Why is customer service motivation important?

Management & Annual Reviews

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With the right motivation, nearly anything is possible. In customer service, well-motivated employees are more likely to have improved performance metrics, high job satisfaction, and positive well-being. The key is understanding what motivates your customer service team to perform at their best–for your customers and your company. 

At Idiomatic, we work with customer service executives in some of the world’s top brands. They’ve given us an intimate view of the challenges they face managing and motivating their teams. With this knowledge, we’ve seen time and again what customer service motivation strategies work best. 

The benefits of having a well-motivated customer service team include:

  • More consistently high customer service efforts from your customer service reps
  • Higher customer satisfaction scores
  • Longer customer retention
  • Increased successful upsells and cross-sells
  • Increased customer spending
  • Increased employee job satisfaction

Keep reading to get tips on how you can motivate your team to perform better for your customers. 

How to motivate customer service agents

You can motivate customer service team members by understanding what pushes them to achieve personal success. This will be different for every individual, but agent motivation is generally driven by one of two factors:

  • Intrinsic motivation: Driven by a desire for self-improvement or mastership. Those with intrinsic motivation are driven by personal achievement, feeling competent, and enjoy a challenge.
  • Extrinsic motivation: Driven by external rewards and reinforcement. Those with extrinsic motivation are driven by money and praise, and enjoy competition and feeling in power. 

Your support agents likely have a mix of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Understanding what motivates your customer support teams is critical to creating systems and processes that support them to succeed. 

7 Strategies to motivate customer service teams

Are you ready to find new motivations for your customer service team? Here are seven strategies to help you motivate your customer service teams to reach new levels of customer satisfaction and success:

Understand what motivates them

It’s hard to support your team’s motivation if you don’t know what drives them to achieve success. Your motivation strategies will depend on whether your employees have intrinsic or extrinsic motivations. To add to the challenge, each team member is likely to have different motivations, so implementing an organization-wide motivational strategy may not work. 

Survey your employees and talk to them about their motivations for success during performance reviews. If you find the motivations of many team members align, consider adopting a broad-reaching strategy for this group. Others, you can work with 1:1 to give them the motivational support they need to achieve.    

Set achievable goals 

(Primary motivations: Intrinsic and Extrinsic)

It’s hard to get an employee to improve or perform their job well if their expectations and goals are too high. Set achievable, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based) goals for your team and individual employees as needed. If you have a loftier, stretch goal you want them to achieve, break it into smaller, realistic goals or milestones rather than have them work towards the big goal exclusively. It’s a great way to keep motivation higher, as your team benefits from the recognition of achieving smaller goals along the way.

For example, an intrinsically motivated goal might be to challenge your employee to respond to all customer service emails within an average of 30 minutes or less by the end of the month. An extrinsically motivated goal might be to challenge them to be in the top 5% of call center employees with the highest customer satisfaction scores.  

Involve your individual team members in your company’s goals and goal setting as much as you can. Empower them to provide input and feel invested in the process and outcome. 

Recognize and reward good performance 

(Primary motivation: Extrinsic)

80% of employees say they’ll work harder for their employer if they feel appreciated. Employees who are recognized for their successes at work are also six times more likely to stay at their jobs than those who are not recognized or appreciated.

You could reward intrinsically motivated employees 1:1 by telling them directly (through email or in-person) how much you recognize and appreciate their efforts. Externally motivated employees would prefer recognition to be public, such as through an employee of the month certificate or to be recognized in staff meetings. 

This strategy works well for customer-facing teams (support, sales…etc.). If you choose a reward or competition system, make sure the rules and awards are clearly defined so there are no accusations of bias or confusion over who the winners are.  

Foster a positive work environment

(Primary motivations: Intrinsic and Extrinsic)

Create a work environment and culture that is positive to motivate employees. You want your staff to love their job so much that they jump out of bed as soon as their alarm goes off. While this may be an extreme goal, the main idea is that you want your employees to enjoy going to work everyday, not wake up with dread. This means creating a work culture that is:

  • Inclusive
  • Positive
  • Supportive
  • Growth-minded
  • Fun or collaborative

Team building events and opportunities can also create a sense of community or camaraderie, increasing employee satisfaction, and helping to create a positive work environment. 

Create a work culture where everyone feels valued and appreciated, and no one is afraid to share their ideas (for fear of being judged). Create a culture where help is available for anyone who asks and employee feedback is heard and addressed. This supports both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated customer service team members. 

Provide the right tools

(Primary motivations: Intrinsic and Extrinsic)

Employees who don’t have the right, most effective tools to do their job can experience higher levels of dissatisfaction and lose motivation and productivity. Without suitable tools, employees may feel their success and productivity is restricted and, therefore, not put in any effort to improve. 

Regularly talk to your team about the tools and resources available to them. Ask if there are any areas where an improved software, system, or process could make their job more efficient and provide a better customer experience. Act on any feedback you get as appropriate. 

Your customer service representatives may appreciate more advanced tools such as live chat or a chatbot, co-browsing (watching a customer’s screen in real-time to better understand, diagnose, and fix their issues), or customer feedback analytics software. For example, a customer feedback analytics tool like Idiomatic can categorize and analyze all your customer feedback like support tickets, surveys, product reviews and show you what the issues with highest volume and cost are. 

Conduct surveys and employee performance reviews

(Primary motivations: Intrinsic and Extrinsic)

Don’t distance yourself from your employees. Regular performance reviews are an opportunity to:

  • Review performance metrics
  • Discuss job satisfaction
  • Ask about their motivations for success
  • Brainstorm goals and roadmaps for success

Use these meetings to uncover what motivates each employee so you can develop motivational programs and support to maximize the success of individuals and your entire team.  

📓 Read More: Mastering the Art of Customer Service Performance Reviews

Provide training

(Primary Motivations: Intrinsic and Extrinsic)

Sometimes, your customer support team can use training in a specific topic to re-energize and motivate them to reach their goals at work. Training could come in various forms, including:

  • Product and service training (on your company offerings)
  • Customer service training
  • Emotional intelligence training
  • Leadership training
  • Technical skills training (computer skills)

Arrange for training your entire team or only those needing a skills upgrade in a specific area. Schedule a mix of full- or multi-day workshops and shorter lunch-and-learn sessions to suit the needs of your staff. 

How does motivation improve customer service?

Or, more directly: why adopt any of the tips above? When customer service teams are positively motivated, they are more likely to perform better in their role. This translates to customers feeling better supported and buying more from you, staying loyal, and recommending your brand to their friends and colleagues

You can measure their performance, success, and growth by looking at data from employee performance reviews, Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores, and by analyzing other forms of customer feedback. 

👉Learn more about using AI and machine learning to understand the “why” behind customer feedback. 

Common challenges in motivating customer service team members

Sometimes, motivating your customer service team isn’t as easy as enacting a new strategy or customer service process. You may be met with other external factors contributing to employee stress and lowered motivation. 

Demanding customers 

One such challenge unique to customer service employees is dealing with demanding customers. Dealing with angry or rude customers all day can adversely affect even the highest-performing and most positive team members. 

You can remove this barrier to customer service agent success by providing conflict resolution or emotional intelligence training. This helps them learn how to manage situations like these. Then, you can create a customer service process that allows employees opportunities to take a break during their shift when they’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed. 

You can also minimize the number of demanding customers by improving your call center processes and systems. This may include providing more self-service options, fixing a commonly complained issue about a feature or product, or providing a chatbot as a first line of defense to minimize support calls that end up with a live customer service representative.  

👉Get more tips to improve call center agent performance.

High-stress situations

Stress affects each person differently. But it’s hard to deny that high-stress jobs and situations at work can take a toll on your energy, making it hard to push forward and perform at your best. This leads to employee loss of motivation. 

Support your customer service agents by acknowledging you understand the stressful situations customers can put them through. To prevent high-stress situations from becoming too much for an employee, you can:

  • Provide training on dealing with the physical and emotional effects of high-stress customers. 
  • Provide stress relief activities in your office for employees who need them (a gym or workout space, a quiet room, or stress balls). 
  • Encourage regular breaks, (in the outdoors when possible) which can also help release any pent-up stress during the workday. 

Using machine learning to understand customer service team motivation 

Ultimately, you can’t support their needs if you don’t know what influences your customer service department and their job motivation. A customer satisfaction software like Idiomatic can help you better measure the performance of your customer service team by showing you the customer issues that require the most effort to deal with. This insight can give you clues about friction points that may be zapping motivation and prompt coaching and check-in conversations.

With Idiomatic, you can use customer feedback sources to better understand where employees might struggle. It could help you uncover the following:

  • Which agents have the resources and skills to solve customer queries effectively
  • Which customer complaints are related to customer service team inadequacies or customer-error
  • What resources do customer service agents use to solve problems (or if they don’t take the time to look for the right solution or resource, indicating a lower motivation level).

Idiomatic can take large amounts of customer feedback data, categorize and analyze it so you can view customer insights for entire teams, shifts, or individual team members. You can use these customer insights to understand and predict  where the loss of motivation may occur in your team so you can correct it before it causes a loss of productivity and decreased customer satisfaction. 

👉Request a demo today to learn how Idiomatic can provide the data-based insights you need to motivate your customer service team.