Between the great resignation and rapidly changing customer expectations, retaining the most valuable people in your business, your customers and your employees, has become much more difficult.
The pandemic has introduced many sources of frustration for customers, from shortages due to supply chain disruptions to extensive safety protocols and long lines to enter stores.
Customer turmoil with increasing unsatisfactory experiences has taken its toll on customer-facing workers. Incidents of “pandemic rage” have grabbed the headlines and on the other side of every angry customer is a stressed customer service professional. Employee attrition is on the rise across all industries, but the customer service industry has been particularly hard hit. In November 2021, quit rates in the leisure and hospitality industry – which includes workers in food and hospitality services – were double the national average, reaching nearly 6% compared to 3% overall, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s a vicious circle: your customers are frustrated and go wild; your employees feel pressure on their mental health and burn out or quit; and resulting staffing gaps create further inconvenience for customers, which ripples into an endless loop of bad experiences for both parties involved.
Can companies do something to break the cycle, convince customers and employees to put aside their frustrations and reconcile?
The secret to solving customer-employee tension is to focus on the aspects of the experience that matter most to your customers and employees. The following approaches will help you regain control of the experiences you deliver and make sure your customers and employees feel heard and supported.
FOCUS ON EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE FIRST
Your ability to deliver a great customer experience depends on your employees. In fact, employee motivation is the biggest challenge hindering the success of customer experience programs in 2022. This is why improving your customer experience (CX) should start with examining your employee experience (EX ).
According to research by Salesforce in partnership with Forbes, companies that prioritize EX to deliver premium CX experience 1.8x faster revenue growth.
When your employees love their jobs, they’re motivated to deliver friendly service and take pride in delivering quality customer experiences. On the other hand, disgruntled, demotivated, and burnt-out employees won’t be able to deliver the experiences your customers want or expect, and the high turnover and low morale that comes with it can impact productivity and the business efficiency.
To build a workforce that is happy, healthy and motivated to deliver for your customers, it is essential to listen to your employees. What do they need to feel supported? How do they feel about their work? Then, make improvements to support your customer-facing employees and empower them to perform at their best.
RESPONDING TO EMPLOYEE BURNOUT
Preventing burnout is key to avoiding high staff turnover and ultimately poor customer experience. Many factors can contribute to burnout, but there are two that seem particularly relevant lately: a lack of mental health support and understaffed workplaces that lead to overworked employees.
Short-staffed environments can mean that each employee has to work longer hours and experience more stress as a result. Since burnout is one of the biggest contributors to employee turnover, an understaffing problem can quickly escalate. The CNBC Investigation | Momentive Workforce Survey 2021, conducted among 11,227 American workers, found that employees who describe their company as currently understaffed are nearly twice as likely as adequately staffed workers to say they considered quitting their job in the past three months (43% vs. 23%).
If your organization is struggling with high employee turnover, prioritizing your employee experience is an essential strategy to attract and retain your valuable employees.
CLOSE THE GAP IN MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS
Customer-facing workers face a lot – they often take on tasks outside of their duties, such as enforcing mask mandates – and the added stress of working with customers today is hurting their mental health and well-being.
A recent study by Momentive found that of workers who plan to quit within the next six months, nearly half say job stress is to blame. Another in five say they quit to focus on their mental health.
But there’s still a gap between the support employees need and what they can get through their employer’s health plans. The same study found that while 75% of employees say mental health benefits are important, only 42% of employees have access to them.
To protect the well-being of your customer-facing employees, consider reassessing your healthcare offerings, encouraging employees to take time off work, offering access to meditation and therapy platforms like Ginger and Headspace, or offering training to help employees manage and reduce stress.
PROVIDING TRAINING IN CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND DE-ESCALATION
Dealing with angry and dissatisfied customers is nothing new for customer service employees. But in the current climate, there are many more incidents escalating than before the pandemic.
Longtime customer service and de-escalation expert Myra Golden says this trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. His client, a director of member experience in the financial industry, recently shared a disturbing story: “We are seeing a higher volume of angry and difficult customers at a higher level of intensity. Customers spat at and kicked our employees; we were swept away. And now we believe we need to protect and empower our employees with high-level de-escalation tactics. We need to protect them in our current stressful work environment.
Escalating interactions are not only difficult for your employees, they also increase the likelihood of negative customer reviews and can cause your customers to churn.
For customer service agents, basic skills like usability and product knowledge are no longer enough; today, these employees are faced with increasingly volatile customers and intense interactions that require de-escalation expertise.
Training customer service agents to use proper de-escalation tactics and techniques can help them feel empowered to resolve issues quickly, efficiently, and safely, and ensure that your employee and customer experience remains positive. .
REDUCE EFFORT AND STREAMLINE SUPPORT
One of the key tenets of good customer service is to make experiences as easy as possible. But the amount of effort required to complete basic experiences, like grocery shopping, has skyrocketed during the pandemic, adding to customer frustration and hurting the customer experience. Reducing effort has become an essential strategy for companies. In fact, 97% of retailers say reducing customer effort is an important aspect of their CX strategy, according to a survey of 221 retail professionals.
Shep Hyken, CX expert and best-selling author, stresses the importance of reducing friction: “It’s perhaps one of the most powerful places to win over a client.” He says, “Build an above-average, consistent and predictable experience, all the time. Your customers will say, “I love doing business with them because they’re always friendly, always call me back promptly, always knowledgeable, always follow up with something positive. »
For customer support teams, making it easier for customers to resolve their issues is not only a win for customers, it also reduces the effort of support staff. Adding robust online resources, such as FAQ pages and chatbots, can make it easier for customers to find answers to their questions on their own, which relieves your internal teams.
To reduce customer effort, it’s also important to make it easy for buyers to leave feedback, such as capturing feedback on your website without disrupting the browsing experience.
SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
One of the factors driving customer frustration today is the disconnect between expectations and reality. For example, when you walk into a grocery store, you can reasonably expect to find what you need and pay quickly. But due to supply chain disruptions and staff shortages, that expectation may not be met today. And whether your company is directly responsible for it or not, when your customers’ expectations are not met, their opinion of your company and the customer experience can deteriorate.
When it comes to setting clear expectations, communication and transparency are key. Give your service agents the tools, flexibility, and accountability they need to resolve customer issues, even those beyond the control of your business and your employees. Paying attention to customer feedback is also key to understanding customer wants and needs, and then putting an action plan in place to better meet those expectations.
STRENGTHENING THE CX+EX CONNECTION
CX and EX are more connected than you think. When one takes a hit, the other suffers too. The good news is that gradually improving the experience of your customers or employees can have a positive impact on all levels.
It turns out that customers and employees share many of the same needs. Above all, they need support. By focusing on listening and understanding, you can deliver experiences that will keep everyone happy, engaged, and loyal.
Shelbi Scott is Director of Customer Experience at Momentive