement opportunities together and work on them together. It should be channel for helpful feedback and building them up as objectives are achieved. There is a fantastic article by Jeremy Hyde on how to involve your agents and foster collaboration through your quality management process. Check it out here.

I hope these tips will help your team to play in harmony with one another!